Every once in a while, I feel compelled to write more than a quick, superficial note about fashion, food, running, or this fine city I live in. Embarrassment of Riches proper is not necessarily the best place for these musings, so I created this little corner.
In the Month of May
February 16, 2011
After Shawn and I placed our orders at Locanda Verde this past Sunday morning, I took his hand, looked into his eyes, and said “There’s something important that has been bothering me I’d like to talk to you about.”
No husband wants to hear those words, so I’m sure he was relieved when I followed with “I don’t want to run the Toronto marathon in May.” Far from being the bombshell he imagined, it was a welcome admission, because he hadn’t particularly wanted to run it either.
My fractured pelvis has only recently healed, so my anxiety about re-breaking rises as my mileage increases. Self-doubt about the ability of my bones to withstand the trauma of marathon training has plagued me, but there has been an even deeper concern gnawing at me. Unlike the last two marathons I’ve run, I’m mentally not ready for the Toronto race. I haven’t been excited the way I was in the months leading up to Austin and Providence; in fact, my feelings about this marathon have been more akin to dread. I want to run for the sake of running: six miles here, eight miles there. I don’t want to have to worry about fueling and training schedules and fitting long 22-milers into my weekend.
The truth is, I had rather rashly signed us up for the Toronto marathon. If only I had given our entry as much consideration as I have given our exit. I (hopefully) have many more marathons ahead of me, and life is too short to do something that your heart isn’t in.
Realizing we had already lined up our dogsitter (my parents) for the weekend of May 15th, we decided to take a vacation. The question was where? It had to be someplace to celebrate our freedom from the rigidity of racing: a location where we could reward ourselves for recognizing that it’s okay to quit. (Our last vacation was taken with heavy hearts because we couldn’t run a marathon.) The answer was easy…Paris. There are many other places we’ve never been, but we have longed to go back to Paris since visiting in March of 2009. We can’t wait to wander the streets, take pictures, and eat nothing but baguettes, cheese, and macarons. Maybe we’ll even go for a run or two while we’re there.
A Pleasant Surprise at the Doctor's...and a Not-So-Pleasant One
February 10, 2011
It’s a testament to my vanity that in the past I have put off doctors’ appointments because I feared stepping on their scale. Even though I haven’t been monitoring my diet closely, I bit the bullet and scheduled a much-needed visit (gals, you know where I’m talking about). Perhaps I’m mellowing with age, or perhaps I had resigned myself to seeing a disappointing number, because I didn’t reduce my calories in advance of yesterday’s check-up. I didn’t even forgo breakfast – in fact, I had a bigger one than usual, and drank fluids with reckless abandon too.
When the nurse led me to the exam room to check my vitals, I panicked. (So much so that my blood pressure read 150/100. She had to re-take it later.) I chuckled when she wanted to measure my height; I’ve been 5’7” since I was 12 (or so I thought). “Five eight,” she chirped after leveling the bar against the top of my head. I had to see it with my own eyes to believe it. I had always been indifferent about being 5'7", but 5’8” in bare feet has a wonderful ring to it. As the nurse inched the weight from left to right on the scale, I warily eyed it. It balanced at 128, and I did an almost comical blink. That’s a few pounds below what I had expected. 128 is probably the perfect weight for me (but it'll come as no surprise when in the next breath I admit I'd love to have a few-pound buffer that being 125 would afford). In 2008 I dropped down to 121 pounds and my mother nervously took Shawn aside to ask if I was on drugs (I wasn’t). I am 7 pounds away from parental intervention, I giddily realized.
The good news on the height and weight front definitely helped offset the worrisome part of the visit (I told you I was vain). When palpating my stomach, my doctor felt an adnexal mass (essentially, an enlarged ovary). It is hopefully a benign cyst, but to rule out cancer, she ordered an ultrasound. (Ironic, because my reoccurance of amenorrhea, which I suspected at first to be pregnancy, was what compelled me to make the appointment in the first place.)
Male-Female Friendship: The Litmus Test
February 9, 2011
Every couple has to determine their comfort level around the tricky issue of new opposite-gendered friends, and now that it’s easier than ever to connect to others with similar interests thanks to online social networking sites, this matter becomes practically omnipresent. Forming an intimate bond with someone over a wireless connection can happen quickly. I would count as friends many of the other bloggers I interact with online; some have even become part of my real-life social circle (all women, mind you).
For Shawn and me, new opposite-gendered friends aren’t necessarily verboten. We know our marriage is solid and trust each other to use sound judgment. However, since our separation, we established that anyone not respectful of our marriage has no place in our lives. It’s because of this that the single greatest factor in deciding whether to proceed with a friendship or to step back from it is the intent of the acquaintance in question.
A woman recently became somewhat enamored of Shawn on Tumblr. Beyond her interactions with him there, she eventually contacted him via his personal email, admitting she was “creepy” and “stalked” his web site (not his Tumblr, mind you) in order to reach out to him privately. He deemed her intense but probably harmless (“I think she’s married”). When those words left his mouth, the gears must have started turning. See, a few years ago, Shawn leveled the charge at me that my persona was that of a single person’s. Mention of him was omitted from conversations; there was barely evidence of him on my Facebook profile. No doubt “I think she’s married” was said many times about me. My excuses to him were numerous: I’m a private person; I don’t want to be one of those women who pepper their conversation with unnecessary references to their husband. As I previously documented, this was when I was going through my I-want-to-be-unconventional-and-perhaps-even-single phase, so Shawn’s concern was very valid.
When Shawn’s overzealous new friend suggested meeting in person, he deferred. He was beginning to be uncomfortable. Whereas I have no trouble anymore shutting someone down, he was clearly struggling with hurting a needy girl’s feelings, so he handled it in a typically male way – avoidance. It’s here I should note that Shawn assumes men are wildly attracted to [and predatory toward] me, an amusing theory, but one I guard against nonetheless. Have I been unnecessarily icy toward men with intentions that were probably innocent? Definitely. Most women have been burned before when being kind – or even simply being polite – was mistaken for romantic interest. I have developed an untrusting armor of sorts, coupled with finely honed intuition.
In this particular situation, she finally said a few things that didn’t sit right with him: carefully-construed-to-look-breezy innuendo that smacked of desperation and loneliness. Shawn ended her ability to interact with him on any level. He couldn’t articulate his gut feelings about why the red flags finally appeared, but I could: “she said things that you wouldn’t have wanted me to say to another man.” That’s our litmus test. Perhaps it’s just how she is – instead of having an intense, laser-focused crush on my husband, she could very well act toward everyone else in the same manner. Regardless, it’s the perfect example of an internet friend just not worth having.
How Do You See Yourself?
January 19 2011
Out of the blue, my best friend recently told me, "I want to know how it feels to look like you... just for five minutes one time." Though flattered, this perplexed me, because in my mind's eye I still look like this:That's me when I was 15. I was chubby with bad skin, an unflattering hairstyle, and a penchant for plucking my eyebrows into shapes not normally seen in nature. No need for me to provide commentary about my sartorial choices: the picture speaks for itself.
Shawn triumphantly showed me a photograph he took of me last week, and I was shocked. Is this what other people see when they look at me? Where is the pudge? The blotchy complexion? For someone who feels like a giant most days, why do I look so small here? The disconnect between my self-perception and reality is both amusing and disconcerting. I'm sure it's something we all suffer from to some extent, so I'm curious: is the mental image you have of yourself as outdated as my denim shorts pictured above?
A Different Kind of Anniversary
January 15 2011
Two years ago today, Shawn asked me to leave.
Let me back up. When we met, I was sixteen, he significantly older. We fell in love despite Shawn's misgivings that there was a vast array of life experiences I would miss out on when coupled so young. We were indeed inseparable. In college, we sat side by side in lecture halls of the courses we enrolled in together. Once in the working world, we eventually found ourselves sharing an office wall. We loved each other, but that didn't stop us (particularly me) from beginning to take each other for granted. I started to believe that Shawn was the right person for me; he just came into my life at the wrong time.
After eleven years together, I became distressed that I was leading such a conventional life. I had a doting husband, a mortgage, and a comfortable 9-to-5 job: all things I began to bristle at. I wanted to be nonconformist. For a month I wandered Southeast Asia by myself. I spent less time with my husband and more time trying to cultivate a bohemian air amongst new friends. It must have been pathetically transparent, for I now easily recognize this behavior in others. Shawn finally had enough of me on January 15, 2009.
Fortunately, to the surprise of no one but ourselves, we were able to put our marriage back together. I love Shawn now more than I could have ever thought possible. It isn't just the comfort of constant companionship, the accumulation of shared memories, admiration of his many talents, and respect for the compassionate person he is. I crave him. My stomach sometimes does a little flip at the sight of a handsome man out of the corner of my eye in public. Then I'll realize it's my husband, walking towards me.
Along with the anniversaries of other relationship milestones - our first kiss, our wedding - I also recognize the day we broke up. It seems like so long ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday. With the hindsight that comes with age and experience, I look back at my 28-year-old self in disgust. I was living a life that many people could only dream of, yet I fancied myself unfulfilled. Now my restlessness and desire to rebel have been replaced by devotion and a much less destructive thirst for self-improvement. Today, we celebrate dodging a bullet.
Waiting For the Other Shoe To Drop
November 18 2010
1. Madewell biker boot 2. Miu Miu flats 3. Steven oxfords 4. Loeffler Randall cutout booties 5. Topshop fringed loafers 6. Jeffrey Campbell boots 7. Lanvin ballet flats 8. Marc by Marc Jacobs mouse flats
I was volunteering at a gala last week when halfway through the evening I realized I needed to change back into flats. Four inch heels complemented my Diane von Furstenberg wrap so much better, but my pelvis was radiating a pain that alarmed me. Realizing my vanity could be costing me another three months of running, I thought it wise to err on the side of caution. (The slippery floors of the Museum of Natural History were recipe for disaster too, though I was surrounded by the city's best bone and joint doctors).
I never thought I would be one of those women to wistfully look at heels and say "I used to be able to wear shoes that high." We all know about the cumulative toll that heels take on our feet, legs, and spine. I could ignore the eventual health repercussions of my stilettos, but I can't ignore the immediate danger: with every move I make (especially in impractical shoes), I worry I will re-fracture. Maybe my collection of tall heels (and the pencil skirts that go so well with them) will once again see the light of day, but for now I have a moratorium on them and have been accumulating flats in the meantime.
October 29 2010
This summer, my growing concern over a constellation of health symptoms compelled me to finally establish medical care in New York. I found a dermatologist and a general internist, reluctantly accepted appointments several weeks away, and waited impatiently. At the dermatologist, we got a bit sidetracked: she insisted on a routine mole check and found what ended up being melanoma in situ.
When my primary care appointment rolled around a few days later, I was somewhat distracted from my original concerns by my impending biopsy and the intense groin pain that had presented during my run that very morning. That pain (two stress fractures of my inferior pubic ramus) forced me to stop running, and soon after, the very symptoms that drove me to visit multiple doctors in the first place vanished.
Another friend was diagnosed with an inferior pubic ramus stress fracture this week, which compelled me to dig a little deeper into the literature (both scholarly and anecdotal) surrounding this injury. Why are female long-distance runners more prone to pubic ramus fractures than any group outside of senior citizens? (I still think my fall and a switch to Vibram FiveFingers were the proverbial straws that broke the camel's back, but there was a root problem, too.) It didn't take long for everything to click into place.
What I had attributed to probable polycystic ovarian syndrome was actually running-induced amenorrhea. At first, its indicators were more cause for celebration than concern. ("No period? No problem!") Then, symptoms turned frustrating (breakouts!). Along with amenorrhea comes a drop in estrogen, and with it a loss of bone density. Low bone density, of course, means an increased risk of fractures. My body was emitting warning signs that something was out of balance. I was listening to my body, but misattributing the problem.
As I ramp up my distance, I fear the amenorrhea will return again. While I'm trying to find a doctor who will agree to order me a bone density scan (I've been told I'm too young; it's unnecessary), I am eating dairy products like they are going out of style. I will never, ever eat meat to cure a nutritional deficit. It just ain't gonna happen. (Studies show that meat may inhibit absorption of calcium anyway). Cheese, on the other hand, I would eat with reckless abandon if I could. Now, apparently, I have an excuse to - preferably in conjunction with a Vitamin D supplement.
What To Expect When You're Injured
September 23 2010
You WON'T lose as much of your fitness as you think
Don't panic about your lung capacity diminishing, your cardiovascular strength waning, or your muscles atrophying. No one expects you to run a marathon your first week back; most likely your doctor will order you to ease back into the sport. Last week I was allowed to run half a mile every other day. This week I'm up to a mile every other day.
You WON'T gain weight*
*If you reduce your calorie consumption to account for the fact that your body needs less fuel. In fact, you may even lose weight (I did!).
You WILL need to withdraw from your social circles for a while
Logging onto your Facebook or Twitter account may add (unintentional) insult to injury if your friends are runners. Every status update or tweet about a glorious long run can feel like a little dagger to the heart. Getting together with friends can be therapeutic, but only if the dinner conversation doesn't linger on the topic of running. (You may want to unplug in other ways, too - I couldn't even bear to read my Runner's World subscription.)
You WILL become less despondent as time passes
The first month is excruciating. You'll feel old and vulnerable. You'll question your identity and self-worth. It gets better as you work through the five stages of grief and adapt to the new normal.
You WILL gain empathy toward the aged and ailing
It's humbling to wince in pain with each step you take and go to great lengths to avoid stairs. On the flip side...
You WILL grow impatient with the able-bodied yet indolent
Good health is an incredible gift, one that shouldn't be squandered. It seems like a cruel joke when people waste their well-being on inactivity, while you, the fitness nut, are sidelined.
You WILL have more time on your hands
Start a project. Plan a vacation. For god's sake, sleep in! Funnel the energy you once put into running toward something else.
You WILL run again
When you start catastrophizing, remind yourself of this fact. This period is a small blip on what otherwise will be a long running career.
How Much of a Difference Do Running Shoes Really Make?
August 23 2010
Many runners are aligning themselves with the "less is more" camp, asserting heavily-cushioned running shoes of the past few decades have done more harm than good. Their panacea seems to be streamlined running shoes (or even no shoes at all). Perhaps Team Vibram and Team Barefoot are on to something, but if a pair of shoes has the power to prevent anatomical woes, couldn't you reason they also have an equally strong potential to do damage?
Ever since my sharp, sudden onset of pain June 7 (the only injury I've experienced in two years of high-mileage running), I have been on a quest to determine the cause of my fractures. Nothing short of a time machine will undo the damage to my pelvis, but uncovering the root of the problem will mitigate my helplessness to prevent it from happening again. It's hard to differentiate between causation and correlation, so speculating about the origin of my injury may be an exercise in futility. What mystifies my doctors is that pubic ramus fractures are very rare. They're usually only seen in elderly patients who have fallen. I fell at the Brooklyn Half Marathon, but got up, brushed myself off, and ran for three more high-milage, problem-free weeks after my tumble. Perhaps it contributed to my fractures, but I'm not entirely convinced it was the sole cause.
When a researcher friend sent me this case study of a 30 year-old female marathoner with pubic ramus fractures, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. The authors of the article, Drs. Eren and Holtby, stated that "risk factors [for fractures of the pubic ramus] in a well-conditioned female athlete are recent alterations in training program or footwear, and short stature."
Could the Vibram Five Finger shoes be the culprit behind my fractures? I'll never know for sure (just as my husband can't be certain the stress fracture in his fourth metatarsal was caused by a week's worth of running in Vibrams), but the timing is awfully suspicious.
Lesson learned: I'll have a healthy dose of skepticism toward any campaign for (or against) footwear from here on out. In fact, I think skepticism towards evangelism of any sort (including, but not limited to: child-rearing techniques, diet choices, politics, and religion) is a good thing.
Running: Don't Take It For Granted
July 9 2010
I had an MRI of my pelvis yesterday, and the news was not good. My pubis ramus is fractured in two places. After four weeks of not running (and mounting physical therapy bills), I now must rest for at least another eight weeks. (Physical therapy was fine for my initial diagnosis of a rotated pelvis and adductor strain, but not fractures.) The Chicago marathon is not even a possibility.Shawn took this picture during one of my last runs. At the time, I had no idea I wouldn't be seeing the magnificent Hudson River at 5 AM for quite a while.
I never dreaded runs. Most mornings when the alarm went off, I bounded out of bed, excited to hit the road. I found it hard to take rest days, and seeing runners during my lunch break often made me twitchy for a second go at it. Now, when runner friends complain about lacking motivation to run, I feel like a curmudgeon (fitting, since my injury usually ails the geriatric set). Why am I injured while is someone who doesn't even love running still can? I'm ashamed to admit that I have found myself (more than once) thinking "Shin splints? I'll run with shin splints ANY day. Bring it!" as someone bemoans an ailment that has sidelined them. This bitterness scares me.
So please, I implore you: if you are an able-bodied runner, get out there and run one for me because you can.
X Marks the Spot
June 25 2010
Not running for the past two-plus weeks has left a hole in my heart to rival the one I developed during my near-divorce. I've lost my appetite along with ten pounds. It took several days before I could see a runner on the street without tearing up. My self-confidence took a dive along with my mood, and moments in this remarkable city that would have once struck me as profoundly beautiful left me feeling empty.
On Tuesday, my sports medicine physician ruled out a pelvic stress fracture and ordered immediate, intensive physical therapy. At PT, they've adjusted my rotated pelvis (which may have been caused by my fall at the Brooklyn Half Marathon, the Vibrams, or any other number of things), given me ultrasound and ice therapy, and taught me stretches and exercises to strengthen the muscles that will prevent my pelvis from slipping out of place again. If all goes well, I can ease back into running in a few weeks. My pain is already much improved (as is my mood). [Oh, how naive I was when I first wrote this. I did have a pelvis stress fracture. Actually, I had two of them. -Kate]
While the hole in my heart is hopefully on the mend, the hole in my back has gotten bigger. A few weeks ago, my new dermatologist noticed a troublesome mole on my back. She took it out - along with some surrounding skin - on Monday. The biopsy showed I have melanoma in situ, which means it fortunately was caught before spreading any further than the mole. Just to be safe, a dermatologic surgeon removed more of the surrounding skin this afternoon. Monday's procedure was quick, painless, and resulted in four little stitches. Today's, by contrast, was unexpectedly more intense, with two layers of stitches (seventeen total), lots of tugging, and electric cauterization.
In my heart of hearts, I knew something was wrong with this mole. In the two weeks leading up to my first biopsy, I hoped for the best but braced for the worst. Just when I had convinced myself that the stress-relieving and health-promoting powers of running would be the key to fighting whatever came my way, my pelvis decided it had other plans for me. A running injury any other time would have been lamentable; this seemed devastating.
I am so grateful to the doctors, nurses, and physical therapists who have helped me fight my recent two-front health battle. Words cannot describe how supportive my husband and the few close friends I've confided in have been. I am so fortunate. Readers, thank you for hanging in there with me as I've been posting only sporadically. Now that I'm on the road to recovery, I've regained the inspiration to write again.
(Not Really) Born To Run
October 24, 2009
It wasn't until my 28th year that I decided to become a runner. I didn't like taking a beta blocker to keep my blood pressure in check (it topped out at 170/110), and I envied how sinewy most runners were. Thanks to the Couch to 5k program and Mr. Kate's extreme patience (he is a seasoned runner), I eventually worked my way up to the point where "taking a day off" meant running six miles only once that day, not twice.
I was always the last to finish the mile in grade school gym class (because I walked), so 60 seconds of slow continuous jogging left me gasping at first. I couldn't wear a watch myself, because I didn't want to know how many seconds I had to endure before couch to 5K allowed me to take a walk break. I also didn't want to know our route in advance, because then I'd be aware of how far into the run we were (or weren't). These self-imposed rules (which also included "no neighborhoods," "no hills," "no straightaways where I could see how far I had yet to run" among others) were mental tricks I played on myself, and they made running with me quite unpleasant. I reminded Mr. Kate of this during a run the other day (since conversing is no longer banned), and he simply replied "I knew you had it in your heart to become a runner."
I couldn't have said it better. Running is in my heart.
Even if you're not a runner, USA Track and Field's "map a route" feature lets you plot your course to see how many miles you've traveled. It's exactly the thing I needed after every run to see how far I had gone (since I didn't allow myself to know at the time).
Here's one of our typical runs: