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Year of Pain, Year of Humble November 13, 2014

IMG_7202Last week, after I spoke on a panel on reproductive stigma and justice, an audience member came up to me and said, “I know you.” I looked at her. I didn’t recognize her at all – a warm smile, brown skin, dimples. I squinted and said, “Really!” She said, “You’re Foodie McBody. I follow your blog!”

I was overwhelmed by a storm of thoughts and emotion. What blog? Hahaha. I haven’t posted a thing in months. And who? Foodie McWho? That person was a person who had receded so far away from me. I’d changed my Twitter handle and Instagram name, and nobody called me that anymore.

Foodie McBody was a person who, once upon a time, took her health by the reins and galloped into a transformation. There were years of glory. The first 5k! The Weight Watchers Lifetime key! The 10ks, the half marathons. Four of them. The two triathlons and more 5ks than I could count. I loved my health and loved my active body and I was just proud and glad, even through the struggles. I had little bouts here and there – a sprained ankle, a wrist flareup. But they all resolved within a month or two, and then I was back in the saddle again.

But then 2013 happened. I call it my year of pain. When my hip gave up after the Oakland half marathon, my last, and told me I might need to get it replaced. And then the fateful bounce on the trampoline that ruptured my cervical discs and brought me to a halt. When I could do nothing more than move, agonizingly, from one horizontal position to the next. Surgery, recovery and rehab in small, tentative steps.

2014 was supposed to be my comeback year. But it has not been that. After a brief triumphant walking 5k at the start of the year, I have been plagued by a thyroid condition that stalled my metabolism, and a foot ailment that won’t let up. Plantar fasciitis turned to posterior tibialis tendinitis leading to some sort of Achilles problem. My Achilles heel, indeed. Every morning I hobble out of bed like a 90 year old. Actually, I hobble out of bed more painfully and slowly than my own 92 year old mother, which is humbling, to say the least.

my Achilles heel

my Achilles heel

Do I want some cheese with my whine? Well, why not.

2014 has been the year of humble. But if I’m honest I also have to admit that it’s been a year of fear. Recently our family re-watched Spirited Away, one of those hallucinogenic Miyazaki films. One of the most disgusting images is this creature, the Hungry Ghost, that eats everything in sight – frogs, bicycles, humans, and keeps wanting more. It grows into a mountainous blob of sludge, its arms outstretched, and stinkily consumes everything in sight. When our young heroine refuses to be intimidated by the ghost, and doesn’t run away from it, it starts expelling the contents of its innards. Finally it shrinks to a fraction of its enormous size, and silently boards an underwater train, presumably bound for freedom.

That image has haunted me. And I think that that creature is like my fear. It reminds me of the Before version of Foodie McBody. Before I charged into healthy living in 2009, I was afraid of everything. Afraid to move. Even when it felt good.

For much of the time these days, I am paralyzed by fear. Only recently I’ve been able to venture into small, almost laughable activities. I join a weekly AquaFIt class at our pool, where most of the participants are ten, twenty or even thirty years my senior. For an hour we splash around the pool with foam weights and noodles. It feels like play, but when I climb out of the pool, I have to admit it’s kicked my butt.

I walk silently in the redwood forest near my house. Today I did a silent walk and in the quiet green I thought about my fear. The sky was white, a little blue, like the inside of an ice cube. The air I moved through was chilly and perfect, and the sun blinked uncertainly through the clouds every now and then. What am I afraid of? I am afraid of pain. My left heel sent out little jolts. So what, I said. So what. It’s not killing you. I notice. What do I notice. It’s like electricity. It’s like heat. It’s like a twangy little song reminding me that I’m alive. I liked the feeling of my legs. I still have muscles there. They’re still strong. I pushed up the gentle incline and I didn’t wheeze. I didn’t die from shortness of breath. I was doing it. It was just a walk. Calm down, I told myself. You’re okay. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

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Worse than the pain, though, is the shame. The pain of shame. Of knowing where I was three years ago, that relentless athlete that swam in the icy, salty bay. The one who looked fear in the face and climbed on the bicycle, up hills, up so many hills, near whizzing cars and dogs. I ran and ran and ran. Three or four days a week, tweeting about my six pain free miles, my happy eight miles. These days I would consider it a victory to walk a 5k, to make it around Lake Merritt without sitting down, without limping. This is the greatest pain. To look in my closet and push aside the majority of the clothes, because nothing fits.

How to find compassion? That is what I want for 2015. The year of compassion. To say, it’s all right. You’re okay, whether you never complete another triathlon again. Whether those 15 pounds stick around like old friends. You’re okay. You’re okay.

These days do not look like 2010 or 2011. These days look like walking in the beautiful trees, like greeting my gray haired companions in the shallow end of the pool. Of meditating every morning, first in silence and then listening to the calm, warm voice of my teacher, leading me through the compassion meditation. Open to the possibility of being kind to yourself, he says. Open to the possibility of appreciating your life.

I’m open.

my walking meditation path

my walking meditation path

 

Plantar Fishy-what?? July 12, 2014

Ah, this blog has become such a litany of woes, I might as well just re-name it “I’m Getting Old, Falling Apart and Whining About It.” Seriously, though. Really?

No sooner had I gotten over the bummershock of having a faulty thyroid, than I began waking up with excruciating, hobble-inducing, holding-onto-walls heel pain. It had started out as a dull ache which I not very brightly ignored. Then while we were on our lovely vacation in San Miguel de Allende, which involved miles of tromping around on picturesque cobblestone streets, lo and behold it worsened every day. I think my foot liked those pretty streets very much.

Plantar fasciitis. OW.

And it pretty much put me off walking except when absolutely necessary, and running, like ever. WAHHH!

More travel happened. A long weekend in Louisiana for an amazing family reunion. Boatloads of crab (no exaggeration at all!). Ten thousand percent humidity. Aching heel. No movement. Pathetic thyroid. All this adding up to… more weight gain, overall bummedeness, etc.

More travel. Back to California, and straight to Pact Camp.  Intense emotions, busy days. NO time to deal with anything. But along the way, I’ve been picking up suggestions and ideas from fellow PF sufferers. Rub your foot with a metal spoon. Icing. Dansko clogs. Splints.

But now I’ve been home a few days, and I’m re-grouping. One great thing that happened while I was zigzagging around the country is that Carla favorite a tweet that said something about The Sock.

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Then, shortly after, Frank answered.

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I clicked on the link for the Sock. I watched the video. It was designed by a physical therapist! My people! I sure liked the IDEA of a sock rather than a rigid splint, which I knew would drive me insane within minutes. I read a ton of enthusiastic reviews, and then I ordered.

It arrived yesterday. I put it on before I went to bed. I already had a feeling that keeping my ankle/foot at a 90 degree angle, even if in a flexy sort of way, would be radical. I like to sleep on my stomach or my side, and my feet are pretty much in high-ballerina position all night. Yes, my heel cord was getting SUPER tight.

I didn’t apply it super tightly. I’d read warnings about numb toes and such, if it was too tight. I didn’t want to freak out myself or my toes.

I woke up this morning. The proof is in the STANDING UP, which is normally when I double over from pain and have to grab at the bedpost to stay upright. And then I hop to the bathroom on one foot. It’s not nice.

But this morning — I had the dull ache, but it was equal to what I normally feel after hours of walking around. It was GREATLY improved.

I have been so very discouraged and bummed about this, I didn’t want to write about it until I felt at least a glimmer of hope. Well, it’s glimmering. Here’s to turning a corner and having no new parts fall apart for a while.

I’ve been trying not to feel too sorry for myself when I see friends out and running or walking 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, triathlons every weekend. But I tell myself, I’ll be back. And now I think I might even believe it, a little bit.

image from Clipartbest.com

 

The Long Road Back February 22, 2014

Filed under: challenge,exercise,injury,lessons learned,running — Susan @ 8:00 pm

photo credit: Unsplash/Sylwia Bartyzel

Last night, I had a dream about trying to do a triathlon. It was a short, “fun” triathlon and I recall that maybe I just showed up, hoping to participate. But I couldn’t find any of my gear. I had to leave the course and run into a nearby apartment building and run up 3 flights of stairs to some random apartment to get my running shoes, or bike helmet or something. Then I came back down and I couldn’t find my bike. Where are the bikes? I asked frantically. I could see the very last, slow runners coming in to the finish. Someone said, the bikes were “over by the lake” wherever that was. Somewhere out of sight. I realized, with a sinking feeling, that I did not have my act together and even if I found my bike and the lake I would never finish in time. My friend, who had finished the race, showed me the “medal” which turned out to be a piece of tacky plastic like one would get from a gum ball machine. The whole thing made me wake up sad.

Sometimes I see photos of my prior teammates working out, training for marathons and triathlons and big rides and such and I can’t believe that that used to be me, training hard six days a week. These days I am feeling pretty bad-ass if I can accomplish a short little half-walk half run. I’ve been back to Couch to 5k, but it’s a very slow process and nothing like it was the first time.

The GOOD news is (in case this turns into a total whine fest!) that I’m both getting physical therapy (2x a week, which is helping SO MUCH) and have also returned to seeing patients as a physical therapist. It’s a little surreal, but it feels good to be out and about in my little car, in this beautiful weather (sorry, non-Californians) and helping people in their homes. I am so awed by my own PT who has crazy mad skills and has helped me have the first pain-free run I’ve had in almost a year. So YAY for that.

I’m moving my focus back toward writing again, and that also feels really good. I have a book coming out with SheBooks in the near future (believe me, you’ll hear all about it!) and next week I’m traveling up to Seattle for a writers’ conference. SUPER BIG YAY!

I’m still here. I’m walking around, and every so often I even break into a little jog ;-). I’m going to be trying to figure out my upcoming races – I would love to do the Oakland Running Festival and See Jane Run this year. Anyone else??

 

 

Book Review: Ultimate Booty Workouts! February 3, 2014

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I’m going to be totally honest here. Normally, I would not be on the lookout for a book called Ultimate Booty Workouts. But I happen to think that its author, Tamara Grand, is FANTASTIC and so when it was published hot off the presses very recently, I could not resist a peek inside.

I don’t really give my booty- I mean- as a booty – much thought. I think of it as a stack of flattish pancakes somewhere back there. But as a physical therapist, and as a recently injured/surgeried person, I do think give my whole hip-pelvic-gluteal area a LOT of thought. It has undergone a lot of deconditioning and resulting instability. And as I read through this incredibly thorough, thoughtful, clear and well-written book, I thought, “Whoa. My booty does need some help!”

I have so much admiration for Tamara. She is not only an inspiring personal trainer, she is also a good writer, a super kind person, a KNITTER (something I feel is so out of my capable-zone!), a cool mom and a great friend.

First off, I will say that I loooooove the many dozens of photos of the Real Tamara doing the Real Workouts in this book. I WISH WISH WISH that her own beautiful face (and booty) were gracing the COVER of the book. Because when I picked it up, I immediately thought, “Who’s THAT? That’s not Tamara!” Okay, whatever. Get beyond the cover and open up and all the wonderful insides will become very obvious.

the real Tamara!

the real Tamara!

But don’t just look at all the awesome and helpful pictures. READ THE WORDS. Because I loved what the words said! In addition to the great visuals of the various workouts, there are also extremely helpful sections (DO NOT SKIP!) about women and weight lifting, nutrition, weight loss, posture, injury prevention (and rehabilitation). In other words, it’s NOT JUST about your booty.

As I flipped through the pictures, so many of them were familiar to me. I had already done so many of these (and had a love-hate relationship as well) and had no idea that they were doing such good things for my bootycore. Which in turn is doing such good things for my hip and my abs and all the other stuff it’s connected to (ie., almost EVERYthing). And because there are lots of upper-body and leg strengthening workouts as well, it’s really about your whole body. It would be impossible to do these workouts without also getting some pretty darn strong arms and legs as well. There are fabulous and very important sections on warming-up and cooling down. And stretching. With a foam roller!

I am going to put my two cents in and say that I think this book should be re-titled (Not Just Your) Ultimate Booty Workouts.” Because truly there is so much good stuff in here. I have begun doing some of the exercises, gingerly and gradually, and darn, it feels good. To wake up my little stack o’pancakes.

 

The San Francisco Hot Chocolate 5k (Race Recap) January 16, 2014

it was a hot chocolate party

it was a hot chocolate party

Yesterday was the first official race I’d done since last June (See Jane Run). I was excited, I was nervous, I was happy. I started myself on the couch-to-5k program again a few weeks ago, and as of this week I’m up to Week four. I told myself I’d just go at whatever pace felt comfortable, and I just wanted to finish and celebrate being back in the (sort of) running world again.

I was a Hot Chocolate Ambassador for this one, meaning they sponsored my race registration (thanks Hot Choco folks!). I have to say, for someone living in the East Bay, this was one darned inconvenient race. First of all, there was no same-day packet pickup, so all race packets needed to be picked up at the San Francisco Presidio Sports Basement beforehand. All I can say is, it’s a good thing I am still not back to my job yet! I LOVE Sports Basement the store, and the Presidio is absolutely gorgeous, but MAN, it is not an easy place to get to. I was giving it directions from THREE separate GPS devices (two apps plus my car) and not ONE of them could locate the store correctly. Fail. I kept driving PAST it or OVER it on the freeway. So, that was a pain. Once inside the store, though, the place was teeming with Hot Chocolate volunteers and there were virtually no lines. I was able to present race information for a dozen people and get EVERYone’s goodie bag. BTW, the goodie bags were AWESOME.

pile o goodie bags!

pile o goodie bags!

The biggest item (aside from chocolate!) in the goodie bag was this fantastic fleece HOODIE complete with thumb holes. So great for a chilly January day. So much better than the (hardly ever used) stack of coupons and protein bars that come in most goodie bags…

The race folks also sent out a dozen emails warning us to NOT park in or near the race, and to take these shuttles, but there were no East Bay shuttles (cough: for next time, please) and BART trains did not start running until half an hour after the start of the race. So it was a real trick getting over twelve East Bay runners over to the park for start time.

It was emotional starting the night before, setting up my pre-race pile. I hadn’t done that in so long, and it is such a beloved ritual.

pre-race pile

pre-race pile

One of our Team in Training honorees, Justin, recently passed away. This was such a heartbreak for our team. Justin came out at the start (and end) of many of our race trainings and he was so inspiring and encouraging and… relentless. I was so so sad to hear about this loss of such a good young guy. His memorial service was yesterday also, so I made sure to wear our team shirt with his name on it, and this run was in his honor.

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I couldn’t sleep well all night. I kept waking up about every hour, worried about sleeping through my alarm. Four-thirty came soon enough and I got up, ate my traditional whole wheat English muffin + peanut butter, and then went to pick up Lily for our carpool. It felt so great to be picking her up in the pre-dawn hours again! So many times we did this during our triathlon training, and it made me feel all emotional and nostalgic.

We met up with Annie, Lisa and Mary for our carpool and then headed over to the city. My friend Caroline had posted a welcome sign (Happy Running, Susan & Friends!) on her garage door. Awww! We could see lots of people on the streets all headed to the park. One last stop at Starbucks for hot coffee and bathroom, and we were off! I was toting my big inflatable gold “5″ with me. (for my fifth year of running and 5th healthaversary!)

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The race itself was BIG. I had no idea how big it would be, but they announced something like 10,000 runners. Pretty awesome! I lined up in the last corral which was the one that allowed walking. There were LOTS of people there!

Corral E/Start line

Corral E/Start line

I had that nervous happy butterfly feeling when we inched toward the start line. Then the air horn went off, and we start shuffling off! It was one of the most crowded races I’ve been at – similar to Bay to Breakers – and the road we were on  was so narrow, we could not help going pretty slow. I hung with Lily, Mary and Lisa (her first race! Ever!) and we got nice and warmed up until the course spread out and then we did a little bit of slow-running intervals. There were a few loops so we got to pass the faster runners going the opposite way on a few occasions. That’s always inspiring and exciting.

Mary, Lisa & Lily at the start!

Mary, Lisa & Lily at the start!

This race had some rolling hills – some flats – going through Golden Gate park, which I LOVE. For the first three-four years I lived in San Francisco, I was always just a few blocks away from the park. I spent a lot of time in there, getting lost in the trees and paths. It felt like coming home.

We did alternating jogging and walking, whatever felt right. (mostly depended on up or down hills!) It felt like a push from my regular workouts, but also not painful. Julie and Anne met us right at the the finish line and urged us to push through the last bit. It felt good to do a little sprint but then I was panting! In a few minutes, Lisa and Mary came through. It was so exciting to see Lisa cross her first finish line!

Woo hooo! First finish line ever!

Woo hooo! First finish line ever!

Victory chocolate! We had little chocolate fondue cups with bananas (ergh) and other stuff to dip in. Marshmallows, mmmm.

hot chocolate fondue, mmm

hot chocolate fondue, mmm

We took a bunch of photos, met up with the whole group.

 

It's @sarahlou1976!

It’s @sarahlou1976!

Team Weight Watchers!

Team Weight Watchers!

George, who had been my first mentee when I was a mentor for Team in Training, is now a traithlon mentor himself, as well as training for his first 50-mile ultra marathon race. BEAST, George! So happy to see him again.

Triathlon Team reunited!

Triathlon Team reunited!

All in all, I was really happy to return with this sweet not-so-little race. I was really glad to be surrounded by friends. After all that happened in the latter part of 2013, this felt like a great way to start the year. Yay for chocolate and running!

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Baby Steps, Baby Sweats, and Goodbye for Now January 5, 2014

Filed under: body image,emotions,exercise,good things,health,injury,Nia — Susan @ 9:59 pm

A couple of weeks ago I sweated for the first time since September. It was a gentle, beautiful, emotional and extraordinary experience. I went to a Nia class, which was one of the very first kinds of movement I ever did, five years ago. Danielle was the instructor, and it was one of her final classes before she leaves for a two-year journey to China. IMG_2220One of the other dancers was Alexis (pictured in my post here 2009). She brought her adorable six-month old baby with her, and danced with her in a front carrier. Her gentle, modified moves were perfect for me, just creakily getting back into movement. She didn’t bend as low or hop in the air or do any sudden moves. Just gentle.

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babydancing

Because it was Winter Solstice weekend, Danielle did a routine called Mandala that involved no spoken instruction. She moved, we followed, and she indicated transitions by clapping her hands. It felt so organic and wonderful. And the music? It made me tear up immediately. She played the music of Kitaro, which brought back really intense memories of a long ago time…

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Back in one of my first home health physical therapy jobs when I was in my twenties, I had a patient named Oscar. He had a really advanced spinal cord tumor which had left him with paraplegia. I first worked with him in the hospital and then at his home. After some time it became clear that he was not getting better. His final desires were to walk again, however limited, and to go home to his homeland of Argentina. None of his doctors believed in either of these goals as either possible or advisable, but he was a determined guy.

When I visited him at home, he played Kitaro for me for the first time. “Listen,” he said, and he put these huge cushy headphones over my ears. This was at the very beginning of “New Age” music, and I’d never heard anything like it. He believed that it was magical. That it would help him walk. And one day I’ll never forget, he played this music through speakers in his living room, and step by step, he walked about ten steps across the floor. I was holding him by two shaking hands with a gait belt, and pulling his wheelchair by nudging it with my toe, and both of us were sweating bullets. But to the soundtrack of this incredible otherworldly music, he took his last walk.

Next, he asked me to take him to Macy’s in San Francisco so he could buy a traveling outfit – new pants and a jacket, and gifts for his family. It took all that I had to transfer his unwieldy body and his heavy wheelchair into my little Toyota hatchback, but we made it. I wheeled him all through that department store and helped him stand up (in physical therapy terms, using Maximum Assist) so he could see himself in a full length mirror. As we were leaving he said he wanted me to have a gift, and he bought me this beautiful ivory colored poet shirt with huge billowing sleeves. Because you are really a writer, he said. (yeah, he knew) Shortly after, he got onto a plane to Argentina and that was the last I ever heard from him. I assume he made it home for his final wish. But that was one of the most moving and meaningful experiences I ever had as a therapist.

I was young. Super young. And in retrospect I broke all kinds of rules I probably or maybe wouldn’t do now: I took a patient somewhere in my own car (liability no-no!). I accepted a gift from a patient, and lunch too. All these things are super frowned upon now (and probably then as well!). But that experience changed me.

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Hearing Kitaro again in this return-to-movement class was terribly emotional for me. Danielle was leaving. Oscar had been leaving. I was returning to something I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do again. All of this without words, but in stretching and turning and circling around the room. I had a hard time keeping the tears in. (so I didn’t)

Danielle has been an amazing teacher for me  - graceful and strong and fun. I will miss her Michael Jackson Nia classes, her Halloween class, all of them. She sent out so much healing energy to me when I was hurt and I really felt her caring. I will miss her. I’m glad I got to experience her Nia one last time before she goes. Godspeed Danielle, and thank you. oxoxo

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My 5th Healthaversary is Coming: Hot Chocolate 5k with me! December 15, 2013

hot-chocolate-logoEvery January, I reflect back on January 2009, when I first started this blog. I think about how I felt back then. Scared, unhealthy, hopeless. And how far I’ve come. Even with this recent injury, I always knew that I had a core of well being inside that wasn’t going to go away even if I couldn’t do much.

This coming January will be my 5th healthaversary. Five years! And I’m going to celebrate in two ways. One, I’m going to participate in the Hot Chocolate 5k on January 12th in San Francisco. I would LOVE to have as many friends doing it with me. A hot chocolate party! It comes in both 5k and 15k distances. And the “swag bag” is crazy awesome – it’s actually a fleece jacket! What!

2013-HC-this-is-your-goodie-bag_WITH-sizing-chartI’ll also be hosting my traditional walk-to-the-labyrinth and brunch at another time, but I realllly wanted to do something “5-ish” for this special five year commemoration. After the ordeal I went through this fall, I am more grateful than ever for my health. This will be the first 5k since my injury. I am hopeful and optimistic that I will be able to complete the 5k, most likely walking. That pesky hip injury I was dealing with BEFORE my ruptured disc? It’s talking to me again (sigh).

So please please please sign up! 15k or 5k, your choice. You can run like a gazelle or waddle like a wombat (that’ll be me). It’s probably going to be chillyish but we will have some cozy fleece! And hot cocoa! It will be a big, beautiful, Foodie McBody Party. No running necessary! (but it’s certainly allowed and encouraged if you like running)

PRICES ARE GOING UP DECEMBER 30th so please take advantage of the early pricing. If you use the code FOODFOODMUG, you will also get a free hot chocolatey mug on race day. Yay swag!

PRP-Snack-Tray

And…. Ta-da!! As an official Hot Chocolate Blogger, I have been authorized to give away one FREE RACE REGISTRATION!

This has been a really amazing five years. The most challenging, exciting, incredible five years of my life. I’m ready to celebrate.  Join me!

If you want a chance to be the recipient of this free registration, leave me a comment here below and tell me FIVE THINGS that keep you healthy! Also, follow the Hot Chocolate 15/5k on Twitter and Facebook to get all the sweet details.

And the winner of the race registration is… JULES!! Congrats, Jules, I’ll be sending you your registration code. Can’t wait to see you (and everyone else!) out there on January 12th!

HCSANFRANCISCO500X500

 

 
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