Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pinks and hoes and money woes

As an eternal student trying to survive in the big city, it is a struggle to stay out of debt. It seems that with each passing year of my degree, it becomes more and more difficult to save money – not only with compounding tuition costs, but with a steady decline in motivation to stay afloat (let alone alive. Ha. Joking. Kind of?). Then, a few weeks ago, I received the following email:

Hi Jane,

My name is Tom, I shoot for several glamor and softcore adult sites online. I have a shoot coming up for in September and your name was suggested through social media. If you're not interested or your not comfortable with adult content then my apologies, but I've quickly checked the pictures submitted and you seem to fit exactly the look I'm going for. 

We shoot in Arizona in mid September, we'd fly you out for 3 days. One day to settle in and pick wardrobe, one day to shoot and one for you to enjoy the area. The fee is negotiable based on what level of interest and experience you have but it ranges from $1000-$7000 for the trip.

Let me know if you have any questions

I look forward to hearing from you.

It took me a few reads to understand what was going on. I scanned each sentence for the words ‘running’ or ‘modeling,’ thinking it had to be associated with something I was known for. After a few minutes, I realized that they were far from interested in my athletic or academic pursuits. ‘Seriously?!’ I thought, ‘Soft core PORN?!’ Personality aside, how on earth would I be suited to it (let’s just say runners don’t usually meet the physical criteria of pornstars, and if they do they probably aren’t very fast)? Furthermore, what kind of ‘fitting’ pictures could have possibly been submitted?!’ I assumed it wasn’t from my photoshoot with Canadian Running Magazine, or my imitations of the Usain Bolt pose. I was bewildered. Then I read the last sentence again: up to $7000. Hmmm. One year’s tuition for 3 days of work? My mind began to wander. In a spell of curiosity, I proceeded to peruse the soft-porn website for myself, contemplating what they might have me do. Initially, I was encouraged by an image of a woman jogging in shorts and a sports bra. ‘I could do that!’ I thought triumphantly. My hopes were soon crushed when I realized that any seemingly innocent photograph led to things far more revealing. I think it was at this moment, in the midst of serious porn researching in my office at work, that I fully understood my need for extra cash. I forwarded the email to my parents:

Mum: “O.M.G.”
Minutes later, my Dad replies: “I don’t know Jane, sounds a bit dubious to me. You had better check this guy out.”

Umm...seriously?! I suppose my Dad is tired of lending me money, and would encourage me to pursue explicit avenues of money-making should my future pimp be a ‘legitimate’ one? WOW. My mum put an end to this possibility with her reply, however, when she emphatically stated: “PIETER! He does S-O-F-T-C-O-R-E-P-O-R-N-O-G-R-A-P-H-Y!!!!!!!!!”

Fortunately I have come to my senses and decided to try and be more frugal. I think I am doing a great job so far. Take yesterday, for example, where I spent $1000 when I meant to spend none. Why? Where to begin!

So 10 days ago my phone broke at a stagette. I have no idea what happened: I picked it up at one point and it was dead. Totally unresponsive. I suppose it just couldn't handle the party, after all, it did get pretty wild.

The next day I took my poor phone to the Bell store in Vancouver. I learned a lesson there. Bell sucks, and so do all manufacturing companies except Apple. They enjoy making things unnecessarily difficult, either because they want more money or are actually just stupid. Anyway, after explaining to them the situation (it could have been the strippers???) they fiddled with the phone, tried plugging it in, took it apart, and after a good twenty minutes decided it would have to be sent off to the manufacturer to determine the nature of the damage. Once they discerned what ailed it, it would either be fixed by them or sent to another company to be replaced. What the eff? Why do things have to be so complicated! Just give me a new phone! (That's why I have finally given into the Apple fad, they just hand you a new phone no questions asked. SMART.) So I'm like 'OK, fine take my phone. Take my only means of communication. Take a piece of me. Take my soul!' I began to get emotional. ‘Would I at least get a replacement phone?’ I wondered. They followed my emotional display with ''We can't give you a temporary phone either because you're going back to Toronto and you can't take our phone out of Vancouver.' Wow, they know how to please a frustrated customer! But they also told me that a temporary phone would cost $50 and require a $350 deposit, so I became disinterested. Instead, I decided I'd revert to the olden times when there were no phones or computers and everything was relayed by fountain pen ink and scrolls. I envisioned myself locked away in my parent's basement, writing letters to my high school friends asking them to join me for dinner at Christmas, at which point they would have received my message and I'd be back in Vancouver. The thought of living in such romantic fashion was exciting and I soon forgot the sorrows caused by my lost phone.

Nine days later I get back to Toronto and my mom starts to freak out, thinking that now that I have no phone in the big city I will die in anonymity. She emails me ten times after my flight is supposed to land to make sure I am still alive. Wanting to save her motherly stress (and the storage in my inbox), I immediately go to the Bell store in Toronto. I brought my old phone that I thought could serve as my temporary phone, but of course the Bell rep says they can't activate the old phone because it doesn't take the same SIM card as my Android. 'Oh and by the way, the store in Vancouver just sent out your phone to the manufacturer today.' TODAY?! Nine days after I dropped it off? What were they doing with it for the last nine days? Imagining how a stripper may have caused water damage?! At this point I was visibly angered. Perhaps the Bell representatives are slightly more insightful in Toronto, as he sensed my frustration and offered to give me a replacement phone free of charge...besides the $350 deposit. How lovely! I accepted the offer, but cringed at the money drawn out of my already dwindling bank account. My anxieties were relieved by a sudden rush of bells and rings from my new phone: I had life and communication back in my hands! Hallelujah! And with that, my spirits were lifted and I left the store in a celebratory mood.

Of course at this point I am in the mall. And I cross by a store called PINK. Yes, it is CALLED PINK. How am I supposed to bypass this store without going in and scavenging every item they sell? It simply cannot be done in Coolis land. So, consumed by powers beyond my control, I stepped into Pinkasia and was pelleted with flashes of hot pink, fuschia, zebra print and pink leopard print. I felt like an epileptic walking into a disco party, it was just too much to handle! Tears filled my eyes, both in anger at the inevitable demise of my bank account and in joy of finding so much Topicoolis-like attire in one room. How could I walk away from this? My mind fought as I scowered each rack and filled my basket with items to try on. 'I'm just TRYING them,' I told myself reassuringly. Rrright. Once in the change room, I quickly discovered that I loved all items I had chosen. Imagine that! A pink leopard print bra, oohhh and a bright blue one too! Zebra print underwear? A pink zebra sports bra (sorry Adidas, you may be fashion-forward, but you aren't quite at the edge!)?! Hot pink tank-tops, shirts, hoodies?! There was nothing I could do. It was over. When I was informed that most items were 2 for $42, there was no going back. They rung me in, and I walked out having spent $150 on bras, underwear, and flimsy pink shirts. This, from a girl who never wears underwear and who does not even need to wear bras. (Did I just admit this to the blogosphere? And to think I wonder how porn sites have heard of me)

Let's party indeed!

Then I go into lab. Almost as soon as I turn my computer on it crashes. Perhaps it felt the strength of my fluorescent pink purchases and it had an epileptic fit. Unfortunately, this computer has crashed before and it was not a good experience - I almost lost all of my data from my entire PhD. If this happened I would contemplate suicide. So I was the next one to start seizing, since I had still not backed up my data on an external hard drive. (Yes, apparently I am also stupid.) So I sprinted madly to Future Shop in street clothes and computer in hand - perhaps the only time that someone could justifiably heckle 'RUN Forrest, RUN!!!' - and clambered up to the help desk in a sweaty hot pink mess. I sternly told them that I needed to backup everything and warned that 'Nothing had better be lost!'...or I'd flash them hot pink underwear and whip them with sinewy bra tops?! I am sure they were quite intimidated, as they cutely told me that I would have to pay $150 for an external hard drive and $270 for them to revamp my computer and back it up for me. I was so overwhelmed with all the sources of stress and anxiety I was dealing with at that one instant that I said 'Eff it! Take my money, give me my PhD!' and was done with it. (I wish I could also say this at my defense. Hmmm.)

So there ya go folks, that's Coolis' lesson on how to spend $920 in a single day in Toronto, without wanting to spend a penny. Quite awesome. I think I am going to check this Tom guy out after all. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Coolis to the Core

I used to be one of those distance runners whose idea of strength training was running hill repeats. I did so much LSD that I considered anything fast to be anaerobic. Then I met Dennis Barrett (McGill track coach), who introduced me to the world of deadlifts, chin-ups and core strength. I got about 3min faster over 5k in three years, and suffered no significant injuries during this time...not that I ever managed to do a chin-up or a deadlift! Ha! But I WAS forced to incorporate resistance training into my routine, and as a result my strength, coordination and running speed improved dramatically.

Core strength should be part of any distance runner’s training program. A strong core is central to a strong running body, as it balances out muscle groups and prevents wear and tear on joints, thereby preventing injury. Importantly, core strength is not about doing billions of crunches at lightning speed – it is about consciously engaging your abdominals and the muscles surrounding them, including your spine, glutes, hamstrings and quads. Exercising them in a slow, controlled motion is the best way to engage your core. There are many core exercises out there, so if you hate my suggested plank holds (below) keep in mind that they are only one way of cutting the...core?

This is a video of me demonstrating some core exercises for Canadian Running Magazine. I think the video sends out the right message, but I advise drinking some Red Bull before attempting to watch it. I think the videographers put an enthusiasm filter on their lens. I VIVIDLY recall doing this video laughing, smiling, joking and EXCLAIMING about how much I loved the Coolis Core Workout. I imagined myself demonstrating the front plank hold in dramatic fashion, hunching my shoulders to the sky and wildly dropping my hips to ground (I think I mastered the Booty Tooch (Hoochie Tooch?), however. Uh-huh.). Where did this dead-pan, bored un-Coolis come from?! I am not even sure at what points I am trying to tell a joke because I am speaking in such painstaking monotony. Perhaps the only hint of humour is when I remind the audience that ‘When your form breaks, so should you’ -  a line that at the time I thought was absolutely hilarious but now realize is actually NOT A JOKE. What is wrong with me?

What is more is that my brain was usurped along with my personality. I don’t think I could recall the appropriate name for a single exercise (or add to 10min?). Leg dips. LEG DIPS? Are those a real thing? It’s a good thing this was a video and not an audiotape, otherwise I would have runners splashing their legs into puddles or doing squats instead of plank variations. Or how about ‘back leg raises’? opposed to...front leg raises? I think the problem was that I had myself confused with a four-legged creature, and adjusted my mental capabilities along with my anatomical makeup. After all, I go so far as to incorporate knee-sitting into the workout, which I am pretty sure is an impossible feat for a human.

Despite these minor details, I do hope runners can get some use out of this video. And please ignore the eye-rolling at 1:23, that was a bitch look subconsciously directed at myself, not you awesome viewers!

This video was actually shot as part of a larger shoot, which altogether was a ton of fun. Unfortunately, it came at a time when my core wasn’t feeling its coolist. In fact, I looked like I was on the verge of giving birth the night before (one word: hormones).  So what does a balloon-bellied, raging emotional Coolis do the night before her photoshoot? Take some GAS-X, get some exercise, drink some water and get lots of sleep? Why, of course not! The only logical thing to do in my head was to out with my girlfriend for steak and martinis and bitch about my discomfort! Suffice to say I woke up (fell out of bed?) the next morning not feeling *particularly* primed for the camera. I tried to console myself by the fact that I would be wearing running clothes and not a bikini. Unfortunately, I arrived at the photoshoot only to find out I would be sporting a sports bra and spandex shorts. Nice. ‘Maybe they can photoshop my abs?’ I continued to console myself. All sense of security was lost, however, when the photographer began to yell ‘Tighten your abs! Abs TIGHT! Suck in the ABS!!’ with increasing intensity as the shoot went on. ‘Oh dear,’ I thought to myself, ‘the bloating is definitely not in my head.’ Compound this with the fact that I have not run in months and am jogging endless laps across a park, and you can start to envision the breathing difficulties I was encountering. Have you ever tried sucking in, gasping for air and smiling simultaneously?! I felt like a glowing pregnant woman having an asthma attack. This would be uncomfortable under normal situations, but was especially intrusive when I was supposed to look like a gazelle gliding effortlessly across the grass. This went on for about an hour, until eventually the yells for tighter abs changed to hurrahs for a good shot. Thank the lord! I also ended up with a t-shirt on by the end of it (I HAVE NO IDEA WHY).

So although I can’t guarantee flat abs at all times, I can say that the Coolis Core workout will help you be a better overall runner. If you want to get a more accurate idea of the 10-minute core routine (despite the excellence shown in this video), check out the September issue of Canadian running (p.69, obvi) for a full description of the workout!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's all Voodoo and Dr. Chiu

My shin has become an old, annoying boyfriend. The initial thrilling (?) intensity has dissipated into a dull (dis)comfort that stays with me at all times. Although predictability can be nice, it’s not when it prevents you from living life fully. I need to dump this boyfriend for good. The problem is, he’s a bit of a stalker.

In May I decided I needed some security so I went to the doctor to determine the best plan of attack. The doctor suggested diagnosing this dude’s issues so that I’d know the best way to get rid of him. His first guess was that he could have a disorder known as compartment syndrome. Under this condition, he would suffer from a defect in releasing the large amounts of pressure caused by my repeated interactions with him. (Yes, apparently I was the root cause!) This build up would result in him inflicting pain and discomfort onto me, usually at a point when our interactions were at their height. Unfortunately, men struggling with this syndrome are incapable of leaving on their own, and usually need to be put under the knife. Essentially, I would have to resort to hiring a hit-man to physically get rid of him. Although harsh, I was elated, as the diagnosis made sense and I would finally be able to move on with my life. This had to work!

I left the doctor’s office full of hopes and dreams that I would get a specialist to test my boyfriend in a few days, hire a hit-man in a few weeks and be free as a bird in a couple months. A few days later, I got a call from a woman at the test centre: “Hi Ms Coolis, we have someone to test your defective boyfriend!” my heart raced with excitement, “When?” I asked “I can set this up anytime!” “Uh-huh” She answered, “The next availability is August 25th, 2012 at 10AM.”
Silence ensued.
“...Hello? Ms Coolis? Does this work?” I remained mute on the other end of the phone. I thought she had to be kidding. August?! Almost four months away?! And that was just to get a diagnosis! “Um...hi, yes, errr is there anything slightly sooner?!” I asked incredulously. “No actually, we are one of two test centres in Ontario and we only conduct testing once per month. Naturally, there are a lot of defective men and thus there is a long wait list.” ‘Awesome. ‘ I thought to myself as I imitated her mocking tone in my head: ‘Naturally! Don’t be so foolish Ms Coolis, didn’t you KNOW that CS testers only like to work at one location every fourth Saturday from 10-5?!’ I took the appointment as graciously as I could - likely cutting her off as I hung up the phone - and sat at my desk morosely for the next half hour. How was I to deal with this dude for another three months?! When I finally decided it didn’t do any good to sit alone in self-pity, I proceeded to share my self-pity over Facebook. Maybe one of my doctor friends could help me out!

[Alright, I’ll stop talking in metaphors now. Everyone is probably completely confused: ‘I though it was her shin, not a stifling boyfriend, that was preventing her from running???’]

Moving along, the first doctor friend who commented on my status was Tony Chiu. Now, most of my readers probably don’t know Tony Chiu. Tony Chiu is quite a character. We became close acquaintances (friends? Rivals? I still don’t know) in high school as we shared pretty much every class together that involved advanced placement this or accelerated that. He was on high-speed mode in pretty much every realm of his life, however, including his day-to-day mannerisms. I was convinced he either had a secret addiction to coffee or an innate imbalance in amphetamines that made him hyperactive all the time. How else do you explain the random shouts during Calculus, or the tendencies to get up and pace around halfway through a physics lecture? His inability to finish a sentence, let alone conversation, without walking away? The constant shaking of his desk during a chemistry exam (especially distracting when you are sitting behind him, to the point that I thought it actually might be his mechanism of sabotage)? These traits made Tony Chiu both endearing and severely annoying at the same time. Despite the difficulties I encountered in getting to know him, we did somehow become close. We even studied together sometimes (this usually involved him solving a math problem in his head, writing down a number in ten seconds, then telling me crude jokes as I methodically wrote out twenty lines of equations for the next twenty minutes). 

Near the end of high school, however, I saw another side of Tony Chiu. He began to invite me out more frequently, even introducing me to his mother and offering me her jewelry (yeah, that was kind of weird...I thought maybe it was a Taiwanese tradition?). Then, he started to insult my boyfriend. These were not subtle displays of annoyance or gentle stabs behind his back. They were outright tantrums, usually right in front of his face. He’d start yelling “***HOLE!!!” down the hallway before I even saw that my boyfriend was coming our way. Sometimes I’d also catch Tony muttering under his breath during calculus “I HATE *******, ******* is such an @^%hole. %$#@ *******!” when he likely thought no one was paying attention. This was some deep hatred. Looking back, my boyfriend probably deserved some of this name-calling, but that’s beside the point. I think it was when I received a love voodoo kit (including a voodoo doll) from Tony on my birthday that I realized there was more to it than my ex-boyfriend actually being an ‘@^%hole’. It was kind of a scary gift to receive when you are 17 from someone who is quite brilliant. Couldn’t he have gotten me a calculator? Some pens? SAT books? I didn’t like the voodoo I was getting from Dr. Chiu. What did this mean?!

Nevertheless, he took off to Taiwan after high school to experience some more fast-tracking in his life, as he was accepted into an accelerated med school program at the National Taiwan University. At this time he also mentioned his mother wanted him to find a wife, so it was probably a good time for us to be on opposite ends of the earth. I don’t think he was happy with how things ended.

Fast-track some more, ten years later. I need a compartment syndrome test and I’m pretty desperate. Who else but Tony Chiu pipes in, still stirred up and single! (Ironically, now a psychologist...I think I had to ask him several times if he was a patient or that was his position, I couldn’t quite grasp the latter...) He told me that if I flew to Taiwan and stayed with him, he would get me the test in less than a week. Now folks, I told you I was desperate for this test, but right then I had to deeply question just how desperate I was. Yep, not that desperate.

Luckily, I ended up getting a last-minute cancellation at the end of May and went to a clinic in Toronto. I got to the center early, ready and excited to leave with an answer. To test for CS, they make you run until you experience the telltale-CS sudden onset of pain and then they jab you with a needle to measure the pressure in your muscle compartment. The problem in my case was that I experienced more of a constant discomfort rather than a sudden onset of pain. Nevertheless, they put me on the treadmill and told me to go until it hurt (twss). Now I must remind you all that I have not run, let alone done ANY weight-bearing activity, since February! I started to jog at 6mph and I won’t lie, it did not feel easy. I could feel my shin but it was the same dull discomfort as always. I figured I needed to go pretty hard to make it worse, so I turned up the speed to 8mph. Shin felt the same. After a few minutes I figured I’d better go hard or go home. I couldn’t leave this place without knowing that I reproduced my symptoms as best I could. So I turned the incline to 4% and increased my speed to 9mph. At this point, I began to wheeze. My legs felt like jelly and I thought I may – for the first time – fly of the treadmill. My shin worsened a bit but still, no sudden increase in pain. I kept going, feeling like I was running a 3:20 last km of a marathon. I literally thought I was going to die. ‘You can’t stop!’ I told myself, ‘you don’t feel injured, you just feel out of shape!’ This continued for what felt like hours, until I could have no more, and I jumped off the spinning machine, heaving and sweating like an animal. It had been 14 minutes.

After I eventually hobbled back to the testing room, the doctor nonchalantly pulled out a giant needle and stabbed me in the shin. “This might hurt a little!” he chirped as he moved it around my muscle compartment. I yelped out in pain. Perhaps this was the stabbing pain I was supposed to feel when I was running? I wasn’t sure. “Now can you flex your foot?” I tried to pull my toes up, only to be met with more stabs of pain. “Um, NO!!!” I answered. Instead of realizing this was because it hurt like a mo-fo, he assumed I was incapable of flexing my foot and took it upon himself to force my foot upwards. “OH MY GOD!” I screamed. “Okay, you’re done!” he said as he pulled out the needle. I sat on the bed, my shin throbbing, my heart pounding and my legs quivering. I had barely begun to integrate all my sources of pain when the doctor turned around and said “NOPE! Test is negative. You don’t have compartment syndrome!” I must have glared at him pretty hard, since he continued “Um, isn’t this a good thing? I’ve never seen a patient who was unhappy with a negative test!”

I limped out of the office in a bit of a daze. Should I be happy? Sad? Frustrated? I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that I was in pain and that I still didn’t have a diagnosis. What’s worse, is that if it was actually remaining tendon damage then I had probably just made it a lot worse by hammering my shin on the treadmill. Fast-forward two months later, and I now have the results of an MRI that show no tendon, muscle or bone abnormalities in my shin. What the EFF?! Apparently it might be a nerve issue. Needless to say, it’s all voodoo to me now. My current hypothesis is that Tony got back his voodoo doll and it’s payback time. Perhaps a trip to Taiwan would cure me after all?!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Making things write

Alright people, I have to admit I have been sucking at the blog scene lately. My life has been a little up and down. Ha, understatement of the year!

It’s been 8 months since I’ve been able to run. I am obviously quite frustrated but I also realize there must be a reason. I must be doing (or not doing) something that has made it drag on this long. I’ve considered a few possibilities, but have been too distracted and/or stressed out to make any drastic changes. More on that after I vent about my latest excuses for not taking care of myself.

At the end of April, I got the OK from my PhD committee to begin to write up my thesis. Essentially this means I have the summer to write a few hundred pages about what I’ve done in the last five years and explain why it’s important. In the fall, I will submit this fat book of science garble to a bunch of smart scientists, who will tear it apart, pick out its weaknesses and grill me on it for two or three hours. Once they’ve challenged me to the point that I am on the verge of thinking I am the dumbest human being on the face of the earth, they will suddenly stop and say “congrats, here’s your PhD!” It’s a strangely anti-climactic way of receiving a degree you’ve been working your ass off on for six years, but I have finally come to accept this abuse as simply the ‘form of education’ of grad school.

Perhaps this is why getting your PhD is such a long, grueling process. You are constantly questioned, challenged and guilt-tripped to the point that – unless you are a remarkably resilient and confident person – you feel like you are completely worthless. Although many emotions can go up and down, the feelings of guilt and stupidity will never leave you until you graduate (I hope that then, they do in fact vanish!). Getting sucked into this vortex means feeling guilty for sleeping for four hours instead of being proud you worked for twenty, thinking you will get recognition from your boss for never taking any vacations and working weekends until it just becomes expected of you, and ultimately becoming bitter about life in general. Thankfully, this intense depression doesn’t usually set in until the end, at which point you can *usually* muster up the courage to finish. I have heard many stories about how students have ended their PhDs. Some have ended happily, some not, but one common theme is a stretch of legit depression.

Studies have been published, and blogs have been written on the subject!


I suppose the last few months have been my stretch – at least I hope it was. I have not been happy at all. I will freely admit that now. I have felt lost, lonely, stupid, and like I don’t know what I want in life. It hasn’t helped that I haven’t been running. I have had no endorphin rush or outlet to vent my frustrations. I didn’t realize how dependent I had become on running to get me through times of stress. I think one day I complained to my labmates that my martini consumption was getting out of hand, when a new postdoc in my lab confided in me that it could always be worse. Apparently the last 6 months of her PhD she was going through a 26oz bottle of vodka every few days and smoking a pack of cigarettes a day...and she is also a runner! It gave me some perspective...but perhaps the wrong kind. Just because it could be worse, doesn’t mean it’s alright.

Which brings me to the past few weeks. I got the OK to write up and I can now see the proverbial finish line of my PhD. I had anticipated this moment for so why did I still feel a void? Why wasn’t I happy or satisfied? Perhaps it was because (as it goes in grad school) my committee had to make me feel guilty about writing up before giving me permission. And perhaps it meant I then had to acknowledge other aspects of my life that aren’t entirely uplifting. Whatever the reasons, I still wasn’t happy and I still felt lost. Last week I finally completely broke down, at a moment that I have since realized was both the worst and best moment to do so. It was in the middle of a meeting with my supervisor and several other scientists – not very professional – but in the end, it finally relayed the severity of my situation to both myself and those around me. I was forced to acknowledge to a lot of people that I was suffering. However, contrary to my fears, this didn’t perpetuate disappointment or admonishment! No one called me weak or stupid! Instead, I realized that there are many people who actually care about me and just want me to be matter what I have to do. It was incredibly uplifting to hear such kind and supportive words, especially from my supervisor.

Since then I have gone back to Vancouver and seen my family, another incredible source of kindness and support. My parents are amazing people. I can’t express in words how much I love them. After talking things through with them and other friends, I’ve realized that it’s all about perspective. Things really aren’t that bad, in fact they are quite good and I am a very lucky person in the grand scheme of life. And if I take a little control over things, I can make them even better. So here I am, with a renewed sense of optimism and motivation to get healthy and finish my degree. If there is one thing I know, it’s that I am not done with running and I will do whatever it takes to get back to my athletic life.

Amazing parents

Relaxing in beautiful Vancity

My current game plan is to go back to the sports doctor and figure out what’s going on with my shin. Why am I feeling this perpetual tightness, it just doesn’t make sense. I hope to get another ultrasound and an MRI to see what’s going on in the tissue and/or to see what stage of healing it’s at. I am seeing my fantastic physio Greg (check it!) twice a week for treatment. I haven’t exercised at all in a week, but that’s not even the point here, I want to gain the weight I said I would for real. I’m not messing around anymore, just going to get it done. I have heard from other elites that when they are leaner they don’t heal as well, and if that’s the reason behind all these shenanigans then that is so stupid! It’s the easiest thing to solve. My dad is trying to lose 5-10lbs, so we are going pound-for-pound for the next month to even each other out. I like it!

I am also back out coaching my awesome Ninja group every Tuesday night. I haven’t talked much about them before, but I will soon have to dedicate a blog to them. They are a great, positive and motivated bunch of distance runners. They killed a 7k workout last night and it made me so happy to see how far some of them have come in the past year. Go NINJAS!

I am feeling much more relaxed and positive about things, perhaps too much so since it’s been 3 weeks since I’ve been given permission to write up and I’ve only written a few paragraphs. Time to stop procrastinating and start writing, and that includes my blog!

A video that every grad student (or family member/friend affected by the life of a grad student ;) should watch!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

RobbieD in Rotterdam!

Thanks RobbieD for that poignant recap of my life. Despite some minor details (a tear drop? Common!) it is - sadly - quite accurate. I have been sucked into a vortex of science (see! Now my metaphors are even scientific!). In the past some people have confused me working at MaRS with me being on planet Mars; now I don't bother correcting them. I have essentially been swallowed by an alternate universe. I just hope that I don't get usurped by a black hole and vanish eternally.

That being said, I am somewhat aware of the occurences happening in the outside world. First of all, it is April! Thanks, anonymous poster, for reminding me of the changing months. Living on Mars I am frequently not aware of this subjective thing called 'time.' Second, it is racing season! It's a good thing my co-worker is a triathlete gearing up for Goodlife, otherwise the world of shin pounding may have entirely escaped me!

Thus, I am also aware (perhaps also due to Le Rob periodically invading Mars to make sure I haven't died along with my mice) that Rotterdam is fast approaching. There is nothing I am more excited for, though given my current thresholds of excitement perhaps this isn't saying much. Yesterday I jumped for joy after getting my pipettes calibrated. Last week the highlight of my week was inventing a new science pun*, which was promptly shut down by my labmate Korris. I protested that I'd test out my awesome new joke at lab meeting, where I would SURELY receive a 'Korris' of laughter.
(I think at that point he put his head down and walked away. Or hit me, I can't quite remember...)

Anyway, I digress, how very non-linear and unnerd-like of me! Getting back to Rotterdam - since Le Rob did you all a favour by sharing a flattering recap of my life as of late, I will return the favour and recap why Le Rob will make a great marathoner - this weekend and beyond.

Most of you know Rob through le Blog. You think you know him pretty well eh? Well I can assure you, internet Rob and real Rob are quite different. Actually that's a lie, they are pretty much the same. But there are some important things about Le Rob that the casual le Blog du Rob reader won't fully appreciate.

In his blog, Le Rob comes off as joking, light-hearted and positive, yet sometimes aggressive, wreckless and crude. (Ok, forget the 'sometimes' on that latter statement. After all, his blog WAS voted 18A by Canadian Running.) Although most of these traits are true to Rob, there is much more depth to him than you would think. I know, hard to believe, right? But it is these extra facets of his personality that truly give him an edge. Those who doubt what Le Rob can (and will) do, don't know the real Rob.

First of all, he is a smart guy. Yep, I know you are all saying 'No way!!!" but it is true! He may spit out spelling mistakes and incorrect grammar on a regular basis, fail to divide his posts into organized paragraphs and write in brain-joggling run-on sentences, but he's got some smarts nonetheless. (I am pretty sure my last sentence was a run-on anyway, it happens to the best of us ;). Heck sometimes he is just completely incoherent, but that is probably because he is drunk. Rob won't deny that the dumbest things he does usually stem while being severely intoxicated. So providing he does not replace his morning beet juice with beer, he's good to go!

Getting back to my main point, Rob knows what's up. He keeps his goals in mind and takes steps every day to make sure he will achieve them. That starts from his daily runs and workouts to proper nutrition, strength work, rest and mental prep. To elaborate on the latter point, Rob is a master of adopting the right attitude. He knows that positive thoughts will bring positive results, so he works hard to keep that mindset. Sometimes he says such ridiculous things that I mistake his positive mindset for extreme childlike naivety (keep in mind, I have a mildly cynical personality). It could be blizzarding and slizzarding out and instead of complaining, he'll stress how WELL this was going to prepare him for the marathon! 'If I can run 50k in this,' he'd bubble, 'I am going to smash this marathon! Let's get 'er goin'!' Anything negative that happens, you can count on RobbieD to focus on the positive.

He is also pretty astute with his recovery. I know, after watching the pitiful recovery video he posted in NC you might think otherwise. 'Does recovery mean drinking a lot of beer and eating a lot of cookies?' one might ask. Well, believe it or not, this is a very small component of his recovery routine. I would actually call the beer his reward system and his recovery just another part of his training grind. Foam rolling, plantar digging, icing, re-fuelling, sleeping - he'll give his body what it needs. Though I am a terrible judge of sleeping habits. But he does sleep a lot more than me, so that has to count for something?

Second, he works freakishly hard. We all know RobbieD is talented, but not everyone knows how hard he works. There is pretty much nothing that can get in the way of him getting his training in. And I have probably tested him in every way. Get him really drunk? Nope, 'running is the best hangover cure!' he'll chirp. Schedule something between the hours of 6AM-1PM? Nope, he'll wake up at 4:30AM and get at least one of his training sessions in. I am pretty sure if you stole all of his running gear from him he would do his long run in jeans and bare feet (I was going to say dress shoes, but he would never wear dress shoes. Ever.) What's more, is that he knows how to make it hurt (twss). That's fundamentally why I think he will be a successful marathoner. Rob can grind through anything, he grinds until he convinces himself he likes the grind and it's no longer a grind. So when the grind hits everyone at 30k, Rob's legs will finally start to feel comfortable, and he'll kill it.

Finally, le Rob may never admit this to his internet friends, but he has a huge heart. This is not just beneficial for efficiently pumping blood to all of his working muscles, though it does help him run faster in that regard. His big heart is evident by how much he cares for and how well he treats people that matter to him. And one of the things dearest to his heart is running. This gives him a motivation that's deeper than talent, commitment and enjoyment of the sport. He loves running to the very core of his being. It is so clear to anyone that knows him that that is deep down why he runs. He'd be out there grinding out daily runs even if he were hammering 5:00/km repeats, because he loves it.

There is a famous quote that says to run a great marathon, you must 'Run the first part with your head, the second with your legs, and the third with your heart.' If that's the case, my friends, le Rob is ready to dominate.

Go get 'em RobbieD!

*Ooooh you want to know my science pun! It is truly great. Essentially I am looking for an interaction between two proteins, PP2A and ERK. I have done some preliminary experiments that suggest that they do in fact interact, but the main experiment remains to be completed. After discussing these exciting lead-up studies with my co-worker, I exclaimed 'Wow! If this next experiment doesn't work, I will be so ERKed!' [enter cackles of laughter here]. I know, brilliant, right?!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Blog #68

Hey there, so if you’re like me then you are probably wondering what the heck is going on here at the Coolis blog, why has this sucker not been updated in so long? What’s the deal? What‘s going on with our favourite Canadian Female Runner/Blogger!? Well folks I hate to break it to you, but Jane is dead...haha, just kidding, she’s alive, just busy as hell that’s all. She simply does not have the time nor the energy to blog right now. This will happen, shit gets pretty stressful and hectic when you are trying to finish up a PhD in Medical Biophysics (yeah, that is a real thing I swear).

I (rob) on the other hand have too much time and too much energy. Therefore I am gonna write a blog here for the Coolis. Gonna give ya a quick update on what is going on in the life of Coolis...well actually I don’t know exactly what is going on with her. I have only briefly spoken to the Coolis, so I have a basic outline at best, I’ll make up the rest as we go. Okay let’s get at it.

We’ll start with an update on Jane’s shin. Her shin is annoying and stupid, it is slowly and surly getting better, that’s good. But it’s still kind of a sensitive topic, we’re not gonna talk about it right now. The lack of running has really opened up some free time in Jane’s schedule, what is she suppose to do at 5am now that she can’t run? Well Jane has taken to dominating the weight room. She has been throwing the iron around like a gosh darn maniac. She is getting huge! Home girl can legit lift 100lbs right over her head, it’s insane! She’s an animal! Jane has really gotten into the whole meathead, weight lifting scene, she even started doing mixed martial arts. She’s pretty good too. Jane had her first official MMA fight the other day, it was awesome, she punched the other girl right in the face and then tapped her out with a perfectly executed guillotine choke, quite impressive. Do not mess with the Coolis.

Jane is not just about weight lifting and physical violence, she’s also quite smart. Let’s do a quick update on her schooling. Jane is killing it with her school stuff. She is a top notch researcher and scientist. I’ve seen her in action it’s quite cool. Well, except for when she has to do experiments on mice, that shit is disgusting and disturbing. First she gives a mouse cancer for a while then she kills it. It is unnerving, but I guess it is necessary. It’s not like she’s testing chemicals on the mice for Proctor&Gamble or anything. This is for science! We’re trying to cure cancer here! I have looked over her research and notes and such. It’s very solid stuff, and if I do say so myself, I’m pretty sure that she is well on her way to finding a cure, I’m saying like 5years tops until Jane has taken care of it. My girl is wicked smart (read that last line like this) School however is very time consuming and stressful sometimes, so let’s move on.

Jane got a haircut. It’s kinda short. The front part is shorter than the back part, It’s still blond and she keeps it pretty straight. Looks good I’d say. She probably paid like $400 on it though, chicks are always paying ridiculous amounts of money on their hair. Girls are weird about their hair. Jane also might get a tattoo, she’s been thinking about it a lot. She’s narrowed it down to either a tribal arm band or a tear drop. Either way, she is gonna get inked up. It will add to her street cred, her MMA friends will surly approve.

Adding some more badassness to Jane’s recent activities is that she went to a sweet rock and roll show the other day. Jane generally does not like music with guitars. She prefers music made by computers and robots. But she was forced to listen to a whole lotta Chuck Ragan there for a bit and she developed a soft spot for the guy. Chuck happened to be in town and she agreed to go to the show. I had gone to a computer themed music show with her, so she owed me. Jane brought along Tim and Mauricio. They are also big fans of computer music, they are also Jane’s best buds. The three of em’ make up a pretty solid/intimidating posse. Jane’s other friend Noah also came. Noah actually likes guitars, apparently he can shred on one pretty good. Noah is a good dude, but he had to leave early to conduct an experiment. Yeah, Noah left a Chuck Ragan show early for the sake of science. He just got his PhD though, so I guess that will happen sometimes...Nerd.

Tim and Mauricio, cool dudes.

Dr. Noah. Yep...nerd.

So speaking of nerds, let’s not forget folks, Jane is a big science nerd. Don’t be fooled by the blond hair, pretty face and outgoing personality. She is a huge nerd. She will straight up do science until she passes out. It is crazy, she loves that shit. Big nerd, yep, that’s Jane.

Anyways, the guitar music show was at Lee’s Palace. Jane tried to order a Martini, it was a hilarious failure. The bartender just looked at her and told her she was at the “wrong place for that” then walked away. She settled for cheap vodka on the rocks. She didn’t seem to mind. Jane had a lot of fun at the Chuck Ragan show it was wicked. She has a new appreciation for guitars and she now has a soft spot for fiddlers.
Since the show Jane has gotten back into her 19hr work days and has not been heard from since. She actually might be dead for real this time. I hope she is not dead. But if she is I guess I’ll see ya’ll at the funeral. We’ll pour a Vodka Martini with extra olives on the curb in honor of our fallen friend.



Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Perfect Runner

Finally, The Nature of Things is featuring an episode on a subject of REAL importance: running!* The Perfect Runner, produced and narrated by anthropologist Niobe Thompson, challenges the modern perspective of distance running. Most find running a difficult and painful form of exercise; however, Thompson reveals that it is an activity that humans were born to do.

Throughout the documentary Thompson talks with evolutionary biologist Dr. Daniel Lieberman, a professor at Harvard. Dr. Lieberman explains that humans have adapted over millions of years to become nature's best endurance athletes. Prehistoric humans were hunters who relied on their ability to run long distances to catch their prey. As a result, we have developed a number of features designed to allow us to run farther than any other animal.

Ethiopian elites: Nature or nurture?

Thompson showcases top athletes from Ethiopia and natives of artic Siberia in order to demonstrate how humans have developed to be fine-tuned running machines. These are two of the few remaining cultures that continue to practice running as a way of life and a means of survival. Unfortunately, a modern society where physical activity has been replaced by office chairs and fast food has stunted our growth as a running species. Thompson, however, is among some in the developed world who have tapped in to their inner distance runner. In the documentary, he attempts one of the most grueling ultramarathons in the Canadian Rockies and tests the limits of his own endurance.

Niobe Thompson running the Canadian Death Race

The Perfect Runner is filled with fascinating science and thrilling adventure and is a must-see for distance runners and sedentary folk alike. After all, we were ALL born to run!

Make sure to tune into CBC on Thursday, March 15th at 8PM to watch!

*I kid, Uncle Dave! Don't run me down...

Here is the trailer:

The Perfect Runner, Official Trailer from Niobe Thompson on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stepping Back

"Sometimes you have to back up to go forward"
-Bryan the elephant seal, Happy Feet 2

A lot of athletes have been talking about recovery lately. Hilary Stellingwerf posted an excellent blog on the importance of rest and recovery for optimal performance; Dylan Wykes walked his readers through his daily recovery routine; Eric Gillis shared his post-workout smoothie; Rob Watson mentioned he was reading more about recovery in this new phase of his marathon training. Coincidentally, I just finished reviewing a book on recovery by Sage Rountree, The Athlete's Guide to Recovery. In it, Sage Rountree discusses why recovery is so important and judges the effectiveness of a multitude of recovery techniques in a practical, scientifically-supported manner. It is an excellent, comprehensive guide that I would highly recommend to both elite and recreational runners. After all, recovery is essential for optimal performance as well as a healthy, long enjoyment of any sport.

There is a reason that the top athletes are taking recovery seriously. At the elite level, it can separate Olympians from Olympic hopefuls. In order to reap the benefits of the hard work you put into training, you need to rest and re-build, both physically and mentally. As my old varsity coach Dennis Barrett used to say, "You get faster when you rest, not when you train." This includes day-to-day things like taking in proper nutrition after a workout and icing or massage after a particularly tough session. It extends to weekly practices like spacing out workouts appropriately, sleeping well at night and taking rest days. It stretches further to annual breaks from training that can last from a week to a month, depending on the intensity of the year or a particular season. The common theme is that we must maintain a balance between building and resting on every level in order to be the strongest we can. The concept of stress, adaptation and growth is relevant in all realms of life and athleticism is a natural extension of this.

If we constantly impose stress without giving ourselves time to adapt, we will become weaker, sick, injured, or simply mentally drained. The amount of time it takes to adapt depends on your activity, your level of fitness, the intensity or length of the workout or season, and the individual. It is ultimately the athlete's responsibility to track how they are feeling to make sure they don't push their bodies over that fine stress vs. distress line.

Unfortunately, for most athletes resting is tougher to do than train hard. It opposes the athletic mindset, which is usually to work harder, do more and to become comfortable suffering. This attitude has been exacerbated by a modern culture that promotes action as the only means of achieving results. We tend to think that whatever our goal is, it is only being attained when we are working on it. We associate the opposite action - rest and downtime - as being unproductive or detrimental to our progress. When was the last time your boss said he was impressed by your ability to relax?! It is unfortunate, since it's those periods of downtime that make us stronger in the long run (pun intended).

In The Athlete's Guide to Recovery Rountree quotes Hippocrates, who observed centuries ago that "to do nothing is sometimes a good remedy." Oh, what wise words those are! As someone who has been struggling to recover from an injury for five months, I have been giving deep thought to my balance between stress and rest. I've not only looked over the last few months, but the months of training leading up to my injury and my years as a runner in their entirety. I am at the point now where I am willing to do just about anything to get healthy again. The last thing I want is for my shin to be the end of my running days. What would I do then? Become a professional running blogger who doesn't actually run? (I've thought about it, wouldn't be a very happy place for me)

What I've realized in the past few weeks is that I have to look at recovery not in terms of my one body part, or even as a runner, but as an entire human being. I have taken mental breaks from competition with periods of easy training. I have taken physical breaks of 1-2 weeks off running. I have taken days to entire weeks off exercise completely. But during those times, I have not given myself complete rest. I would do things like go out and party every day; my diet would go down the tubes; or I'd work 12-hour days to catch up on work. The commonality in my life is that I replace one stress with another. Physiologically, stress is stress. Your blood pressure increases, your heart rate goes up, you produce adrenaline and cortisol. Ultimately, stress at work takes a toll on your body as does a hard workout at the gym. Partying tires your body out in the same way. Not eating sufficient or nutritious foods will impose stress on your body too. Maybe this is common and perhaps some people can get by doing this. But last week I decided that I don't want to. If I want to give myself the best and fastest chance of a full recovery (and a fast future!), I have to take care of myself in a wholistic way. Reduce my exercise; strengthen my shin; eat well; sleep a lot; drink minimally; and avoid working more to fill my extra time. This may sound simple to most people out there, but I'm G.I. Jane people! For me backing off and giving in to real rest is very tough.

As most of you know I got my wisdom teeth out a few weeks ago and thought that this was the perfect chance for me to force myself to rest and get better. Yep. On a liquid diet! Oh Jane. Not surprisingly, I lost weight and probably became slightly malnourished (getting most of my calories from ice cream, nice). Although my shin felt better, the tendon didn't get any stronger and when I went back to exercise, it started to tighten up again. The key to (hopefully) curing tendinosis is to build strength back into the tendon gradually. Once again, the cycle of stress, adaptation and growth applies. Only with tendinosis, it takes a long time to adapt - I read somewhere that laying down new collagen matrix can take up to 100 days! That's over three months of patient strength-building before my tendon is strong enough to withstand any other additional stresses! There is no magic bullet for tendinosis, so my only hope is to build my strength and be patient and not rush into training too soon (as I did in December). In addition to strengthening the shin, I am reducing my cross-training substantially. I have no workouts longer than 60min, I am taking complete days off exercise every week, I am drinking less and am improving my diet. I weigh a good 6-8lbs less than I did a year ago, which I am sure has not been good for my recovery. I think that my new regime will foster the growth of a healthier, happier body - and hopefully a strong shin too.

(If not, I'm having a huge party and getting back on the vodka!)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mastering the (bloody) art of recovery

After the drugs wore off five days ago, I quickly realized that tooth extractions aren’t as fun as I initially thought. When I got out of surgery I was pretty high on whatever drugs they injected me with, I felt no pain and I was in a very happy, flowery place. A few hours later, however, the euphoria began to dissipate and was replaced with a steady, throbbing pain in my mouth and head. This was compounded with endless bleeding that no amount of gauze could stop. Mauricio and Tim tried to distract me with funny episodes of Modern Family, but I could hardly focus on the screen and generated forced, weak all the wrong moments. When they realized this wasn’t just my naturally odd sense of humour and that I was not engaged in their company at all, they left me to my own devices.

Baby food = terrible idea. But kind of worth it to see Mauricio try it, and like it?!

Sometimes leaving me to my own devices is not a good idea. In my defense, the actions I took in the first 24hrs of my ‘recovery’ were NOT entirely my fault. What kind of dentist gives you specific instructions on after-surgery care while you are still high?! I had absolutely no recollection of what he told me – things like ‘avoid hot liquids,’ ‘avoid sucking on things,’ (twss) ‘take Tylenol instead of NSAIDS,’ ‘avoid smoking’ and of course, ‘avoiding any kind of exercise’ (all of which promote bleeding). So when I decided I needed to fill my belly with something, what do I choose other than two cups of steaming hot tea and a litre of hot almond milk? And when my head won’t stop throbbing, what do I take other than a bunch of IBUprofen? I topped these great decisions off with a trip to work on the day of my surgery, more hot liquids and succumbing to a sugar craving with a giant lollipop in the evening.

By the way, I was JOKING about the smoking. (Nic)

I woke up the next morning to one of the most horrific sights I have ever seen. There is nothing more shocking than turning on the lights in your bathroom and being exposed to what you realize must be your face, smeared with blood and dried up saliva. It was terrifying. What was worse was opening my mouth and seeing it filled with partially clotted blood. I felt like I belonged on the set of The Walking Dead. I rinsed things out and tried to put myself together, took a few more IBUprofen (genius!), and went to work. After working for a few hours and feeling decent, naturally I thought ‘Oh, why not go to the gym!’ and there went intelligent decision number one hundred (now I know why they call them wisdom teeth). Even though I only did a very easy bike – barely reaching 70rpms at low resistance – it was enough to get my blood pressure up and initiate further bleeding of my gums. Unfortunately, this time when I checked my mouth in the mirror I was in the washroom of the gym, prompting an ‘OH MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED!’ from the woman standing next to me. Woops.

When I got home the bleeding only got worse, leading me to believe that I likely dislodged the forming blood clot since it had become a bright red stream of fresh blood. I gauzed it, I iced my cheeks, I placed wet tea bags on my gums (no, I didn’t go insane, apparently this helps blood clotting. In my case it did not.) Unfortunately I made the mistake of texting my mother ‘I won’t stop bleeding!’ – and whereas my friends told me not to worry and gave me sensible advice such as to continue to apply pressure and sit upright - my mom frantically texted me back: “GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM OR CALL YOUR DOCTOR OR 911 NOW.” (Seconds later, after calling and receiving no answer...because my mouth was stuffed with gauze) “TELL ME WHAT IS HAPPENING!! WHAT’S GOING ON?!!!!”

I was ready to have a heart attack. I was already incredibly stressed that the bleeding wouldn’t stop, now I thought I was going to die and had to be rushed to emergency. I thought moms were supposed to be a source of comfort?! Mine was stressing the crap out of me! So, I turned my phone off, eventually passed out at 4am, and again woke up in a bloodbath.

At this point, I learned my lesson. For the rest of the week I pretty much stayed in one position unless I ventured out to get a frappuccino, a smoothie or ice cream (or new pillows...).

These things are amazing.

Daily nutrition

To be honest, I could get used to this. I am loving it. At the back of my mind I know that complete time off will be good for my shin, so it’s easy to justify being super careful and taking a week off of everything – work, running, cross-training and social activities. Over the past four nights/days, I have averaged 12.5 hours of sleep per day. I haven’t behaved like this since high school! It is totally awesome. The only thing that really sucks is not being able to eat solid food. I am getting pretty sick of it. Not just because I crave real food like a normal human being, but I am trying to put on some weight and being restricted to liquids adds a slight challenge to this feat. Le Blog du Rob has suggested I go on a ‘Peanut Butter and Chocolate Milkshake’ Coldstone diet for the next week, which I have to say is a pretty brilliant idea. I had no idea how many calories are in those things! 1750 in one large milkshake. That’s insane! Who consumes these drinks?! Throw in two more for three ‘meals’ a day and I’m up to 5,250 calories while sitting motionless. There’s no way I wouldn’t put on 5lbs in a week. Well done Rob, I have no excuse now. I just hope the vomiting I experience after a few of those doesn’t dislodge anymore bloodclots...

Great time for my can opener to shatter into pieces.

Thank you to the delicious Mocha Frapp for getting me through this week! I highly recommend.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

High before the low

So I got all four of my wisdom teeth out today. I figured I didn’t have enough injuries to nurse, so I introduced four wounds inside my mouth to make things more interesting. Now I can rotate packs of ice from my shin to my cheeks at 15 minute intervals and spend entire days on recovery. Just like a real pro like Dylan Wykes or Eric Gillis! I may not be getting in morning 24-milers...or any kind of workout for that matter...but details, details! It’s the post-workout routine that makes you fast, right? I could especially learn a thing or two from Gillis on concocting the perfect peanut butter smoothie, since I am reduced to liquids at the moment. His mix of ingredients alone makes me drool! Well, I am actually drooling all the time right now, but that’s beside the point (it’s a pretty gritty bloody drool too, not very nice). But I have a feeling this smoothie would cure it. My only problem (only – HA!) is that I don’t own a blender. I never realized how terrible this was until now. Pretty much anything I want to eat right would have to be blended. What do I do?

Well, first I slurped an entire carton of vanilla almond milk out of a bowl. That was pretty good. It also gave me enough glucose to devise a plan to conquer tomorrow’s breakfast. Buy some mushy bananas, scratch the crunchy peanut butter in favour of the smooth stuff, and coat and squish my bananas with the peanut butter (that's what he said?!). Then, microwave the hell out of my frozen berries until they are reduced to a purple berry mush that I can then top with gobs of honey and greek yogurt. And voila, I’ve got a baby-fied version of a classic Coolis breakfast! Brilliant! (I will let you know how this goes, knowing my luck the berries will be full of seeds I can’t eat and the bananas will be so old they’ll make me sick).

Delicious Almond Milk...soup?

The surgery itself went smoothly. I was in and out in 45min (twhs). When the doctor arrived he rolled up my sleeve and set up the IV anesthetic into my arm. His first words were ‘Wow, you have really BIG arms!’ My heart jumped. He noticed my newly bulging biceps!!! I was about to delve into a detailed account of my weight routine, until I caught the smirk on his face and realized he was being completely sarcastic. If only he knew how proud I was of my guns. ‘Umm...yeah...they are huge aren’t they?!’ I joked back, trying to hide my shame and disappointment. ‘I can fit my hand around your entire bicep!’ He continued in an amused tone. Just rub it in a little more eh? I thought to myself. What an A-hole! ‘Ha! And I actually do weights!’ I informed him. ‘Here I was thinking I was developing some strength, and you totally shut me down. Thanks doctor!’ He chuckled to himself. ‘Seriously? You do weights?’ Thankfully at this point he had started to administer the IV and that was the end of our conversation. I think he knew that if I stayed awake he’d get a taste of my guns in his face. That’s right. Don’ mess.

Coolis pre-op. A little nervous.

I woke up in what seemed like an instant later, feeling, well, pretty friggin great! I felt no pain and was in quite a wonderful mood. Naturally, my first instinct was to Tweet this to the world. Unfortunately my motor skills were mildly encumbered, as my Tweet came out something like ‘So high rihjt noe’. I wonder how this would have come out if I had had auto-correct on my phone? ‘So high riding doe’? (twss) I then proceeded to text random people on my phone, including my coach, to whom I blurted ‘I am so high rihht now omg this is cray cray wee3eeeeee!’ After a minute, I received a stern answer back asking ‘High on WHAT??? I hope you are kidding Jane.’ Turns out (after speaking to her hours later) she actually almost had a heart attack, thinking I was actually high on heroin at 9am on a Sunday morning. ‘She’s hit an ultimate low,’ Nic thought to herself. She even said she wanted to call me but couldn’t face talking to me while I was high on drugs, it was too upsetting. Oh Nic! Who do you think I am? (Well ok, I suppose there are some substances I enjoy, but I do not enjoy anything hard unless it’s vodka! (twss?))

The nurse then began to instruct me on what I could and couldn’t do in the next few days, which included no running until Thursday. I remained silent (thinking I was maintaining an obedient demeanour), but according to my buddy Tim I was giving her a terrible, evil stare as she spoke. I don’t really remember responding after her long ramble but witnesses also say that I told her I was going to run anyway. This did not make her happy. ‘And none of your crazy weight lifting either!’ She finished emphatically. I think I rolled my eyes at this point and she stormed out of the room. (I have the feeling they really like me at that dentist office.)

Beautiful post-op flowers from the 'rents!

That being said, I am taking the next week as a down week since I am now nursing five sore spots (my cap is four, naturally). I think my wisdom teeth operation comes at a good time since things have been going downhill with my shin and it will force me to rest. Despite my current shin soreness, I am actually quite optimistic about it. Why? Well, I have been doing very heavy weight-lifting in order to strengthen the tendon that I damaged. I’ve been going at this full tilt, dorsi-flexing thirty pounds of weight on the cable and strengthening it like no other. Apparently my little shin muscles couldn’t take it, however, and that stress along with all my cross-training and physiotherapy treatment has strained a bunch of the muscles beside the tendon. This has all happened so gradually that I didn’t even realize it was a new area, I just thought my old injury was getting worse and that was pretty depressing. Thank god for physio Greg who astutely pointed out that my tendon was no longer sore but that ‘muscle man’ next door was now the sore spot. We agree that this is quite positive, first because muscle will heal faster than tendon and second because my initial injury seems to really (finally) be almost there! I am hoping that backing off another week will finally get this thing healed! The shin will not be the end of me!

Alright, off to concoct some kind of liquid dinner, I am really craving my brussel spouts...I wonder what would happen if I microwaved them for like ten minutes....

Oh and in case anyone is interested in Coolis on Heroin, my really great friends took a wonderful video of me post surgery. They are so thoughtful!

Edit: I've been asked to write out the barely discernable dialogue between my friend Mauricio and I, so here it is...

M: Hello Coolis
J: I wanna get all my teeth out. [laughing]This is awesome.
M: You sound like there’s a lot of crap in your mouth
J: Is this going to stay in here all day?
M: That’s what she said
M: What are you watching here
J: It looks like a dog is playing piano.
M: Are you sure?
J: Not anymore..
M: We started laughing because as soon as you were out, you were tweeting and texting right away.
J: But I can’t spell!
J: I’m like whatever, they’ll figure it out...I wonder if this is what heroin feels like?
M: Oh man.
M: Maybe, I’ve heard...
J: ...Really?
M: Yeah
J: ...uh-oh...That is NOT good!
J: Oh...I feel really good...
J: When I woke up they were like ‘Hey it went really well, how do you feel? I was like ‘GRRRREAT’ and then I’m like trying to get up and she was like ‘No!’ and she had to like pick me up and bring me here. I’m like ‘No, I’m alright!’
M: Do you feel sleepy at all?
J: I just feel very peaceful.
M: Awww...
J: I’m not stressed out anymore! I could meet with Rob right now he could tell me anything and I’d be like ‘Alllllright!’

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

G.I. Jane: Plank Master of the World

It’s been a while since I’ve updated and I’ve probably lost all of my followers. Alas, my shin has continued to act like a sine wave so I haven’t really felt like talking about running. After several weeks of thinking intensely about how I could avoid the conundrum of wanting to blog but not wanting to address Little Focker (the new name of my weak limb), I finally found the answer: I just won’t talk about it! Genius! So, here I am.

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time at the gym lately, getting my buff on and training to break the world record for longest plank hold. I figure since I won’t be running any PBs anytime soon, I had better seek my competitive fix somewhere else. And since I demolish everyone at circuits with my flawless form and unwaivering plank hold, I clearly have a legit shot to take it a step further and go for the world record. Ok, maybe 33 minutes and 40s is a few steps further than my current five minutes of fame, but I have no doubt I can reach it by the time my shin heals...which may I have plenty of time! Importantly though, if you throw in the whole rotating plank set, I can easily achieve twelve minutes, so I basically I am a third of the way there. What is perhaps more motivating, however, is that the world record holder is a 68-year-old man. This fact in and of itself is going to catapult me into the world of plank domination. Common! How could I not hold the plank position for longer than a 70-year-old? I refuse to accept this and am thus determined to end 2012 with a new title of ‘Plank Master of the World.’ It is a way better name than ‘G.I. Jane’ or ‘Shoeless Coolis.’ What have I been thinking all these years, claiming to be hardcore and then failing to give myself a name that includes the words ‘Master of the World’?! Becoming a plank master will also serve to comfort me for never being awarded an official Masters degree. By bypassing the Masters, I am now set to graduate with the flimsy label of Doctor of Philosophy. What kind of obscure, wishy-washy title is that? It makes me sound like I frolicked through the gardens of science for six years, pondering abstract theories and concepts, ultimately never achieving any kind of concrete conclusions. But if I had stopped at a Masters?! I would be called a Master of something. A MASTER of Medical Biophysics. Now that sounds much more impressive! So basically, by becoming G.I. Jane: Plank Master of the World, I will have achieved something athletically this year AND will finally be able to call myself a Master. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this fantastic plan months ago!

So getting back to the gym scene, I think I’d be getting pretty big right now if I wasn’t countering my extremely heavy weight-lifting and plank holding with hours of aerobic cross-training. As a result, my newly ripped arms are still the puniest in the room – at any given time - by FAR. But they look so good when I flex them in front of the mirror in the solitude of my own home! I can’t be that delusional, can I?! Apparently I am, because as soon as I go back to the weight room and see one dude’s arm that’s bigger than my thigh I am reduced to shrimpiness once again. That’s usually the point where I realize that I actually don’t want to get huge as it would probably not make me any faster, especially if my muscle was all concentrated in my arms. Not only would that look pretty peculiar, but it would impede my speed over long distances (and perhaps mess with my balance). That being said, I am definitely getting intrinsically stronger, as I am moving up in weight every two weeks. So it’s not ALL in my head!

Working out at the gym can be quite boring, but it also has its entertaining perks. And where I go, there are an unusual proportion of quirky people. I won’t give specifics on my workout whereabouts, but the fact that I am smack in the middle of downtown TO at 5:30am every morning should give you a general idea of the varied clientele I meet. First, there’s the dude that wears sweats and sunglasses every day. Need I remind you that it is 5:30am in the middle of the winter and the sun doesn’t rise until 8am? And that we are in a brightly-light room? And that no, I am not so ignorant and insensitive as to miss some obvious fact like that he is actually blind? Because he is most certainly not! First, because he runs on the treadmill to warm up, and I’d be pretty impressed to see a blind man run on the treadmill unaided and not fall off. Enough people have issues doing this with perfect vision and years of yoga training. Second, because he accosts just about everyone who enters the gym as soon as he sees them – which is usually before they even get through the door. He could be across the room and promptly yell ‘Heyyyyy [insert friendly nickname here], what is UP dude?! Working on your guns eh?’ and then rush over and give them a big pat on the back, before wandering off looking for more people to impart his funny one-liners onto. Surprisingly, he has yet to confront me and my biceps. I have questioned why...until I realized that he is probably confused by my mere presence. Shouldn’t I be on the treadmill or the elliptical rather than sitting in a testosterone-infused, dumbbell-clanking, sweaty, smelly weight room? I suspect he is waiting it out a few more weeks until he knows whether I will be a true regular there, at which point he will shower me with nicknames and back-pats. This is the day I live for!

Then there’s the old dude who rocks the elliptical every morning. He is there like clockwork and never changes a single step of his routine, yet I am in constant fear that he is about to fall over and die. Once he starts his workout, he lets out a surprisingly ferocious and laboured grunt every two or three minutes. These grunts get increasingly stressful for me - probably why I am convinced they get louder as his workout goes on – even though that probably isn’t the case. It doesn’t help that he is as pale as a ghost, weighs about ninety pounds and achieves a cadence on the elliptical that is about one hundred times faster than he can walk. I am plagued as to whether I should avoid being near him or remain by his side at all times while he is working out should something actually happen. So far I've chosen the latter option, but it's starting to drive me crazy.

It’s not just the patrons that are a little off, but a few of the trainers as well. One guy is known for approaching everyone and correcting them on their form in the weight room. I have heard other people complain about him. So I wasn’t surprised when I was doing plank one day (obviously) and he approached me with a quizzical look on his face. I challenged him with a confident glare to DARE critique my plank form. He stood over me in silence for a minute, then (obviously seeing nothing wrong with my beauteous plank) belted out: ‘You train way too much. You run marathons or something?’ ‘Here we go,’ I thought to myself. The old ‘you are doing too much’ lecture....from a weight lifter! Oh man this was going to be funny. ‘Yes, I run marathons, but I am partially injured right now so I’m supplementing a lot of cardio on the elliptical.’ ‘I see, well you need muscle to run marathons, and you have no muscle. You are very weak.’ What the hell? What kind of person goes up to a complete stranger and says something like that? I was pretty pissed off at this point, so I retorted ‘actually, I may be thin, but that does not mean that I have no muscle. In fact, I am pretty strong, and I am currently going for the world record for longest plank hold’ (OK maybe that last part didn’t quite come out that way...) ‘Oh really?’ he challenged me, ‘I don’t see any muscle on you. I’ve been doing weight training for 55 years and I KNOW you need muscle to run marathons. If you want to be fast you’ve got to do weights, I actually have a great program if you’re interested...’ ‘Thanks but no thanks,’ I continued, ‘I have a coach who was one of the best marathoners Canada has ever had and I am pretty sure she knows what she’s doing. I do circuits and strength work and I am not weak. But thank you for judging me and then proceeding to impart your wisdom onto me, you are a great dude.’ Once again, I didn’t quite say that last sentence, but wow did I ever want to dig into him on his knowledge of endurance training. Since then he has seen me doing weights several times with raised eyebrows. That’s right! G.I. Jane plank master of the world is on her way to domination!

I suppose that is a big enough recap for the time being. I’m getting lots of treatment on my shin so am backing off the running for a bit, gotta get it back to 100%. It is pretty frustrating to say the least but I just hope that I will be completely healed eventually. *Sigh*

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winter over water

I was so comfortable living in denial of an impending Ontario winter, but alas (perhaps quite appropriately), on Friday the 13th I was smacked in the face with it. I jogged to the gym in shorts at 5am under a light drizzle, hammered 90min on the elliptical, and innocently stepped back outside, only to be flung sideways by a massive gust of wind and blinded by a pelleting snowstorm. Awesome! I somehow made it to my Southern destination of Starbucks despite jogging at a 45 degree angle, where I anticipated being greeted with incredulous stares at my naked, flushed stems. Instead I was for once treated like a normal human being. What the? The Starbucks employee even asked me – quite nonchalantly - if it was slippery out. Seriously?! Did she actually think I went for a legit run in shorts in -20C and snowing?! I suppose I am beginning to comprehend just how crazy they think I am.

The next day, however, I bundled up in some impressive ninja attire and did 90min along the Lakeshore. It was -25C with the wind chill, but it actually didn’t feel so bad. After this run, however, I got a slew of comments from everyone all along the lines of “I can’t believe you are running in this!” A familiar face from Starbucks, Matthew, introduced himself to me and proceeded to ask me if I had a certain inclination to running in extreme conditions: “I saw you run every day in the summer through some pretty bad heat waves. And it’s like -20C today! You must run marathons.” I have to say Matthew is pretty astute – he recognizes all kinds of crazy when he sees it. And after watching the marathons in Houston this weekend, I agree you have to be a little whacko to keep at this marathon game. As someone very intelligent once said, “running is a very hard thing.”

All weather aside, it feels great to be back running and doing workouts that do not involve the pool. I think I’m actually scarred from all the swimming and pool running I did. I am terrified at the thought of ever entering a pool again! It did nothing to help my injury and is now only associated with feelings of hoplessness, sadness and despair. Perhaps you may think that I am overreacting but I beg to differ! However, I should probably make up a more hardcore story to defend my pool phobia, like almost freezing to death in the ocean or something. Actually, now that I think of it I did have a near-death experience in water before. It was in the South of France when I was about nine years old. I was playing in the water pretty close to shore when a GIGANTIC wave tore through the water and sent me crashing face-first into the rocky ocean floor. It was terrifying. I didn’t know which way was up or down and spent a good minute just getting grinded into the ground (twss). I thought I was going to die. Suddenly I felt a pair of hands grab me and lift me up. It was a French lady who began to scream things at me that I couldn’t understand, so naturally I ran away from her and found my parents, who were up on the beach...probably sipping on Champagne or something (they never were the overprotective type). My terror quickly turned into pride as I began to tell them in grandiose fashion about my battle with the giant wave and struggles to escape the swallowing seas. I showed them my scrapes from rocky encounters and bruising from my initial impact. I described how my life flashed before my eyes and I contemplated giving into the water’s strong arms, but then valiantly fought back and conquered Mother Nature’s force. My parents ooohed and aaaahed as if I were reading from a Jules Verne story, not really believing a word I said. This made me pretty frustrated, so I stomped into the streets of Nice and bought a huge pack of postcards and decided to write my story to absolutely everyone I knew in Canada, including my entire fourth grade class. They would believe me! When I got back to my parents’ blanket they actually showed genuine concern, since the frazzled French lady had come and yelled at them for neglecting me. Ha! Still, I wrote my story on every postcard and sent them out. It got pretty tiring writing the same story thirty times over, so the story got progressively shorter. My old babysitter still laughs recalling the postcard she received reading ‘Hi Paula! I am in Nice, I got hit by a wave and almost drowned. Bye!’ However, I did return to fourth grade a hero and a veteran of the dangerous Mediterranean. That was pretty cool.

So there, now I have a legitimate reason to be afraid of the pool, right? I suppose a pool story would have been better, but this will have to do. After all, I would never just make up a story...

So running-wise I’m putting in about 70k a week with one day off and supplementing with a ton of cross-training. I am actually enjoying my elliptical workouts since it’s the only time I can really push the intensity and get in a tough workout: my jogs are still executed in grandma-like style. I am happy to report, though, that I have graduated from extended laps around my block to legit out-and-back routes! The shin soreness comes and goes so I know I still have to be careful and continue to strengthen it. I’m rocking the 30lb weight dorsi-flexion routine so if that doesn’t eventually get it strong enough, I don’t know what will! Well, I guess I do, but it involves a lot of sharp pins and electricity coarsing through my tendons and muscles, which is much less pleasant than weight-lifting.

Speaking of weight-lifting, I’ve decided to work on my all-over strength, so I am rocking the weights with a bunch of big dudes every other day. I’m getting pretty into it. Need to work on my grunting and dramatic , face-twisting, torturous finishes to the last lifts of each set, but otherwise I think I fit in just perfectly!