• Weekend Wrap-up: Shark, etc.

    As has become my sad habit (due to the stress fracture of doom), this weekend involved no running. This means you’re not being subjected to a report of how many miles I traveled, etc, etc. Instead, I went to the Lodi Grape Festival with friends who got free tickets. It’s basically like a county fair, minus the livestock, plus huge murals made of grapes. And we had this:


    Along with a helping of odd cuteness:

    Shorn alpaca, perhaps?

    And there were the carnies, of course, who somehow always manage to assemble rides and operate games involving darts without leaving a trail of mayhem behind them. The funny thing is, I heard two security guards got into a fight there, not the carnies.

    Sunday involved lunch with the gals, and then a dresser cleaning spree. I was quite surprised to discover that I had 70 pairs of socks and 61 pairs of underwear. Those numbers have since been reduced, and I plan to go through them again later as I try to Downsize My Life.

  • Friday Friend: Sam F.

    Some bloggers do themes on certain days, such as Three Things Thursday and Friday Favorites. Well, I’m going to do Friday Friends — similar to Twitter‘s Friday Follow, where people list some of their friends. I’ll highlight a blog or website that belongs to a friend, or that I think is worth sharing.

    I’m starting with OperationJack.org, a non-profit run by Sam Felsenfeld, father of an autistic son. In 2010 he is running 61 marathons (it started as 60 marathons, but he’s an overachiever) to raise money for autism research. All profits go to Train 4 Autism. When he’s not jetting off every weekend to run 26.2 miles or more, he’s working full-time, and he’s a doting husband and father of three. I follow him on Twitter, where his Friday and Monday updates are usually concerns about squeezing in time for his kids and wife, or flying home in time for the family’s Sunday dinner. I’m not sure how he manages to blog every day and keep up with a whole bunch of people online.

    I met Sam (yep, my picture’s in there) in September, when he was doing a seven-hour run in Portland. Yep, he really is as funny, crazy and cool in person as he is online. He’s doing just about anything to raise money, and his heart is clearly in the right place. I know people with autism, and they are some of the smartest, sweetest people I’ve ever encountered — but we definitely need to figure out how to prevent autism, because it’s so sad to see them struggle when they shouldn’t have to.

  • My tibial stress fracture

    Warning: This is a long post. It’s all about the stress fracture in my right leg.

    It started as a tiny twinge, a little pain that seemed connected to some tendon issues I’ve been working out since last fall. So I kept to my carefully constructed marathon training plan. When I stopped at a drinking fountain around 15 or 18 miles into a 20-mile run on Aug. 8, it felt worse. When I stopped for good at the end of the 20 miles, I was struggling not to limp. I ignored it and had a fun meal with a bunch of Bay Area running buddies.

    The pain got worse, and I knew something in my right leg was mad. The next day, Monday, was a rest day. Tuesday was a normal run with my running club, but I only ran a couple easy miles due to the pain. Things were not right. I stayed optimistic, giving my leg some rest because I was in a recovery week and could ease off the training. The pain didn’t go away.

    I was convinced it was a tendon issue, but I broke down and went to the doctor (a rarity for me). My insurance had just changed to Kaiser, which I was less than thrilled about, but they got me an appointment the next morning, and I had the obligatory x-ray, though I knew it wasn’t going to do anything. I was right; the doctor called me that afternoon to say the x-ray didn’t show anything and that she was referring me to an orthopedic doctor — a routine I know well due to my lifetime of foot/leg issues. Here’s where I became a fan of Kaiser: I saw an ortho doctor the next day, and he ordered up a bone scan for that afternoon. With my previous HMO, that would have taken eons to get authorized.

    The morning of Aug. 19, I went to the “nuclear medicine” department, where they injected dye into a vein (after several failed attempts at FINDING a vein). They informed me I would not glow in the dark. I beg to differ, on account of my pale skin, but that’s beside the point. I returned a few hours later, and they put me in an MRI-type of machine to take what it basically a long x-ray. The dye makes certain blood cells stand out, so if they’re trying to heal a microscopic crack in a bone, they’ll show up as a big cluster. I’d done some research on this, and knew that if I had a stress fracture, it would look like this (taken from this site):

    You can see the bone there, and then that big black spot is the stress fracture. I was still convinced that was not what I had, because the pain wasn’t restricted to one place. Two years ago I had a metatarsal stress fracture (toe bone in the foot) in the other leg, and I could pinpoint the exact place it hurt.

    So I waited through this long x-ray-type process. This was not helped by the fact that I had to lay on my other hip, which I’d banged up falling off my bike while trying to learn clip-in pedals. (Don’t ask.) Along the way, I learned that the lab lady had run several marathons but doesn’t run anymore because she doesn’t have time. This excuse always seems false to me, because the busiest people can still make time for the things they truly want.

    Anyway, the picture were finally taken and the lady said a radiologist had to read them but probably wouldn’t get to it until the next morning, a Friday. That meant the orthopedic doctor likely wouldn’t get back to me until Monday. I asked if I could see the scans, since they were right there on her computer screen, and she said yes.

    I took one look and burst into tears. Now, I cry about two or three times a year at most, and I hate it. But when I saw that big, black, ugly SPOT on my leg, exactly where it hurt, I knew what it meant. The lady said she couldn’t tell me the results, but the look on her face said I was right. I stumbled out of the room and through the long Kaiser building, hiding my tear-covered face. Even then I knew that people get far worse diagnoses in that same building, but I couldn’t help it. I knew I was out for at least eight weeks, but sometimes these things can take months to heal. The ortho doctor confirmed my own diagnosis the following Monday.

    I was set to race a half-marathon in nine days. I’d been gearing up and training diligently for the Portland Marathon, and training was going well enough that I really could see a sub-4-hour marathon in my future. I would stay there with old friends, and the nerdy part part of me was so excited the race fell on 10/10/10 (yes, I registered for it solely because of those two reasons). And I’d been one of the lucky ones to get picked in the New York City Marathon in November. Not only were my fall running plans gone, but I’d lost $360 in non-refundable registration fees, as well as my bid to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs club by completing three marathons within 90 days.

    Today marks four weeks since I saw that ugly black spot on the scan of my leg, and almost six weeks since the pain started. My leg feels much better than it did a few weeks ago. The inevitable emotional roller coaster ride, triggered by endorphin withdrawal (that happens when you’re used to running 30-45 miles a week), is over. But I still long every day to be able to run. I see people running and I get sad. On my recent trip to Portland, I wanted so badly to run along the beautiful trails, and through a rain shower. I get frustrated over something and want to go run to clear my head.

    But it will get better. Perhaps this mandatory break is what my tendon wanted, too. I will run again, and I will love it that much more.

  • Blog direction

    It took me a while to restart my blog, in part because I wanted a different name for it. I’ve used theSmudge.com for years, and I happened to pick that name due to sheer lack of creativity and plenty of exhaustion. It’s actually pretty hard to come up with a URL that isn’t taken, and it’s getting harder every year.

    My work blog became dormant when I got too busy, and then more so when the website changed and looked more foreign than ever. But weeks and then months passed and I couldn’t come up with a name for my own blog. I wanted to blend running and writing, and my choice would have been “Between the Lines” as a play on paper lines and road/track lines. However, everything remotely similar was already a registered domain name, and I was determined to claim the URL as mine, too. After a brainstorming session with friends in Portland earlier this month, I went online and struck out once again.

    And so The Smudge remains. It’s been mine for eight and a half years, which means that if I keep it a couple more years it will have outlasted my career. I’m at a vague place in life, but at least my website and e-mail address are on solid ground.

    Anyway, I intend this blog to be about running, writing and any random bits of my life that I feel like including. It doesn’t have much running on here yet (other than that link up there) due to a stress fracture, which will be discussed soon in another post. And it doesn’t have much about writing, either, because I’m only just starting to regain my desire to write. But I do feel that desire returning; I was just watching an episode of a TV show I missed while on vacation, and it partially addressed something I want to write at length about. A small voice in my head was quietly screaming, “Do it! Go after that project! I’m not resting until you do!” Yes, little voice, I’m trying to listen and I’m trying to find myself again.

    So that, in a rambling way, is what this blog is about. We’ll see what happens when I attempt to mix running, writing and the occasional happenings of my life.

  • Road to…?

    I’ve always had a thing for pictures that feature curving roads leading off into the distance. Where is the road going? What’s around the next curve? It’s intriguing, and it gives the picture a bit of a mystery.

    That’s a bit how my life feels these days, and maybe that’s why I’m OK with it — something interesting and exciting must be around the bend.

    Where to go?

    (Photo taken Friday in Siskiyou County near the end of my 13-day road trip.)

  • New blog

    This is the obligatory “Hi, I changed to a new blog” post. I’m going to attempt to backdate and republish old blog posts, but that’s secondary to my main purpose — moving forward. Here’s to a new blog and new adventures. Welcome.