Race Recap: Columbus Marathon

I had this recap completely finished except for editing when WordPress ate the post. So much for automatic draft saving.

Thinking back, I am not entirely sure when I started to really consider the half at the Columbus Marathon.  I believe it was probably around finishing my first 5k. It seems so alien now that 5k seemed like such a big deal only nine months ago. Of course, finishing the quarter marathon at Cap City also seemed like a big deal. Why not double the distance with the half?

Before registering, I had been having ankle problems for months.  It wasn’t until June that I discovered I had peroneal tendinitis. Luckily, with a little patience and some KT Tape, that seems to be under control.  Not long after that, I started having toe problems. Then, I dropped part of a projection screen on my toe.  I thought it was entirely possible it was broken after that.  Thankfully, it wasn’t broken, just busted up and infected.  It took a few weeks of doctor’s appointments to get it under control and only a week ago did he say that the half wasn’t a bad idea.

Here’s my big training confession: I never ran more than 7.04 miles before the half. I did that a month before the race.  In the final weeks leading up the race, I ran only about eight miles total. I was not at all prepared for the 13.1 miles ahead.  I was unsure about whether I would even be able to finish it.  If I did finish, I didn’t know what shape I’d be in.  I kept picturing the horror stories of people with their legs giving out, dragging themselves across the finish line.  I stood at the race expo on Saturday negotiating with myself that if I bought anything that said “Columbus Marathon” on it, I had to finish.

So I did.

Race morning, I woke up at 3am with a headache (strike 1) and a bitey, demanding cat (strike 2).  Despite getting everything together the night before and knowing that I was going to go out there and give it a shot, it still took a lot to get out of bed.  Luckily, at 5am, a dear friend sent me some great motivational texts. Exactly what I needed.  Actually, the whole day was filled with encouragement right when I needed it most.

Fast forward through traffic and parking… I checked my gear bag, grabbed the gloves they were giving away because I was freezing, and started the long wait.

Welcome to the Half.

Welcome to the half.

Looking at this picture again, I can’t help but think about how much I love Columbus.  I’m so grateful that I have had the chance to run its streets and see it from a perspective I never would have otherwise.  Thanks, awesome city of mine.

Anyway.

I was in the last corral (where I belonged), which ran along High St with a few others.  The first couple of corrals went up Broad.  I heard almost nothing of the pre-race festivities.  I only knew the mayor was there when I went past him on the way to the start. I saw a little bit of the fireworks, got scared to death when the cannon went off, and finally crossed the start at 7:50am, twenty minutes after the gun. Or cannon, in this case.

My toes were numb for awhile in, but I felt great for the first few miles.  I didn’t go out too fast, but paced myself pretty well.  I stuck to my ten minute run/one minute walk ratio for a good portion of the first half.  Something nice about being slower was cheering on the leaders who were coming down Broad St in the opposite direction.  I got to see a friend of mine and cheer her on while she was working for that Boston Marathon qualifier (which she got! Yay!).

Bexley was great to run through.  All along the course, at each mile marker, there was a different “Children’s champion” from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital that the race benefits.  Some of the kids were actually out, which was awesome to see.  I had read through a lot of their stories the night before and champions they are, indeed.

The first half went pretty well.  I hit the 10k mark feeling like I was in reasonably good shape.  Right after that, a friend appeared off in the distance with a sign…

Do it for the Kittens

I gave her a sweaty hug, heard “I’m proud of you” and ran off thinking “She’s right. I am doing it for the kittens!” Ha. I loved it so much.  She was the best thing to see at the halfway point.

After that, things started going downhill.  As predicted, the first 7 or 8 miles were fine. I started to slow down, but they were fine.  Around 8.5-9, I hit the wall. When you come back down Broad St to turn onto 3rd, you can see the runners on High, who are just down the street from Nationwide and the finish. This was really hard mentally because there was so much more of the race left to go for me.  German Village was a blur of knowing I was too far along to quit, but not feeling strong about finishing. Prior to the race, my game plan was to break it down into 5ks.  I’d run 5k plenty of times, so of course I could run a series of 5ks. I ended up walking a lot of the last 3-4 miles and I spent most of that time in my head.  I think that was part of the problem.  I was too consumed with thinking about what was going on, not just running.

Around mile 12 or so, I caught sight of another familiar face.  It was a glorious present from the running gods. I was so defeated with all the walking and the slowness, but there was another friend! I got a big hug, some water, and the motivation to keep going.  I started to mentally make a new plan called “Finish Strong.” I started to run a little bit more than walk, but still save my energy for the finish.

Then there it was.  Actually, not yet. Because the finish goes downhill on Nationwide, you have to first go uphill to get there.  It’s not a big hill, but it does seem looming when you’re in it and thisclose to the end. Finally! I turned the corner onto Nationwide Blvd and was met with a band, lots of people, and that great downhill finish.  I saw the race director on my way and almost stopped to hug him in gratitude. I didn’t, of course, because THE FINISH LINE WAS RIGHT THERE!

Columbus Marathon finish

Sort of in the middle on the way down to the finish line.

My official time was 3:17:35. I wanted it to be under 3 hours, but I finished. I really finished.  13.1 miles completed!  I can still barely believe it.

Post race, I grabbed almost every liquid or food item handed to me in the finish chute. I keep saying it, but it’s true: more races need a food bag.  Seriously: food bag. I started eating and stretching immediately.  The last cruel joke of the race was that the gear check was up a flight of stairs.  Luckily, there was a wonderful little girl who greeted me after that terrible experience and brought me my bag full of post-race goodies: fresh shirt, compression socks, almond butter. All the necessities.

I would tell you about my post-race Ice Bath of Doom or how I ate wonderful things all day after the race, but I’ve already been long-winded enough.  I will say that the race was Sunday, today is Wednesday, and I haven’t stopped thinking about running despite legs so sore that I wasn’t walking right for the first day afterward. Maybe this running thing really does make you crazy.

One last picture…

Do it for the medal.

Inspire.

I’ve gotten a couple of medals this year for the races I’ve done and I love them.  But this one… This one, I’m really proud of.  I somehow blew away all my own expectations of myself and did something I would have never thought in a million years that I’d do.  It feels incredible.

Thank you to all of my friends for their words of encouragement before, during, and after the race. I even thank you for the scary clown pictures. Ha. You’re amazing.  Extra special thanks to the person who helped get me started running in the first place… Life wouldn’t be the same.

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The Night Before… My First 1/2 Marathon.

So I said I’d be back in October, but it’s a little later in October than I had hoped.  Life has been kind of trapped in an up and down cycle for awhile.  Here’s the quickest of updates before we start to talk about the good stuff…

The Bad

In the past couple of months two rather emotionally taxing situations arose.  First, there was the unexpected break up from my long time favorite person. All the appropriate words to describe what that feels like just won’t come out, I guess horrible and wasteful and sad generally sum it up.  Shortly after that, my grandmother ended up in the hospital with a broken hip and now has to be in long-term care, a very sudden change in her health situation. She is currently suffering from dementia, which is sad and difficult in many, many ways for her as well as our family.

I don’t really think going any more in depth than that is necessary.  Suffice it to say, enough bad things.  I mean… It feels just like rainbows and sunshine around these parts. As a side note, I highly recommend grabbing Tig Notaro’s “Live.”  It’s $5 via Louis CK’s site. It’s 30 minutes of laughter and perspective.

The Good

:: My new job has continued to go well. It is such a relief to not constantly think or want to say “I hate my job.”  There is so much power in that.

:: I started playing the violin.  I love it.  I have wanted to play for a long time and finally am.  Lessons have been going well, though I must admit that some of the simpler mechanics are hard when trying to put them all together.  I at least don’t sound awful too often.  I just wish I had more time to devote to it.

Violin!

:: School officially started.  I don’t mind the online format at all.  The flexibility is great and I do feel like I’m putting work into it. I am still in somewhat introductory classes because I’ve never done any academic work in business. I will be excited to start getting into more of my focus: human resources.

:: Miscellaneous good things: I have gotten to spend time with family and a lot of time with friends. I’ve seen some people I haven’t in a long time. I got to see some good bands play, caught Bert Kreisher, watched roller derby, etc.  The cats are doing well…

Cat raft

Life on the Cat Raft.

I am probably forgetting a million things. The main attractions in life have been work, school, violin, a little bit of derby, and running.

Oh, yeah… Running!

So my toe was acting up anyway and then I did a dumb thing like drop part of a projection screen on it.  I ended up with pretty bad toe issues, lost most of my toe nail, and had an infection that wouldn’t go away because I waited too long to go to the doctor.  After almost a month of doctor visits, he finally cleared me for the race tomorrow.  I have barely run much of anything over that past month and before that even because I was trying not to make the toe worse.  If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.  At least the peroneal tendonitis went away.

Here we are now, the eve before the Columbus Marathon.  This is a big deal for me.  Last year at this time, I had just had my gallbladder out.  The weekend after the surgery, we were headed to breakfast and ran into the road closures from the marathon. I remember looking out the car window longingly at the running they were doing.  This year, here I am.  It was only a year ago that I started running, when a 5k seemed forever.  Now I’m about to do a lot more than that.

I know I am not well-prepared.  I never got where I wanted to on my long runs in training.  I know I can comfortably do over 7 miles.  I think I can get through the next 3 okay.  At that point, those last 3.1 miles are going to really be something to work for, I think.  I am going in with the mindset that I will be slow and I might have to walk a lot.  This is my first half, so while I have a time goal in mind, it’s a PR regardless of time. No matter what happens, I think I’ve come a long way in a year.

It is already past my bedtime and I haven’t yet gotten everything ready for tomorrow, so I’ll leave it here and pick up post-race.

Here we go…

As seen on my run…

Image

20120601-011401.jpg

This post sort of exists in order to test the WordPress mobile app. If things go well, perhaps this will be a nice way to share more things. 🙂

At any rate. Here is a picture from a recent run. I have no clue who did this awesome chalk art, but it stopped me dead in my tracks. Simply perfect.

What awesome things do you see on your runs?

Disc Herniation, Take 2!

I know I have mentioned my herniated disc before, but for those not following along, here’s the story:

March 28, 2011 – I was deadlifting over 100lbs.  I came up wrong on the lift, felt a pop in my back, dropped the bar, and thought I was going to pass right out.  I could barely move, but luckily one of the trainers was nearby and helped me sit down. I couldn’t breathe very well and I was deathly pale, which made them think that my blood sugar dropped the minute the injury hit. One of the owners sat with me and iced my back for I am not sure how long.  Eventually, with the help of everyone and a very big stick they loaned me, I was able to drive myself home.  I had to re-ice my back just to get up the stairs to my apartment.  I have no idea how I did that because by the time I landed in bed, I could barely move.

Most of that week was an awful experience and the pain wasn’t something I’d ever felt before.  I am lucky that my friends are helpful and a couple of them came by those first few days to help with the cat, get meds, get food, etc. Not so lucky that it hurt so much to move that I almost passed out any time I had to get out of bed.

I was able to get along better as the week went on (I remember rejoicing when I could sleep on my side again), but it took a long time for the doctor to send me for my MRI.  I didn’t get that until part way through April of last year and then the appointment with the physiatrist didn’t take place until May.  By that point, I had made quite a bit of progress on my own, but still used a cane to walk at times to help me feel more stable on my feet with the leg pain and residual back pain I was experiencing.

L5-S1 herniated disc

From my MRI: To my untrained eye, this certainly looks like a disc popping out...

During the appointment with the physiatrist, she explained that I had a disc herniation at the L5-S1 (which is in your lower back).  The disc was pressing on a nerve, which was causing the sciatica in my leg, so she prescribed me a medication to help with that.  I was told about my options, which included an epidural steroid injection and physical therapy.  I chose to go with PT for the time being and only do the injection if it didn’t work.

Physical therapy started in June. I’ve been at it ever since with varying amounts of attendance. The main focus has been to develop my core muscles so that they could support my low back. I started back into the gym at some point and that’s when I started running due to lack of other possible activity (read: no heavy lifting).  I’ve been pretty regular in my activity level for the past couple of months. I finally felt like I was out of the woods and almost wondered why I was still in PT every other week.

Fast forward to two days ago. I had gone on a short run, come back and started to stretch.  I was about to go into one of the yoga poses that I do during stretching and that’s when it hit. I tried to stretch it out with things from PT. I applied ice pretty quickly and that seemed to help, but I could no longer stand up straight and the pain was intensifying.  I tried to call and talk to my physical therapist, but he was out of the office until Tuesday (incidentally when my next appointment with him is) and so they referred me to the orthopedic urgent care that they have.

I went in as soon as I realized that I wasn’t going to make it better on my own and that the pain was not subsiding. They asked some questions, did some quick tests, and told me that I had re-flared the disc. “Oh, yeah. This can just happen at any time now.  There might not seem to be any reason for it,” they said.  Great news, right? They did a thing on my legs that indicated that my nerve was being pushed on again.  I was given a prescription for steroids to help get the inflammation to go down, but I was told I could wait to use them since I could maybe wake up in the morning and feel better. They also gave me a muscle relaxer and told me not to return to work until Monday and to not do any heavy lifting.  I have to have a follow up with my physiatrist in a couple weeks and keep my PT appointment.

I am back to being friends with my cane.  My leg pain has only gotten worse in the last day, but I started the steroids yesterday morning. The back pain is nowhere near what it was the first time around and I’m thankful for that. My mobility really isn’t that bad and I can do most things, just uncomfortably. Yesterday was a big friend gathering and I had to leave not very far in because my leg pain was only getting worse and I couldn’t get comfortable. Ice and rest seem to be the biggest help and I’m hoping that the steroids will start working fast. I’m going to spend pretty much all day today resting so tomorrow at work won’t be a bad experience. I am anxiously awaiting my PT appointment to see what else I can be doing and I’m sure that I will get more info about the whys and hows of relapse.

Here’s to hoping this is the only relapse there is.

It’s Not a Tumor… Just a Strain.

My physical therapist took a look at my ankle yesterday.  I see him every two weeks and since I had complained about it for the past session and the one yesterday, he started poking around.  His diagnosis: it’s probably just strained.  Not sprained, but strained.  I told him I thought it was probably overuse and he agreed it could be.

ankle elevation and calf sleeves

New CEP calf sleeves and ankle elevation up the wall.

I am to keep icing it, elevating it, etc.  If it isn’t better in another two weeks, I am being sent to the doctor. I took yesterday off from running despite my plan for a long run.  I had intended to do six miles either Monday or yesterday, but my ankle + rain on Monday left things a little short and then yesterday was yesterday.  Originally, I had planned to do weights today and maybe try the elliptical or bike for cardio with less impact.  I decided this morning (after a somewhat painful evening of standing at work last night) that I was taking a full day off from extra activity.

I know this is probably a good idea.  Mentally, it’s hard to swallow.  I want to do things and it makes me feel so much better to do them.  I feel kind of defeated even though I logically know I’m just resting so that I can do more later. Funny how your brain can work against you like that.

On a side note: the other day, I snagged some of those lovely CEP calf sleeves you see in the picture above.  My ankle felt pretty rough for a lot of my run on Monday, but man did my legs feel great!  I have to say I think I’m a true believer in compression now.

Mission Accomplished: 5k!

running apps

That lovely badge can now proudly be displayed as my own!  That’s right.  As of Saturday, I officially completed my very first 5k race.  My goal for so many months has finally been realized. 5k doesn’t seem like a lot.  It’s a mere 3.1 miles after all.  For someone who barely ran five seconds before this past fall, I’d say that’s something.

As I mentioned previously, the Royal Family 5k was my chosen first race.  It’s part of the Disney Princess Half-Marathon weekend which was filled with 20,000 women. Or princesses, I guess?  I figured that it was a good way to see my parents (who happen to live close to Orlando) and who wouldn’t want their first race to be at Disney?  Lucky for me, my boyfriend R, decided to come along for fun and running.

We arrived the day before the weekend’s expo and packet pick up started on Friday. The expo was held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports.  I was nervous and the only thing about the expo that made me any less nervous was my sudden search for compression socks.  I was having problems with one of my ankles and thought those might help.  I didn’t really want to be in the middle of the race and start having problems.  I ended up with some Sigvaris athletic recovery socks, which I’ll talk about at some other time, but which seem to be very helpful!

After getting our packets and expo-ing, R and I did some Disney-related activity.  We ended up at Epcot, walking around what would end up being part of our race route.  This was also R’s first race and so it was nice for both of us to see what we were getting into.  Not that there was much chance of backing out.  We headed to bed early that night in order to be ready for our very early morning.  My mom was nice enough to be our race transportation and she was going to arrive bright and early at 5:30am.

pre-race

So nervous!

There’s me.  We arrived at Epcot before our 6:15am race-call time.  The race wasn’t supposed to start until 7am, so we had plenty of time to drink water, check out the other racers wearing costumes (lots of tutus and tiaras!), and listen to the DJ they had going.  Jeff Galloway was there and spoke a little.  Before we knew it, though, it was time to get into the corrals. There were several corrals based on pace and I was aiming for the last one before the walker/stroller/wheelchair corral, but because the “chute” itself was not wide enough and the 5000 or so people that were there were having a hard time getting into it, we ended up amongst the strollers.  When the fireworks(!!) went off signaling the race start, it was a very slow procession toward the starting line.

starting line

Start!

Once we made it to the starting line and were off, we had to maneuver behind the people walking and all those strollers.  This wasn’t altogether bad since I like to start out my runs with a nice walk to warm up, but it eventually became a problem. For some reason, I hadn’t really thought about my plan of action for getting around people.  I had concentrated so much on being physically prepared for the race that I didn’t think too much about the technicalities. As I started to actually run, I found myself outside of the path a lot of the time, trying to avoid the people walking.  The race was a bit of an obstacle course all the way through.  So many people, so many different speeds.  Sometimes it worked out in my favor and I would get behind a slower group that gave me an excuse to walk a little bit.

There were lots of awesome things about the course…

Characters

There were different Disney characters waiting at different points.

I realized pretty quickly a few of my fears were unnecessary.  For one, I was not going to be finishing last.  Secondly, despite posting a pacing requirement, it definitely was not enforced at any time that I could see (I know this is not true for the 1/2 marathon the next day since they had closed roads, etc for that).  In fact, there were people lined up wherever there were characters. Mickey and Minnie were there, Belle and the Beast, Pocahontas, some others I can’t recall.  There were also lots and lots of Disney staff cheering the runners on!  Everywhere you looked, there was another one saying “Yeah! You’re doing great!” or ringing a cowbell or clapping, high-fiving, or waving as we ran by. While I don’t carry water with me on my runs, the two water stops along the route were nice.

Eye on the prize: finish was past the globe.

So close!

Time went by so quickly.  Before I knew it, I was running under that giant “golf ball” and headed toward the finish.  I have to admit that all throughout the race I was getting pretty emotional on and off.  Here I was! I was really doing it! After all that anticipation and training, I was reaching my goal!  I held it together most of the way through, but then I saw my mom waiting near the finish line and almost lost it.  I was so grateful that she was there.  I powered through and crossed my first ever finish line at about 43:50 with a 14:03 pace.  The fact that I did it under 45 minutes was more than I could have hoped for, but had secretly wished was possible.

Finishing is winning.

I didn’t finish fast.  But I finished.  And set a personal record (that I get to beat next time).  Talk about a runner’s high!

R wasn’t too far behind me in finishing his own first 5k.  It was awesome to get to do the race together, even if we weren’t side by side the whole time. We got our medals, got our picture taken, and grabbed our recovery goodies before meeting up with my mom again.  After hugging her, I promptly started to cry. Just a little. 3.1 miles isn’t a very long, but the road to get there was. 30 years long, technically.  I’m so glad that R was there to race with me and my mom was there for support.

I couldn’t have asked for a better first 5k experience.  The race itself was easy going and full of fun.  The course was great. For those interested, here’s the map…

The red is me. The green is what Runkeeper thought was the route.

Also, here is a video I found of the 5k.  The “virtual host” shows you a bit of the race route, etc.

I am already finding other races that I want to be a part of and gearing up for a longer distance next time.  Hopefully, I will find myself a little faster and with another PR.  Can’t stop with those goals!

Something New: Yoga

So like I said the other day: I am going to try one new thing a month.  This month’s new thing happened to be yoga.

I was asked by a friend of mine to attend a free yoga class yesterday, but my work schedule didn’t allow for it.  The idea sounded good though, so I opted to sign up for one of the free yoga classes at my gym.  This is actually the first class that I’ve ever taken (and they offer several free ones) after being at this gym for a year now.  The person who signed me up for it said, “Way to go, trying something new in the new year!”

So tonight was my first yoga class.  I was very nervous going into it since I didn’t know what to expect.  I haven’t really done a lot of yoga.  I know a couple of poses simply because of their benefits to different areas of the body that I’ve had trouble with. I’ve read a little bit on different running websites about poses that are supposed to help runners as well.  I’ve never really tried many poses though, so I was going in pretty blind.

I arrived for the class about 15 minutes early and introduced myself to the instructor and told her that I was new and had never really done yoga before.  She advised me not to sit at the front of the class (where I was incidentally placing my mat at that very moment) and also told me a few other things like how she uses a lot of contemporary music, that it’s pretty cardiovascular, that I would want a towel, etc.  The most important thing she said to me though was that she wanted me to focus on my breath, despite whether I could keep up with the class.  That little lesson didn’t really kick in until about halfway through.

After talking to the instructor, I laid out my mat at the back of the class and followed suit with others who were taking off their shoes, stretching, etc.  I got a towel, drank some water, and waited anxiously.  Once everyone was settled, it was right into the poses.  We started with a sun salutation (much like you can see here).  I realized quickly that it was going to be a lot harder than I expected.  Things moved a lot faster and I found myself pretty distracted with trying to keep up and not focusing on what I was actually doing.  The other distraction was the sweat. Ha! I had not expected to sweat so very badly. My feet and hands felt like they were going to slip off the mat, especially when the instructor came by and tried to move my legs into a better form. Again, something I had not anticipated.  Isn’t yoga about relaxing and stretching or something like that?

As things progressed, I recognized more poses and got more comfortable with making modifications so that I could do some of them.  SO MANY DOWNWARD DOGS! I also started to get focused on my breath at some point and started to actually understand what the instructor had been getting at and how I could do it without getting so distracted with keeping up.  By the time that we were winding down, I was feeling pretty awesome and almost like I was getting the hang of some of it.

The class ended in corpse pose, the lights turned out, and the instructor coming around to each of us with a lavendar lotion that she massaged into the backs of our neck, shoulders and then did some crazy thing around our eyes and head.  I have no idea if that’s a normal practice in yoga classes, but it was probably one of my favorite parts.

(Another favorite part?  The music.  She wasn’t kidding about contemporary. I wasn’t always paying a lot of attention, but when I did there was some Florence + and the Machine, Fleetwood Mac, etc.  So good!)

After the class, I felt awesome.  I talked again to the instructor who asked how I liked it.  I said I would definitely be back.  She advised that I do some work at home and definitely get down the sun salutation.  Good advice, as I think if I could get into it and focused by doing things I knew, I would be in the right mindset from the start and not so worried most of the way through.

So, my first attempt at something new was decidedly awesome.  I think yoga is going to become a regular thing if it has me feeling this good afterwards. I am already planning to sign up for next week’s class and I’ve invested in some handy yoga socks so maybe I won’t feel like I’m going to slip and fall off the mat when I start to sweat next time.  If you have any other handy yoga tips or advice, I would love to hear them, especially about how best to incorporate it into an already pretty full exercise routine.

Post Yoga.

Post Yoga Deep-Breathe-a-Thon.

Thanks for the last 20 years, Steve Jobs.

digital orphans

I learned about the passing of Steve Jobs via Twitter.  I take that back.  My friend said it and then to confirm, I checked Twitter.  There it was.  CNN. NPR. Everybody I follow. Steve Jobs was dead. My heart sank.

I have no connection to Steve Jobs aside from the use of his products.  My first Apple was a Mac Classic.  I wrote the first short stories I really remember writing on that cute little computer. That was 20 years ago.  For the past 20 years of my life, I have only owned Apple computers.  Every once in a while we would upgrade.  I remember going through Mac catalogs with my mom (pre-Apple store=catalogs) and the excitement of New Computer Day.  I remember when we got our first tower. I remember the colorful little apples on them before they turned to more subdued colors. I remember eWorld (how do you like them geek points?).

My first laptop was an iBook.  It was blue, had a handle, and probably one of my favorite keyboards ever. It came with me to my first college, where I got a job at the IT helpdesk as their “Mac girl.”.  A few years later, I replaced it with a PowerBook and gave my broken iBook to a friend in 2003.  It was his first Apple computer.  He took it to get fixed up and he’s been an Apple fan ever since, as far as I can tell.

Powerbook vs MacBook Pro

My Powerbook (on the left) lasted for a good six years before I replaced it.  It had taken a good beating: droppings, drink spillings, missing keys, etc. I type this on my MacBook Pro, easily the best computer I’ve had.  And, again, even at 27, I was beyond excited to get this home and open it up.  I sat in awe at the screen as it first booted. Lots of people get excited about their new gadgets.  I do too.  But I can tell the difference between bringing home a new toy in a box with a big apple on it vs anything else.  There’s something about all the details: the way that it’s packaged and presented, the feel of the product in your hands… My new TV was less exciting than any of my Apple gadgets.

No, my iPhone

Even the cat loves an Apple product.

Fast forward from 2009 (when I purchased the MacBook Pro) to today: I bought my iPhone last summer.  It sounds ridiculous, but it changed my life.  Get your eyeroll over with… I know it’s just a phone.  Everyone has a smartphone and apps and they all do amazing things. This phone made my life better.  I may be wrong, but I don’t think my long distance relationship would work out quite as well if not for FaceTime. Sure, we could have done any number of other video calling, but the convenience of FaceTime made a big difference. I can see one of my favorite faces hundreds of miles away with the tap of one little icon. That sentence alone is just crazy talk.

Kevin Smith on Steve Jobs

I could keep going about my iPad and how it got me to start reading and writing more regularly again, or how my AppleTV helped me get rid of cable and how all my iDevices work so great together doing this and that, streaming from one thing to the other, etc.  I could talk about how my phone and a little app have helped me start running, start communicating, start budgeting and bettering.  I could go on forever (and I have).  It’s easy to get lost in the technology and the devices and the materialism involved.  This whole post is full of that.  But it’s not the heart of it.  The heart of it is the good that all of it brings: the ways that these things can enrich your life.

All of this to say: I am heartbroken that a man who has made my life so much different than it might have been has passed away.

Steve Jobs + afterlife

I have never met or spoken to Steve Jobs.  I barely even thought about the CEO of one of my favorite companies until a few years ago. I only heard the stories about him, read articles, listened to keynotes, etc. But I have spent the last 20 years having my life changed by the products his company made. Whether it was from that first Mac Classic to my iPad, my life is better thanks to what he helped bring into it (and I haven’t even talked about all the other stuff he’s done like Pixar, etc).  Things I never thought would make my life better do so on a daily basis.  You can’t wish for more than that in a lifetime.  Steve Jobs is a lucky man to have had such an impact on so many people.

It Does Not Last.

Rest in peace, Mr. Jobs.  You have more than earned it, I’d say.  Thanks for everything while you were here.

Gallstone Glory, or My Trip to the ER and beyond.

The picture above is basically what I got to see in my abdominal ultrasound on Saturday (9/17).  I woke up at 3:30am with intense pain from about the bottom of my ribcage to my bellybutton.  I had never had pain in that area of my stomach before, at least not like the pain I was having.  I waited it out, called a friend and my mom, and decided that it had been going on too long. The friend came to pick me up and we went to the ER.

We were taken back to a room right away.  My friend hypothesized that it’s amazing how fast they see you when they think you might have appendicitis. I had pretty much ruled that out as I knew people who had it out and the pain was not in the right place. They did their usual blood and urine samples. I was set up with an IV to hydrate me. The doctor eventually came in and started pushing around on my stomach, then ordered an ultrasound.

Whenever I have any sort of imaging done, I try to see it.  I had my kidneys looked at earlier in the year via ultrasound and watched those.  I also recently had an MRI done on my back and asked to see the images. After all the reading I had done, I could pretty well tell which disc was herniated if any of them were. With the ultrasound on my gallbladder, I saw an approximation of the above.  It seems to me that you never want to see other things inside of an organ. My gallbladder had a lot of other things inside of it.  After I was wheeled back to my room, I looked up pictures of gallbladder ultrasounds and had a hunch before the doctor told me that I had stones.

We seemed to wait forever to get the ultrasound results.  My friend’s mom, who was visiting from out of town, came and sat with us as we waited.  There was no shortage of conversation, which was nice. There was an incident where the IV almost made me pee myself, which was sort of funny afterward.

The first thing we were told was that I had a really bad bladder infection. This didn’t make much sense since I had no symptoms. I know a thing or two about urinary tract infections and the like and I had not been having problems.  So after awhile, the doctor came back and said, “guess what? It’s gallstones!” Ok. Maybe he didn’t say it quite that way, but that was the news. He explained that fatty foods can cause your gallbladder to squeeze harder than normal and if you have stones, this can be painful. That’s maybe what happened. I was told that I didn’t need it out right then, but they were referring me to a surgeon to follow up. I might not have to have my gallbladder removed any time soon, but it might be necessary eventually.

They wrote up my official diagnosis as biliary colic: “Biliary pain is most frequently caused by obstruction of the common bile duct or the cystic duct by a gallstone.”  Sounds painful? It was.  They gave me a prescription for Vicodin and told me to return if symptoms didn’t improve, the pain came back, etc.

Fast forward to Tuesday when I had the follow-up with the surgeon.  I had called the surgeon’s office and gave them the name of the doctor that I was referred to.  They came back with “you’re already a patient of so-and-so.” I had kind of forgot about two years ago when I had had surgery to remove sebaceous cysts and a “tumor.” So I ended up with the same surgeon. My surgeon. It’s a strange phrase.  At any rate, he’s a pretty upfront doctor.  He said that if I didn’t have the gallbladder removed now, it would only be a matter of time before it really needed to happen.  It could be just because of more attacks or it could become an emergency situation.  All the reading I had done (like the threads at Ask MetaFilter, multiple medical websites, etc) about it seemed to say the same thing.  There was a small chance I could be fine, but a bigger chance that I wouldn’t be.

It was a pretty short visit with the surgeon. He answered questions, told me about the procedure, etc.  The estimated healing time is 5-10 days, though they give you a work excuse for 14 in case. He said I could get back to my C25k two weeks after unless he had to open me up. On that subject, he was pretty clear: laparoscopic was the best way and the intended way.  If something didn’t seem right when he got there, he would open me and take it out that way to be safe.  “And that’s going to hurt,” he said. Healing time is a lot longer under those circumstances and complications have a greater probability.  So let’s all think positively for a laparoscopic procedure to be quick and easy.

My surgery is set for the 10th. I am grateful I don’t have to do any awful pre-surgery prep. The worst part is going to be giving up my vitamins and Alpha Brain for a week beforehand. I am also grateful I have a lot of friends around who are willing to help. My mom might come up for it, but that hasn’t quite been decided yet.

I’m ready to get it over with. I hear stories that it’s pretty easy and the best decision you could make.  I hope it is.