Monday, February 15, 2016

Nike! Also, foot pictures for Gregori!

Yesterday, I ran a marathon.

That's right.  Screw you, asthma.

First, a bit about the historical marathon.  According to legend, when the Greeks beat the Persians in the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., a soldier by the name of Pheidippides (also named as Philippides, Thersipus, or Eucles) ran the entire distance from Marathon to Athens, where he burst into the Senate, yelled "νενικήκαμεν!" and then collapsed and died.  Supposedly the distance from Marathon to Athens is the marathon distance of 26.2 miles but this is actually probably incorrect.  See, there's two routes from Marathon to Athens.  One of them is about 21-22 miles, running northwest through steep mountain terrain, and the other is about 25.4 miles, running south and around the mountain.  When the modern Olympics began in 1896, a "marathon" was 25 miles, to represent Pheidippides' route south along the Marathon bay and then west, past Mount Hymettus and Penteli and downhill to Athens.

At some point during the run he lost all his clothes apparently.

Between 1896 and 1924, no one in the Olympics seemed to be able to agree how far a marathon should be.  It changed each game, with the shortest distance being a measly 24.85 miles and the longest being an agonizing 26.56 miles.  But they all stopped drinking in 1924, presumably due to Prohibition, and settled on the 26.22 mile course we now know and love.

Last historical tidbit:  Pheidippides's famous words, "nenikekamen," is the inspiration for the name brand "Nike."  People always say that "Nike!" means victory, but this isn't entirely correct.  Nenikekamen means "We have won" or "we have succeeded."  Thus, "Nike" is not a derived from a noun at all but a verb: νῑκάω, which means "to win."

Now, about my marathon.  This item has been on my bucket list for a while and I have the following positive things to say:
  • I crossed the finish line.
  • I did not shit my pants.
  • My nipples did not bleed.
  • I did not vomit.
  • I did not need to use my rescue inhaler even once, before, during, or after the race.  My breathing was perfect!  

 I ran this marathon without any preparation and so I'd like to take a moment to tell others who plan to do this what I have to report.

5 Tips for How to Train for a Marathon Like a Moron Without Any Training Whatsoever
  1. Invest heavily in your gear.  I got a very, very supportive sports bra, sunglasses, and some imported Swedish insoles for my shoes.  I also had a sweatband for my head, and sweatbands on my wrists so that I could look like Pickles the Drummer from Dethklok.  The wrist sweatbands did nothing, but having good shoes and a good bra absolutely did.  I also got some compression socks for ankle support.  No one explained to me that they cut off circulation and should be worn after the race, so I wore them for the first half and then ripped them off later.
  2. Invest heavily in your diet.  In the week leading up to the race, I stopped drinking caffeine and liquor and focused on "healthy" fats like avocados and walnuts.  I also took fish oil tablets, a small concession to my vegetarianism.  By race day, I was taking 4 pills every 12 hours, for something like 6 grams of omega-3s. 
  3. Use pseudoscience.  I bought a yellow crystal.  As an actual scientist, I don't know if I got the right crystal or not, but since yellow seems like a pretty positive color, I thought it would do in a pinch.  I also did a lot of mental gymnastics to get myself pumped.  For example, I figured that if the first guy who did it died, I only needed to run half as hard as he did and I wouldn't die.  I got some "energy gels" for the race from Clif that are basically caffeine suspended in a cake icing matrix.  I read a lot of articles about running to inspire myself and learned some mantras ("Pain is weakness leaving the body!") and made note of the fact that some dog ran a half marathon without even trying and so I just had to be twice as strong as that dog to do it.
  4. Have a playlist.  Andrew made my playlist for me.  It was upbeat and perfect for running and interspersed with messages from my friends encouraging me, including Jeff from D&D telling me not to bring dishonor from my family, Andrew imitating Obadiah Stane and telling Tony to "finish what he started," and my dear friend Dr. Forbin singing "Go Go Power Puppy... You're a Mighty Runnin' Power Puppy!" to the Power Rangers theme song. 
  5. Tell all your friends.  Talking about the marathon constantly in the days leading up to it ensures that you will be forced to follow through lest they all judge you.  Accountability was a big part of running this race for me; once I'd decided to do it, quitting was no longer an option.
 I also wrote this on my race bib just in case.
I will also say that racing with someone, having low expectations, being in generally good health, and pacing yourself are also good ideas.  But it is absolutely possible if you loathe running and just want to check it off your bucket list.

Here's the route we followed:

Each mile was supposed to be a Los Angeles landmark but the only ones I remember clearly were mile 7 (Silverlake, where my mechanic is), 10 (the Hollywood walk of fame), and 11 (Grauman’s Chinese Theater, featured in Iron Man 3).

As we scooted off, I felt good.  I had once run eight miles and felt great so I figured I would just do that three times and be good to go.  Unfortunately, Google Map miles appear to be much shorter than Official Marathon miles because it seemed to take forever to get to mile 1.  I was pacing myself at a slow jog but by mile 5 I felt tired.  Every single mile, a gamut of volunteers shoved water and Gatorade at us, yelling at us to hydrate, and I shot the water like whiskey, unaware that this would unsettle my stomach.  I began to switch between bouts of walking and jogging because my asthma medication can cause tachycardia if I push myself too hard, and I knew if that happened I would be out of the race entirely.  Also the Gatorade gave me a bloated feeling; my insides were liquefying.  Sometime around mile 7 or 8 I had to pee, desperately.  I found a Port-a-Loo, waited in line with 4 other women for five to ten minutes, said "screw it," and squatted and peed right there.  Relieved that they weren't the ones to suggest this measure, all the other women did the same, and we went back to the race.  My urine was clear, a good sign.  I wondered why everyone said marathons were hard because I was obviously owning this race like a total badass.

By mile 9 or 10 I felt pleased that I had gone father than ever.  I was in the double digits!  Unfortunately, with regards to things that are doubled, my bad ankle was beginning to act up.  See, I have Accessory Navicular Syndrome, and my extra navicular bone isn't meant to be weight-bearing.

I have 207 bones in my body! 

Sorry about all the foot pictures today!

My other foot, compensating for it, began to feel weird; my Achilles's tendon felt like it was made of taffy and was pulling much farther than it should.  Finally, around mile 13, my bad right foot collapsed.  It refused to bear any weight.  I tried to walk it off, leaning on Andrew and limping/hopping, but it was useless.  We walked back to a CVS we'd passed and bought Ace bandages.  I wrapped up the foot for support and removed the compression socks to improve circulation, and we limped on.  It was basically like having a prosthetic because the foot was useless.

Oddly, though, shortly after this disastrous setback, we felt a lot better.  We began our jog-and-walk routine again.  We were more than halfway there and aside from our feet feeling like Hamburger Helper and our legs being sore, we both felt we could finish strong.  At mile 19, I felt hypnotized, like I was in a trance, like I was a zombie.  Around us, everyone was shuffling dutifully forward.  The sun was high in the sky and beating down on us, and we dumped water on ourselves as often as possible.  I ran the last 6 miles at a crawl, but damn it, I ran them without stopping.  Actually I was scared of stopping; my body felt like it was under a spell and if I broke it I would never walk again.

Those last six miles were a death march.  There was no "wall," just a gradual realization that I lacked the capability to either stop my legs from moving or to move any faster; I was jogging at perhaps 3-4 miles per hour, more of a walk that involved a jogging motion, and my body was mechanical and powered by determination.  I had been eating ice and sipping water at every mile but I was no longer urinating at all because of the sweat.  Everything below the waist ached.  Andrew and I weakly mumbled things to each other like, "Pain is temporary; glory is forever," and "You're doing great, we're almost there," and "This is the end, let the sweet embrace of death take me, tell my wife I love her."

The ocean, which was the final destination, only appeared in the last mile.  We felt the breeze by mile 23 but the ocean only came into view by the last mile.  Aching, we shuffled forever, not really happy or sad or anything except for numb, mindless running machines.  We saw the finish line.  It approached faster than we could have expected, and we joined hands and ran over it together.  Our time was seven hours and twenty minutes.  This isn't a good time but, considering my foot crashing out and our total lack of preparation, we were pleased.  Pleasant volunteers put heavy medals around our necks, and we wandered around in a daze with our medals, unable to stop moving our legs.  When we finally sat for a few minutes, getting up was nearly impossible.

Due to the weight of the medals.

Once home, Andrew soaked in the bath while I popped three blisters the size of quarters.  One had erupted twice already and reformed, making my toe look like it had some sort of terrible disease.  Perhaps gangrene.  The other two blisters, throbbing like fluid-filled bubble wrap, hadn't yet popped; I lanced them and they squirted fluid in a thin but rather powerful stream out before slowing to slow, viscous drip.  I have since lanced them three more times because they continue to fill.

 Look at these fuckers!

Legend has it that there was once a toe here.

Am I sore today?  "Sore" isn't quite accurate.  It would be better to say I'm "stiff."  My legs don't bend right anymore and I walk like Frankenstein's monster now, but overall I feel pretty good.  If it weren't Presidents Day, I would be able to go into work.

So overall I'm going to give this experience a 7.5/10 and say that I might just do it again, and actually train so that I can finish it in under 6 hours.

Noteworthy signs I saw along the way:
  • Thanks for running so I could hold this sign.
  • This seems like a lot of work for a free banana.
  • Run like you stole something!
  • You're beating everyone behind you.
  • Worst parade ever.
  • [accompanied by a picture of Grumpy Cat] I ran once.  It was awful.
  • Because 26.3 miles would be ridiculous.
  • Kick asphalt!
  • That outfit makes your butt look fast.
  • If Trump can run, so can you!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Feverish Productivity

Following my last post on Wednesday, January 6th, wherein I promised to update more, I promptly got violently ill with what was either the flu or the Devil.  Since Gatorade is cheaper than exorcisms, I opted to call it the flu and treated it as such.  Anyway, the thing about the flu is, it gets in the way of your plans.  Plans like training for a marathon that's only 2 weeks away, for example, and updating your blog.

Speaking of which, look forward to a post about what it's like to run a marathon with no training!

Pictured: Mile 2

After going home early on Wednesday the 6th (more accurately being sent home by my boss after I began dry-heaving in her office), I quarantined myself on the couch, where I experienced combating bouts of chills and high fever.  Andrew stepped up to the plate to take full responsibility of the 5 animals in the house while also going to work and taking care of me.  Not a peep of complaint out of him, either.  He might have been slowly be going mad, but by George, he didn't complain about it!

He had a look of sympathy on his face like this the whole time.

Although there's not much more to say about my illness, as part of my new "updating regularly" thing, I'm going to post about it anyway so this post appears to have more content.

Experiencing Fever as an Adult:
It's Like Taking Government-Provided LSD
  • No one could enter my bathroom without a hazmat suit.
  • I was unaware I was capable of sweating so much. A small African village could have been helped via the amount of liquid coming out of me. There was literally water in my ear. I almost got swimmer's ear. From my own sweat.  We had to lay towels on the couch so I wouldn't ruin it.  I smelled like a musk ox.
  • Seriously, though, the sweat.  My fingers actually turned wrinkly and pruny from my own sweat.
  • By day 4, I'd began pouring Gatorade directly into the toilet to save it the trouble of passing through my GI tract. My body refused to absorb any of it.
  • I sweated through a pillow and we had to throw it out.
  • I confessed to my best friend that I "sexually identify as Tony Stark" while delirious.
  • I had a fever dream that I built a time machine and brought back a T. Rex to my primary school cafeteria. I then went and had a serious conversation with my primary school teachers and adulthood bosses about the ethical rationalizations or lack thereof of keeping a T. Rex captive in a primary school cafeteria. And also I had shapeshifting powers.
  • I considered cutting off all my hair.  (Been growing it for 4, 5 years now?  Couldn't brush it.  Joints too sore.)
  • Watched the movie "Saving Private Ryan" and concluded that war is bad. Called several friends to inform them and e-mailed to the UN about it.
  • Watched "Planet Earth." (All 11-ish episodes on Netflix.)  Apparently donated $50 to the World Wildlife Fund.
  • Watched "Babadook."  It's good.  You should see it.  I already e-mailed the UN about it.
  • Became hyper-aware that I would be dead if I lived in a third-world country.
  • Asked my boyfriend to remove the puppy and kitten that were playing on top of me because I felt so sick. "That's when I knew it was serious," he said.
  • I looked like the old woman from Insidious.
  • I tried to go back into work after a week and dry-heaved in my boss's office again and was sent home again.  
Yeah, that sums it up.  I hope that where ever you are, you don't catch the flu this year, reader.  It's a doozy.  Remember to get your flu shot if you haven't already.

Fortunately, despite this crippling fever, I was able to get a lot done in the month of January.  I got my bathtub reglazed.  Or, more accurately, some guy did it while I passed out on the couch.  Following violent chills, I would pass out and then wake up gleaming with sweat, with my clothes soaked like I'd been in a tropical rain storm.  On that particular day I woke up not just gleaming skin, but a gleaming new bathtub.  

Which is great because I was starting to run out of gin.

I also got a new bike, a Kawasaki Vulcan 800.  The new bike ("Betty") rides like a dream, although between the larger size and my own fear of getting hit again, I've found riding a little difficult emotionally.  The truth is, after I posted about my accident on a forum site, the number of comments that said things like "WOW, you were LUCKY," and, "You only get one of those!" and, "Same thing happened to me but I broke my clavicle," scared the hell out of me.  Even though I handled the accident really well, I've gotten really paranoid about people switching lanes near me.

My old bike, ("Veronica"), by the way, ended up abandoned by the insurance company at the mechanic's.  They took so long to settle with me that the storage fee for the bike was worth more than the bike itself.  So instead of picking it up for salvage, they left it.  I, as the title holder, happily went and got it back.  It's now restored and ready to ride.  So far there hasn't been much jealousy between the bikes but I'm keeping my eye out to make sure that the 250 doesn't get bullied by the 800.


At work, things have been chugging along beautifully.  I think I made a new friend ("Alex"), who also likes D&D and superhero movies and irreverent humor.  Social scene aside, I'm feeling a lot more confident with the lab techniques and language of the lab, which is new; I felt very lost for the first few months.  I gave a killer presentation last week entitled: "The Impact of a Consortium of Fermented Milk Strains on the Gut Microbiome of Gnotobiotic Mice and Monozygotic Twins: A Review."
Who says science isn't transparent?  This diagram, for example, is crystal clear to even the most casual reader.

At home, Andrew and I's relationship has been closer than it has been in a long time.  We're still playing D&D weekly and our newest player, "Jeff," is this really awesome guy we met online last year.  Jeff is Chinese and has a hilarious deadpan sense of humor.  Last Sunday he invited us out to see some Oscar-nominated animated shorts with him at a local theater.  He's a really easy-going guy who invites us out to a lot of cool activities and who often brings authentic Chinese food to our D&D sessions.

Stupid cookie.  What does it know, anyway?

Lastly, I started writing again.  Not in my blog, obviously.  Right now I'm embroiled in an emotionally-charged sci-fi thriller about parallel timelines that Stephen King called, "A piece of utter garbage.  Please stop contacting me."

Incidentally, in case you were wondering, while doing research on parallel timelines and multidimensional theory, I discovered a list of Marvel's universes and they're hilarious.  Here's my personal favorites:
  • 616: The one we know and love.  aka "Home World." 
  • 617: the Nightmare Realm (aka "Dimension of Dreams").
  • In 59,822, Thor gets a haircut.
  • In 61,828, Tony Stark develops an eating disorder.
  • In 74,820, George Washington was assassinated.
  • In 82,801, the Fantastic Four are literal bananas.
  • In 82,809, Nick Fury wears eyepatch on right eye instead of the left.
  • In 82,810-82,812, Ghost Rider possesses a wheelchair-bound grandpa, a roller derby girl, and a baby, respectively.
  • In 82,819, the Invisible Girl dyes her hair.
  • 89,130: Old West London.
  • In 92,202, Dr. Doom is a pediatrician.
  • 99,467: Dino Land.
  • In 103,173, a dog named Wilson goes through a experiment with Mascara X and becomes this universe's Deadpool (named "Dogpool"). 
Okay, no more Marvel references!  Instead, let me conclude by saying that things are going well for me so far in 2016 and so I guess the antidepressants are working because I'm generally feeling pretty optimistic about my life.   Thanks, chemistry.

Yay, serotonin!