Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Summer is Coming

The last time I posted, it was February and there was snow everywhere.

Now we're at the end of May, the waning days of spring, and I had a reminder this morning of the approaching summer running slog. Half an hour after I finished running and twenty minutes after my shower I was still sweating, slow beads of moisture trickling from my hairline and dampening that area right under my bosom. I was alternately washing dishes and wiping my forehead with the dishtowel. Just when I though I had the sweating under control, I went into the basement a couple of times and the simple act of descending and ascending the stairs caused the sweat to start rolling all over again.It didn't stop until I was on my way to work and had the air conditioning on in my car.

Yesterday I arrived home shortly after a rainstorm had passed through town and my house was so full of moisture all the mirrors were fogged up. There was condensation on the glass of all my framed geologic maps. The floor and walls were damp. It was disgusting. I slammed all the windows shut and turned on the AC and let it run without stopping for over an hour.

Then the tornado warning sirens went off. WHAT THE...? Of course, what did I do? I went outside on my porch to have a look at the sky. I checked my phone. There was a storm passing to the north of Chelsea that was serious enough to trigger a tornado warning. In town, however, nothing happened. The sirens wailed for about ten minutes and then wound down.

Yep, summer is coming. Or, it's already here.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thursday Thoughts: Oh, My Aching Everything

I am writing this in anticipation of the screaming case of DOMS I will have in 24 hours' time. Why? This morning I attended a "total body conditioning" class at my gym for the first time. If I am to have even the slightest chance of staying injury-free and successfully completing all of the races I want to do this year, including the 50-mile ultra, I have to strengthen all my muscles, not just the ones I use for running.

Oh yeah, I'm going to do a 50-mile ultramarathon in June. More on that later.

It's been a long time since I finished a workout feeling wobbly and exhausted. The DOMS is heading toward me like a freight train. My quads and arms are going to be CRYING by tomorrow.

I had never used a kettlebell before and this class was heavy on kettlebell work. Do this exercise, then 20 kettlebell swings. Repeat three times. Try not to topple over. Sprinkle sweat everywhere. 45 minutes later I was a quivering puddle.

All in the name of improved muscle strength, right? In a few weeks I know it won't hurt as much, but tomorrow it's going to hurt like HELL.

Now, about that 50-mile ultra...

When I ran my first half marathon I said, "that's far enough." A year later I ran my first marathon and said, "that's really far enough." That was far enough through four more marathons and four years. I swore up and down and sideways that I was never going to do an ultra. I resisted all attempts to convince me otherwise, even after I got to know a bunch of serious ultrarunners in my hashing kennel. I stuck to my "a marathon is far enough" until two weeks ago when in a moment of weakness after several months of arm-twisting by my very talented ultrarunner friend Brian, I caved in and registered for the Mohican 50 Mile. Well, Brian registered for me. I just entered my payment information.

Beer may have played a part in my moment of weakness.

As soon as registration was complete, I groaned, "what did I just do?" Brian may have yelled something about "HELL YES" and "THIS IS GOING TO BE SO AMAZING."

Signed myself up for a world of hurt, that's what I just did. Well, nothing to do now but find a training plan and lurch forward with this ridiculous endeavor. Along the way I will be running the Trail Marathon and the Dances with Dirt Gnawbone 50K as "practice" races. In WHAT WORLD has a 31-mile trail race turned into a TRAINING RUN for another, even LONGER race?


After this is all over in mid-June, I have to segue straight into training for the Chicago Marathon in October. I suspect that training cycle will feel easy compared to what I am going to put myself through over the next four months.

I wanted to close out my thirties with a bang. Somehow that went from doing the Chicago Marathon with my best friend to my most ambitious (ill-advised? insane?) year of running ever.

UPDATE: It is now Friday morning and yes, I do have a terrible case of the DOMS. I could barely walk down my stairs this morning and I'm staggering around like I just ran a marathon. Maybe that six-mile run after work wasn't such a great idea. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Ultimate Beer Post

Longtime readers of el bloggo know that I am a craft beer enthusiast. Heck, one of my post labels is "I run so I can drink beer." My Facebook friends know most of my pictures fall into two categories: beer and cats.

This is the story of how I came to be a partner in a microbrewery.

In July 2009 I was at the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival in Ypsilanti. My friend Patti and I were cruising around the park sampling great beers when I spotted this fellow:


I ran up to him and enthusiastically yelled, "YES!" I was perhaps a bit too exuberant; I was a couple of hours into a beer festival, after all. I said that I lived in Chelsea and it would be a craft beer lover's dream come true if there was a brewery in town within walking distance of my house.

He gave me a business card (I still have it) and I got on the mailing list for the potential business. Over the course of the next year I received occasional updates as he began formulating a business plan, and when he mentioned acquiring a pool of investors, that was the first time it occurred to me I could be one of them. Wouldn't that be incredible! Not only to have a microbrewery in my town, but one in which I had a stake? Even better.

I went to my first potential investors' meeting in October 2010. Papers were filled out, information was dispersed, and the months went by. In the summer of 2011 there was a perfect storm of fortuitous financial circumstances, and I was able to purchase a share in the nascent Chelsea Alehouse.

The period after becoming an official investor was agonizing. Now that I was in, I wanted that brewery OPEN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Not so fast. First, there was the matter of finding a suitable space. Once the location had been secured, it had to be built out, which required turning a dismal, dirty industrial building into something light and welcoming. Then there were ENDLESS permits that had to be acquired from local, state, and federal agencies.

Work on the space crept forward during the summer and fall of 2012. I would occasionally find a reason to go past the location to see what had changed. Windows went in, drains and drywall were installed, corridors appeared, paint went on the walls, and the brewing tanks were settled in place. When Chris brewed the first batch of beer, I knew that opening day was mere weeks away. My excitement reached a fever pitch; the waiting was excruciating!

The week before Christmas, I received word: the brewery would officially be open for the first time on Friday, December 21. This was a "soft opening" event for the partners and Founding Mug Club Members.

That afternoon, I drove home and did what I had been dreaming about for a very, very long time:

I walked the half-mile to the brewery I own a little piece of (it took 8.5 minutes) and settled in at the gleaming bar with my mug.

Beer + reading material = awesome
I stayed there for FIVE HOURS. I took full advantage of all three beers available on tap at the time, and walked...okay, perhaps stumbled....home in a happy drunken haze. The whole evening had been joyous. I remember at one point finding Chris's wife and we exchanged an enthusiastic hug as I exclaimed, "I can't believe it's finally happening! This is so exciting!"

More visits to the brewery over the holidays followed, and I was able to celebrate my 39th birthday there on December 28 with a group of friends.

Happy birthday to me!
After years of declining interest in celebrating getting older (who wants to acknowledge they're closing in on 40, after all), this was the best birthday I'd had in a long time.

These days one can find me at the brewery almost every afternoon on days it's open (five days a week right now). All the staff know me; I said to them on that first night, "You're going to see a lot of me." I don't even have to tell anyone which mug is mine: #3.

My "barbed wire" mug
I chose that mug out of the hundreds available because the lines remind me of barbed wire, which reminds me of hashing, because one often runs into (sometimes quite literally) barbed wire on trail. I took the Redhead with me to the brewery on mug-picking night (this was prior to our weekly viewing of "A Game of Thrones") and she was the one who pointed out the resemblance to barbed wire.

I was at the brewery last Friday after work, and the setting sun was shining through the big western window. (I found it kind of depressing that every other time I've been there, it's been cloudy. Hooray for Michigan winter.) The sunlight made all the glasses sparkle and the taps gleam and I thought it was just about the prettiest thing I'd ever seen.

Sad iPhone camera with zero dynamic range did not accurately capture the scene. It was really, really bright.
Thus far having the brewery in town has been all I hoped for and more. Even if I wasn't an investor it would still be a wonderful addition to the local scene. I can't wait for warm weather and the opening of the outdoor patio, being able to walk home in daylight, bringing the hashers in for an on-after, and, of course, continued visits of my own. Many, many visits.

I wouldn't end this post without pertinent information!

Chelsea Alehouse Brewery
420 North Main St, Suite 100
Chelsea, MI

Facebook: Chelsea Alehouse
Twitter: @ChelseaAlehouse

Come on down. Sit for a spell. Have a few pints. Chances are, I'll be there.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Early Morning Thought Process

6:00 AM: Alarm goes off.

Groan. I don't want to get up and run.

Why am I so tired? I didn't feel like this yesterday.

I'll lie here and listen to the local news segment.

I really don't want to get up. I'm so cozy.

I can't flake out on only the third run of my training schedule! What kind of runner am I?

I won't be able to run after work because I'm giving blood this morning and running after donating is a bad idea. I have to do it now or it won't happen at all.

I'll pet Bouhaki. He's right here. Nice warm kitty.

Why am I so damn tired? I was asleep before 11:30.

Local news is over...I really, really need to get up now.  I'll do two miles. Just two miles, that's better than nothing. I need to burn off some of the calories from last night's tapas dinner.

Get up, lazy butt.Get up and run!

I did.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident

If it's raining when I wake up, I am very likely to cancel my morning run because "I don't want to run in the rain."

If it starts raining after I've already left, I will merely shrug and keep going because "it's just rain, it can't hurt me."

This morning I experienced the latter, and it only lasted for about a minute anyway.  It wasn't even proper rain; it was more of a gentle sprinkle.

We are experiencing a bit of a January warm-up here in the Big Mitten. The guy on the radio could barely contain his glee when he said Saturday's high would approach 60 degrees. Here's to hoping all the snow piles in my yard will melt.

After being stricken with the plague (aka influenza, or whatever) last week, I have rebounded enough to commence training for my next half marathon, the Martian Half in Dearborn, Michigan, on April 13. The Martian series sort of kicks off the big-distance race season in Michigan, and in the past I have done the 10K (2008, 2011) and the half (2009).

Thirteen weeks and counting! Onward!

Friday, December 7, 2012


The most recent piece of spam I received was from someone trying to sell me 11 acres of land in Puerto Rico. "This is a must see with priceless views at day or night!"A 9-year-old picture was attached. This slice of tropical heaven could be mine for $45,000! I'll get right on that.

Last Saturday the Engineer and I ran the Holiday Hustle 5K in Dexter, an easy 12-minute drive from my place. Even better, the race started at 4:30 PM, so there was no oh-dark-thirty wakeup and waiting in my cold kitchen for coffee to brew. I saw a bunch of runner-friends and enjoyed the very un-December-like temperature of 59 degrees. In past years I have run this race while bundled up from head to toe, dodging ice, and being snowed on, so being able wear cropped tights and a short-sleeved shirt was a welcome change. I didn't run as fast on Saturday as I did four years ago, however, finishing in 28:35 (9:13/mile average).

Yesterday the Redhead and I returned to Lillie Park for a lunchtime run. We managed 3.5 miles and I returned to work reinvigorated for the rest of the afternoon. I need our midday runs to keep me motivated as my running frequency has dwindled, I have no goal race on the horizon (until possibly the Running Fit Trail Half Marathon at the end of April), and it's depressingly dark and cold in the mornings.

As an erstwhile vocalist for my company's pickup band, I agreed to perform a few songs for our holiday hoopla on December 18. My choice of song material was restricted to "pop" Christmas songs, as in, things than lean secular with no overtly religious references. However, I'm sneaking in some classical music in the form of the traditional carol "Noël nouvelet," which I will sing both in French and with my "opera voice." Gotta bring a little class to this joint!

Tomorrow afternoon in Dearborn my hashing kennel is gathering to bid farewell to one of our own. He's leaving the area and will lay trail for us one last time. It was at a hash in late June hared by the same person that I rescued my little trash pile kitten, Melvin. I named him for the city of Melvindale, which is where I found him, dirty, starving, and scrounging around in a discarded heap of household goods. I took that pathetic fleabag kitten home with me and now, over five months later, he looks like this:

My sweet baby. He loves me so much.

Friday, November 2, 2012


I've been keeping el bloggo here for over five years, and in that time I have received the occasional spam email coming to the account I have set up for the blog. You fellow run-bloggers know the type: "Hi, I'm Miss So-and-So! Just visited Running into the Sun as I was looking through fitness and health blogs. Thanks for the motivation, inspiration and excellent reads, I enjoy your posts very much! I was wondering if you would post a link to my web site, Blah Blah Blah dot com..."

Et cetera.

Often the web site, product, or angle these emails want me to promote has NOTHING to do with running or anything else I have ever written about on el bloggo, like the guy who wanted me to plug his outdoor furniture web site, or the one I got for mental health treatment programs.

A few months ago I got this one:
I came across your site while researching information on the flu, and wanted to make sure I had the right email for you. My blog just released a really cool resource that has a lot of information about the aggregate cost of the flu and I wanted to send it along to you. Does this look like something you’d want to share on your site?
The only time I wrote about the flu was when I thought I had it in early 2009.

In early October I got a very creative one from a nice gentleman in Nigeria who wanted me to send him Bibles.
May this letter find you blessed in Christ. I am writing from West Africa and it is a blessing getting to you in the other part of the world. It is my prayer that you become a friend of me and the local church here.  I also want you to note that all I’m asking for from you is niether silver nor gold but God’s holy book. Meeting one through the internet especially now that all evil abounds in it can be very distrusting but mine is all about God and outside of it nothing.
After several hundred more words, he finally got to the point:  
The reason why I am writing is to appeal for your assistance in the area of a Study Bible which will be of help to me in my research and study of the bible as well as lesson preparation as a pastor. My request is for your help for 6 copies of Large print Dake Annotated Reference bibles. Thank you for considering this request. And as you help to meet this kingdom need the Lord will bless you finance abundantly. If you send the bibles through post office a registered postage the bibles will get to us safely.
Sure. I'll get right on that! least he wasn't trying to give me millions of dollars from an orphaned Nigerian bank account. 

The one which hit my inbox yesterday is what prompted me to write this post and share the absurdity of unsolicited spam email. Perhaps by posting this crap it will serve as a warning to other people who would like to spam me. Note to spammers: I laugh in your general direction. I will never plug your web site or product on my blog. I don't do reviews or giveaways. I think you're all idiots. Leave me alone.

Damn, did I just dry up my well of potential targets of scorn? Wait...I take it back! You're all AWESOME!
Dear Colleague, 
It’s election season, and it’s time to let your voice be heard – not just about the candidates you support, but also about the doctors you most appreciate. Vote up the physicians you like best today in HealthTap’s Top Doctor Competition. Tens of thousands of doctors are also participating, by voting up one another. 
All U.S. doctors are listed, so our impartial voting and ranking system will help you and your readers find the right doctor anytime, anywhere, for free. As the votes tally up, you’ll discover which doctors other users and physicians vote as “best.” Log in to HealthTap today and vote for your favorite doctor and their bedside manner, related to procedures or conditions they’re best known for. And you can even vote on your favorite aspects of your doctor’s personality (like being “caring” or “inspiring”) to highlight to the world what you appreciate about them most. For the first time ever, doctors highly rated by other doctors and patients rise in visible rankings, so you can get a clear view of the quality of care they provide, and of their bedside manner.
Helping others and showing gratitude is easy –  vote for your favorite doctors today!
Best regards,
Jeffrey Pollard, MD
Double Board Certified Surgeon
Director, HealthTap Medical Expert Network
 "Dear Colleague"? Did I obtain an M.D. and not know it?

In other, non-spam news, I managed to slip out after work yesterday for my first run in a week. The sun was out for the first time in days and the temperature was an ideal 48. Come Sunday it will be dark an hour earlier and post-work runs will not be as enjoyable. We're heading into the toughest part of the year, my friends. Dark, cold, and depressing. Stay strong out there.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Detroit Half Marathon 2012 Edition

Lots of people standing around in the cold and dark at 6:15 am: it must be a fall marathon
In 2007 I made the Detroit Half Marathon my first substantial distance race. I had never run 13 miles in a row in my life and I signed up on a whim to prove to myself I could run farther than a 5K. Well, as we all know, that race led to seven more half marathons, five marathons, a Boston Qualifying effort, and too many 5Ks and 10Ks for me to count (though I could look them up, I'm too lazy).

On Sunday, October 21, I was back in downtown Detroit, where it all began five years ago, to run my ninth half marathon. I had put in the weeks of training necessary and I felt physically ready, even if I knew I wasn't going to be running very fast. I anticipated finishing in 2:10, though I really wished I could finish faster than my time from the Dexter-Ann Arbor Half in June (2:04:22).

The race started at 7:00 which meant we had to be parked downtown by 6:00 in order to avoid street closures (which meant we were up at 4:15 and left just after 5:00...ugh). I use a parking lot in the Greektown area for events like this, because it's easy to get to and I sneak into downtown off I-375 to the east, thereby avoiding the traffic jams caused by everyone trying to take the only way they know into town (Woodward Avenue). We zoomed past a gigantic line of cars backed up on I-75 waiting to get off at Grand River (SUCKERS) and reached my parking lot (almost empty and $5.00 for the whole day) without ever having to wait behind another car.

I'd tell you where to find it but then I'd have to kill you. MY PARKING LOT. MINE.

We walked to the starting corral area and I hopped into a porta-potty that had NO LINE to take my third crap of the morning. The coffee I made was doing its job a little too well. Then it was time to...stand around for a while.

Trying to stay warm

I wore a crazy bright shirt so I was easy to see
At 7:00 the first wave of runners took off. My wave didn't cross the start line until ten minutes later. I settled into my normal cruising speed and looked forward to the miles ahead. The visual of a long line of runners, backlit by the rising sun and ascending the Ambassador Bridge at mile 3 was, as always, the visual highlight of the race. The view from the top of the bridge was beautiful. We descended into Windsor, Ontario and at mile 7 entered the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel for the "Underwater Mile." I HATE the Underwater Mile. It's hot, stuffy, loud, and smells funny. When the cool, fresh air hits your face upon exiting the tunnel at mile 8, it feels SO good. People all around me were audibly going "Ahhhhhh." Shortly after leaving the tunnel, I spotted the Engineer in the crowd. I veered over to the barricade to give him a high five; then it was back to business. Five miles to go!

Around mile 10 my knees started aching. This bothered me as my knees have never been a source of discomfort in the past. I felt great otherwise, knew I was almost done, and forged on toward the end. I kept my pace steady in the final quarter mile and finished strong, stopping Garmy at 2:09 and change. While I was slightly disappointed, I knew that stopping for a bathroom break at 8.5 miles hadn't helped my time.

I found the Engineer and we went back to my car where I changed into fresh clothes. We walked backwards along the marathon course to the Motown-Ann Arbor hash kennel's beer check at mile 24.5, where I got to enjoy a well-deserved Stone Ruination IPA. (We were handing out PBR to the runners; I raided the secret stash of good beer.)

Every job well done deserves a beer!
Watching the tide of humanity stream past for an hour and a half cemented my resolve: I am going to run another marathon before the end of 2013. I will turn 40 next year and this is the goal I have set for myself before I hit that milestone.

The same weekend of the race, I dog-sat for my friends' little dog. I brought her to my house that Friday afternoon and...well, various hijinks and scuffles and shenanigans ensued. Bouhaki hid (I barely saw him all weekend), Darwin couldn't have cared less, but Melvin was VERY PUT OUT at the presence of this INTERLOPER in his house. Annabelle was sitting on my lap Friday afternoon and Melvin was circling my chair like a shark. He paused to glare at her and I snapped a picture. The Engineer turned it into a LOLCAT.

Feel the rage!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Falling Slowly

What happened?

The last time I posted was July 31. On that day, the high was 86. The whole month had been one long miserable slog through insufferable heat and humidity, with the nadir coming on July 6 when the weather station at the Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea recorded a high of 103. Fortunately I was in Scotland at the time, luxuriating in clouds, drizzle, and 62 degrees. Everywhere I went, the locals moaned about the weather, and my response was invariably, "are you kidding? I'm loving this, considering what I left behind."

Now it is fall. The nights have been comforter-snuggling cold and the days have barely cracked 60 degrees. Saturday morning I was up ridiculously early for a long run at Hudson Mills Metropark in Dexter with the Engineer and the Redhead. It was about 37 degrees when we left, and I was in nearly-full winter gear: thick tights, gloves, and hat. I wore a single thick base layer, because I knew I would heat up quickly once we got moving. I had eleven miles to cover.

Fall in Michigan. Eat your heart out, New England.
I am in the final days of training for the Detroit Half Marathon on October 21. I have been feeling good about my runs of late. While I am not by any means speedy, I feel strong. The 11 miles I ran on Saturday went by fast (good company) and I pushed myself over the final mile to see how much I had left in the tank and managed to squeeze out an 8:59.

I ran 2:04 at Dexter-Ann Arbor in June. I'd like to better that in Detroit. I doubt sub-2:00 is within my capabilities if I want to run the race wisely and not crash and burn towards the end. I have been cranking out my shorter runs (five miles or fewer) at the pace needed to run a 2:00 half marathon, but I don't know if I could hold that pace for 13 miles. On race day, however, as we all know...strange things can happen.

I love running at this time of year. The weather is so very kind to us runners. After the horrible summer we endured this feels like a gift. The Redhead and I have resumed running during the workday now that we don't have to worry about heatstroke.

Last Friday I drove to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan, for my long-awaited stock car driving experience. Last year, I purchased a deal for half-off a solo driving adventure at MIS, which is only 20 miles from my house. I have a quasi-secret love for NASCAR and for many summers in a row I was on the infield at MIS watching cars turn left for 4 hours and drinking lots of beer. This was my chance to see the track FROM THE TRACK.

I cannot describe how excited I was. I arrived at MIS too early for my class, so I stood around and watched the cars roar by on the track, getting more excited by the minute. Finally it was my turn and I was fitted for my Nomex suit and helmet. Then it was off to class, where I learned how I was expected to behave on the track and how to operate the car. About 45 minutes into the instructions, a woman came in the room and announced that MIS fire safety was shutting them down because of rain. There would be no more activity that day. When I heard that, I almost started to cry. I was SO CLOSE! SO CLOSE! to getting in that car and driving it at 150 MPH around the track.

Sadly, there was nothing else to do but head home. I have to reschedule for the spring. NEXT TIME, this is going to happen, dammit.

All suited up and nowhere to go...

Lastly, in honor of fall, here is Yo La Tengo's "Autumn Sweater."

Side note: in 2000, when I was on a University of Michigan geology department field trip out West, my friend Erik passed his Discman (remember those?!) back to me and simply said, "Listen to track 12." I did, and that was the beginning of a beautiful musical friendship.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I am just going to squeeze under the July wire with this post, which is mostly going to be about something that happened in June. A few days after my last post (June 16) I flew to New York City and from there I traveled up to northern Vermont for my third running of the Green Mountain Relay.

My team, Slow White and the Eleven Dwarves, didn't field a team at last year's race. It had been two years since I took in the scenery of rural Vermont and I was very excited to return. There were familiar as well as unfamiliar faces at the van rental place on the morning of June 22. I knew over the next 48 hours I was going to make some amazing new friends.

The most notable thing that happened on the ride to St. Albans was I joined Twitter after staunchly refusing to do so for a long time. The peer pressure finally got to me and I caved in about halfway there. The title of this post refers to the hashtag for our team...and boy, did we get a LOT of use out of that hashtag over the weekend.

I had a wonderful time, ran faster than I expected, and my team won our division. These two pictures capture the experience the best:

Rocks. There were rocks everywhere. This is a big piece of schist.
Rural scenery. You can't beat that.
The weather was perfect, the company was awesome, and I can't wait to do it again next year.

On July 4 I departed the US for the first time in ten years for my vacation to...


I saw fantastic rocks, drank a lot of beer, went hashing, ate some of the most delicious food I've ever had (including haggis), visited whisky distilleries, and...well, had one of the best times of my life.

It wouldn't be a trip to Europe without at least one ruined church (Elgin Cathedral)

...and it wouldn't be a trip for me anywhere without good beer. Brew Dog Brewery, Aberdeen. I'm enjoying a Sink the Bismarck barleywine, at 41% ABV one of the world's strongest beers.

Ullapool harbor
I haven't been writing about running, because since the Green Mountain Relay, there hasn't been much running happening. I'm not training for anything, but I still get out the door a few mornings a week. It's not enough to say anything profound about. Soon enough, I will be back on a training schedule, this time for the Detroit Half Marathon in early October. Summer is half over, time to look forward to fall (and maybe some relief from this heat).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Make Way For Ducks

While I was out for a ten-mile run this morning, this handsome quartet crossed my path.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon: Redemption!

As many of you already know, I suffered a catastrophic injury during the Cleveland Half Marathon on May 15, 2011. The summer that followed was a complete wash, filled with no running, Frankenboot, and physical therapy. When I finally did resume running in August, it was as if the previous four years had never happened. I was literally back where I had begun--fitness-wise, weight-wise. It was a depressing few months as I struggled to rebuild my base and lose weight. I gradually rediscovered the joy of running, which culminated in The Streak: 13 straight days of running in late December-early January. Even though The Streak came to an end, it was enough. Enough to set me back on track and focused on a goal: to run another half marathon in the spring. I wanted to return to Cleveland to give that race a smackdown for what happened to me a year earlier, but it conflicted with my 15th college Reunion. I decided to run the Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon instead.

I whipped up another spreadsheet based on Hal Higdon's Novice II half marathon training plan and got down to business at the end of March. Things moved along smoothly and I found myself doing unexpectedly well in a few local races, including one where I took home my first age group win in FOREVER.

I was feeling confident. My last two long runs were stellar and I was, like, "BRING IT" to the Dx-A2.

I was ready to give the finger to my calf injury, to last summer's lack of running, to Frankenboot, to weight gain, to the races I wanted to run but couldn't, to the runs where I felt like I was dying after two miles, to everything that brought me low over the previous year. I was ready for a comeback.

Race morning yesterday was crisp and dry. I was oh so thankful considering the weather a week earlier: 90 degrees and humid. I ran a bit on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday and each run was like a waterlogged death march. I despaired that the weather for the half marathon would bring more of the same misery. Not so! 58 and clear were the order of the day.

A quick trip to Ann Arbor, park the car, hop on the bus, and 20 minutes later the Engineer and I were in Dexter almost an hour and a half early for the start of the race. A lot of sitting around ensued before we were ready to join the crowds at the start.

My strategy for the race was to join with the 2:05 pace group, stick with it as long as I could, and either fade back (boo) or stay fresh and finish under 2:05 (yay). I've never purposefully latched on to a pace group before, so this was new territory. The race got underway and I shuffled forward with the rest of the mob, finding my feet, easing into my stride, until I was cruising along at a nice comfortable pace. I forced myself to slow down and stay behind the pace group despite my legs wanting more. The sun played hide and seek behind some clouds, and the course rolled and dipped on the terrain adjacent to the Huron River. I managed the hills with less trouble than usual, and enjoyed the shade provided by the trees when it was available. The miles slid past effortlessly: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9...I drank Gatorade and poured water on my head, ate a couple of Gu packets...soon enough, we were at mile 10 and I thought, all right, let's see what's what and gave my legs a bit of gas. I moved in front of the pace group and that was the last time I saw them. At mile 12 as we rounded the sharp curve to the south and merged onto Main St., I said to the Engineer: "Here we go." One mile left, and most of it uphill. Time to see what my legs could do after running further than I had in a year. I pressed onward and the final half mile uphill loomed. I chugged along, and with the finish line banner in sight and about 400 meters to go my legs suddenly turned to mush and I felt as if I were being dragged down. Oh, for fuck's sake! I gritted my teeth and willed myself to put one foot in front of the other as the finish drew closer. And then it was over. Garmy said 2:04:22, so I had beaten my goal of 2:05. Even though my time was well off my best (1:43:01), I was happy. I had exceeded my goal and done better than I had in Cleveland a year ago.

Once the race was over, there was only one thing left to do:

BEER! Arbor Brewing Company, Ann Arbor, MI.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Long Weekend Long Run

I didn't set my alarm when I went to bed last night, trusting that the early hour of my retiring (10:00 pm) would result in awakening with enough time to complete my long run before the heat of the day made it difficult. I anticipated I would wake up naturally around 6:30 am and be out the door around 7:00.

My cats decided 6:00 am was a great time to play "Thundering Herd of Elephants," thereby taking the place of my alarm. I got up.

The instant I set this on the bed, Boo laid down on it. I can almost hear him saying, "Yo, 'sup?"

I waited for the passage of a small rain cloud before leaving at 7:15. The morning was overcast, blissfully cool, and peaceful. I had twelve miles to cover, and I chose my favorite loop route in the country, one I've been using for long runs since my very first half marathon training cycle in 2007.

Yesterday my workplace released us from bondage two hours early. I took this gift and ran with it to lunch at the Ravens Club in downtown Ann Arbor. I had been to the restaurant several times for dinner, but I had never tried their lunch offerings. By the time I arrived it was just after 2:00 and I was starving; breakfast was a distant memory from 7:00 that morning. I quickly ordered a beer, white bean hummus with pita wedges, and a grilled chicken-eggplant panini. The beer came first.

Original Gravity (Milan, Michigan) 2 Wheeler Witbier. Reading material: Book two of the Wheel of Time series.
Lunch was as delicious as I had anticipated. All hunger pangs were eliminated.

My view of the world was obscured by trees until mile four of my run. That's when I made a turn to the north and had a clear view across an open field.

Dramatic clouds are dramatic
"Uh oh," I mumbled. "I'm going to get rained on." It was just a matter of time. I soldiered on.

Around mile 5 I passed by "Psycho House," which is a creepy old farmhouse that brings to mind the manor house from the movie Psycho. Its clapboard siding has not a shred of paint on it; the wood is a dull, weathered grayish-brown. The house is a shambles, with pieces of it missing or falling off and a general air of neglect and disrepair. I've been running past this house for years and it has always looked the same: CREEPY. Today, however, I realized it could smell it. Whatever is contained inside that house stinks. It was an odor I imagine some of the houses on "Hoarders" have: mold, animal waste (or human??), spoiled food, FUNK and DECAY. It was nasty. I wish I had taken a picture.

I stopped for a Gu, and not long afterward a woman on a bike pulled up next to me. It was one of my Running Fit 501 training group partners from the summer of 2009. She was out for a ride and was trying to beat the rain, which had become imminent as the dark clouds from the above picture moved in. I didn't stay dry for much longer as a light drizzle began to fall. It wasn't bad; in fact, it was refreshing. The hat I was wearing kept the water out of my eyes and my iPhone was safely stashed in my CamelBak, so I didn't care if I got a little wet.

Shortly before mile 7 the earbud dislodged from my left ear. I had to stop and fumble around with it, getting more and more annoyed as my slick fingers, wet hair, ear, and earbud refused to work well together. When I finally got moving again, I forgot to restart Garmy...which I didn't figure out until about ten minutes later when I looked down at my wrist and realized it still said "6.81."


Sigh. I knew I had run close to a mile, so I tacked that on to what Garmy said and pressed on. It was a bit of a boost to realize I was at mile 8 instead of mile 7 and that I only had 4 miles left to cover. Then 3. Then 2...turning onto the homestretch back into Chelsea on Cavanagh Lake Rd...then 1 as I passed the city limits sign at Chelsea's western edge...and then it started raining in earnest, and what little of me remained that wasn't wet quickly got drenched. I could feel water streaming off my hat and down my back. I stopped Garmy at 11.12 miles and knew I had met or even slightly exceeded my 12-mile goal.

I got out of my wet clothes as quickly as possible and into dry ones so I could stretch. First I put my legs up on a wall, and being down on the floor at cat level meant only one thing.

Darwin helping. There was much sprawling and rolling and purring.
My final long run is out of the way. The Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon is June 3, one week from tomorrow. These last two runs--the 11 miles I did in Massachusetts last week and today's 12 miles--have been great confidence-boosters. They felt relaxed and easy in the best of ways. I'm ready!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Over Hill, Over Dale, Over River

Since my last post three weeks ago, I have been busy. First there was the Road Ends 5 Mile trail race in the Pinckney Rec Area about 7 miles from my house on April 29. The following weekend was the Heart and Sole 10K right here in Chelsea; I was able to do a warm-up jog to the start from my house. May 12 was the Dances with Dirt Gnawbone 50 Mile Relay. Finally, I was away in Massachusetts for my 15th college reunion this past weekend, where I fit in two runs during the three days I was there. The Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon is quickly approaching (June 3!) so the final long runs on my schedule are vital.

Road Ends 5 Mile Trail Run with the Engineer. If you're wondering why we were dressed for winter on April was 27 degrees when the race started. I eventually took off the gloves and the hat, but was glad for my Sugoi Firewall jacket.

My outfit for the Dances with Dirt 50 mile team relay. We were a team of hashers. This was at the start area before the race. I'm drinking coffee (it was early). Beer came later.
The Northampton Bikeway, where I did my 11-mile long run on Friday morning. Gorgeous.
The Norwottock Rail Trail bridge over the Connecticut River, where I did part of my 5-mile run Sunday morning with BFF Sara
Yesterday Cleveland hosted its marathon and half marathon. This was the first time since 2008 I haven't been on hand to participate (see aforementioned college reunion). In 2009 I qualified for Boston. In 2010 I paced my Dad to a sub-two-hour finish in the half. Last year...that was the year of the Great Calf-Shredding Debacle. A year has passed since that injury. While my leg is rock solid, I haven't returned to the level of fitness I brought to the starting line of the marathon in 2009. I may never get there again and I've come to terms with that. I'm getting older, and the amount of work required to reach peak conditioning doesn't appeal to me. I am embracing my status as a nearly-middle-aged, middle-of-the-pack recreational runner. The occasional surprise age group award might slide my way, but I have the distinct feeling that my days of setting personal bests are over.

However, my fitness level is such that I am able to get out and run eleven miles on a pretty trail on a beautiful day, enjoy nature, and love the feeling of propelling my body over the earth, which is what this has always been about, from the very beginning.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Why Hello There, Age Group Win!

The Redhead asked me last week if I would be interested in running a little 5K race not far from her home in Howell. I said, "sure!" The Engineer was on board as well, and thus early Saturday morning we drove to the Redhead's place. The three of us did a warmup run of about a mile to the race venue, which was probably a very good thing, as the temperature Saturday morning was about 37 degrees. This was a low-key local race in its purest form: about 150 participants, no chip timing, teenagers working the bullhorn, lots of little kids, a dog on foot, start and finish at the local high school. The "go" signal was a 3-2-1 countdown, and then we were off.

My race "strategy" was to run comfortably hard for the first mile, assess how I felt, and press on or modify from there. first mile was an 8:05.

8:05?!?! What the hell? I hadn't run that fast in who knows how long...years, probably. Okay, I thought. I feel good, let's roll with this. Mile 2 was an 8:14; I had slipped a little but that was still far beyond my expectations. At mile 3 I decided to let it all hang out and push with as much as I was capable of. I don't know what my 3M split was, but I finished in 25:35 (8:15/M). It was my fastest 5K time in 2 years. I was pleasantly surprised. I hadn't been trying that hard, just running at a pace that seemed appropriate but not punishing.

Even better, when awards were handed out about 30 minutes later (a time period during which it started SNOWING), all of us won age group awards--the Redhead and I took home age group wins, and the Engineer took second in his age group. He had the misfortune of being in the same age group as the winner of the race...who ran it in 15:59. Overachiever!

Yes, we were dressed like this on April 28.
We ran back to the Redhead's place, warmed up a little, and departed. The Engineer and I went straight to Ypsilanti to the Wurst Bar, where we enjoyed a couple of brews and some yummy food.

This race has given me confidence that I may yet regain the speed I had three years ago. My weights loss (25 lbs!) and more focused training have yielded concrete results. I improved my 5K time on Saturday by more than three minutes over what I ran at the Shamrocks and Shenanigans on March 10. My next race is Saturday at the Heart and Sole 10K right here in Chelsea. I can walk to the start from my house! It's the Holy Grail of race venues!

Obligatory Cat Picture:

Bouhaki watching Game of Thrones. He is my little TV addict.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I had three miles on the schedule yesterday. At some point (perhaps on the walk from my office to my car) I decided that three miles was not enough. I needed to run longer to take advantage of the perfect weather. One does not simply waste 59 degrees and sunny on a mere three miles.  Not when it can be snowing one day and 80 degrees two days later.

I headed into the country west of town on my 5.2-mile loop. I was feeling okay, not especially energetic, but enjoying the sunshine and cool, dry air. I made the northward turn onto Conway Rd. and shortly after Garmy chirped for two miles, I saw it. It was lying in the middle of the road, a dark circle. I was curious. My first thought was, is that a turtle? I went over to it and picked it up. It was not a turtle. It was something so, SO much better.

I recognized it instantly: banded iron formation. I said, "Oh...oh my god." I have been lusting after a piece of this for so long, but it's very hard to come by. Any random chunks that turn up around here were transported from Canada or Michigan's Upper Peninsula by glaciers, and the best source of cool rocks like this are gravel pits, where glacial till is sorted into piles by size. (A cobble heap at an unsecured gravel pit—much like the one near where I used to live—is a gold mine for a rock-starved Michigan geologist.)  I was nowhere near a gravel pit. Where had this rock come from? Why was it just lying there by itself in the middle of the road? WHO FREAKING CARES, IT'S A PIECE OF BANDED IRON FORMATION! I hugged it to my chest. My very own BIF!

And now, for a geology lesson...

Banded iron formations (BIFs) are some of the earliest evidence we have for the presence of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere. Only with oxygen can one get the red of iron oxide, as you can see in the photo above. BIFs are extremely old rocks; most are between 1.8–2.5 Ga (that's "giga-annum," a geologist's way of saying "billions of years"). Yes, that's right: the rock I'm holding in my hand is more than a BILLION YEARS OLD. That rock was around when the only lifeform on the planet was cyanobacteria (blue-green algae).

What do algae have to do with BIFs? EVERYTHING. Algae lived in near-surface waters of the Proterozoic oceans. Algae did then what they do now: photosynthesize. Life is pretty simple for algae. Take in sunlight, produce oxygen. The waste oxygen combined with free iron ions present in the ocean water to form an iron oxide mineral, most commonly manganite (Fe3O4). The oxidized iron sank to the sea floor and formed the red layers in a BIF. The dark gray layers are iron-poor, fine-grained silica (chert), which may have formed when the algae experienced mass die-offs. As the algal biomass expanded beyond the capacity for the available iron to neutralize the waste O2, the oxygen content of the sea water rose to toxic levels, resulting in large-scale extinction of the algae population and the accumulation of the iron-poor layer of silica on the sea floor. As time passed and algae populations re-established themselves, a new iron-rich layer began to accumulate. Repeat this scenario for a few hundred million years and you have a banded iron formation.

After I recovered from my initial shock and surprise at finding such an amazing rock, I nestled it into my hand and resumed running. The rock felt heavy (I later weighed it: 4 lbs) so I shifted it from hand to hand as my arms grew tired. You wouldn't think four pounds is a lot...until you have to carry it for 3 miles. Toward the end of the run I was moving it once a minute. It felt like it weighed ten pounds. I was so glad to finish my five miles. I immediately put water on the rock for the picture, because all rocks look better when wet.

In hashing, something one picks up on trail is "trail treasure." This was trail treasure of the best kind. Better than the Michigan hat, better than the big reusable bag that holds my farm share, better than the end of an aluminum billet. This is as great a rock find as the serpentinite I dug out of a Western Ireland beach when I was at field camp. This almost makes up for my ex-husband taking my rocks with him when he moved out. (Almost.)

My BIF will go into my special rock display area (what? you mean you don't have one?) with my serpentinite from Ireland, lava from Hawaii, jasper from Lake Superior, biotite from Bancroft, Ontario, fluorite from Colorado, and sea urchin shell from Maui.'re my new BFF.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Yard Work: Substitute for Strength Training

Sunday morning, the Engineer and I cranked out a seven-mile run on one of my favorite country road routes north-northeast of town. The weather was PERFECT...and least until we hit the turnaround point and ran smack into a brisk western headwind. Despite the windy slogging, I couldn't really complain. The sky was a brilliant blue, the sun was shining, and it was about 56 degrees, which was perfect for shorts and a T-shirt. We finished the run in the cemetery and enjoyed a pleasant cool-down walk back to my house.

I made peppered bacon and a scrambled egg-onion mix for breakfast tacos; this post-run brunch was paired with Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere from the growler we filled at the brewpub in Ann Arbor the night before. Beer for brunch? Why not!

I allowed myself a cruelly brief period of relaxation before returning outside to tackle the weekend's most onerous task, one which is unavoidable if you own a home:


The mild winter and warm spring coupled with recent precipitation had allowed my lawn to grow long, thick, and lush in enough areas that a mow job was a must. Various other plants in my yard had sprouted up earlier than usual, and last fall's dead leaves and other debris was still thick on the ground. The overall effect was "unattractive tangle." Action had to be taken, because today is curbside brush pick-up day; thus, all the trimmings and yard waste had to be stacked or bagged and placed next to the street.

The Engineer mowed while I raked, yanked, and bagged. Two hours later, the yard was much improved, and three big brown bags stuffed with debris sat next to a pile of branches at the curb. Mission accomplished.

A few hours later every muscle in my back was begging for mercy. I had pulled perhaps a bit too energetically at some of the young trees I had uprooted, including one which required my squatting down almost onto my heels and straining backwards with all my strength (I got that bastard, though. Ha!). All the pulling coupled with countless repetitions of bending over and straightening up had wreaked havoc on my lower back. The Engineer and I went out for Indian food in the evening and when we got up to leave the restaurant, I couldn't even stand up straight. I took a painkiller from my emergency stash after we got home and immediately crashed out on my bed.

My hamstrings and hips have joined the pity party today and my back is still wrecked, but damn, my yard looks good.

Obligatory Cat Picture:

Darwin out for a walk in the long pre-mowed grass

Sunday, March 25, 2012


For the record, I hate that word (also: "panties." UGH). However, it is the most accurate description of my run this morning. Fog hugged the ground and the ceiling of clouds hung low. A few random raindrops fell on my hair and face, and I felt as if I were in a grocery store mister; it was delightfully cool and refreshing. I managed 5.3 miles of my planned 6, cutting it short because of a bathroom emergency: the Beast of the GI Tract awakened around mile 4. Rain began coming down much harder as well when I had about 1/2 mile left, and cemented my decision to break for home sooner than expected. I felt much stronger than I did last week even though my pace was glacial. At least I didn't want to curl up on the floor when I got home.

I'm in my Ohio hometown for the weekend to celebrate my little nephews' birthdays. Yesterday was the big party, after which my parents and I visited a local beer-and-burgers establishment for dinner, where I enjoyed a Bluegrass Brewing Bourbon Barrel Ale (pictured). I decided I deserved it for surviving 3 hours of stampeding, shrieking, crying, whining, yelling little kids.

I finally got my training plan for Dexter-Ann Arbor typed up and printed out. All in all, it's just another spreadsheet on the wall. Ten weeks to the race!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I'm Melting!

There are some things that just aren't right. Pauly D's hair. Jeggings. Tea-flavored beer.

I would like to add to that list: 80 degrees in March. In Michigan. We're supposed to have snow on the ground. I'm supposed to be wearing flannel pajamas to bed. It's not supposed to be EIGHTY DEGREES!

Nonetheless, today was Run Day with Red. I packed shorts and a tank top and even put moisturizer with sunscreen on my face after my morning shower. Five miles on tap.

Let me preface this by saying that last week I came down with some awful rhinovirus which knocked me flat and after I struggled through four days at work I cried "uncle" and took Friday off. I then spent three days hunkered down in bed or on the sofa plowing my way through all three of the "Hunger Games" books. Next week I will be making a trek to the Hunger Games movie, of that you can be sure.

Anyway, over the course of five days I lost 8 pounds because I had zero appetite. Having no sense of smell and thus no sense of taste killed my desire to eat, so I lived on tea and oatmeal for several days. Saturday I forced myself to eat a scrambled egg because I knew needed protein. When Sunday rolled around I was essentially back to normal, but the rapid weight loss and minimal food intake wreaked havoc on my stamina. I went out for a run Sunday morning and after 1.5 miles I knew I was toast. My planned four miles contracted to two as I found my way back home, defeated.

Two days later (today) I was more optimistic. I felt even better, I'd had one more day to rest, and I was finally eating again. Red and I and her coworker Fabulous started on the edge of the Michigan campus and worked our way west into downtown Ann Arbor before turning back. Normally I would be thrilled to run around my home city, but today I began fading after only 2 miles. The heat felt oppressive and my legs refused to respond. I was determined to see this run to its conclusion, so I plodded grimly onward even as my pace slipped almost to brisk walking speed. Stinging sweat was in my eyes, my legs felt wobbly, and my head was starting to spin. It was so hot. So goddamn hot. Why was it so HOT? It's MARCH! It's not supposed to BE LIKE THIS! At 4.5 miles, at the final hill, I gave up and walked. I felt like ass and I wasn't "running" any faster than walking pace, so I walked. I cursed my wasted legs, cursed the stupid hill, cursed the blazing sun. Oh, accursed sun! Go away! Give me a few more weeks of 30 degrees before you unleash your summer soul sucking awfulness upon me!

When I got back to work and changed, I peered at my forehead and shoulders in the mirror...yep, sunburn. Just a touch, but it was there. I like getting my color while I'm relaxing on the sand oceanside on Cape Cod in JULY, not running around Ann Arbor in March.

In other news:

The only good thing about losing 8 lbs in less than a week?


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: March Onward!

Howdy, folks.

Yes, I admit it's been a good long while since I last posted. There's too much to say, so I shall simply show.

Cat antics: Boo "helps" me fold laundry. SOCK ATTACK!

More cat antics: Darwin beats up on his favorite cat toy.

I reorganized my entire T-shirt collection. This one is from a cross-country invitational my sophomore year in high school (which my team won, by the way). Of COURSE I kept's a priceless relic!

I did the American Lung Association Fight for Air Stair Climb at the Renaissance Center in Detroit for the third time. 1,035 steps in 12:28!
Red and I have done many midday runs together. We started with a mile on the University of Michigan track and are now running 3.5M on the sidewalk. The weather has been very cooperative.

Many delicious beers were consumed. These are two different IPAs at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti. I also visited a new brewery in South Lyon, Witch's Hat, for the first time.

I have hashed more in the last month than I have in a long while. I am now up to 66 hashes with my home kennel. This picture of me and the Engineer was at a weekday evening hash in Toledo.
In other news:
  • I have lost about 15 pounds on Weight Watchers thus far
  • I am running four to five days a week, perhaps 20 miles a week total.
  • I registered for the Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon on June 3.
  • I am finally starting to feel like a "real runner" again.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

83 Days

Today is February 2nd, Groundhog Day. For most people, it's a day when a grumpy woodchuck is hauled out of a fake burrow into a carnival-like atmosphere and "decides" whether or not we will have six more weeks of winter.

Newsflash, people: we will always have six more weeks of winter after Groundhog Day. The spring equinox isn't until March 20.

Leaving aside the absurdity of trusting a large rodent to predict the weather, Groundhog Day means something else to me. On February 2, 2007, I underwent a total hysterectomy. On February 2, 2007—five years ago today—I got my life back.

I've alluded to the operation before in passing on el bloggo before. I specifically addressed it in one of the first posts I ever made, but I have never discussed what happened to me in the years leading up to my surgery and why I decided on, as my surgeon put it, "definitive management" at the age of 33.

I had a lengthy post partially written about all the trials and tribulations I endured, starting at the very beginning, but I have decided instead to let the 83 days (for perspective, that's 11 weeks and 6 days—almost three months) leading up to my surgery speak for themselves. I wrote these words down elsewhere long ago so I would never forget how horrible those days were. 

A slight bit of background: in the spring of 2005 I began to suspect something was wrong with me, and in October 2005 I went to the first of many doctor's appointments. By November 2006, I had been poked, prodded, procedured, and pill-popped to the extreme, with no relief or explanation. I was having periods that lasted two, three, or four weeks with mere days between bleeding episodes.  I was an emotional wreck from the hormone war inside me (I was on estrogen, progesterone, levornogestrel...). My whole life revolved around what was going on in my nether regions. Everything I did—from what I wore each day (the darker the better) to how long it took me to towel off after a shower to the sheets I chose to put on the bed (never the white ones)—depended on the state of affairs downstairs. My uterus had made my life miserable for a year and a half, and in November 2006 it launched its final assault.

Warning: everything from this point forward may be Too Much Information for some to handle. Proceed at your own risk.


Day 1 (aka D-Day): November 12 (2006). I run the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot 5K that morning, come home, take a long hot shower, and find the first trace of Aunt Flo. "I've been expecting you," I murmur. What is her visit this time going to be like?

Day 16, November 27. Things have taken a turn for the worse after two weeks of mostly clear sailing. All of a sudden I am a fountain of blood. It's an unstoppable river. Clots galore. It's ugly.

Day 19, November 30. I wake up that morning in a fog, head spinning, so weak and dizzy I can barely stand up. I throw up. I call in sick to work. Go to the doctor. Get some estrogen pills. Am told to take TWO iron supplements per day to offset all the blood I am losing.

Day 20, December 1. A peanut-sized piece of my uterine wall falls out of me today. It is horrible. That is all I wish to say about that episode. (a quick note: The sight of that pinkish-gray blob stuck to the end of my tampon twisted my brain. I could not comprehend what I was seeing. It was like a horror movie. I thought: "My insides are falling apart." I broke down and cried. It would not be the only time I cried in the bathroom at work.)

Day 36, December 17. The estrogen FINALLY seems to be working. The open faucet has slowed to a steady trickle.

Day 37, December 18. I meet with the wonderful Dr. G at the East Ann Arbor Clinic today. I tell her I have been bleeding nonstop for 37 days. I tell her I want a hysterectomy. SHE AGREES. I get an appointment to see a surgeon at the University of Michigan hospital in a month.

Day 55, January 5 (2007). I have another pelvic ultrasound. I am bleeding like a stuck pig. I make a mess all over their sheets. I stand up and blood droplets splash on the floor, my leg, the sheet I have wrapped around me. I am so embarrassed. I say, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." I want to die.

Day 58, January 8. Morning: The fresh Super Plus tampon I put in a mere hour ago is saturated. The next one is saturated within an hour and a half. And the next one after that lasts two. I go through five Super Plus tampons in one work day. I am exhausted by the end of the day from blood loss. The entire week is very, very bad. I estimate I lose at least 1/8 to 1/4 cup of blood per day. I give up on tampons and just let blood run freely into the toilet. I watch it. I picture my measuring spoons and cups, blood spilling everywhere, clots, running red, toilet bowl water like some operating room basin, a slaughterhouse.

Day 60, January 10. I realize I have been bleeding for sixty days. I start to wonder just how long it can go on. Now it's a game. A terrible, ghastly game. A game for which I cannot see an end.

Day 61, January 11. I have to get up three times in the middle of the night to change tampons. They are each saturated, rendered useless, in two hours or less. Only the pads I wear at the same time keep my clothing and sheets from being fouled. This goes on for days.

Day 66, January 16. I meet with the even more wonderful Dr. S. at the U of M. I beg her to make it stop. Just make it stop. Give me relief. Give me a hysterectomy. Take it all away. SHE AGREES. I have a surgery date of February 2. (Dr. S. is my hero. I truly believe she saved my life.)

Day 80, January 30. Eighty days. I have now been bleeding for eighty days. How is that even possible? I think back to November 12. If someone had told me on that day that I would still be bleeding at the end of January I would have laughed and told them they were insane, because periods don't last that long. How could a person bleed for 80 days and still function properly?


Three days later, I had my operation. I will never forget the sensation of returning to consciousness in the recovery room. It was as if someone were slowly turning up the volume on the real world. I heard soft noises gradually getting louder, felt a soothing massaging sensation on my lower legs (anti-embolism cuffs), realized I was warm and comfortable...and...and...then, one thought, crystal clear, pushing all other thoughts aside: It's over. IT'S OVER. I WILL NEVER BLEED AGAIN. The joy and relief I felt at that moment were overwhelming; If I had had the wherewithal to scream, I would have: "IT'S OVER! IT'S OVERRRRRRRRRR!"

I'm sure the nurses would have loved that.

I wrote this a few days after surgery:
Surgery was Friday the 2nd (Groundhog word on whether or not my uterus saw its shadow upon exiting my body) and took about three hours. I came to in the recovery room at 3:00 and rested there for the next 6 hours as they tried to find me a room upstairs. I was finally moved into a room at 9:00. I had a mostly uneventful night, tried to get some sleep, used my morphine drip button as often as possible, and was woken up every hour for a vital signs check. The next morning my surgeon came around to see me and when she asked me how I was doing I said I was, above all, "relieved." She looked quizzical and I said, "It's over. Eighty-three days of bleeding and it's over forever. I'm just so happy." As I had predicted on the day I had my pre-op appointment with her (January 16) I was indeed still bleeding the day of surgery. 83 days straight. But it's OVER!

She told me that I had two pedunculated fibroids growing outside my uterus that were about three inches in diameter-- about the size of a tangerine. She showed me with her hands. Then she showed me how big my uterus was. The two fibroids combined were larger than my uterus. Ugh. I am so glad they are gone. I exclaimed, "Well that explains some of the odd sensations I had been experiencing for the past few months!"

I'm just so darn happy that it's over and I can start living normally again. When I took a shower the other day, it was so strange to be able to leisurely towel off instead of madly scrambling to pull on a pair of undies with a pad or shove a tampon into place before I started dripping blood on the floor. I am just not used to NOT having to wear feminine products 24/7. I have to keep reminding myself, "I have no uterus!" It's a wonderful thought. 
The transition to life After Hysterectomy was a wondrous journey. My first post-op shower (mentioned above) was the first in a series of rediscoveries of a life I had all but forgotten, a life that for almost two years had been drowning in a lake of blood.
I am now at day 12 post-hysterectomy and the novelty has not yet worn off. I'll turn over in bed, feel some muscles tense and then relax, and I think, Oh...I better make sure I just didn't have breakthrough bleeding...WAIT A MINUTE. When I used the bathroom in the time B.H. (Before Hysterectomy) it became second nature to perform a quick undie-check to make sure I hadn't fouled up my clothes. I still do it, and each time I give myself a little mental shakedown to remind myself I don't need to do that anymore! That will be a hard habit to break. Everything is so wonderfully NORMAL that I'm still getting used to it.
It took a long time for my sense of discovery and wonder to wear off. Each day in those early A.H. weeks was a revelation, but gradually I grew accustomed to my new life. One of the biggest triumphs I experienced was starting to run again six weeks post-op. Whereas before I had been severely hindered by fatigue from anemia (the 5K I ran on D-Day, November 12, was the limit of my endurance at the time), in the spring of 2007 I began to stretch my legs, so to speak, running farther and eventually faster than I ever expected. In May of 2007 I registered on a whim for the Detroit Half Marathon, and the rest is history.

If you've made it this far (and congratulations on that!) your reward is my discussion of the nuts and bolts of the how, what, and why of my surgery and the conditions that caused it to happen.

I had a laparoscopically-assisted vaginal hysterectomy (LAVH), which means the fabulous Dr. S. made three 1 cm incisions on my lower abdomen, delved into my innards with laparoscopes, and pulled my uterus and its appendages (fallopian tubes and cervix) out through my vajayjay. Having an LAVH meant I did not have to have my stomach sliced open from side to side: the peduncular fibroids clinging to my uterus were not prohibitively large for passage through my vagina. Once all the goods were removed, what was left of the ol' vajayjay was closed into a blunt end. I imagine it as a test tube and affectionately refer to it as "the vadge to nowhere." My ovaries were left behind; there was nothing wrong with them (small miracle!) and Dr. S. made it clear she didn't want me going into menopause at the age of 33. 

I was suffering from a condition called menometrorraghia, which is fancy-speak for "crazy-ass periods with no discernable pattern AND bonus fun awesomeness of massive blood loss!" The menometrorraghia was itself caused by adenomyosis (abnormal thickening of the endometrium) and a nasty little bugger of a submucosal fibroid a mere 1 cm in diameter that was camped out inside the uterine wall. The two pedunculated fibroids hanging off the exterior of my uterus were just there for show.

You've got the how, you've got the what...but what about the why? Why did my uterus sprout benign growths? Why did the interior thicken and grow in weird ways? Why did it happen? I still don't know. The best I can come up with is "it just did," and because I'm a scientist, that really irks me. I want evidence and explanations, and not knowing why my uterus decided to revolt after 30-ish years of peacefully residing inside my body bugs the crap out of me!

Some questions will be left unanswered.

Two more thoughts.

First: When I went to see Dr. S. six weeks after surgery, I thanked her profusely for changing my life for the better. I wish I could say I hugged her, but I honestly can't remember. I do remember, however, when she said:

"When you came here that day [January 16, the day I met her] you knew exactly what you wanted, didn't you?"

I sure as shit knew what I wanted. I wanted to be FREE. She gave that to me, and I will remember what she did for me for the rest of my life.

Finally: I consider February 2 my "second birthday." It is as important a day in my personal history as my real birthday or the day I got married.

Today is February 2. Happy fifth birthday to me!