blk: (sandwich)
"It doesn't get any easier, you just get faster" (Greg LeMond)

So what happens when it doesn't get any easier AND I don't get faster? Massive frustration is one. Along with a long search for different answers.

I started my current job 5 years ago this month, and started bike commuting (and running more) regularly about 6 months after that. That year, I made painful but positive physical progress, growing my leg muscles so that I outgrew all my pants in the quad, and getting better at the things I wanted to do.

The next 3 years felt like one big plateau. My commute was doable, but every day was still a big effort. Every hills ride pushed me to my absolute limit, behind everybody else. All my friends outpaced me. When I griped about it, the things people said boiled down to "just keep working at it and you'll get better!" and I hated that because I WAS working and I was NOT getting better. It wasn't just cycling, either. I had days I could run and days that I just slogged. Sometimes I could do a couple pullups and sometimes none at all. I tried working harder, more often, less often, eating more, eating less, and nothing much changed.

About 6 months ago something poked my brain with the idea that "can't put on muscle" is often a symptom of "not enough protein." I've always thought I've had a reasonably good and varied diet, but I HATE counting numbers so I never have. I decided to try a change that I could continue, which basically consisted of giving in to my love for eggs, snacking on nuts, and eating as much meat as I wanted instead of feeling guilty and stopping after a "serving" (i.e., 3oz). Then, since I don't actually need additional calories, finding other high calorie areas to cut back a little, which usually ends up being carbs and high-fat processed foods. My fruit/veg intake stays the same, which is "I seek them out fairly regularly" and my dairy is erratic but not heavy (some cheese, not much milk).

(Wait - lots of meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and veggies? Minimal pasta, potatoes, sugary snacks, and dairy? Oh crap, I've accidentally gone paleo! Haha, not really. I still eat whatever I want, just in slightly different proportions.)

But back to the biking. Holy shit is there a difference. The changes weren't exactly like a light switch but it was really obvious within a month or two that I found the bugfix for this particular problem for me. 6 months later, my average commute speed is much faster. I started being able to do real hills without feeling like my legs would fall off, and faster than I ever could before. I hit more PRs in my running. I went from being able to do 3 pullups at a time (on a good day) to doing 8 at a time (and repeat it). But the biggest change is not even in what I can do but what it feels like to do it. It's the difference between "this thing is so hard; I cannot push harder yet I feel like I get very low output for high effort, and I can't sustain it beyond a few more seconds" and "this thing is hard; I'm pushing really hard but the output feels appropriate to effort, and I can sustain it and even have energy for a little more." It makes working out -fun- again.

Although I kinda hope I don't change shape too much again. I just finished stocking up my wardrobe with a nice selection of pants.
blk: (ow)
Well that was the most interesting blood draw visit I've ever had. Summary: I'm fine. No bloody details included here.

I arrived at the nearby clinic for some routine lab work early this morning after dropping off the car for inspection just in time to hear an older woman in the waiting room declare that she couldn't find her script. I signed in and sat down to wait, while she went out to her car to look. She came back in, slightly panicked, and asked a nurse who was passing through what she could do, and the nurse suggested that her doctor could fax it.

Except the patient didn't know her doctor's phone number and the nurse was too busy to look it up. I offered to look it up on my phone, and fortunately the doctor had a unique enough name that I found it on the first search, even after spelling it incorrectly. She spoke to someone and asked for a fax, hung up, and thanked me profusely.

In the meanwhile, my appt time came up, and I went through the normal blood draw activities, and it all went smoothly. I was feeling fine when I got up and started to walk out.

then I almost fainted )

The whole episode took maybe 15 minutes total. I'm glad there were nice people around. In the future I probably shouldn't try to have blood taken when I have just run 10 miles the day before and not eaten since dinner. Oh well, lessons learned. And more excuses to take it extra easy today. (ETA: Oh and now I've definitely earned this donut.)
blk: (running)
The first big sign I had that something was wrong came Tuesday morning, when I got out of bed and stepped down and there was significant pain in my right foot. Some gentle poking revealed tender spots on top, but also places that were fine, and with a little care and practice, I was walking almost without noticing it. I mentioned it to my regular doctor (who I was seeing for something unrelated), and she poked it, said "stay off it for a couple weeks" and nothing else. I could wear my bike shoes with the stiff soles to walk better, so I went on in to work. More poking and internet research suggested a metatarsal stress fracture. I guessed third. I had my usual running planned (the first since Saturday), but by afternoon I decided that was not a good idea.

Overnight I woke up a few times from pain, and Wednesday it was worse. Again it felt better with the stiff bike shoes on, so I just wore those all day and tried to minimize walking, but it still hurt a lot in the wrong positions. I fixed up a foot pillow to sleep with, which helped.

The worsening alarmed me a lot, so Thursday morning I called a recommended podiatrist, stayed home from work, and did nothing but sit almost all day. By mid afternoon, it was feeling significantly improved, and by morning down to slight pain if I stepped wrong, which I've had before. I went to see the podiatrist anyways, and got X-rays.

The doctor came in after looking at my X-rays, took one look at my foot, pressed -there- and I went OW and he went "yep." Diagnosis: 4th metatarsal fracture (I was one off). A small one, I think, as I couldn't recognize it on the X-ray even after he pointed it out.

Things of note:
- On timing: He said that fractures like this generally take longer than a week to show up on X-ray. So while I had been assuming this was something that happened at the race last Saturday, it seems likely it was something earlier (like track speedwork the previous Tuesday maybe), and JASR just aggravated it, being the second hard run within a week. Then possibly biking further aggravated it, given that I biked Mon/Tue/Wed, and it got worse Tue/Wed.

- On cause: Obvious contributing factors we talked about included: 0. A specific injury (unlikely as I don't remember any), 1. Ramping up my running too quickly (likely), 2. Shoes that are too old / too minimalist (maybe), or 3. Having poor bone density (maybe). He said if I get any more, anywhere, I should get a bone density screening. Hrm. I'm fairly certain I've already had at least one in the past.

- On fixes: 1. Increasing my mileage more slowly. I thought I told myself last year: no more springtime goals. Argh. 2. New shoes. This is tough because although minimal runners do seem to be at higher risk for stress fractures, I'm positive that minimal shoes have helped my form a lot, and I love the light weight. Maybe I should look for something in the middle. 3. More calcium / Vitamin D supplements. It occurs to me that since I found out I was mildly lactose intolerant, I've cut down a lot on my dairy, which makes my stomach much happier, but might have other unintended effects, like getting less calcium?

- On activity: He prescribed a boot for walking for 2 weeks, then a slow return to activities assuming new X-rays look clean. So mostly running and biking and (maybe) climbing is out, and I'll try to stay away from long or arduous walks. Of course. Only the primary activities of my life.

On the bright side, as much as this comes at a bad time (is there ever a good time?), I'm doing OK with it. I don't have much on the calendar for the next two weeks that I can't get to by walking slowly or taking the bus. Carnival is next weekend, but most of my planned activities involve walking, standing, or sitting, all of which I can do. I will have to skip the Random Distance Run, sadly. [ profile] xuth and I have a vacation to go hiking in MD planned for the days right after I (hopefully) get the boot off. I think that can still happen, as long as I'm careful. Doctor thinks the upcoming Half should still be doable, assuming I don't aggravate anything. Not sure if my goal time is achievable, but I guess just running will still be good. And I can still swim/yoga/lift while I'm waiting.

Guess it's time to dig out my somewhat-neglected ToDo list of Things I can do that don't need feet. Plus, bonus time to catch up on some reading. Silver linings and all.
blk: (axial)
It's been quite the week! Enough that I want to post about it, at least. We've spent the last few years really enjoying getting rid of the kids for the xmas week, and going somewhere secluded to relax and be outside. This year was no different, except that family obligations poked their head in, so we went back to Ohio instead of elsewhere.

sunday through thursday, in ohio )

adding some color

Friday I tackled the ice and snow on our sidewalks, as Pittsburgh had decided to allow winter in while we were gone. The rest of the weekend has been mostly doing a lot of lazing about, cooking various things, shoveling show, going to a couple parties, and attempting to get over these coughs. Mine has settled into being the better part of laryngitis and some vague coughing after I did a bunch of talking/socializing on Friday afternoon, and sounds pretty awful, but I'm otherwise feeling fine, so I think it's just the last bit of recovery. I made some pretty ice decorations and took a long walk through Frick yesterday.

Tonight we're off to another low-key party, hopefully one where I don't have to talk too loudly. Going to ring in de new year all quiet und sottle-like. Yarrrr.
blk: (bike)
I injured my foot somehow over the weekend. It seemed to happen overnight, as the first time I noticed any pain at all was Saturday night, waking up a couple times to my foot aching from the light weight of the blanket. I'm going to chalk it up to a longish run I did on the Frick trails that previous afternoon, as that seems the most likely culprit.

Oddly, it didn't bother me most of Sunday, at least not when I was walking and biking around. It DID start bothering me when I was doing a lot of standing or sitting, later in the evening. Eventually I started poking at it, and realized there's a super tender spot right at the joint at the base of my big toe (TIL that's the first metatarsophalangeal joint), that hurts when I flex my toes with weight. Poking on the internet hints this may be something like turf toe.

My plan is to be nice to it for the week (no running!) and see if it improves, and if it's still a pain after I get back from vacation, see doctor. The possible prognosis on this according to the web is kinda worrying, and I shall be incredibly upset if it persists long enough to not let me run the Great Race.

On the bright side, my super-stiff-soled bike shoes appear to be pretty much the best thing for it, as it limits the toe flexing I have to do, so I don't have to give up that. It didn't bother me at all on my rides yesterday or today.

Which brings me to biking in this morning:

I spend a lot of time biking on roads where people get in and out of cars, or cross the street, or walk around. And a lot of that is moving relatively slowly (uphill), eyes on the road in front of me. I end up spotting coins in my path not infrequently. It's usually pennies, but with the occasional nickel or dime, I estimate I average about a couple cents a week. This morning I stopped for a larger flash of silver, only to find that I'd picked up a 1 złoty coin.

According to Google, it's worth about 30 cents, assuming I can find someone interested in paying me for a bit of Polska pocket change.
blk: (spring)
Some random updates:

I'm not into holidays for the religion; I'm in it for the food. Easter time means delicious, delicious ham on sale, so I got one. A whole one. Cooked it yesterday, then realized that I hadn't thought ahead on people to feed. I've come to the conclusion lately that I have a dearth of 1) nearby friends I know/think about 2) who are available on last-minute notice to 3) come eat food based on mammal meat. Still, I managed to pull together five of us who together made a small dent in the ham. I now have more leftover ham than god, and man is it yummy. This week will be soup-making and leftovers-freezing.

I really like having people over for food and hanging out. However, the aforementioned combination is not a good one. I need to start a) planning ahead a bit more, or b) coming up with more dietary-versatile meals.

I also succeeded in introducing the guests to Factory Fun, which is my latest favorite board game. They were gracious enough to let me win, probably because I neglected to emphasize just how important efficiency bonuses were to getting high scores.

Last week, I got a broncoscopy for science )

This week is spring break for Pittsburgh Public Schools and a dad-week for the jboys, which means [ profile] xuth and I get an ENTIRE WEEK to ourselves. Which is amazingly nice. Of course, the house remodel work is still happening (and we're impatient for it to finish) and takes plenty of our focus, so we're not getting a whole lot of quiet downtime. But I am stealing him away for a couple days to escape and go hiking in Hocking Hills, which I'm really looking forward to. The weather is so far promising to be REALLY NICE, which makes me REALLY HAPPY.
blk: (running)
I've been working towards getting back into running again, in preparation for running a marathon relay next month. So I've been running, walking, biking, and swimming, in an much-needed attempt to build up my leg muscles more, which has had the really nice effect of making my bad knee bother me less overall. It doesn't really hurt so much as give me these little awkward twinges at mostly unpredictable times, a feeling that I suspect anybody with a past joint injury is probably familiar with, but I can't really figure out how to describe beyond that. Even just a few months ago, I would 'feel' my knee twinge between one and several times a day -- while I was walking on flat ground, stepping off a curb, going up stairs, or other movements. These days, I'm going whole days without noticing it much, if I'm not working it hard.

Running is something I'm happy to say I can do again, and it doesn't hurt my knee -- at least until I stop. It's not nearly as sensitive anymore, and I'm sure there is some reasonable physiological explanation for it, but all I can tell is that if I run, then I stop or pause, and try to start running again, I can't do it.

This evening I went to escape for a evening run before dark, and was doing great until I hit a red light at a crosswalk, not quite 2 miles in. I tried to keep my jogging going in place, but I must have slowed my movements too much, as after I crossed the road and picked up my pace again, my knee immediately started giving me these nervous-making i-don't-think-i-should-be-running-on-this twinges. I slowed but kept going, as carefully as I could, for a bit longer, but by the end of the block, I was still feeling these not-really-painful-but-definitely-uncomfortable feelings every few steps, so I decided I had better quit. As soon as I started walking, it felt fine again. I walked the rest of the way with no problems.

I'm split between feeling hopeful that my knee is clearly still improving (this happened last fall, too, except that it would continue to be sore, even when walking), pleased that I'm still making physical progress while knowing when to back off and not injure myself, and frustrated that I couldn't keep up my run.

I'm sure this could be made into some kind of allegory for the rest of my brain and life right now. I'm hopeful that I still have countless ways I can improve myself, pleased that in general, I am doing things that move me (slowly) towards those goals while usually recognizing when I need to take a break, and frustrated at so many of the glaring flaws I see in myself, that aren't going away anytime soon.
blk: (ow)
Starting a new job here has been great on many levels: getting out of the house regularly, getting an income, getting health insurance... and also quite excellent for my knee. Not only does my daily commute + general movement give me more walking around, I get several flights of stairs everyday, a comfortable chair (at the right height) to sit in when I'm not walking, and a decent gym where I can continue the exercises learned in physical therapy, as well as work on a few other machines. I've been trying hard to get in several workouts a week, because the difference in how my leg feels a day later is remarkably motivating.

The result of all this, plus the natural healing powers of time, mean this will likely be my last knee update, because I'm pretty much back up to most-fully-abled again. I can do all the motions I want to, without pain. I can go up and down stairs without awkwardness. I can jump and land (carefully). I have even started running (slowly and carefully) a bit around the track here.

My left leg is still noticeably behind on strength, observable on what I can('t) do on various exercise machines as well as from doing squats. It still hurts more than it should when I bump it or jar my foot against something unexpectedly. And there is still excessive tenderness that comes and goes (standing for long periods of time is bad, leg presses are good). But all of those things are minor and tolerable and hopefully will still get better in time.

And finally, the most obvious sign that my knee is Getting Better... I now have a new minor injury (scraped up the back of my thigh while climbing a tree yesterday) that makes the old injury totally ignorable!
blk: (stilts)
We had such a good time at Oxidation Arts last weekend that we decided at the last minute to go to WildFire this weekend. I actually didn't do any spinning or fireplay, but there was plenty enough else going on to keep me busy.

dizzy with life )

Today we drive home, through annoyingly wetter but nicely cooler weather, but making good time so far. I'm pretty sure I'd do this again, although necessarily leaving out most if not all of the negative factors. I think this is a workable goal, so now I just need a few years to work on my juggling...
blk: (ow)
I imagine my knee is getting to be a pretty uninteresting reading topic by now.

more knee update )
blk: (tree)
It's been an up and down sort of week.

Steady improvement on my knee )

There's been a lot of summer )

I am around a lot of people )

The boys all started school )

I'm still looking for a job )

On the bright side of things...

Health-wise, my knee IS getting better, slowly but surely. I have almost all ROM back, just need more strength and time for the deep bruising to heal. Just need to be patient and keep working (argh). I've gotten in some good book-reading, too! Weather-wise, the nights this week have been mostly getting down low enough for me to sleep, and the rain today helped immensely. Heck, just a couple hours ago, the outside temperature dropped about 20 degrees from the lovely storm coming through! I'm really looking forward to this weekend's cool forecasted weather.

People-wise, I have a whole lot of relaxing planned for this weekend, and will enjoy the parties as much as I can (and leave when I want to, without feeling bad), and then come Tuesday, we get an empty, quiet house. And I have a lovely partner who is just fine with me telling him I need space, and a fantastic co-parent who is willing to take on all three boys for an extra evening for me. School-wise, the boys all seem to have survived their first week just fine, were happy to see their friends, and I hope school will be overall a good experience for all of us this year. And job-wise, I've had friends giving me helpful leads on recruiters and companies; I'm finding plenty of postings to apply to, and I'm not in any sort of desperate situation.

So overall, I declare that things are good for me. How are you?
blk: (feet)
updates on the knee )

You never realize how much you take simple things for granted, like walking, until they become difficult to do. Walking involves straightening your leg (but not all the way), pushing off of it, and then bending it again, in fairly quick succession. It needs to be able to take varying amounts of weight in all stages of that motion, and then shift weight fluidly to the other leg.

My knee bends a little bit, easily, but more requires strain against the stiffness. With slow effort and a little pain, I can straighten it or push it to a 90° angle, but then doing the opposite of that hurts again at first. At a normal walking pace, I can't both force it to straighten and then force it to bend in time for the next step. And the muscles around my knee are still shaky on taking all my weight, and occasionally give out.

At a significantly slowed walking pace, I then had the time to think about where my leg should go, and push it to bend in the right ways. Except... when's the last time you actually -thought- about all the muscle sequences and limb motions you use to walk? Ever tried writing out a set of directions for it? It was like having to re-learn how to do something I've done without thinking for most of the last three decades.

Yesterday I was determined to get out of the house and practice this important skill, so we walked up (and down) to squill to run some errands (return movie, pick up library books, buy bread, get ice cream). At my pace, it took us over two hours to go 3 miles, but by the end of it, I had succeeded in mostly walking normally. Today there is less stiffness still, but walking still requires thought. Going up stairs is my friend, as it helps greatly to get my muscles back used to supporting my leg. Going down hills and down stairs is still a challenge and a pain.

It makes me wonder how many other basic-skills-learned-young could be improved with thought. Probably a great deal of them. When I was in band, I learned to breathe better. In sports, I've learned to run better. When drunk, I speak better. I bet there's a lot more I could do, if I was just willing (or forced) to put in the time and effort.
blk: (tree)
Yesterday at noon, as foretold by Sharon the wise, I tossed off my crutches of oppression and stood up to walk!

And promptly fell down again, as three-and-a-half days of keeping my knee mostly straight, my leg elevated, and no weight on it had swollen the muscles in my thigh and twisted the nerves in my hip so that leg would no longer would support my weight.

A few minutes of careful stretching got me able to put more weight on my leg, and I spent the rest of the day hobbling around looking a bit like Igor, while still keeping my knee mostly straight (because it hurts to bend, I don't want to pull stitches, and my whole knee is pretty swollen and stiff) and stopping to rest (and ice) it every now and again. Today is easier, and I'm feeling much more agile, but still a ways to go.

The pain and irritation has been going down in solid levels daily, and the progress is heartening, but I'm long past wanting to be -done- with this already. There are things to be done! Stuff that needs cleaning! Chores that are sitting undone! It's much better now that I can actually walk and carry things at the same time, as I can start tackling some of the things which drive me crazy, but things are still slow. I want to run! I want to climb! Goodness knows how difficult I'd be if I had to stay immobile for longer than a week.

On the bright side, I've been getting some reading done )
blk: (house)
First, there is my knee. Today is noticeably better, in that pain levels have mostly hovered in the "tolerable" range (assuming I stay properly medicated, don't move around too much, don't put any weight on my leg, and don't have a cat use my knee as a landing pad). This is an improvement from yesterday, where the pain tended to range between "moderate" and "excruciating" (except a couple hours midday where I managed a mostly-peaceful-totally-drugged-out nap). I'm hoping by tomorrow maybe I can even wean myself from the prescription strength pharmaceuticals I am currently sneaking (in addition to the regular ibuprofen).

kneed your love )

Second, there are the tomatoes. I'm excited about growing tomatoes, even when I am unable to go out and pick them, and need to make dinner guests go and gather the ripe ones for me.

See, I am a very lazy and cheap gardener. I despise buying plants (seeds are better). I prefer to pick plants to grow that can tolerate some drought (since I rely mostly on the rain to water them), don't need careful tending, and will reseed or come back on their own year after year. I keep a compost pile primarily as a convenient and environmentally-friendly place to throw kitchen scraps and most small yard waste, turn it a few times a summer, then spread it out in useful places when it gets too full. Otherwise, it gets totally ignored.

down and dirty )
blk: (ow)
Today I enjoyed a great afternoon rafting down the lower Yough at Ohiopyle with a small group of friends. We didn't get stuck on too many rocks and kept the raft from ever flipping over. I even got a chance to captain for a bit, and, if i might say so, successfully kept us mostly in the right direction and correctly navigating a few rapids.

Unfortunately, towards the last half mile of the trip, my crew decided to mutiny, and conspired with the river to throw me overboard on one of the rapids (called Killer Rapid). It was a short fall, but I landed on a rock with my knee, which went "OW." The raftmates reacted quickly to pull me back in and reorient everything, and i lay on the bottom of the boat with my knee telling me "OWOWOWOW." A hard bump, I thought, but one that would be OK given a few minutes of not being able to move it. Sure enough, I even felt well enough to sit up and paddle a few minutes later.

cut for squeam )

Now I am at home with ice on an annoyingly tender knee, but being lovingly taken care of (and carried up stairs). I have instructions not to bend it much for the next week, so I'll be hobbling for a bit, and probably trying to not move around much, for at least as long as I can stand. Fortunately, I didn't have much in the way of plans. Got any good book recommendations?

Other than that, life's pretty peachy. More on the tomatoes later.

Update for the next day: OW-freaking-OW.
blk: (ow)
Today's observation about wonderful-good-lifesaving throat-numbing magic mouthwash: if I let it sit on my tongue for too long, I lose all ability to taste my breakfast.

Went to bed on Tuesday feeling exhausted. Woke up Wednesday tired, and within an hour had a mild sore throat. By the end of the day, I had a heck of a sore throat, serious pain when I swallowed, a low fever, general exhaustion, and possibly swollen lymph nodes in my neck. This morning, nothing had improved, so I went to see my doctor after taking the kid to school.

The good news is, she doesn't think it's strep. The bad news is, that means it's probably some other random virus that I just have to wait out and see. And then she prescribed me some of that wonderful-good-lifesaving throat-numbing magic mouthwash (literally; my prescription paper said: "Magic Mouthwash") so I could eat again.

So I am back home again, feeling mostly not-horrible, and trying to drink a lot, but thinking work isn't gonna happen much. Really hoping that I will improve for the weekend, since thankfully I had no big plans, but I did have small plans that I'd like to get to.

And now, nap.
blk: (ow)
It's that time of year again, when I bring myself and the boys to get our regular checkups. Fortunately, we're a pretty healthy bunch overall1, so these go relatively without complication. Oftentimes, the scheduling is more of a pain than the actual appointment. I've got one more to go (eyes, next week) before this wave is over.

I'm a fan of preventive care, and (probably thanks to a lifetime of mostly good experiences) I have large amounts of faith in the abilities of health care professionals (even if not in the surrounding politics), so it's pretty much never occurred to me NOT to have well-visits when they are covered by insurance. But I know not everybody thinks like me.

poll: how often do you go for checkups? )
blk: (cathat)
This morning, I got vaccinated against that darned persistent illness-causing seasonal virus.
Even better, I did it (duhn duhn duhhhhn) ... for SCIENCE!
And even better, I'm getting paid for it!

boring details )

The downside is, I got a flu vaccine. And this, I'm betting, is therefore almost certainly responsible for the sudden, violent shivering attack and mild aches that descended on me a couple hours ago (although no fever, according to this study-approved thermometer, and I'm not feeling much in the way of general malaise; just very, very, cold). Some soaking in steaming water helped greatly for the time I was there, but didn't last.

Tonight is totally getting extra sleep and extra blankets, and hopefully a kittywarmer. I fully expect to feel all better soon.


blk: (Default)

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