• Nerd alert: 44444

    It’s no secret to most of my friends that I am easily amused. This extends to numbers and patterns, which often drive me mildly nuts because I see them constantly. On long drives, I’ve been known to mentally calculate my miles per hour to the nearest hundredth, simply because I was bored. My days of grocery store work and crime/court work have made it that I see produce  and criminal codes everywhere, too. We’ll get to 11:11 in another post on another day.

    Anyway, the other day my car’s odometer hit a cool number. Since I’ve gotten better at thinking, “Oooh, photo opportunity, let me pull out my phone,” I documented it:

    Aren’t you glad you spent the time reading this blog post?

  • Running thoughts while bicycling

    I don’t like cycling. I don’t always hate it, but I’d much rather be running. But since I’m still waiting for my injured leg to be back at 100 percent, I don’t have a lot of other options if I want to get back in shape. I motivated myself Saturday by setting out to ride the longest I’ve ever gone. I accomplished that by riding 43 miles. Yep, 43 boring, un-fun miles.

    I present to you the occasionally nonsensical “Thoughts of a Runner While Bicycling For Two Hours and Forty-Five Minutes”:

    • “I’ve been out here for two hours. I could have run a half-marathon and be relaxing by now.” (The fact that I’d cycled almost three times the length of a half-marathon didn’t matter to my thinking. It still doesn’t.)
    • “Headwind sucks when riding. I will never again complain about it when running.”
    • “Did that driver really just speed up to pass and turn in front of me, making me brake and start looking for an out? Yep, they did.” Five minutes later: “Really? Another driver just did the same thing? I knew I hated the town of Galt; apparently they’re so uncivilized that they don’t know what a bike is.”
    • “Stoplights really suck. They are not an issue when running.”
    • “The wind shifted so I STILL have headwind? I think that’s a sign I’ve been out here forever.”
    • “My back is tired. And why are the bases of my thumbs sore? These things are not issues while running, either.”
    • “Ack, a bug.”

    Suffice it to say that I’m a runner, not a bicyclist.

  • PostSecret tour stop

    I’ve followed the PostSecret blog for a long time, and a friend gave me one of the books a few years ago. So, when I heard the author (for lack of a better word to describe him) was speaking at the university 16 miles from my house, I was intrigued. But there was competition for tickets, and I don’t like dealing with that, and I figured I didn’t need to spend $10 on it. Then I got a last-minute offer of a free ticket, so I jumped at the opportunity and attended the event Saturday night.

    If you don’t know about PostSecret, it started five years ago when a guy named Frank Warren got an idea for an art project. He printed up 3,000 postcards with his home address on them, then began asking random Washington D.C. strangers to write a secret on the card and mail it to him. It became an Internet sensation, and now he gets 1,000 postcards a week from around the globe. He’s also received secrets written on a potato, a bag of coffee, an In-N-Out bag (which he showed Saturday), and others. He just published his fifth book, a best-seller.

    Warren is a great public speaker, and he had the right balance of humor and serious thought-provoking matters. For him, the biggest purpose of collecting secrets is to encourage people to let go of them. Plenty of the secrets are funny — he said “I pee in the shower” is the most common secret he receives — but many are from people who are dealing with awful things in life. If they can tell their awful secret, even anonymously, then maybe they will feel relief and be able to move on.

    Of course, some people will probably move on for other reasons: At the end of Warren’s talk, he asked people to step forward to one of several microphones and share their own secrets. One girl brought down the house by admitting that, for revenge, she uses her roommate’s pasta strainer to sift poop out of her reptile’s cage. I have a feeling she’ll be moving on to another roommate because a confession like that won’t remain secret in today’s world full of social networking. But that’s probably best for both roommates, anyway.

    Others shared about depression, and some started crying as they shared their dark secrets; audience members then started crying, too.

    “The children almost broken by the world become the adults who will change it,” Warren said in his speech, and it stuck with me.

    Much of the audience was made up of college students, and the first one who spoke publicly said that he makes it a point to say hi to as many people as possible, because when he was in high school he was the outcast nobody talked to. That young man didn’t let his experiences break him; instead he’s trying to change the world simply through kindness.

    One PostSecret blog reader was inspired by a postcard to start a website that would reunite lost cameras with their owners. Now, dozens of people have found the pictures they thought were gone forever, thanks to I Found Your Camera. As I write this, the site has received 5.2 million hits.

    The camera site and PostSecret started simply: Someone got an idea and decided to act on it. On the screen behind Warren, he displayed a simple question: “What’s Your Crazy Idea?” His own mother doesn’t like PostSecret (she called it “diabolical”) and, after glancing at his books in a bookstore, said she doesn’t want her own copies. But that didn’t stop Warren, and his idea has become a phenomenon. He has found something he truly enjoys doing, and he’s been rewarded: Warren has heard from people who, after seeing a secret on the website or sharing their own, decided to get help rather than committing suicide.

    We all need to cling to our dreams, and take a chance by pursuing the ideas that come to us. After all, we might just stumble upon a way to help others.

  • Friday Friend: Deb B.

    As I blogged earlier this week, I spend a good chunk of Sunday following the online updates of friends running a couple marathons. One of those people, however, was not just running the 26.2 miles of the Portland Marathon. Nope, Deb was adding another 9.8 miles for a total of 36 miles — one for every year, for a birthday celebration.

    Seriously, this was Deb’s idea of a way to celebrate her own birthday (which fell on 10/10/10 this year, an extra-awesome thing, if you ask me). Also, she did it in Vibram five-finger shoes. She had a birthday hat for the make-shift toilet paper finish line, too.

    I met Deb through Twitter, and I met her in person at the Operation Jack 7-hour run, which she helped organize in Portland. I attended a dinner for the runners/volunteers the night before the run, and I showed up at the same time she did. She and her husband were busy getting their three small children out of the car, but she happened to look up, saw me, and instantly recognized me. I shouldn’t be surprised, because runners really are that friendly, but it was a great way of breaking the ice as I showed up to a random house 700 miles away from home.

    Though we communicate most frequently in 140-character tweets, she’s become a good friend and has also voluntarily tried to help me to next step in my life — for which I’m very grateful. One of these days we’ll actually run together!

    Deb with her family, after a 34.2-mile run in September.

  • Fun pasttime: OKCupid

    The other night, when I should have been either sleeping or doing something productive, my friend Maggie and I happened to start chatting on Facebook. And in the process she sent me a link to a profile on the OKCupid.com dating website. It started with, “So I’m unemployed and currently trying to get my life on track.” The guy’s profile name has “187” in it, the California Penal Code section for murder. And it had this for his profile photo:

    Really? You’re 19, unemployed, and you’re looking for a girl that finds your gas mask attractive? In LODI? Good luck, dude.

    But that guy is far from being alone! Maggie and I probably spent another hour on the site, being both amazed and amused. A few gems:

    • xchrystalpyro quit smoking four days ago. (The date of his last login? Sept. 9.) “My personality will win you over if you ever quit staring at me,” he says. Well then.
    • Mr. tallhandsomensc says, “I am a business that enjoys life.” A business?
    • EXMULEMAN (ex? muleman?) starts his profile by saying that his cat told him to get a life. I think this cat should get a gig on David Letterman’s show. Oh, and when asked what he’s good at, he says, “takin’ out the garbage.”
    • ssb2 is a grown-up at age 32 but says, “jesus can walk on water and turn wine into beer. i can swim through land and turn wine into pot…”
    • Quivirian has three profile photos that look like three different men. He says women should message him if they want someone to write them a sonnet.
    • And, last but not least, we have peteranton39 who has “A LUST FOR LIFE, A LUST FOR LOVE, A LUST FOR LAUGHTER AND MUSIC.” Apparently he also has a lust for capital letters. At age 67, he’s looking for a woman between the ages of 22 and 46. In other words, if you’re only 20 years younger than him, rather than 21 years younger, you are too old and don’t have enough “LUST FOR LIFE” to suit him.

    So now you know my newest favorite source of amusement. And no, you won’t find my profile on that site, because I don’t  own a gas mask or have enough “LUST FOR LIFE.”

  • Virtual Spectating

    Whew! Except for eight hours of sleep, I was basically online non-stop from Saturday afternoon until past noon Sunday, watching athletes cross several finish lines on what was a busy weekend in the running/triathlon community. Let me tell you, as blogger Luau can attest, it was exhausting!

    Saturday was the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. In the world of triathlon, this is the ultimate race of all races. There are a few lottery spots, but almost everyone has to qualify in another triathlon in order to get to Kona. Once there, they have to reach certain points at certain times or else they’re pulled from the course. The heat and humidity are intense, and the bike and run are done on black asphalt past black lava rock on a course that has no shade. I’ve been along the whole course many times and have NO desire to attempt such a thing! Did I mention that it involves a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run? It was broadcast live online, and it was so fun to watch people in a place I know pretty well. The announcers did a great job and had some impressive details about many of the athletes. I also knew of a few of them, so that was fun.

    I was up and at my computer with a cup of coffee a little after 8 a.m. this morning. The Chicago Marathon, with 45,000 registered runners, had gotten started a couple hours earlier. I ran this race last year, and I’ve been to Chicago several times, so of course I was looking forward to seeing how this one shaped up. It’s also one of the things that first got me into Twitter — last year I found some people on there who were also running Chicago, and I’ve kept in touch with most of them. My Twitter running network has since greatly expanded, so this year I knew a lot of people running it. The weather was quite warm, but everyone I was following made it across the finish line.

    Meanwhile, the Portland Marathon, which I was supposed to run, also went down this morning. They had a record-high 13,000 people running the full marathon in steady rain. I was also following a bunch of people in that race. Some are Twitter friends, and some I met in person when I was in Portland last month.

    Between all the Twitter people and more running buddies I’ve met through blogs and websites, I had a lot of stuff going on. Both marathons had live tracking, and Twitter was a steady, unending stream of updates from runners’ support crew, and even from a couple runners who tweeted along the way. Meanwhile, all of us virtual spectators were comparing notes and updating one another. At one point, I apologized to my non-running Twitter followers because they were probably overwhelmed, but I didn’t hear any complaints. I think most of them know I’m fairly obsessed with running, anyway.

    So many racers had so many incredible stories. From the heartbreaking disappointment in Kona, to the Boston Qualifying run with two seconds to spare, to the birthday bash in Portland, every person out there had a unique story. A local woman ran Chicago in 2:45:09 to qualify for the Olympic Trials, while another woman battled illness through 6 hours and 28 minutes of rain. Another one spent many hours in the scorching Chicago heat, contemplated giving up, but knew she couldn’t let down all of her Twitter supporters — and she did cross the finish line.

    There are so many incredible stories from this weekend and I’m afraid of linking to some and missing others (though I’ve already decided that one of them will be this week’s Friday Friend feature). So I have a new goal: When I get down in the dumps about something running-related, I’m going to also tell one of those runners’ stories and link to their site/blog/Twitter page. It will give both me and you readers some perspective, and it will give a tiny bit of credit to those determined runners.

  • Wallowing in despair

    I’m skipping this week’s Friday Friend feature, not because I’ve run out of friends’ blogs to promote, but because I’ve been full of angst and despair. So, pardon me while I complain for a few bullet points. I promise to end this blog post on a cheery note.

    • In 36 hours, 12,000 people will be running the Portland Marathon. I, runner #2381, will not be there. My t-shirt, tree seedling and all sorts of other fun things are waiting for me, but a certain stress fracture in my leg ended all of that. I’ve watched my biggest goals for the year crumble to dust. It’s hard, because now I’m watching all the tweets and Facebook posts and blogs from people who are so excited to run on 10/10/10. I was one of them. The running nerd in me is crying.
    • My neck is mad at me. The last time it did this was six months ago, and it knocked me out completely for four agonizing days. I lost six days of running in what was supposed to be one of my highest training weeks leading up to a marathon. My big May race subsequently suffered because of it. At least this time I can function, but I think it’s going to cramp my weekend plans.
    • Writing is a struggle. A story idea finally started coming together and I was actually writing, but it’s not easy. I stalled yesterday, and today I’ve made absolutely no progress. Perhaps my waves of optimism and self-doubt cancel each other.
    • My quest to start a new life in a new place is going too slowly for my liking. I want to be there NOW. I want the move to happen NOW. I hate being in limbo.
    • As a direct result of the previous item, and the running injury, I can’t book plane tickets and make plans for Christmas and New Years yet. I’m anxious to get things squared away while I can still find reasonable airfare rates, but I have to prioritize things. Vacation, even if it does include seeing immediate family members, cannot be my top priority right now.

    OK, no more wallowing (for today). I said I would end this blog post on a good note, and I will. Since I probably shouldn’t tell my new favorite joke (don’t want to offend anyone), I will instead post this photo and say, “Aww, I was a cute baby.”

    Flat-footed and reading a book. Yep, that sums me up.

  • Leg jury is still out

    I went on another half-mile test run today to see if my stress-fractured tibia hurt at all. Like Sunday’s test run, it did not hurt. But I was ever so slightly aware of it, which I think means it needs a little more time off. If my leg is completely healed, it should feel normal; if I feel anything, it probably still has a few extra blood cells lingering around, finishing the healing process.

    I’m not letting this discourage me, because I KNOW my leg is almost better. I am NOT going to risk damaging it further, because a little more time now will mean all the difference in the future. In the meantime, I’ve realized how much I’ve slacked off on stretching and most exercise, so that laziness stops today.

    I looked back at my logs from summer 2008, when I got a metatarsal (foot) stress fracture. (It was the other leg, so they’re not related.) I thought that had taken eight weeks, but in counting the weeks again today, I realized it took a bit less than 10 weeks before I was out running again. Then, including a couple weeks of really struggling to get any mileage in because I was so out of shape, I had eight weeks until the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon. That was a hilly course and I had no hill training, but I ran what was then a PR (personal record) for me, then added on miles to total 17. Seven weeks later — 15 weeks after coming back from injury — I ran my first marathon. That time wasn’t even my slowest marathon time.

    This Sunday will mark 10 weeks since my tibial stress fracture. If, and this is most definitely just an IF, I feel perfectly fine to start running again, that would give me 12 weeks until the third marathon I had planned for this fall/winter. Honestly, I don’t know if that’s enough time. While I’d lose the non-refundable registration fee, I haven’t paid for the hotel and airfare yet. The airfare isn’t a lot, because it would be a stop on the way between holiday plans and I found a fairly good deal, but other things (hotel, car rental even if I can split it with friends, meals, other random stuff) add up.

    So I don’t know yet if I’ll run that marathon. I wouldn’t be looking to beat my current record, since I just don’t have enough time to train for that. But the race happens to be in a state I’ve never visited, and it happens to be on Jan. 1. The nerdy side of me really, really wants to run that 1/1/11 race, especially since I had to cancel my dream 10/10/10 marathon. Additionally, the last couple years I’ve had some very crappy New Years, so I think a marathon would be one of the better ways to start off the new year.

    Conclusion: I don’t know! If my leg continues to feel fine in normal activities, I will probably let myself test it out again Saturday. Meanwhile, I’m going to stretch and bike, even though I grumble about it. I did ride 16 miles yesterday for an average of 16.5 mph, so at least that’s something.


    Oh, and I fixed it so that people can actually comment without having to find the super-secret login page. I hadn’t realized how ridiculous it was. Feel free to comment!

  • Weekend Wrapup: Marc’s 40th

    If a friend turns 40, you’ve had lots of time to clean your house, and you’ve been talking for eons about throwing a party, what do you do? Why, you throw him a party! So that’s what I did this weekend. After all, how many times does Marc Lutz the cartoonist turn FORTY? It was a busy weekend for lots of people, other others just flaked out, but that’s OK. I probably went overboard anyway, so I was left with lots of pizza (mmm), snacks (not what I need!), and wine (yay!), despite my best efforts to send most of it home with people.

    We wound up with a good group of people, and they made it a lot of fun. They tolerated the awesome black decorations that Marc’s wife, Melinda, helped scatter around my house:

    They played “Pin The Tail On The Marc” (admire my stellar PhotoShop skills):

    Yes, that's me.

    They ate. They drank (Jasmine supplied the wine!). And they ate the cake made by Marc’s wife (Marc helped decorate it):

    The cake was almost directly beneath my smoke detector, which somehow didn’t go off despite ALL those candles:

    And the guests humored me by reading some of the research I’d done, printed out and left around the living room. On the day Marc was born, a loaf of bread cost 24 cents. A nice house on the good side of town was going for $17,000. Sputnik launched that day.

    When they left, I posted to Twitter and Facebook, “I have party hats on the front lawn and empty wine bottles in the kitchen. Party must have turned out ok!”

    So, happy birthday, Marc! Here’s to another four decades of cartooning.

    Tomorrow I hope to test my leg on another short run, so I’ll blog about that.

  • Half a mile of hope

    Eight weeks ago, I ran a 20-mile training run, at the end of which my leg was killing me. Almost seven weeks ago, I made my last attempt at running, then went to the doctor and got the dreaded tibial stress fracture diagnosis. The only way to heal such a stress fracture is to avoid any hard-impact exercise — such as running.

    And so, despite the inevitable downward spiral into a pit of endorphin-lacking despair, I ceased all running. The pain gradually and steadily lessened. A couple weeks ago, I started talking about a test run, but I was still feeling occasional twinges of mild pain in my leg and knew it wasn’t ready. I’d already put in weeks of recovery, so I wasn’t about to jeopardize my progress.

    A few nights ago I put on my running shoes and walked around the house. A month earlier, my leg protested the instant I tried wearing my running shoes, but this time it was OK. I even tried hopping up and down a few times on the injured leg. It didn’t seem to mind, but I wasn’t sure if maybe I’d felt a tiny twinge. I told myself that if nothing hurt, I’d run a maximum of  half a mile on Sunday or Monday.

    Today, Sunday, I put on my running shoes. Then I proceeded to wash all my windows (yes, took the screens off and cleaned them, too). The walking and standing on tip-toes felt fine. So I strapped on my Garmin GPS watch, switched it from biking to running mode, and set out down the street.

    After a short warm-up walk, I began to jog, telling myself to go slow but let it feel natural. After exactly a quarter of a mile, I stopped and evaluated — did it hurt, did it feel weak, were there any twinges? The funny thing is that the only thing I noticed was a bruise I’d given myself falling off my bike while trying to learn new pedals. It’s near the stress fracture area, which is a ridiculous coincidence. I pressed all over the area of the stress fracture and honestly asked myself if it hurt. It did not. So I ran the next quarter mile and obediently followed my plan to stop at that point.

    Four hours later, I don’t feel any pain. I’m actually trying to be a bit of a hypochondriac, because in this case it’s so much better to err on the side of caution. To that end, I’m not going to run tomorrow but instead get out on my bike. If I don’t feel anything amiss, I will let myself go on another test run Tuesday. Even if I pass that test with flying colors, I’m NOT going to let myself plan for the future until Wednesday, at the earliest. I love running too much to mess it up.

    Oh, and do you think it helped that I wore my Operation Jack t-shirt today?

    With Sam, the Operation Jack founder, at the end of his 7-hour run.

    (No, I’ve never run for seven hours. I volunteered, as I mentioned in this blog post, and Sam blogged here.)

    Meanwhile, tune in tomorrow for my weekend wrapup that might just include photos of a blindfold.