Mid-Week Tangent: over-analyzing Wheel of Fortune

Have you ever discovered that you have a completely useless skill set for everyday life? I have. I am outstanding at hangman. I see words quickly. My mind can fill the space between letters at the speed of light.  How did I discover this? I am embarrassed to admit it’s because I’ve been watching Wheel of Fortune, regularly and (gasp!) on purpose. I am good at it. Like, I am really, really good at it.  And that’s despite the fact that they barely show the damn puzzle screen to at-home viewers. I mean, seriously Wheel of Fortune, can you just implement a screen in screen so I don’t have to wait for minutes on end while you pan over to Pat Sajak making awkward small talk with contestants? Is that too much to ask?  If you think my rage is in jest, I assure you it is not. I take this seriously.

I’m convinced that I would walk away a wealthy lady if I were to compete on Wheel of Fortune. Actually, let me make a correction: I would walk away a wealthy lady IF, and this is a big if, I could keep my largely uncontrollable facial responses in check during any and all of the following:  a) Pat Sajak’s inane jokes and slightly lascivious manner with female guests b) the wheel’s wrath (i.e. its tendency to stop on ‘bankrupt’ just as you’re getting greedy by wanting one more spin) and c) not getting my way.

I actually believe that one’s ability to successfully garner a spot on this game show is only partly based on her word wizardry. The bigger part, I’m sure, is the ability to be a good sport, to clap when the person next to you solves the puzzle that you essentially solved for them if only you hadn’t gotten greedy and decided to take one more spin.  I watch contestants closely…mostly because I’m forced to when they pan away from the puzzle board to here about Jean’s three brilliant children and supportive husband. Ugh. Seriously. Okay, moving on. As I was saying, I watch the contestants.  They smile when they hit bankrupt. They say “way to go” when someone else solves the puzzle. They look like they’re about to say “aw shucks” when they call out a letter that isn’t there.

Are they robots? Are they simpletons? There is money on the line here, people! I would be a seething ball of rage when Jean from Wisconsin solves the puzzle after I spent minutes carefully filling in all the critical letters. I am rarely the bigger person in any situation, but when money’s on the line I’m certain I would lose it. I’d drop an F bomb, serve some serious stink eye, throw near temper tantrums, and I sure as hell wouldn’t clap for my fellow contestants. This is why I’d never get onto the show in the first place, and why I will also never win 80 grand for thirty minutes of hard work despite my knack for solving puzzles.

It is a bitter pill to swallow, realizing that you have a skill whose only chance to earn you cash is on a game show for which you lack the other required skills. Maybe one day I will find my inner zen and you’ll see me up there dazzling even Pat, rarely impressed after 30 years of hosting the Wheel, and winning every cash and trip prize in view.  You just better hope that I don’t win a Ford Focus on the final puzzle, because even the zen version of me can’t handle that kind of slap in the face.

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Monday Musings: on having what started as a running blog when you can’t run

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how this blog was created to write about training for an ultra, and yet these days it has nothing to do running let alone ultra training Instead, I write a mish-mash of anything and everything that comes to mind.  That’s not necessarily problematic, except for, you know, the name of the blog and all, which is a daily reminder of the fact that a) my blog’s name doesn’t at all reflect its content and b) maybe it never will again.

Did you see how I snuck that in there? That was my sad sack moment. I’ve started to question whether I will ever be a real runner again. At times, my body seems fiercely committed to SI instability, perhaps as a highly effective avoidance technique. I don’t even really like running, after all, but I equally dislike not being able to do things when it’s not my choice not to do them. Regardless of the reason for my prolonged injury and its impact on my running habits, what seems clear to me is that having a blog about training for an ultra when one can no longer run at all is a major contradiction.

This leads me to a series of hard-to-answer questions, such as:

–Do I change the name of the blog? Or is that giving up hope that I might never run again?

–Do I continue on as is? Is that my way of sending the universe a small sign that I’m committed to getting back to running so that the universe might then return my ability to run?

–Do I even fundamentally believe the universe works that way?

–If I were to change the name of the blog, what would I even change it to? It’s not like I have a clear topical narrative that screams out a new potential name, unless I were to call the blog “Mish-Mash of anything and everything that comes to mind”. That would be perfectly fitting, but not at all catchy.

–Does anyone even care what the name of the blog is when I have such a small followership (totally not a word but I’m using it anyway)? This is the most existential of questions, and I cannot help but be reminded of the “if the tree falls in the woods…” comparison.

I clearly have more questions than answers. I also realize that I’m still wrestling with more than just the blog name itself. The real issue is my concern that I will never be a runner again. The good (and bad) thing about this little writing space is that it forces me to come face to face with these larger issues surrounding my injury. After a year and a half of dealing with this injury, I am still shocked when I am surprised by the realization that a seemingly cosmetic issue, like the name of my blog, is in fact not a cosmetic issue at all, but rather something far deeper.

And so I will continue wrestling with these questions in hopes of finding peace of mind. As I do so, maybe this blog name will change or maybe it will stay the same.  In the meantime, I welcome any suggestions on alternative titles because, as it turns, not anyone can run an ultra.

TWIR #76: pain, pain, go away

You know what I am tired of? I am tired of my trainer telling me that my range of motion and mobility look great while still experiencing daily pain. Thus, I have titled today’s post: pain, pain go away. I’ve had constant low grade pain and stiffness for weeks and I’m over it. Ahhh, that felt good to vent. Thank you for listening. Let’s see what I got up to that evidently has not helped my SI improve.

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: low energy care of the (much needed but still annoying) rain
Observations: I accomplished nothing other than visiting friends, eating tacos, watching two other people carry a very heavy cabinet down our stairs, and then sharing not one, but two bottles of wine. As you can see, it was a very productive day. Wait, I also packed three boxes of glassware from the aforementioned cabinet. Anyone who’s packed a cabinet full of fancy glasses knows it’s a giant pain in the ass.

Sunday
Activity: 9-hole round of golf + 8 km walk
Relevant Stats: bested my best score…by 1
Observations: Despite hitting almost no good tee shots, I somehow managed to beat my best score. I should have been two better, but the putting gods were not on my side. I was robbed. Robbed!  My biggest accomplishment was not ordering gelato at the tail end of our long walk. It took considerable willpower, and I am still not sure I made the right choice.

Monday 
Activity:  spin
Relevant Stats: 42 minutes
Observations:  I was shooting daggers at the dude who was lazily pedalling on the one good spin bike when I first arrived at the gym. Thankfully, after dealing with 8 minutes on one of the shitty bikes, he got off to use the elliptical (just as lazily, I might add) and I was able to snag the good bike. A solid spin workout ensued and I felt optimistic about the rest of the week.

Tuesday 
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: Once again my trainer informed me that everything with my form and range of motion is looking good. And, also once again, by the end of the day on Tuesday my back and SI were stiff as hell.  Just so I don’t appear to always be complaining (which, let’s be honest, I pretty much am), I’ll share a positive: I’m getting really damn good at towing weights while doing walking lunges. It’s not a helpful skill in life, but I excel at it.

Wednesday 
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 30 min.
Observations:  Although the workout was only thirty minutes, it was incredibly intense compared to a lot of my spin workouts. I was really sore and stiff all of Wednesday morning and, truth be told, I was going to skip my workout entirely. The real motivator was the desire to get out of the office for a while and I’m glad I did. Once I got pedalling, I was in top form and felt good about the brief workout.

Thursday 
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: I killed it in this workout. I added 20 more pounds to the prowler and, though it nearly killed me, I forced myself to run while pushing it. I also decided to give negative pull ups a try for the first time in weeks. I was amazed that I could still do one, although I admit I couldn’t lower myself as slowly as I used to. Still, by the end of the workout I was exhausted and drenched in sweat. I consider that a win.

Friday
Activity: semi-planned rest day
Relevant Stats: SI stiffness to the max
Observations: After yesterday’s workout, my glutes and lower back were tight and my SI was aching. I also noticed my arms were sore and couldn’t figure out why until I remembered the dreaded negative pull ups. Damn you! Because I still can’t run, and was working from home today, I felt my options for a workout were limited. I’ve been afraid to go to the gym location near my house because I actually think my membership has expired.  Last year, the downtown location let me scan in for well over a month on an expired membership but then the pesky local gym called me on it and forced me to renew on the spot. Ever since I began to worry that my membership has expired again, I’ve decided to avoid my local gym like the plague. I know it sounds unethical, and probably is, but a) I’m moving soon and will need to join a different gym anyway b) I pay an ungodly amount of money for an annual membership and c) I’m not actually sure if my membership is expired, I’m just afraid to ask. That was a really long-winded way of saying that I didn’t end up working out today. Given my soreness, it was probably the right choice.

After an unplanned rest day, I’m going to test whether hiking a short but steep trail is a good or bad idea for my SI.  If it’s good, I’ll be having celebratory wine with friends later in the day as a reward. If it’s bad, I’ll have drink-to-forget-the-pain wine with friends later in the day. That’s contingency planning at its best, if you ask me. Happy weekend!

Real-Talk Thursdays: I want the toll fees back

I am not naturally a morning person. I like to wake up at a reasonable hour and slowly start my day, not be jolted from depths of deep slumber at an ungodly hour only to rush out the door in under 25 minutes. It is not my happy place. I sometimes envy morning people but, truthfully, most often I think there is something seriously wrong with them.

What does this have to do with toll fees? Well, recently one of our major suburban-to-urban commuter bridges removed a long-standing toll fee. Hurrah for money back in our pockets! Right? After a couple weeks of experiencing the post-toll-fee world, I’m not so sure my answer is yes. When the tolls were first removed, I complained that the traffic would be so much worse, but in my heart I didn’t really believe it. Would people really avoid the most direct route to work just to save $6 a day? As it turns out, yes, yes they would. And they have been, daily, flocking to my highway and my bridge and ruining my peaceful morning commute.

I left at 5:10 am the other morning (!!!!!). I mean, good God, that is early. Normally, at that time I would fly downtown, probably arriving in around 35 minutes.  It took me 46 minutes.  That is 11 minutes longer. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is 31% longer. I also tend to judge the quality of my early, early (EARLY) morning commutes by the number of times I have to come to a full stop on the highway due to traffic volume.  If I stop zero times it is a fantastic day, 1 time is okay, 2 times is getting to be a bit much and anything more than that is a travesty. The other morning I came to 2 full stops. That’s normal for 6 am traffic, but not 5:10 am traffic. For the love of everything good in this world, there should be some reward for getting one’s ass out of bed and on the road that early and that reward should be smooth sailing!

Yes, I realize it is banal and utterly first-world problem territory to be complaining about traffic. First and foremost, I don’t care, because an unpleasant side effect of my early mornings is a sharp spike in my grumpiness. Secondly, I am actually not complaining about the traffic, but rather the removal of the toll fee that evidently kept traffic at bay for years.  I will gladly pay the government $137 per month for the great joy of a smooth morning commute. It is a small price to pay for my peace of mind, general attitude, and the extra 20 minutes of sleep I would get on the daily.

The very least the government could have done was postpone the toll removal until October 1st, at which point I would be completely oblivious to the effects thanks to my cushy, new, temporary city digs. It’s true what they say: timing is everything.

Trail Tuesdays: I watched an outdoor survival movie and I’m never hiking again

Recently I wrote about watching too many murder mysteries. Well, in an effort to diversify my viewing habits, I unwittingly surfaced an even scarier breed of entertainment: outdoor survival movies.  It shouldn’t be surprising for me. After all, watching 127 Hours and Into the Wild weren’t just cautionary tales for me, they were horror stories pure and simple. As it turns out, as much as I am afraid of murderers and rapists like the vast majority of the population, my biggest fear is actually dying alone in nature. It may seem irrational, but given how much time I used to spend in the great outdoors, it is actually far more statistically probable than my being murdered.

This weekend, we watched a little-known Canadian movie called Backcountry. Years ago I watched a really bad made-for-tv horror movie about an insane predatory bear in the woods, so bad in fact that even a thorough Google search didn’t surface its name, and I expected Backcountry to be similarly kitschy, unrealistic and full of over-the-top bad special effects.  Well, Backcountry was kitschy for sure, but it was also more terrifying than I expected. Long story short, a couple gets hopelessly lost in the Northern Ontario wilderness and then gets attacked by a really unusually pissed off black bear. I’ll spare you the spoilers but suffice it to say that there were many, many a scene that I actually couldn’t watch because it was too graphically awful and horrifying. And when someone wasn’t in the midst of a vicious bear attack, I was experiencing deeply unsettling discomfort at the thought of being so very lost in such a vast wilderness.

Perhaps the fear of being lost in nature comes naturally to me, care of many of my own near-getting-lost experiences, one of which actually occurred in Ontario’s wilderness. That was the near-getting-lost event that sticks with me the most because in the depths of Ontario’s forests there are no directional markers. Out West, I would be more likely to identify mountain ranges that would give me a sense of direction and, because the West is so mountainous, it always feels at least a relatively safe bet to just walk downhill. In Ontario, however, there are no peaks and valleys and I can personally attest to the fact that every “viewpoint” from escarpments in the forest looks identical, to the point that even within a two hour hike I convinced myself that my brother and I were walking in an endless circle, destined to die from hypothermia on an unseasonably cold day in October.

Alas, we clearly survived, but that experience has stuck with me.  What made Backcountry even more terrifying was the added element of bear attack. I can think of nothing worse than being near death from a bear attack and also having no idea if you are heading towards safety or further into danger. To say watching this film was a bad way to spend a Saturday night is an understatement. Not only was I left emotionally scarred, albeit temporarily, but it also made me solemnly vow that:

  • I will never hike in Ontario again. Ever. Apparently, bears be crazy out there.
  • I will never go deep into any nature by myself again.*
  • I am done with outdoor survival films as a genre. My naturally anxious self does not need reminders of human vulnerability to the elements…and sadistic wildlife.
*I reserve the right to revoke this second statement at such time that the shock value from watching this film wears off, which is not quite yet, but hopefully soon.

Monday Musings: getting my mom an iPhone was a terrible idea

My mom turned 70 this year, and 70 warrants a really good birthday gift. And so it came to be that we bought her very first iPhone.  I know, you’re probably thinking an iPhone sounds like a horribly impersonal gift, but hear me out: my mom has wanted a smart phone for years and she and my father had been suffering with a crappy flip phone for the longest time. She wanted to take pictures and send texts and look things up without hauling out a heavy-ass laptop and drive in Calgary without relying on outdated paper maps. So while it sounds like a terrible gift, I can tell you she was thrilled by it.

At first, so was I. I talk to my mom quite a bit over the phone, but it was nice having daily text conversations. But then, then she started sending me pictures.  And now, now I’m not so sure that getting her an iPhone was a good idea at all.

First, there was this:

My mom had baked mini chocolate cakes and wanted to show me. Being a lover of all things chocolate, I was jealous. I mean, they weren’t frosted which is a major faux pas in my mind, but they still looked pretty moist and delicious. Furthermore, at the time that I received this photo, I had zero cake options in my own home so I would have gladly accepted even unfrosted cake.

Then, there was this:

Okay, I know that doesn’t look appetizing. But these are amazing wok-fried chicken wings made with soy sauce and ginger and five spice and all sorts of other ingredients I can’t remember because I haven’t had them in years even though they are a total childhood favourite of mine. It was one thing to send me a picture of chocolate cake, which I am fully capable of making myself, and which I have been known to bake and eat entirely on my own (though not all at once, thankfully).  It is another thing to send me a photo of a nostalgic, childhood favourite that I have never once prepared for myself.  Strike two, mom.

But yesterday, yesterday my mom crossed a line with this:

What you are looking at there is a freshly baked peach pie. My mother, in case you aren’t aware, makes the best peach pie you have ever eaten. Her pastry is perfectly fluted, designed to lovingly cradle ice cream. It has been years since I’ve eaten this pie. Years. I look at this picture and start to salivate, and I swear to you I can almost taste it. Almost, because the actual pie is roughly 900 km away. This is the toughest photo pill to swallow, too, because I am actually incapable of making a pie. Pastry is my achilles heel. I have tried many a time and each and every time it has ended up with one of the many possible pastry fatal flaws.

With this last picture, not only am I beyond distraught that I am not jamming fresh peach pie into my face right now, but I’m also realizing what a terrible, terrible thing I’ve done giving my mother an iPhone. It’s true what they say: technology is not always a good thing.

TWIR #75: still fighting the SI battle

Another week has passed and the SI is still not stable enough for me to run. If I’m truly honest, I don’t miss running. I’ve never loved running.  But I do miss the ability to run, and the fitness that comes with it, and not being able to run makes me fear I’ll never be fit again. Of course, I understand that this isn’t actually true, yet it’s how my glass-half-empty little brain works sometimes. With that whining out of the way, here’s what the week’s workouts held:

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: poolside cider consumption: 3
Observations: Ahhhhh, rest days are glorious when they are spent basking under the searing sun, shellacked in layers of sunscreen, and holding a cold cider in your hand (or two…or maybe three…but not all at once, because I’m somewhat civilized). We made it the campground mid-afternoon and proceeded immediately to the pool for lounging and I accomplished no activity except hoisting a drink to my mouth occasionally and then consuming grilled meats and birthday cake before falling asleep at the ungodly hour of 8:30 pm.

Sunday
Activity: hike!
Relevant Stats: 6.5-7 km return
Observations: I haven’t been to Mount Baker in two years and, the second we arrived, I wondered how I’d managed to stay away for so long. It is truly one of my favourite places in the coastal mountains. We hiked a short but ultra scenic trail (also in the blazing sunshine) and enjoyed epic, sweeping views before the smoke rolled in. Also, man am I out of hiking shape!

Monday
Activity: golf!
Relevant Stats: 9-holes, all poorly played
Observations: Okay, okay, I know golf isn’t a workout, but carrying your own golf bag in the blazing heat does make you hot and sweaty as hell. Plus walking uphill with that thing is no joke. My game sucked. It all fell apart when some chick on the second hole totally stole my ball. Granted, my ball had rolled from my fairway into hers, but still I know she just wanted its hot pick-ness. I was not impressed and I swear it’s why the rest of my game suffered, and not at all because I suck.

Tuesday
Activity: golf!
Relevant Stats: a full 18 holes!!!!!
Observations: Somehow it was determined (not by me, I assure you), that I was “ready” to play a full 18-hole course, first thing in the morning and on a weekday when we could be relatively sure we wouldn’t be paired up with actual golfers. I picked up my ball on a few holes so as not to hold up the group behind us, but I consider it a major accomplishment to have been 3-4 shots over par on the holes I actually did play start to finish. It was tiring playing a full round, but my boyfriend bought me a cookie halfway through and I always respond well to treat bribes.

Wednesday 
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I sometimes wonder if my trainer will ever have me stop towing things like a work horse. Seriously, every week she seems to add yet another exercise in which I have a bunch of weight chained to me while I walk, run, lunge or crawl. It’s beginning to be a bit much. On the plus side, and despite my SI being a giant pain in my ass (well, tailbone actually), she assures me my mobility and form look great.  The best part of my session, though, was the very end when she told me we’d done a lot of loading and not to run the next day. I had no intention of running but being ordered not to run feels good.

Thursday 
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 30 min.
Observations: I really wanted to have a good workout, but I slept terribly the night before and then decided to get up super early to fit in a good gym workout. Instead, I managed a half hour then got to work ridiculously early. Also, I was asleep before 9 pm. Early mornings are so not my thing. I am sort of used to them by now, but I still despise them.

Friday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: Much like last Friday’s solo strength training session, I know this looks like a short workout but I promise you it was brutally tough. I forced myself to use the prowler again, even the heinous arm-only pushes which left my arms feeling like jello. There was also a lot of single leg step ups and squats that will likely leave me with tender glutes tomorrow. It felt good and I quit just as my SI was starting to send me its telltale warning signals.

Now, it is Friday yet again and I have to say I like this three-day work week thing. If only my employer would go for that deal…Happy weekend to all and to all a good night.