Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mom to the Rescue!

The title doesn't really have anything specific to do with the post - just that I have the best Mom. Ever. And if it weren't for her, I wouldn't be making the progress that I am.

As bad as I've been feeling, I figured that there was SOMETHING I could do to make things seem a little better. The narcotic-induced fuzzy-filled days are slowly fading to the distant past, and with each passing moment I'm feeling more and more like myself. I'm still not entirely pain free - but I'm getting closer and closer.

So...when you find yourself, feeling gross, unable to get those workout-endorphins going, and not willing to sacrifice your body by consuming every goody and sweet in sight, what do you do?

Yes, my friends - I got a haircut. And then... had my hair chemically enhanced. Frankly, I'm not a fan of my "winter" blond-ness and instead went for that flirty summery look.
No, the hallway light isn't great. And yes, I feel like I've been popping painkillers for the past 1.5+ weeks. And assuredly - that's my bike propped up in the background. Its just there...waiting. There may have been a few minutes where the bike was in action...until my right sinus decided to tell me otherwise.

But at least I get points for trying.

Plus - I keep telling myself not to worry. That the big races aren't until September and be patient. And trust the coach, trust the plan, trust myself, trust...

Part of me though, still wants to get out there and just rip it.

All in good time, though. All in good time.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this. Proof that I DO play the violin. And that - even on painkillers - I can still play a mean Szymanowski.

And yes - you get extra points if you can pronounce it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

From miserable to...getting better...?

Well, things are progressing along here in sunny San Diego. I would do just about anything to be riding along the sun-filled roads of the Pacific Coast Highway, running through Camp Pendleton's trails (minus the "friendly" Mountain Lions, thank you very much), and swimming my tail end off with Carlsbad Masters.

And hopefully - with my septoplasty under my belt - the next time I catch a cold, it won't turn into the usual acute sinusitis that I've been plagued with all my life.

For the first 8 days post-surgery, I wasn't sure IF the surgery itself was really worth the pain.

I was miserable.

The pain medication made me nauseated. But it took away some of the pain.

The anti-nausea medication made me feel eminently better. But that made me sleepy.

And both together made me totally and completely unprepared to face The Real World and Every Day Life Stuff that we all have to deal with.

And trust me when I say that I've got a high pain tolerance. For Pete's Sake: after breaking my back, I biked the 25 minutes back to where I was staying. Sure, it was stupid - but I ignored the pain, figuring I had just bruised my bum. In retrospect, the nerve damage probably took away all the discomfort and sensation. But that's besides the point.

There were times during my septoplasty recovery that I yearned for my post-back-surgery days. There is nothing like a pounding sinus headache that percocet + anti-nausea + aleve can't get ride of.

Additionally - I've been grateful to my friends. If it weren't for Meredith and Dave in particular, I would have been reduced to a Crazy Single Cat Lady, talking to my cats as my only form of social interaction. Yikes! Yes, it paints a lovely picture, doesn't it? While I miss Nathaniel dreadfully (and I will NEVER EVER EVER voluntarily schedule a surgery when there's even a whisper of a chance that he'll be called out of town for work), I know he's doing what he needs to do in order to be the best Marine possible. At least that makes me happy.

Sort of.

So...after Mom read last Monday's blog, she did what any loving-mother would do. At the drop of a hat, she flew out to Carlsbad to take care of me. And I'm GRATEFUL. I'm not one who would normally accept something like this (even from my own Mother...) And in looking back to my bike crash, it was Dad who flew to be with me in the hospital the day after my surgery. But...when I realized that I couldn't eat because of the nausea...that I was out of cat food (and therefore The House Monsters couldn't eat because I was incapacitated)...and I had NO WAY of getting my pain medication refilled and anti-nausea prescription (because IF I had gotten behind the wheel, it would have been akin to 5+ drinks) - I had to cry "uncle."


Suddenly she was driving me to appointments, meeting my doctors, helping with my medication, doing my shopping, cooking and freezing meals for me to eat in the future, taking care of the kitties (Anabelle LOVES her and Tabbitha - as usual - growls), cleaning the house (was it REALLY that bad), watching movies with me (can you believe we started "Twilight" together. Thankfully she fell asleep!), and just doing what Mom's do best: taking care of me and unconditionally loving me.

And here I am.

It's Friday night, and I'm just beginning to turn a corner. I can safely say that I've survived!

Yes - there's still pain. Yes, I'm still taking the pain meds to help me sleep through the night. But there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. And I no longer regret the surgery. In the long run (hopefully) I won't be plagued with chronic sinusitis. For the first time my chronic headache is gone, and I've begun to do a few "normal" things....practice violin, spin easy on the trainer (until I got a bloody nose - oops!), and stay awake long enough to watch the Olympics...(and actually REMEMBER what I watched).

I feel like I'm emerging from a fog.

In retrospect - its been a long road since Kona. Three (yes 3!!!) sinus infections + one sinus surgery in just under four months.... Wow. That's a lot. Its no surprise that I feel like I haven't really started, or that I've been perpetually starting over and over (and over and over and over) again.

Alas, its no wonder that I'm SUPER EXCITED for March, really looking forward to what's around the next corner. I can feel a new wind, taste the sweet fragrance of promise, and I know that great things are in store. Just a few more days (or week) and I'll be (almost) right as rain.

After I do my Sinus Rinse of course. Yes - I almost forgot about that. Kind of like a Neti pot...but there's pressure involved (to help loosen the packing material they placed in my sinuses...yuck. Too much information, I'm sorry. You missed the part about on Wednesday, where my doctor vacuumed my sinuses. I thought I was going to die. But that's a different blog. Goody!) So for now, you'll have to excuse me. Let's just take things one step at a time... Sinus rinse tonight... and tomorrow...who knows?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Butterfly Effect

I've always thought the Butterfly Effect to be an interesting theory. 'A butterfly flaps its wings in Costa Rica, and there's a massive wind storm in the UK'...or something like that.

The effects of my Sinus Surgery are no different. I was hoping for a miraculous recovery, perhaps a few days of discomfort and/or pain. But life doesn't always work out the way we intend for it to. That doesn't mean the changes are bad, or that the current path is any worse than the previous route. Just...different, and unintended.

Let me show you...

GREAT change: My Mom is coming into town! I'm sooo happy that she'll be here to help me out, spend time with me, and just take care of me. I've been super lucky with Meredith, Dave and Soren... and of course, with Nathaniel. But Moms are just special - and I can't wait to give her a BIG HUG.

NOT-SO-GREAT change: Nathaniel is leaving for two weeks of training. There was a possibility that he would have to go - and now its certain. I'm just happy that he can get in some great flying.

GREAT change: The anti-nausea medication my doctor prescribed. It works! HUGE SIGH OF RELIEF! That's all I can say... With the level of pain and sinus drainage, I've spent the past few days feeling like I'm about to toss my cookies. Which is really bad - especially since I haven't had any cookies to begin with.

FOR-THE-BETTER change: I'm no longer racing in March 7th's Desert International Triathlon. I was really excited about my first Olympic-distance race in nearly three years...but with the missed training and general crummy-feeling, I figured adding an early-season race to my schedule was just, well...stupid. Besides - there's NO rush. I've got a long time before my 'A' races - so the extra rest will do me good.

CAN'T-BELIEVE-IT change: I haven't had sushi in over a week. That's something I never though would happen. has.

SOMETHING-TO-LOOK-FORWARD-TO change: Sushi with Mom. Sushi with Nathaniel. Sushi with everyone!

COMFY change: New bedsheets. I love new bedsheets on the bed. Clean, fresh, and they feel great.

NO-SENSATION-LACK-OF change: I'm still pretty numb in my right cheek and part of my right lip. Thankfully I can move everything - it just still feels like that area was numbed (like when you visit the dentist). I had a great explanation from another doctor today about that... it involved facial fractures...and then I nearly passed out. No - I don't have a facial fracture, but to put it mildly - the surgery was invasive. (And now I need to take some more anti-nausea medication...yuck!)

HAPPY change: Watching Olympic athletes who have overcome difficulty and setback achieve their Olympic dreams. I LOVE it - it makes me happy to know that people CAN and DO overcome obstacles and major challenges. Bravo!

FUTURE change: I keep looking at my training and racing schedule...excited about my upcoming sessions. I can't wait to get back at it. But all in good time...all in good time. Like...when I can walk for a block and not get a nose bleed. Yep, all in good time. In the immediate future, I can see myself hanging out with Mom, watching a movie and sipping on GingerAle.

Thanks for the continued support - it means a lot.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Good feeling gone.


Double ouch.

Oh holy hell!

I don't know what I was thinking last Thursday - signs were good and I was cautiously optimistic that I would make a record-breaking recovery post surgery. Clearly, I was wrong. All of Thursday, I didn't feel that bad, and even the various nurses and hospital staff that called to check up on me said that I sounded great.

Then Friday hit. And it hit hard. The inflammation was just beginning to peak at max pain - and my head, right sinus cavity, and nasal passages - have been uncooperative and throbbing ever since. In recalling my bike crash and broken back - I remembered the most painful time was 2-4 days post-surgery....

Undoubtedly the same can be held true in the instance of sinus tissue removal.

As Nathaniel had duty on Saturday, Meredith offered to drive up to Carlsbad and bring me back to her place. Narcotic pain meds + driving = BIG NO NO. I was grateful to hang out with her and Soren, while Dave was on call. It was the next best thing to having Nathaniel or my folks take care of me. And seriously - how could I complain about post-surgery sinus pain, when I had this little guy smiling at me?

Between fits of nausea and spontaneous nose bleeds, Mer took great care of me...after a medication-induced nap, the three of us went for a walk. Though I felt a little wobbly - and asked Mer to slow down a wee bit - it was great to be outside. Sure our pace was slow, but I only had two nose bleeds and in the end it was fantastic to taste the cold air and see the beautiful greenery.

I don't remember a lot about last night - we had pasta for dinner and there may have been a slice of carrot cake...(YUM)...and I remember watching the Olympics. But I awoke to a bit of nausea (again), and Dave and Mer did their best to make me feel better.

In the end, Soren and Meredith drove me back up to Carlsbad, where I was greeted by two Happy House Monsters. Poor Nathaniel still had some flights to plan for - so I made myself as comfortable as possible.... Me + Tabbitha + Anabelle + comfy IKEA bed + gingerale + percocet + Olympics (currently hockey - Go Czech Republic!) + Whole Wheat Toast + Strawberry Jam.

I'm hoping that things start to feel better - undoubtedly they will. Or maybe its just me... I'm tired being uncomfortable. BUT - in the end if I'm not plagued with acute will be worth it. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Not really sure what Nate has planned for dinner - I'll probably just do soup. I am sure, though - that he'll jump at the opportunity to use the Pocket Rocket. Again. Seriously - he loves that thing more than I thought possible. And seeing him get all fired up (no pun intended) over it makes me its not all that bad.

Okay - thankfully I can feel the meds kicking in. And with that, I'm off - before I write/say something that makes no sense. If I haven't already. But I probably have... Which in that case, oh well. Time for another Ginger Ale...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stuffy Sinus and Fun with Pocket Rockets.

When I introduced myself to my 7th-grade history class, I told my peers that, "The thing that annoys me most is... bad breath." I can't remember much else of what I said, except that I got a lot of laughs.

Little has changed with regards to the halitosis, let me assure you.

So I was relatively surprised when, coming out of my Septoplasty (aka big fancy name for sinus surgery and the widening of one's sinus passages), the very first thing I said was, "I'm so sorry, but I have halitosis. Would it be possible to get something to drink?"

I swear that I heard laughter, and a few minutes later, a sympathetic nurse let me suck on some wet gauze. Yes it was gross, but honestly - my mouth tasted worser. (And I am totally declaring 'worser' a word).

Overall my Sinus Surgery went well - the doctor removed a lot of damaged tissue (don't want to know how, don't want to think about it, no mental images flashing across my brain), and was able to widen most of my passages. Hopefully I won't get many future sinus infections...and every time I come down with a cold, it won't turn into acute sinusitis.

But that's looking ahead to the long term.

Right now my big annoyance comes from 1) Not being able to blow my nose, for fear that I'll blow out all the packing stuff that's keeping me from bleeding 2) I'm coughing up a lot of crap that's draining from my nose into my lungs and 3) I have numbness in my right cheek, where the doctor had to more 'aggressively' go after the infected tissue (her words).

But spirits are high - Nathaniel and the kitties are being great...I have an all-you-can-consume supply of Popsicles and ginger ale. And my Other Half has taken great care of me both yesterday and today, and - perhaps its the pain meds talking, I'm not really sure - but Nathaniel has insisted on cooking another camping dinner with his Pocket Rocket.

This is just too much. I think he loves all fire sources, truth be told. Should I be worried?

But as long as I get some Beef Soup out of the deal (even if it expires in 2013), I'll be a happy camper (no pun intended).

Over and out for now. Thanks for the well wishes and support - it means so much!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

# 16) "Wouldn't if be cool if we had Yoda's Floating Chair?" and 28 other things...

Here we go... Enjoy!

1) Over the weekend, I turned 29! Yea!! I don't feel any older...yet. Perhaps I'll feel different when I hit the W30-34 age group, but no guarantees. I'm excited about my 29th year - WOO HOO!

2) The Olympics have been great, thus far. Totally distracting - but awesome. Every time I see someone earn a medal - at the finish line, after a performance, or on the podium - I tear up. Always have, always will...despite the age.

3) Anabelle loves Valentine's Day Candy. Her new favorite? Bright gummy-red candy hearts. I nearly killed myself slipping on one...luckily it was partially squished in the process. However, I could still discern the kitty-bite mark in said gummy-red candy. As the package was on the dining room table, and Tabbs is too hefty to lift her girth to that height, we've deduced that Anabelle is the culprit.

4) I stopped - in the middle of a tempo run - to watch the sun set on the Pacific's horizon. It was beautiful - and worth the :50 I spent watching it dip below the blue waves.

5) However, I didn't see the famed green flash.

6) Even though my new hiking boots are awesome, (mostly) comfy and super cool (looking), I've got a few gnarly blisters on the back of my heels. Apparently I grabbed the wrong socks for hiking - comfy (non-hiking) blue wool looked good... but were clearly not the blue socks I purchased specifically for hiking. Oops.

7) Ouch. Blisters are NOT fun.

8) I raced a 5k on Sunday in celebration of my birthday.

9) It was the most painful birthday start I've ever had. (But a great present to myself).

10) The first thing I said AFTER crossing the finish line was, "I think I want to go back to Ironman." People around me laughed - but I was totally serious. That sucker hurt! And the 3/4-mile long hill at the end certainly didn't help matters. Although I *think* I set a new heart rate max record. A race report is forthcoming (at some point).

11) My sinus surgery is scheduled for Wednesday (tomorrow)... cue nervous jitters... I don't know if I'm more annoyed/nervous about the surgery itself OR the fact that I'm not scheduled to go in until 11 am - a full eleven hours after my "fast".

12) Time to finish off the cupcakes! WOO HOO - hooray for birthdays!

13) Speaking of baked goods... this year we totally broke with tradition. I'm usually a Yellow Cake + Chocolate Frosting kind of gal. This year...I decided on... Red Velvet Cupcakes + Cream Cheese Frosting + Pink Sprinkles. I know...

14) Thankfully before we baked - we climbed Mount Woodson between Poway and Ramona. We failed to notice the 1500+ foot vertical gain in less than 1.5 miles on the map. Oops. As long as we didn't look UP to the steepest road EVER, things were okay.

15) The views at the top were fantastic - and it was the best Valentine's Moment that Nathaniel and I shared... sitting at the top of a giant rock on the top of a mountain. I'll never forget it - and I couldn't ask for a better birthday or Valentine's Day. I love you Sweetheart!

16) On the hike down, we overheard a bunch of young whippersnappers commenting about the mountain and how steep the gradient was. Their parents weren't far behind... but the funniest thing I heard ALL day was, when one Tabbitha-esque (meaning "hefty" and "big boned") kid proclaimed, "Wouldn't it be cool if we had Yoda's Floating Chair?"

17) It made me wish that I had had Yoda's Floating Chair in the last 3/4-mile uphill during the 5k.

18) Heck, it made me wish I had Yoda's Floating Chair for the ENTIRE 5k race.

19) And the nearly 2-mile long walk back to the car after finishing aforementioned 5k race.

20), post-hike (but pre-cupcakes), Nathaniel and I celebrated with a beer sampler. I love beer samplers - and Sunday's was no exception. WOO HOO!

21) Through everything, I've been practicing my violin like crazy - getting ready for an upcoming audition. Its been 10+ years since I auditioned for anything, and though I felt a bit rusty, I managed to perform and get through everything without a) tossing my cookies b) making a fool out of myself or c) dropping my violin.

22) My knees, though - adopted a mind of their own, and shook throughout my entire audition. I was grateful for the cargo pants and pink compression socks (a fantastic look, if I do say so myself... Especially compared to someone else auditioning for the same part, sporting a smart pantsuit and low heels. Yikes - I felt like myself...under-dressed....but myself). And in the end (in spite of the knocking-knees) - my fingers remembered where to go and I didn't drop my bow...

23) I am now the newest member of the La Jolla Symphony Orchestra!!! YEA! I can't believe it!! I'm super excited and so happy to be part of a professional orchestra - awesome! Yes...I'm sitting way in the back of the second violins (in fact, I made friends with the percussion section, as they are closer to me than the conductor) - but... I'm in! I'm playing violin! And I'm happy and excited to be doing it...

24) I have absolutely no formal concert attire. Somehow, I don't think my pink compression socks will cut it...although I did wear hot-pink socks once to perform on stage with my elementary-school orchestra. I was ten. And I swear to you - the audience laughed. Sadly, my fashion sense hasn't much changed.

25) My coach is evil: The bike force "spin ups" that I naively thought didn't sound "too bad" were nearly the hardest things ever. The carpet is still damp from sweat - in spite of the two towels I had in place. I nearly threw up afterwards...

26) But I didn't.

27) Nathaniel loves his latest Backpacking Stove: The Pocket Rocket. Seriously - I had a hard time pulling him away from the gadget. So I didn't protest when he insisted on cooking me Beef Stroganof with his new stove.

28) Even the kitties wanted to experience the wonders of The Pocket Rocket - but as they are flea free...and we want them to remain so...they had to experience the wonders from inside. They weren't happy. But they also don't have fleas - so we ALL win in the end.

29) I am SO HAPPY to be 29, and SUPER EXCITED about the next year! WOO HOO!!! (And the butt-shaped rock we found on the hike up...How cool is that? Isn't nature great?!? You never know what's coming around the next corner, butt rocks and all).

Friday, February 12, 2010

The 10th Circle

If Dante had lived long enough, I have no doubt that the Oceanside, CA DMV would have been marked as the 10th Circle of Hell. Yes, his 14th century "Divine Comedy" (an epic poem about Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso) is superb - as is. However, I find it lacking a modern-day reference. The DMV Office - in which I spent 3-hours applying for a California Driver's License - is unquestionably the perfect fit for that elusive 10th Circle.

And here - my fiends - is why.

Though the Oceanside office opened promptly at 9:00 am Wednesday morning, I figured I should arrive a few minutes in advance - to ensure an early spot in line. Uncharacteristically for my person, I was ready to leave the house by 8:15, having finished my leg-burning, pain-inducing, max-effort bike trainer session, then the obligatory stretch, shower, and breakfast that follows suit. At the last minute, I grabbed my Swim bag - on the off-chance I would have to head directly to Master's noon-time practice.

I'm happy I did, because I barely made it by the skin of my teeth.

The interstate was fast-moving and before I knew it, I was pulling into the DMV lot. I was thirty minute early, but luckily I had brought a book with me; I figured I could read in the car and wait until the office officially opened.

Then I saw the line.

Mind you - I've never been one for post-Thanksgiving "Black Friday" sales. If you want to get up at 3 am, stand in an ungodly-long line for three hours in the cold, rain, wind, snow, sleet (possibly 11th circle...?) just to get 50% off some high-priced item - great. Good for you. Fine by me. My ass is staying in bed, with its triptophan-induced coma.

So we've established that I'm not big on lines.

The DMV line was not just a line, oh no siree bob! Because by definition - a line is "straight". This massive assortment of people wrapped all the way around the building, and then some. I even spotted people sitting on camping chairs and other devices they had brought from home specifically for waiting in line.

For a moment I thought about leaving, driving home...working on my writing, practicing violin for my upcoming audition, even grocery shopping for the staples that had almost been completely consumed. Anything - but stand in line behind hundreds of other people 30 minutes before the damned offices even opened.

But sadly - that wasn't an option. My Minnesota Driver's License was about to expire, and though I flirted with the option of renewing it while home over Christmas, I (foolishly) assured my parents, "I'll just get a CA license. It won't be that bad. Besides, I can have my FULL name, instead of just 'Chrislock' on the card."

Famous last words.

As the parking lot was full, I ended up snagging an impossibly-small spot between two giant trucks a few blocks away. I thought about the irony of crashing my car and bad parallel parking jobs while en route to apply for a new driver's license. Luckily, it only took me _______ tries to park the car.

And then came standing in line. And waiting. And more standing. And more waiting.

As in many survival situations, people oftentimes find themselves bonding with other people in the same predicament. Misery loves company, I suppose. I quickly made friends with the two gentlemen ahead of me, and with the lady directly behind me, and we chatted about Texas (where Guy #1 was from), Mexico (where Guy #2 was from), and being treated like prisoners, forced to line up against the wall (that was Lady #3's comment. I don't know where she was from. I didn't ask).

I was surprised that the line kept growing. It was like an element all unto itself, an impossibly long snake with a voracious appetite for hapless souls who - for some reason or another - had to be at the Oceanside DMV.


Precisely ten minutes before 9:00 am, several DMV employee's came out and started shouting instructions. It wasn't until they got closer that I realized all the directions were in Spanish. Super! I knew that switching to French in junior high was a mistake! Two more DMV staffers came by shouting - I could only presume the same set of directions - in English. I raised my hand and was given the DL-44 form to fill out.

Okay...things weren't so bad - the line was moving, I had filled out my form, and maybe, just maybe this wouldn't be so bad...?

And that, was the calm before the storm. They lulled us into complacency, making us believe the process would be quick and painless.

It wasn't.

Shortly after 9 am, the line started moving. I tried shuffled forward with the other souls around my person, filling out the rest of my "official" form in the process. In addition to becoming a California driver, I also wanted to become a California voter. (And any amendment to the constitution to increase and organize DMV offices are FINE by me).

I knew we were moving too fast for the hundreds of people ahead of me to be fully helped and serviced. My suspicions were confirmed when I entered the building, was handed number G0034, and told to go "sit" on the left side, reserved for ID cards, Licenses, Permits, and anything car-identity-related.

"Sit" because there were few, if any spots available.

But I managed to snag a chair in the back. And I waited...

And waited...

And waited...

-65 minutes later-

I heard number G0034 shouted and immediately jumped out of my seat. I felt like a character from Zamyatin's "We" - rather than be given a name, I was assigned a number. Ironically - all the women in the socialist-era novel were vowels (and the men consonants). And much could be discerned about a person based on how their letter(name) was shaped.

I-330 scares the protagonist, with her crisp attitude and sharp white teeth.

O-90 has soft, reassuring curves, round blue eyes, and is gentle and compassionate...

I briefly thought about what "G-0034" said about me. Probably nothing, save the fact that thirty-three others had arrived before me. I felt sorry for the lady with "G0072" seated a few rows down from me. But I digress....

After handing over nearly every "official" document to confirm that I am who I say I am (birth certificate, MN driver's license, US Military ID card, marriage certificate, social security card...just to name a few), I took a vision test, confirmed that I had the necessary funds to pay for my CA Driver's license, and was told to, "Go take a set and we'll call your number."

So I waited...

And waited...

At exactly 11:03 - 2 hours and thirty-three minutes after standing in that FIRST line - I was called to window #14. I could feel the eyes of hundreds of people still waiting in line on my back. The line to get the "initial" G-number, continued to stretch out the front door, and I could see people sitting outside on the curb, as every single seat in the massive waiting room was filled.

Truly the 10th Circle.

I went through the usual chit-chat with my assigned DMV person. She seemed to hate her job and peered unnecessarily harshly at my last name on the DL-44 form. Her bright red fingernails seemed excessively long and I had little doubt that she would soon develop carpel-tunnel syndrome, if she wasn't already plagued by it.

"Chr-is-lock - Lau-ter-bach..." she exclaimed, pressing her tongue to her cheek while bashing my last name into her outdated computer keyboard. "Well. That's a long name," she exclaimed.

I didn't like the accusatory tone in her voice, but I didn't want to say anything to offend her. I had already spent enough time in this place, thank you very much. I didn't know what she was capable of; sometimes people take great pleasure in wielding little bits of power and holding it over their hapless victims, err - people that they're "in charge" of or "helping".

Eventually, I must have gained her approval: after signing my name for the umpteenth time and spending the $31 on the obligatory "paper work", I was directed towards the photo and test-taking counter.

Yes - the *final* bit of what needed to be done. Pose for my picture and prove that I knew and fully understood the rules of the California Roadway. And in all honesty...?

Give me the test instead of the picture-taking adventure any day. Historically, my ID card photos have not turned out the way I would have liked them to look. Either my eyes are half shut, my hair is greasy, or my jaw line looks extra pronounced. Last year - while training for IM Coeur d'Alene, I had the lovely opportunity of getting my passport photo taken.

Nathaniel's first words upon seeing my new passport? "You look tired..."

Yes - last photo op, Ironman was my excuse. Today...? Who knows. 10th Circle Survival, I suppose.

And then - the test. Yes, I get nervous before taking tests and yes I DID study for this one. The last - absolutely last - think I needed, was to fail my basic California Road Signs and Signals test. The questions seemed suspiciously easy, and before I knew it, I was (again) standing in line, waiting for my test to be graded.

The same woman who took my picture also had the distinction of grading my test. She seemed nice, and I briefly wondered if she accepted bribes. I was carrying a PowerBar Harvest Energy Bar - and she looked as though she could use a pick-me-up. Sadly, I didn't think my bar was the right kind of bar.

I studied her, while she graded my test, and tried to take a peek at her score card.


I could see nothing.

And suddenly, after writing something at the top of my paper - she was gone.



My new California Driver's License is hanging on the line, I've been in this 10th Circle for the past 2 hours and Fifty Five minutes....and you suddenly walk away without telling me anything?

And then it hit me: I failed.

I failed my license test; a test that - according to the CA DMV website - is supposed to be easy because "we WANT you to drive our roadways!"

I thought about running for it - but noticed the emergency door was blocked by other people standing in (yet another) line of sorts. And besides, I needed a license, as mine would be officially expired in four days.

Even though she was gone for less than five minutes, the time passed just as excruciatingly slowly as it had for the previous three hours.

Her exclamation of, "Perfect Score!" brought me back to my senses. I was so shocked that I couldn't think of anything to say for her unexcused absence. Would it have been so difficult for her to give me the results before walking away? Didn't she know I nearly peed my pants with anticipation?? Just standing where I was - I swear that my heart rate was somewhere in the middle of zone 3.

But in the end, I made it out alive, intact, and no more worse for the wear. Though the three hour ordeal was hellacious at best, I did earn my California Driver's License. And I will absolutely renew that sucker on-line.

Just another day in the 10th Circle, I suppose.

(On a side note: I've been working on this blog since last Wednesday afternoon. I suppose my definition of the 11th Circle is NOT Black Friday Shopping Lines - but having an unpublishable blog post).


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Weekend's weather & workout!

My first track session of 2010 was, well...interesting, wet, hard, challenging. The above photo was taken minutes after I had finished my cool down. I think its appropriate that the Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital is in the background, as I wasn't sure if I could (or would) survive my main speed intervals. The standing water around much of the track in lanes 1, 2, and some cases 3 - only added to the joy.

Driving out to the track I was greeted with rain, wind, clouds, and...more rain.

However, I also saw a rainbow behind the air station - and even though it's difficult to see, I considered it a good sign.

Especially since the day's workout would be the first time I had visited the track was I last at the track? Oh yes - since before Kona. Wow - the middle of last September then. Suffice to say - its been a while. Assuredly, I would need all the good vibes, positive omens, and rainbows imaginable.

The run itself was H.A.R.D.

What does that spell?

Hard. As in: Help. Abnormal (pain). Rough. (and now I'm) Delirious.

Who ever tells you that Ironman training is more difficult than short-course is wrong. Misguided. Confused. Pick-your-own-choice-adjective. And they clearly don't appreciate the difficulty of SHORT, HARD, MAX EFFORT workouts.

But that's a different post all together. (And before all you IM people get mad - I mean absolutely NO offense, whatsoever. Though the activities of swim-bike-run are the same, you're training your body in a VERY different way. 2.5-hour run zone 2 OR 8 X 800 meter MAX EFFORT repeats with 1 minute recovery between segments? You pick...neither is "better" or "more challenging" than the other. Just different. And they each have their own purpose.)

The 20 minute warm-up was the easiest part of my day, although I was absolutely soaked within 5 minutes. And no...not just a little wet. Soaked - like I had just jumped in the lake. Dodging puddles became pointless, so I didn't.

I was so drenched that...not only did I have to worry about the rear wedgie...but I was seriously concerned about the front one as well. At any moment, I was sure of a wardrobe malfunction; my soaked shorts were going places they've never gone before. I was quite offended.

Eventually I ran to the track to complete the final bits of my workout. It was covered...absolutely covered in standing water. The gale-force wind and driving rain only added to my joy. Hey - at least there wasn't lightning. Or snow. Deep down though, I wanted the challenge, wanted to test my limits - even if it meant sloshing through never-ending puddles.

And while wearing my sail-like windbreaker in the process. No WAY was I going to remove that thing during the "fast" bits. Driving rain + wind + 50-degree temps had me absolutely chilled. On the one hand the jacket provided a great push with the tailwind. The headwind...well...(shudder)....that was hard. I felt like a giant rubber band was tied around my waist and I was getting pulled backwards - and no matter how HARD I ran, I made little, if any progress.

But through it all - I had a blast. And kept going - as hard as I could. And even if I wasn't as fast as I once was - this workout was the first of many that will hopefully remedy that. And I relished the opportunity to tear around the track - because in spite of the elements (or maybe because of them...?) I loved it. Challenges and all.

Because that's what life is about - pushing beyond our comfort level, venturing into the unknown...growing and learning in the process. Add in the key-ingredients of fun, joy, happiness - and you've got the perfect equation, regardless of the weather.
And no - I'm not grim. This is the closest thing to a smile that I could muster post-workout. Thank you Jen Harrison! Oddly enough, I'm excited about my next go-around at the track. Here's to happy training, in all weather!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Good, The Bad, The (really) Ugly!

Its been an interesting week - between the plethora of sinus appointments, trying to figure out Nathaniel's flight schedule, meetings, briefs, work stuff and training - there have been some high points and...some errr interesting points.

So here we go - Enjoy!

The Good: Seeing US Olympian and uber-triathlete superstar Matty Reed swimming at the same pool I swim at - Yea Carlsbad! Sure - he was just finishing his workout - but wow! Of course - I was too nervous to talk to him. He is, after all - Matt Reed. And I don't think he would have appreciated some blubbering fool approaching him after his swim workout. But still. Matt Reed swims at the pool I swim at! OMG!
The Bad: The fact that I couldn't prevent my jaw from dropping when he got out of the water.
The Ugly: The fact that all the guys in Lane 1 and my lane made fun of my reaction to "that triathlete guy".

The Good: The very informative "Sinus Surgery" video I watched before my pre-surgery appointment.
The Bad: It was a little too informative.
The Ugly: There's a chance - if I only get the local anesthetic and am therefore "awake" for the surgery - that the "crunching" noise I hear/feel/experience is the bone within my sinus cavity being "removed". There was more to the video - but everything went blank after hearing the above.

The Good: My bike-run-bike-run-bike-run workout. Awesome! It was over in 70 minutes and I went HARD and FAST and worked my ass off. Fantastic! It was FUN and felt GREAT to go fast again.
The Bad: I nearly killed myself slipping on the wood floor while "transitioning" from my bike to throwing on my run shoes.
The Ugly: The expression on my face rounding the final corner. I knew I should have slowed down for traffic - but the lovely gentleman waved me through the intersection when I was already half-way through. I don't think I could have stopped regardless.

The Good: I discovered two new "treats" from the grocery store: Kimchi and Red Cabbage. Sure - both are cabbage, but they're prepared so differently. For some reason - they looked good and (so far) have tasted great.
The Bad: The physical side effects of eating lots of pickled/prepared cabbage in a relatively short amount of time.
The Ugly: I've driven Nathaniel from the bedroom.
The REALLY Ugly: Unfortunately, I also cleared out a small side-room at the gym that I thought no one would enter. Seriously - I thought (because no one was using the boxing room), it would be "safe" to flatulate in that room between leg press sets. Until... the couple walked in with boxing gloves. Seriously - they were in the room for less than ten seconds, before walking right back out. I was horrified. And though they gave me a suspicious look, I don't think they quite grasped the enormity of what I had done.

The Good: Playing my violin in preparation for an upcoming audition. I am SO excited!
The Bad: My G-string started unwinding.
The Ugly: 15-years ago when walking into a music store to purchase a new G string, I wouldn't have batted an eyelash. Today, I burst into a fit of giggles when I inquired about a G string. The 16-year-old kid behind the counter didn't look amused; probably because he gets that all the time from older people who can't resist. Ugh.

The Good: I avoided looking directly at the tray of Sinus Surgical Tools during my pre-op appointment.
The Bad: They were staring me down.
The Ugly: They were staring me down right next to me.

The Good: Wednesday afternoon swim workout. I swam with my regular lane and felt GREAT! Well...not great - but determined to hold on and make the set. It was rough and half the main set was under base pace. But...I only got lapped on the very final 50 by our lane leader. So...I'll take it!
The Bad: How tired my arms were after the workout - I had to use the ladder to climb out.
The Ugly: I couldn't pick up Tabbitha after the workout. Hopefully that says more about the quality of swim rather than the size of our House Monster. Oh well...

The Good: Weekend with Nathaniel - we're going to finally buy backpacking boots!
The Better: One run on Saturday (and there are "fast" bits involved!!!) and my "long" 2-hour bike ride of the week on Sunday.
The Best: Weekend with Nathaniel - yea!

Have a GREAT one everyone!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The nose knows

In lieu of my many and frequently reoccurring sinus infections, I finally saw an ENT specialist today. While sitting in the waiting room, I briefly pondered why someone would choose to become ENT doctor. After all - looking through people's various orifices doesn't seem all that appealing.

Then again, if given the option I would choose Ear-Nose-Throat over gynecology any day. Or rectal stuff...yikes! That being said, I would (hands down) pick gynecology over podiatry . We all know how much I hate feet (involuntary shudder).

News flash: if you weren't aware of it - I hate feet. Hate hate hate. Yes, hate is a strong word, but it doesn't begin to describe how I feel about those things we walk on. Even my own. I had a pedicure once and that was plenty. I forgot how many times I apologized to the lady working on my toes (major involuntary shudder!).

Other people's feet are even worse. So please, please don't be offended if I gag at the sight of your bare feet. My stomach isn't all that great when it comes to this stuff, and my gag reflex is non-existent.

Bottom line, I'm happy to not be in medicine, thank you very much. There are just way way too many gross things. But I digress...

Where were we? Oh yes...the nose. ENT. My sinuses. Loveley!

After filling out a few forms and waiting a minute or two in the waiting room, I was lead back to the doctor's office. I was expecting a regular exam room - but I guess those ENT people do things a little bit differently.

The doctor was already in the room, looking - as it turned out - at a copy of my sinus CT scan taken last November. Usually CT stuff fascinates me; after my back surgery, I was mesmerized by the plethora of MRIs and CT scans. There's something just fascinating about seeing yourself from a totally different perspective.

It's like - woa! That's me! That's what my septum looks like! Sure... a little crooked... but neat-o!

However, my attention wasn't drawn towards the computer. Not one bit. Instead...I saw...the tools.


Tools of the Ear-Nose-Throat trade, so to speak.

I can't tell you exactly what they were - but they had an ominous look about them. There were maybe 30 or 40 of them, all lined up according to size and thickness. They were all impossibly long - longer than the average nose. And while some looked thin and pointy, others were thicker and still, just as pointy. I couldn't tell if they were flexible or not. They seemed too metal-like to have any flexible properties, but they were unfathomably long. But ALL of them - regardless of thickness - seemed destined for one orifice.

The Human Nose.


In all honesty, when I saw them I stopped, paused for a millisecond. I may have even stuttered; I can't remember clearly.

They all looked - (for lack of a better word) - icky.

...As in, ancient-Egyptian-brain-removal-hook-for-mummification-preparation-icky...

...As in, stick-the-impossibly-long-prod-up-the-nose-through-the-bone-into-the-brain-and-scramble-things-around-while-the-brain-leaks-out-the-nose...ICKY.

And before I could help it, my hands got sweaty.

Now I should say - I'm pretty good (now) at controlling my nerves. My hands rarely get the past its been things like college exams, violin recitals, and thirty seconds before the start of a race. Presently, only rock climbing and race starts make my hands sweat. And I've honestly never had an aversion to medical instruments.

Until today.

By the time I sat down in the overly push chair (in attempt to relax you into distraction, I'm sure), right next to the ominous instrument tray, my hands were a damp mess. I left marks on my pants. Yeah - I was that sweaty. And that was before the doctor checked my sinuses and told me the news.

According to the CT scan, my sinuses are interesting. Yes, those were the doctor's words: interesting. Their shape is fine - the way they wind around above my teeth and from one ear to the other...Good! Great. Move on - tell me more I thought.

However...the problem was their size. My sinus openings are really, really small. This in turn is not letting fluid and other crud drain properly, thus causing a build up of bacteria and other things that don't belong stuck in one's sinus cavity. Additionally, I seem to be retaining some unknown fluid on the left side, in one of my sinus pockets.


Swollen ankles - I'm used to dealing with. Give me some compression socks, an elevated spot to put up the feet, and cool-ish weather...and my lower limbs look normal. Nothing like the post-Ironman cankles. Those were not pleasant.

But now - my left sinus cavities are - holding fluid...???

I swear to you - I looked from the CT scan to the doctor, to the CT scan to the tray of ominous-looking instruments, and back to the doctor again.

She didn't miss a beat; I'm sure she gets the same deer-in-headlight look all the time. In fact - I'm sure that she jokes with her fellow ENT colleagues about the looks of horror that cross her patients faces when they suddenly realize exactly what and how the tray of instruments will be inserted into their person.

It dawned on some point - unless I wanted to continue fighting sinus infections 3-4X per year - I would have to get one of those icky-evil-yucky looking probes stuck up my nose.

Suddenly I realized in comparison: I love feet. I love feet I love feet I love feet! Feet aren't the enemy, or something to be afraid of! Sinus Tools ARE. I love feet. I hate Sinus Tools!

My hands were soaking wet. And my doctor hadn't yet broken the really special news.

We continued to discuss the many options. I've already been on too many courses of antibiotics, have taken oral and allergy medication, have faithfully used the Neti Pot, have ingested more Sudafed than I'd like to admit - and still, without fail... Every time I catch a cold, it becomes a horrible, green-snot-producing, sinus-pressure-headache-from-h-e-l-l, teeth hurting from the pressure, knock-me-on-my-backside-for-two-weeks illness.

And I'm tired of it.

I've dealt with sinus infections all of my life. Enough is enough.

I looked again at the tray of instruments and nodded my head when she recommended surgery. I've explored all my options, and my CT scan is proof that my sinuses are NOT ideally shaped. And though I'm terrified of the mere thought of what the procedure entails, I just don't want to fight another sinus infection.

We chatted some more and I ignored the instruments next to my person. I swear, they were mocking me - calling my name in an effort to make me look at them. Again. And yes, my hands remained drenched for the rest of the appointment.

Eventually the doc sprayed a bit of mist up my nose in preparation for a quick exam. While we waited for the local anesthetic to kick in, we talked. I have no recollection of our conversation. I was too hung of on the words 'local anesthetic'.

As in...let me numb your nose so you won't feel a thing... I would have run out of the room as fast as possible if she was wearing a witch hat and had a wart on her nose. I've been working on a little bit of run speed and power - I can be fast over short distances.

The Sinus Tools were calling, I swear!

Yes, I was loosing sensation in my nasal passages. And I visibly gagged when she pulled out the "small" scope to examine the tops of my sinuses.

But I cooperated, REMAINED CALM (in spite of every fiber of my being screaming at me to RUN RUN RUN), closed my eyes, and let her push the probe up my nose.

At this point, my leg - beneath my pants - was soaked. No - I didn't wet myself. My hands were just turning into their own self-sustaining hydration system.

Yikes! I tried to not peek behind my closed eyes. The sight wouldn't have been good.

Luckily, I could feel no pain. Just pressure. And as it wasn't any worse than my sinus infections of late - I could deal. As long as I didn't think about what was being done to my person. I kept my eyes shut and tried to not think about the violation of my nose.

Mind over matter mind over matter mind over matter. Find a happy place! Find a happy place! Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, what do we do, we swim, swim, swim. You're gonna need a bigger boat. ...You've beaten my giant, which means you're exceptionally strong so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But, you also beat my Spaniard, which means you must have studied. And in studying you learned that man is mortal, and you would have put the wine as far away from yourself as possible. So I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me...

In the end, I thought of movie quotes. "Finding Nemo", "Jaws", and my favorite, "The Princess Bride" did the trick. And before I knew it, she had removed her scope and I was left with slightly watery eyes and one violated nose.

We discussed a few surgery dates and - to my horror - I mentioned that I had a few upcoming races and I was afraid the surgery would get in the way of my training and racing schedule. I suppose the local anesthetic had destroyed my natural brain filter. Oops. Oh well.

As it was, the downtime involved with a procedure like mine, was projected for ten or so days. The doctor gave me a quick look and a laugh, and said that she understood.

I ignored the Sinus Tools sitting next to me, and ticked off a few dates in my head. Ideally, I would have the surgery done as soon as possible - but it was all contingent on her surgical schedule and available appointments. I didn't want to seem rude or ungrateful - she could have dismissed my case and told me to deal with my too-small sinuses, fluid cavity, and slightly deviated septum.

But she (and her Sinus Tools) didn't. Instead she told me that whenever I was ready and whenever my schedule would allow, I could have the surgery.


And as it turned out - the Sinus Gods were smiling in my favor. I'm booked for February 17th...with my pre-surgical appointment set for this Thursday. I'll continue to think HAPPY THOUGHTS and ignore any and all Sinus Surgical Tools that I may come across. Not that I'm looking for them or anything. BUT. I think its safe to say that I'll ignore the evil-looking-instrument-tray on Thursday. One more glimpse of those 8-inch tools...and I may just have to run out of the room screaming.

My run speed has gotten better and I could probably make it to the stairwell before they really realized what had happened. But hopefully it won't come to that. Until then...My nose knows what's about to happen. But as long as I don't think about it - everything should be a-okay.



As long as she doesn't show up sporting the mask of Anubis, I'll be okay. Okay? Okay. Find a happy place!