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Saturday, December 12, 2020

Recovery and moving on

 My surgery recovery actually dragged on a little longer than I'd hoped. I was feeling pretty out of breath and fatigued for several weeks, so I guess I was really in a hole with the anemia bit. But by now I am feeling much improved and ready to move on. 

If I needed proof that I felt better (and I do need proof, because I haven't been able to schedule a post-op because my doctor rudely up and moved clinics all the way to the westbank in Jefferson parish right after doing my surgery), I just have to look at my workouts. 

Workout #1, 12 days post-op on the city park practice track: Six to eight x 1000m at 10k pace with 400m jog. I did seven reps but was completely spent at the end. Splits:

4:00, 3:55, 3:55, 3:50, 3:54, 3:54, 3:57.

Workout #2, 26 days post-op on the slow (and slightly long! It's actually inaccurate!) cinder track at Pontiff: Six x1000m at 10k pace with 400m jog (not sure why we dialed this back in volume). I could easily have done two more. Splits:

3:59, 3:51, 3:51, 3:47, 3:48, 3:46. Note that the variability was due to changing up who was leading each rep, but effort felt on point. This was a tad faster than my true 10k pace, though.

The Pontiff track is a unique one. It's cinder, as I mentioned, which is not a surface that begets speed. It's also usually a really bad surface: the dirt underneath gets damaged when it's muddy, and then dried with huge dents, gaps, and ruts. And it's muddy a lot, because Jefferson Parish cleverly designated this park as emergency storm run-off. So when the parish starts to flood, the pumps dump into Pontiff park! The park has a lot of green space that absorbs the water, plus it is purposefully built a bit like a bowl to retain the pumped water. It's a smart plan, but it means that the track is in horrible shape all the time. 

Additionally, the track is well known to be a smidge long. The coaches in our group have actually wheeled it out to confirm this. There was a time when it was accurate, but during a park freshening up and track re-surfacing, that changed. I think what happened was that a new curb was added and it was built inside lane one. Anyway, it's a little off, and a little rough, but it's also rarely crowded, which makes up for its flaws! And the fact that I could run much better on a worse surface makes me confident that the improvement is real. I am ready to move on to regular training and I think I am finally well enough.

Monday, November 30, 2020

I finally had that surgery!

 You probably know I have been pretty miserable for a long time thanks to a large mass in my uterus. 

It all started when I ran a really bad race and couldn't put my finger on what went wrong. My friend and kick-ass runner Paige suggested I check an anemia panel, and bingo - I was not well at all. 

Things only got worse, and I realized that my "bad periods" were clinical hemorrhages, ha. In fact, I was losing so much blood that I couldn't keep up with production even of platelets, which compounded matters as I was bleeding internally and was covered in bruises. 

I finally insisted on an ultrasound and this weird mass showed up. No one could tell what exactly it was, but there was always a concern for a leiomyosarcoma, which is a dire diagnosis. My symptoms were like it was a bad fibroid, though.

I saw a surgeon and she read my US as either a carcinoma or a large polyp. Either way, I needed surgery. She scheduled me for surgery and a biopsy.

LOL for a million days, I didn't have surgery because I found out IN THE OR that I was pregnant! Biggest shock or my life and seriously, my doctor still insists it was not physically possible and that I am living proof God exists. She also jokes that she's the best doctor ever because she got me to stop bleeding without surgery. Haha. (She's not my doctor now because I chose to do my prenatal care closer to home, but I work with her still so we still talk!)

There were a ton of scares about this mass during pregnancy, and oh so many appointments, but really, it was all fine. Except during delivery. That did NOT go well. Despite predictions that the mass would not interfere with delivery, oh it did. The baby was fine - he was always fine, never in any distress or danger - but I almost died after he was delivered. But it's kind of too gruesome for a blog so if you REALLY want to know you can message me ;-)

Recovering with delicious coffee a
friend brought the day after surgery
And then, to my complete disgust, my symptoms came right back after the baby was born. I was doing ok as far as blood work went, because you generally have nice robust RBCs after childbirth, and I could tell. The pain and bleeding were bad, but not terrible, and although I saw a few specialists over the spring and summer, I opted to delay treatment. The issue always was that perfusion to the mass was so extensive that I could hemorrhage uncontrollably during surgery. 

However, that rosy outlook changed when suddenly symptoms got very, very bad. Blood work confirmed it was surgery soon or a transfusion. Amazingly, I had already taken off work for vacation, so I just converted that to a sick day and got added to the schedule! My doctor ended up combining two procedures: one that cuts off blood supply that is usually used for polyps, and then a regular morcellation such as is done for fibroids. I had some complicating factors and about a 25% chance that she'd need to convert the procedure to a hysterectomy, but actually the surgery went very well, blood loss was not as bad as expected, and my recovery has been astonishingly easy. I haven't gotten the pathology back on the mass yet, but I assume it's just a very large (larger than a softball, actually, and my doctor estimated several pounds) benign growth or fibroid or something. I will probably need a hysterectomy later, but for now I am already feeling a million times better. 

And that, friends, is the last chapter in the crazy story of how I felt like crap and ended up with a baby.

*Update*: I actually just got the path back and unfortunately it is inconclusive. It is classified as "cellular leiomyoma", which is benign, but two pathologists are concerned for a leiomyosarcoma, which is the type of aggressive cancer that the mass was suspicious for on my pregnancy ultrasounds. My doctor consulted with gynecology-oncology and the plan is ultrasounds every six months; at the first sign of any returning growth I'll have a hysterectomy immediately. I'm not happy that this is still hanging over my head! 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Old Highway 51 10-miler race recap


I definitely didn't expect to have a year go by between races, but thanks to pregnancy/new baby/COVID, I hadn't raced since last Thanksgiving. That's probably the longest break I've ever had between races. The last person to run a race in this house was actually David - he jumped into a little 5k his nephew was volunteering at back when the baby was only eight weeks old. The very next weekend we were in COVID lockdown! 

When I heard this race was happening, I really wanted to run it, but as it turns out I ended up having urgent surgery just nine days prior to the race. I decided to wait until the last minute to register to make sure I was up to racing. In-person registration and packet pickup was the Thursday before the race, and a week since I had surgery. I felt very bad that morning on my run, weak and out of breath, but I ran eight miles, so I knew I could do ten. It just wouldn't be a very fast race. I registered for the ten mile race and registered David for the 5k. 

The night before the race I realized the baby was coming down with a cold...again. He has been sick basically constantly since going back to daycare. He actually already had an ear infection, which has been simmering for a few weeks, so this was just added misery. Normally he is a great sleeper, but at midnight he awoke screaming in terror. He gets night terrors when he is sick, and I rushed in to comfort him. He was very uncomfortable, and when I tried to put him back in his crib, he cried. So I did something I never do, and will NEVER do again, and that is brought him to our bed. I didn't sleep a wink. He mostly slept, but he is a loud sleeper, he moves around a lot, and he also took up half the bed. He woke up at 4:30 and I gave him to David and told him I NEEDED a little sleep. So David took him to the other room and I got an hour! Thank goodness! 

Luckily, the restless night didn't phase Audubonbaby, and we managed to get out of the house on time. The race was 45 minutes away in Akers, Louisiana, which is the middle of nowhere. We arrived in plenty of time for a bathroom break and a warmup, except the race director abruptly changed plans on race morning. I had used the bathroom, then stayed with the baby while David used the bathroom, then handed him back to do my warm up. The half marathon started at 8, the ten mile - my race - at 8:10, and the 5k at 8:20. But as I was warming up, I passed the start corral filling with runners. Some of the other Powermilers were in the corral, and I knew they were running the 10-mile, so I asked them if the start time was moved. Sure enough, I hadn't heard the announcement, but the director decided to combine the half and ten mile start! With ten minutes fewer to warm up, I ended up with less than a mile before the race, but at least I didn't miss the start. 

I didn't know how to pace this race. I run my tempos in the 6:30s, and about a month ago I ran a four mile tempo at just under 6:30 despite that being the first continual tempo we'd run in many months (over the hot summer we do things like 3x1.5 at tempo). That was a confidence-booster, but it was followed by very bad anemia and symptoms and three missed workouts. I decided to stay true to my tempo pace/feel and see how I felt. I could always slow down. 

When the gun went off, I let the large group of faster runners go, and ran conservatively. By the half-mile mark, I was in the position I'd stay in for the entire race, with the exception of one teammate passing me and me passing one other runner! Mile one was uneventful, and I felt normal. I ran right around 6:30. Same with mile two. But during mile three, alarm bells started to go off. I started to feel a very recognizable sense of fatigue and breathlessness. It was exactly how I felt at the end of the Rocket City Marathon, the race that prompted me to finally check an iron panel (and how I found out I was HELLA anemic!). My pace started to slow, then dropped off precipitously. Around that point I passed another woman, which put me as the third female in our start. I was pretty sure I was second now in the ten mile, because I knew my teammate Michelle was first in the ten mile and Stephanie was likely running the half marathon to defend her title from last year (when she was pregnant, I might add. Both women are Olympic trials qualifiers in the marathon). But just in case Stephanie was doing the ten miler, I wanted to make sure I was top three. Miles 1, 2, 3: 6:31, :28, :30

But my glory didn't last long, because Tom came up rapidly behind me and passed me like I was walking. This was not thrilling to me because Tom and I are similar in ability and I can usually hang with him or even beat him. That day I had NO response. Basically I was toast. Miles 4, 5: 6:34, :34

Then we turned around and bam, there was that headwind. I laughed because the strong headwind meant we'd had a strong tailwind on the way out, and I STILL felt that bad! Now that Tom had firmly passed me, I was running totally alone, but I did get a bit of a boost from the other runners still heading toward the turnaround. Miles 6,7,8: 6:45, :48, :52. 

And then I was really alone, and really fatigued, and really miserable, and I kind of gave up. Miles 9 and 10: 7:04, 6:48. Total time with the Garmin extra 1:07:07. I can't believe I ran a "7" mile in there! But I really am not beating myself up. I had JUST had surgery, and I was able to run faster in tempo workouts recently and in The Speed Project in worse conditions, so I'm pretty sure this was just an off day due to surgery and anemia. I will be back and faster soon!

Meanwhile, David and the baby ran the 5k, and David was second in his age group! All that stroller running he is doing is making him faster! I was second female and won a plaque, a wooden spoon, and a big andouille sausage. David also won a plaque and sausage, and that is my kind of award. I don't want a trophy or something. Give me something edible any day! 

Post-race was a bit weird because of COVID - awards were rushed and then we all dispersed - but we really enjoyed being out in the beautiful weather and seeing our running friends. I have to say I think David missed it as much as I did! Once I feel really recovered I will sign up for the next race I can around here. I got my rust-buster out of the way and I'm ready to run fast again.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Weathering Zeta

New Orleans was in the cone of uncertainty for SEVEN storms this season, which is simply unfair, and Zeta finally hit us. It came ashore as a category two, but it moved past us blessedly quickly, sparing us the flooding that New Orleans always worries about. It was really just a wind event. We stayed (very few people left for a category 2), and - as predicted - lost power as the storm hit Wednesday evening. 

David took this picture of our street in the eye of the storm.

The eye of Zeta passed directly over New Orleans. This was the first time in decades that a hurricane eye moved over the city, and it was my first experience being in the eye. We walked outside to calm, eery, orange skies. We could still see the sun overhead, but all around us were dark clouds and rain. The storm circled us, but we stood on the street with our neighbors in near-silence. When we felt the first licks of wet wind, we scurried back to the house, just in time for the other side of the storm to pass over. 

It was over in just a few hours, but it left close to 80% of the city without power. We have a gas water heater and stove, so we were fine: I made pasta for dinner, and we read books by candlelight. We didn't get our power back until Friday night, so we ended up staying at my in-laws on Thursday. They live in an area with underground power lines, and never lost power. David took the baby over there (his daycare was closed) so he could work, and since the storm brought a cold front, we decided to sleep over. Our house has no insulation at all, and it was low 50s, so we knew the baby would be cold. We were lucky to get power when we did: many people didn't get it back until the weekend. 

This old church lost a window.
I used some window shards to make a necklace pendant and earrings.

Damage to our street was minimal. The old church on the corner sadly lost a stained glass window (the church has been there since the 1860s when our neighborhood was part of the city of Carrollton in Jefferson Parish, prior to annexation to New Orleans in 1874. It has burned down twice and was destroyed in a hurricane once; the current building is from 1917) and - I am really most upset about this! - the wind absolutely smashed my hibiscus. I loved that tree, so I am very unhappy about that! 

This year has been absolutely bonkers with hurricanes and storms and I am appalled that storm Eta has the audacity to turn our way. Hopefully this week isn't a repeat! 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Cruisin' the Coast, 2020 style

 Cruisin' the Coast is a classic car show and festival that moves along the coast of Mississippi. David and I have attended several years together (David is a big classic car fan: his first car was a '66 Mustang), and always had fun, so this year we dragged the baby along. We only did one day - no overnight stay in Bay St. Louis - mostly because earlier in the week we were still trying to figure out where hurricane delta was going to land before we made any plans. As it turns out, the storm moved far west of the area (hitting poor Lake Charles for the second time in weeks!) and we ended up with beautiful weather. 

We did our morning runs and treated ourselves to PJ's coffee for the road, timing the trip to leave at about 9:30am, just in time to let the baby nap in the car. Since it's a little over an hour to Bay St. Louis, it worked out pretty well, although he usually naps longer than that. Good enough! Once we got to Bay St. Louis, we headed straight out to see the cars. We are lucky enough to have David's parents' house to use as home base, and it's easy walking distance to the little downtown area along the beach. We walked over and were quickly overwhelmed: we hadn't seen this many people together in one place since Mardi Gras! Mississippi doesn't have a mask mandate, but the crowds were light, and were moving around and outdoors, so a low-risk activity. The bars, though - we could see inside, where the LSU game was on, and they were packed. Definitely different from the very strict life we're living in New Orleans! 

Audubon baby was in heaven. He is OBSESSED with cars and trucks right now, especially loud engines, and also adores people. He's very social, and crowds are his jam. To make things even better, many festers had their dogs with them, and he is also really into dogs! He was beside himself with delight! We looked at the rows of cars with sparkling paint jobs, shining engines under popped hoods, and refurbished interiors, and mostly we were just enjoying the atmosphere. I used to say I didn't like festivals and crowds, but darn it if I don't miss them! We grabbed burgers and beers from a street vendor, but since the baby ate half my burger (story of my life, he is a piggy wig), I was still hungry. Luckily there is now a Creole Creamery - a New Orleans favorite - in Bay St. Louis, and we stopped for an ice cream cone (the employees there were the only people I saw with masks all day: restaurant workers must still wear them in Mississippi). I got bittersweet chocolate torte ice cream and it hit the spot on a sunny day. We walked back in time for the baby's second nap, which we spent reading the morning's paper and having a cup of coffee. 

Once he woke up, we headed back out for more car-viewing. David is a member of Greater New Orleans Camera Club, which has juried photograph contests on a biweekly basis. Next week's theme is "festivals and fairs", and David really wanted to take advantage of the "golden hour" before sunset to get some good shots. I hope he did - I haven't seen them all yet - and I didn't take too many myself (sorry). I was too busy talking to dog owners, all of whom were laughing at the baby's reaction to their dogs - he goes absolutely ballistic over dogs, kicking, gasping, clapping, eyes wide with glee. One woman with two young black labs brought them over for him to play with, and he was thrilled. When they left, he tried to run after them (which brings me to part where I have to explain that my not-yet-nine-month baby is, while not truly walking yet, taking steps. He will take 2 or 3 steps, but then he gets scared! And I, clinging to my freedom, do nothing to assuage his fears!).  

We left at around 6:30 to make it home in time for bed, and I fed the baby dinner in the car. It was a really enjoyable day trip - something for everyone. We all like classic cars, Audubon Baby got to see dogs, David got photo ops, and I got to be around PEOPLE. It's a tad unnerving seeing life at near-normal in Mississippi, but since we are low risk we didn't mind (the only concern is that we do both go to work, but both our workplaces have precautions that should protect the others who work there). And actually, Louisiana is in phase three now, so not that much different - it's just that New Orleans has been stricter than the state. But I expect to see us returning to some level of crowd activity soon. Meanwhile, it felt kind of good to see people in the street. It was good for my baby to be comfortable around others and to get used to people! I really wonder what the effect of strict lockdowns will be developmentally for these kids! 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

5k time trial: still pretending to race!

On Tuesday I was talking to my training partners at the track and one asked, "Are you doing the time trial?" And that's how I learned we had a 5k time trial on Saturday morning. 

Of course I wanted to do it: I am grasping at any chance to race, or pretend to race, or test my fitness. I didn't think I was in ideal 5k shape, after all the short repeats we had done for mile training over the summer (the Tuesday before the time trial we did a workout that included 800s, and I felt like they were so incredibly LONG for a repeat!). But with so few chances to "race", I was game anyway. Unfortunately, I came down with a cold (thanks, daycare!). I felt crummy enough that I almost skipped the time trial, but I knew I needed to take the opportunity to see where my fitness was at. So I dragged myself over anyway.*

A group of us - maybe 12 people total? - showed up at the park for the warmup. Rich and Will had just finished marking the course. There is a certified 5k course in Audubon park with precise measurements which made this easy. Many races run the course, so we all knew what to expect (I remember running a small race one time that mis-measured the course. It was long, and the turnaround cone was past where it should be, and I knew immediately the course would be long: I knew exactly where that cone should be!). We did a little under two miles to warm up, and I also found a convenient bush...bathrooms are still closed at Audubon (I have no idea why: even the playgrounds have reopened by now, and I think we would all appreciate a bathroom!). Coach Jimi came out to time us, and right as we lined up, he was about to call the start, it began to rain. This was entirely unexpected: the forecast said 0% chance of rain! 

Rainy conditions for a TT

I was in a funny position at the start: ahead of my normal workout group, and following Jeff, Pou, and Paul - but following pretty far behind. We were immediately spaced out, given the wide range of our abilities and the small size of the group. I wasn't looking at my watch, just trying to run by feel, and hopefully key off other runners in the group. I was hoping to be close to Jeff and Pou, but as we settled into position, I realized Jeff was a lot more fit than I was, and was definitely out of reach. Paul and Pou were close behind him, so I was alone. The first mile beeped at 6:03, and I realized I had let the faster group pull me to much; I would pay for that, now! 

It wasn't bad weather, but it was kind of warm, humid, and rainy, and footing was a bit slippery. We were, of course, dodging walkers and runners, but the rain actually kept the park a bit more empty than usual. So in a way, it helped us. As I approached the turn around cone, I saw Jimi was there calling out times. I missed mine because I was trying to navigate a sudden crowd of walkers, the turn-around, and my other teammates coming the opposite direction. Kir, local runner and marathon Olympic Trials qualifier, had come out to cheer and she was at the turnaround, too. I cheered on the teammates who were behind me, then re-grouped for the second half: the distance between Pou and I was shrinking. When my watch beeped for the second mile at 6:12, I realized I'd lost a lot of time at the turnaround point. Plus, I was letting those around me set my pace: they were slowing, and I was maintaining our relative positions instead of overtaking them. Bad racing! I'm out of practice! I picked it up and passed Pou, who didn't stay with me, and then worked on catching Paul, who was far ahead. At least I had Paul in my sights, because otherwise, this time trial was getting less and less like a race and more like a solo run in the park. I passed Paul before the three-mile mark, which I hit at 6:07, then leisurely jogged it in (well ok I picked it up a little, but not much). I definitely was out of gas, but I could see the cone up ahead and a glance at my watch showed that I was close to 19, and I definitely wanted to break 19. I sped up enough to hit my goal and crossed in 18:56. 

That would be a PR if it was a real race, but it's not - I don't ever seem to get a fast 5k in a race. I have run under 19 in a 10k, in a workout, and in a time trial, but never a 5k race! I was glad to get under 19, but I'd like to run closer to 18:30, which I think it totally doable. I only need 5 or 6 seconds per mile. Honestly, slightly better weather or an actual race would probably get me 5 seconds per mile! So next REAL 5k I run, I hope to be able to shoot for something even faster, depending on my fitness at the time. 

Next time I will also hopefully feel better. The cold I had got worse as the day progressed, and actually, I ended up taking a sick day the next week I felt so bad. Feeling crummy, plus being out of the racing habit, probably affected my strategy. I obviously made some mistakes pacing and following others. 

The rest of the group had mixed results - Tom, Paul, Pou, and Jonathon were disappointed; Will and Michelle killed it. Jeff ran 17:55, his first sub-18! 

Anyone else running any time trials during COVID times? Alone, or with others? How did you motivate yourself? 

* I felt totally crappy, but it wasn't COVID - I got tested (I have to for work!)

Sunday, October 11, 2020



Eating: NOT SUGAR OR ALCOHOL. Because I had a couple of baby pounds to lose and I wanted to be back to pre-baby weight by the nine month mark. Makes sense, right? Nine months to gain it, nine months to lose it! I tried a rather drastic fast last month and it was a disaster. I kept bonking on my long runs and workouts. So instead I just cut out my empty calories - sugar (I have a terrible sweet tooth) and alcohol ('bye, wine! Boo hoo!). This isn't long term, just to get back to normal weight. I was about ten pounds overweight this summer, and fasting took off five measly pounds; since then I have lost three or four more, so I am doing well. But I think the weight includes more fat and less muscle than pre-baby, which my total lack of strength work supports.

Cooking: I've been on a sushi bowl kick lately. I start with a bowl of rice and top it with avocados, asparagus, cucumbers, sesame seeds, and barely-seared salmon (or tuna, when the grocery store has a fresh catch). The night before I prep the vegetables and marinate the salmon in soy sauce, then make a siracha-mayonnaise sauce. We usually also add some more soy sauce on top. The crowning touch is these fun "seaweed snack" garnishes - they're the same as the seaweed wraps used for sushi, but sold in convenient bite-sized sheets. It's a fast, easy meal and tastes like a sushi roll! Normally I get my sushi raw, but since I don't buy sashimi-grade fish, a quick searing makes me feel like I'm slightly less likely to end up with a liver fluke. 

Reading: I just finished Into Thin Air by John Krakaur and I loved this documentation of his harrowing climb up Everest. This book is the subject of some controversy, as another climber disputes his version of events in his book, The Climb. I intend to read that next to get the full picture! I just requested it by interlibrary loan today.

Strengthening: My ankles and feet. I have had terrible tendon and ligament problems since pregnancy, and now I wake up very stiff and arthritic. I have to hobble out of bed. I've been trying to do some strength and mobility work to help with that. I actually wonder if I truly have arthritis, since morning stiffness is such a tell-tale sign. My feet have always been problematic, so it wouldn't surprise me if I had early osteoarthritis. 

Ankle tendinitis :(

Liking: It's McIntosh apple season, and I'm eating at least three a day. I love me some McIntosh!

Not liking: This hurricane season has seriously annoyed me. We have been in the "cone of uncertainty" for SIX major storms, wreaking havoc on work, weather, and plans. Every time daycare closes we have to scramble for childcare! Luckily, they have all shifted and spared us, but I can't believe we're on Delta already. What a busy storm year this was! 

Planning: Audubon baby's Halloween costume that he can wear *nowhere*. And I haven't gotten very far, honestly! I'm very uninspired this year! 

Wondering: What to do about my health. I saw an interventional radiology specialist about my uterine mass (still hanging out there!). The plan was to embolize the arteries feeding it, and thus allow it to die back by eliminating blood flow. He did an MRI and I am not a candidate for that treatment. His advice is that I may not even be able to safely have a myomectomy due to size of the mass - it is submucosal (in the muscle) and takes up nearly the entire uterus. He recommended complete hysterectomy but perhaps do the embolization procedure about three days prior to reduce the risk of hemorrhage during surgery. The mass is very well perfused and the concern has always been too much blood flow for a safe surgery. 

I have done nothing since then - no follow ups, no decisions. I just don't want to have a hysterectomy! And I also don't want the symptoms I am having! Argh, no good answer to this one! 

Since I enjoyed Into Thin Air so much, any recommendations for similar true adventure stories? Any ideas for easy baby costumes for lazy parents?

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Franklin, TN: day five, home again!

Day five

On our final day, we ran on the jogging path by the hotel instead of going to a park. It was a wide, smooth, riparian path, and there were migrating Canadian geese all around. The weather was cool (mid-60s) and I could have run all day, but we had to get going so I called it at five. The baby got his nap in while we packed up, then when he awoke we headed to The Factory. It’s an old stove factory that now houses shops and eateries (basically a hipster mall, except it also has event venues and office and studio space).

The Factory

This was a really cool place, very smart and attractive use of the space. For example, one large hall was all adjustable size booths you could rent for short term shops or show rooms. We bought an ornament for our travel collection, and then wandered into a nearby store...

WHERE OUR LIVES CHANGED FOREVER. I saw this soft, floppy stuffed goat and mindlessly brought Audubon Baby over to feel it. He loves soft, plush things, so I knew he'd like to touch this. Ha. He immediately fell in love and I, sucker that I am, immediately bought it for him. He was so cute with this toy - shining eyes, huge smile, expectantly clapping his hands while the clerk rang us up. And since then they have been inseparable. We named the goat "Franklin" after the town he was bought in, and Audubon Baby thinks he's a dog and calls for him: "Dah! Dah!" if he can't find him. He drags him everywhere, and this little toy is saving us from an early walker...Audubon Baby is absolutely ready to walk, but it's hard to hold onto things and pull yourself up while holding a slippery, plush toy in one hand, so Franklin is sort of delaying his development. Ha ha!

After adopting Franklin into the family, we had a donut from Five Daughters Bakery, and honestly that just about changed my life forever, too. I mean... donuts should not be that good. I don't even like donuts and this was one of the best things I ever ate. 

He thinks he can walk (he's 8 months old and nope, he can't).

We next headed to Centennial Park in Nashville, a lovely park with a to-scale model of the parthenon! We spent a while outside on the pretty grounds, then explored the Parthenon building and museum. 

Giant statue of the goddess Athena

Before we left for the airport, I sat by the water to feed the baby, and David and I had some chips. We had eaten some dinner leftovers before leaving the hotel and didn't really want lunch, so we just made do. We ended up being in the airport longer than we planned on - I just can't get used to how quiet everything is with COVID. Rental car drop off took five minutes; ticketing took 15 (in person ticketing with a baby SUCKS, it's a requirement for a free lap child, though!), and we were through security in ten.

I killed time hanging in the nursing lounge: the baby could roam safely, and if anyone else came in we'd just pack up and leave. 

That's Franklin in his lap! 

The flight home was uneventful. The baby laughed and snuggled with his Franklin and the airline attendant gave him a pair of wings! She said it was for his first flight, but really it was his third flight since we dragged that baby to Dallas at six weeks for a business trip (yes, we're crazy). We took the wings anyway! And thus concluded a short, laid-back vacation in the COVID era: not what we envisioned, but still a blessed break from the daily routine. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

Franklin, TN: day four, hiking

Day four

Day four was our hiking day, so we skipped our morning run figuring we would get enough exercise anyway. Our original plan was to do a longer hike in the morning, a picnic lunch, and then a short hike in the afternoon. We ended up just doing one hike, because I wore sandals and got a blister! I was rushed in the Target on Monday trying to quickly grab appropriate shoes, and I bought two pairs just in case one didn’t work out. Well, one worked out great, but the other one that I wore to hike in ended up giving me blisters. Some might say perhaps don't hike in sandals?! 

We let the baby take his morning nap while we drove to the trail. We parked at Percy Wagner Park and did the Moss Ridge Trail. It’s about 5 miles, and quite easy. I mean, I did it in flip flops with a baby in a carrier, it can’t be that hard. However, it did take a little longer than I expected, because I had to stop to feed the baby and change his diaper. I figured maybe two hours, and I think it took us an additional 15 minutes. 
Feeding the baby in the woods

It's a very low-barrier place to hike. You can just show up and do a hike: the trails are wide and well-marked, with absolutely no way to get lost, and there are trails of several distances. 

Plus, there are bathrooms and pavilions at the trailhead. I'd packed sandwiches and chips, and we ate lunch there, then played with the baby in the grass for a while. He’d been in the carrier for a long time, so he needed some exercise! We decided to head back to the hotel and play in the pool again, since he’d had so much fun there the other day. The pool had a 6” deep area that he could crawl in and he loved it. And we didn't hate relaxing by the pool, either. Then we went to happy hour for margaritas at a Mexican restaurant. We had nice seats outside in beautiful weather, so we ended up staying for dinner there and scrapping our original dinner plans. The baby was a huge hit - he is incredibly social and smiley and was making friends left and right. And the waitstaff were impressed by the way he plowed through his enchilada! We watched the football game later that night once the baby was asleep. I never thought I’d say a Cincinnati vs. Cleveland game was exciting, but it was a good game!

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Franklin, TN: day 3, grumpy baby day

Day 3. We debated our plans for Wednesday, because initially we had planned a hike on Thursday and rain was forecast for Thursday. So we thought maybe we would hike on Wednesday. However, the weather cleared, so we stuck to our original agenda. 

We spent the morning exploring another cute park with a running trail. Not only did we get our runs in and another picnic breakfast, but the playgrounds were wide open, something that is not the case at home, and the baby got to go on a swing for the first time! The rest of the morning was consumed by his nap, and then we drove to Leiper's Fork for a distillery tour. It was an absolute disaster. Overall, we did really well fitting a lot of activities into this trip even though it was a very short visit, we had to drive pretty far to everything, and we had a baby with us. But this wasn’t a good idea. It was far away from our hotel, and the baby started to have a car meltdown. He doesn’t particularly love the car, but because New Orleans is so small he never has to sit in his seat for too long. He especially did not like it on this trip, because we did not think to bring a car mirror so he could see him and he could see us. Turns out that he really likes that! So the ride there was about 50% baby crying. That sucked. And then the distillery “tour“ was a small group in a very small room looking at a still while a folksy guy in overalls made dad jokes. And actually, I was appalled by the tasting. After the tour, we went to a very small tasting room. It was completely closed off, so no ventilation. There were 12 people in the room, and we were seated elbow to elbow. And then we had a flight of whiskeys and the guide instructed us to swish the whisk in the mouth, swallow, and then breathe out heavily three times. And we were in there for about 25 minutes. Like... seriously the highest possible Covid risk activity. I knew that in this area masks were not mandatory unless you were in a restaurant, but I obviously did not do my research very well. There is no way I would’ve taken that risk. We aren’t being hyper-vigilant about COVID19 (for example, we go to church, we are doing small group outdoor social activities, and I have gone to work every single day as an essential employee) but come on. There’s no reason to actively pursue activities known to spread the disease! So that was a fail. After the tour and tasting, we got lunch in the little town, and then drove to the Natchez Trace Parkway. Mostly we wanted to see this bridge! 

And it is terrifying. Apparently it is a site of many suicides and suicide attempts, and I think the reason for that is that the railing is about waist height! Neither David nor I are particularly fond of heights, so it was a little nerve-wracking! We had given the baby a little car nap, but it was super short since he woke up when we stopped at the bridge. So he was kind of in a mood. This whole day was not really very baby friendly. And I have no problem with that, babies have to learn that they are not the center of attention all the time, but he was a little tired and cranky by the end of the day! So after some fun time in the hotel pool, he went to bed early and David and I sat quietly in the room trying to eat Thai food without making noise. I finally got some reading done since it occurred to me that I could read on my Kindle app, even though it’s not my favorite way to read (I don’t like reading on lit screens. I prefer books, but nothing beats a Kindle for travel!)

Friday, October 2, 2020

Franklin, TN: day 2 (my birthday!)

Day 2. The next morning, we grabbed our very pathetic hotel to-go breakfasts (THANKS, COVID) and headed to Winstead Hill Park, site of a Civil War battle and home to a decent 0.75 mile running path. David and I swapped out baby watching and running, followed by a picnic breakfast and a quick exploration of the park. I was bowled over by the monuments erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy, which stated things like, “...willing to die for a cause they knew was right...” Yeah, not so much, Daughters. 

The view from Winstead Hill

Running in Winstead Hill Park

Before heading back to give the baby a nap, we swung by Target so David could get coffee from the Starbucks inside (all the local coffee we tried was very weak and honestly terrible) and I could buy shoes. As is my wont, I broke a pair of shoes the very first day, while still in the airport, and ended up replacing them with what turned out to be very comfy sandals, so no big deal after all. I have a tendency to break shoes while on trips and dates and it’s most awkward.

We once again sat silently in the hotel room before heading out to the next adventure, a visit to Arrington Vineyards. We ate the leftover pizza before we left, but I packed macaroni leftovers for the baby to eat for lunch. The vineyards were really nice. It was pleasant weather, and the grounds had picnic tables all over, so we could sit in the shade or sun as we wished. 

The Vineyards

We started out with the red wine tasting flight, then elected to go with a bottle of rose, since it was somewhat warm. I had some baby toys, but we couldn’t really put the baby down to roam. The ground was too rough and dirty, with all the grass trampled near the picnic tables. One thing I didn’t bring was a picnic blanket - one of those baby surfaces that is waterproof but washable and has weighted corners to stay down. Not that Mr. Active would have stayed on it, but it would have helped a little! The rose was chilled and the baby mostly chill, so it was fun. In the afternoon, we headed into historic Franklin to look around. This cute area dates to the 1790s, and is a walkable few street with restaurants and boutiques. 

We did some browsing and shopping and then hit up a happy hour at an Irish Pub. But we didn’t see anything we really liked on the menu, so we decided to get an appetizer that the baby could eat, and then go to another restaurant. I picked the Reuben baked potato, and ... it was a disaster. It didn’t sit well in the baby’s stomach, so we spent the entire evening cleaning up corned beef puke. It was so bad that I threw my shirt out when we got to the hotel! But anyway. We found a smooth grassy area for the baby to puke and play for a bit, then tentatively ventured to a restaurant for dinner. Luckily the puking was done, and we enjoyed a nice dinner sitting outside in beautiful weather. I actually got the baby more food, assuming he was hungry after all that barfing, which turned out to be the case. I had mahi mahi tacos and they were quite good! We got some quality crap TV time in that evening - huddled over the ipad, each wearing one earbud. We started watching some of “Selling the Big Easy", since it is a reality TV show about houses on the market in New Orleans. We started watching it because our neighbors were on that show (and by the way, it’s all fake. Their house was never on the market at all, they just wanted the work done to it that was part of the series). I don’t think the pricing on that show is accurate, however. I think they adjust the pricing depending on the market. So since New Orleans prices are so high, they reduce them to reflect their nationwide audiences market prices. There were some homes for sale with prices obviously below market asking prices: usually in the $20-$30k below range. But it was still a fun show to watch, especially seeing streets and neighborhoods nearby!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Vacation to Franklin, TN: Day one

Yeah, no international travel this year for's kind of sad to think that our 2019 trip to Italy might be the last international roaming we do for a while. But David and I both had use-or-lose time, so we decided to take a short trip to Nashville. Did we think it was safe? Nope. We were taking a risk. The Nashville area doesn't have a lot of COVID cases, but airplanes are straight up germ tubes. We decided to go anyway, even though that had implications in other areas of our life - for example, we won't be visiting David's family for two weeks, since his dad has high risk health conditions. We decided on Nashville because flights there were practically free - and then we actually ended up staying in Franklin, TN, instead. 
World's best little flyer

Day one
We flew into Nashville at about 11 am after an easy direct flight from MSY. David and I are pros at cutting flights really close, but with a baby in tow and reduced flight schedules, we didn’t want to risk missing our flight and having no alternatives. So we left ourselves a nice estimated 15 minute buffer. That was a lot of guesswork, though, since we were flying out of the new MSY terminal we have only flown out of it once before) and since these were COVID times. And of course, we ended up racing to our flight, anyway. We planned to use the old USAPark lot by the old terminal, since we have a non-transferable frequent flyer card there, and the website and many billboards blared, “Airline highway location still open!” Yeah, it was closed. So we had to go all the way to the new lot on Veterans anyway, and we arrived at the airport as our flight was boarding. Luckily we have PreCheck, and luckily (sadly) the airport was pretty deserted. The baby’s nap time hit right in the middle of the flight, but I tucked him in in his car seat and explained that he could take his sleep there. So he did. He’s good like that, and stayed asleep until we were ready to get into our rental car.

With a refreshed baby, we hit Nashville and went straight to lunch for a local specialty, the hot chicken sandwich- which was ok. It was really greasy and hard to eat, but I like spicy food, and the side salad was delicious. I ordered the baby a macaroni and cheese side and realized that - now that he is 8 months and a hungry little boy - I would now be ordering for him at restaurants. He eats way too much to share my plate! We walked from the restaurant to the Frist Art Museum. We knew that just a few exhibits were open, but we were ok with that. It ended up being perfect - they checked a stroller out to us to make the visit easier with the baby, and we viewed their two open exhibits. One had a fascinating interactive feature: the words of a letter Ghandi wrote to Hitler imploring peace scrolled past from a huge projector. But actually, the “screen” was a sheet of water vapor called a fog wall. You could walk right through it. It was very impressive. 

After that, we explored downtown Nashville’s music row and waterfront, stopping for homemade ice cream (which was gross, but there is no bad ice cream). Before leaving, I insisted we go to a Honkey Tonk - I mean, when in Rome! Plus, when was the last time we heard live music?! We sat at a table and had a beer and the baby danced and clapped to the music, which totally enthralled the band, who probably hadn’t had such an enthusiastic audience in a while! This baby loves ballads and Latino pop (I don’t know where he gets his taste from, he’s weird, we use to laugh because when I was pregnant he would kick up a storm when he heard Pitbull's "Fireball") and thoroughly enjoyed himself. We finally headed to the car and he got a car nap in right on the brink of meltdown- success!
We stayed in Franklin since we had planned a relaxed, countryside trip, but the drawback was that everything required lots of driving. The other giant drawback was the the suite David booked wasn’t actually two rooms - it was just one big one with a kitchen/office area. That defeated the purpose - we needed the extra room to put the baby in to sleep. So that night, after pizza takeout, we set up an Alexa with white noise, pulled his crib into the tiny entryway, and sat in near total darkness for two hours before going to bed. Slight fail. Our baby is a good sleeper, but at night he likes it to be dark. The configuration had the TV within his view, so we couldn’t watch TV, and I couldn’t even turn on my bedside light until he was soundly asleep because it also flooded the room with light (as a consequence I read much less than I expected on this trip, and watched more sports on the iPad instead!).

Monday, September 21, 2020


 In the early Sunday morning hours, I was really starting to struggle. I had a good break from running, but my stomach was causing problems. Everything I ate or drank went right through me. On a hunch I took a salt tablet - I had been religious with the Gatorade, but if I feel bad when I'm running in the Louisiana summer, I always turn to salt first. It helped a lot, but I couldn't eat any real food. I had coffee and skittles (never want to see another skittle again, by the way), then switched to a coke-and-Gatorade diet for the rest of the race. I also took two more salt tablets. Racing hard in upper 90's weather means dramatic sodium loss; even my Gatorade and salt tablet routine probably wasn't enough. At one point Kenny confessed he felt dizzy and I suggested a salt tablet. He took two, and felt like a new person in minutes. His response reminded me to keep eating salt! 

Setting up camp under the single shade tree

While we set up at the track - the same track where we hold so many workouts - I ran to Starbucks to pick up coffee. It was a bizarre feeling, entering the land of the living for a moment, then diving back into the insanity of the relay. We had divided into two teams, and each team planned to do 9 reps each before trading off to the other team. I was on team two, so by the time I got back with the coffee, team one was already up. My jaw dropped at the easy mid-60s they were dropping off sore and tired legs. The mood was subdued and tired at first, but then our support showed up. Sean with a karaoke set, doing play-by-play; Stephen DJing (he's actually a DJ in real life); high school coaches Drew and Casey handing out encouragement and advice; Wayne and Ivy, who had been there from the get-go. Our mood soared. If there is one thing I learned from this relay, it's how key your support team is. Ours was amazing, and their timeliness and responsiveness took a huge weight off our already burdened shoulders. 

Team one wrapped up their repeats in about an hour, and we cheered - their speed had moved us up several places already. Now team two was up - and so was the sun. Whatever, I was ready! We had under five hours to go! I had the pleasure of taking the handoff from Kenny, who calmly and smoothly ran 67 and under for every single lap. I was nervous about what was left in my legs, but I shocked myself with an 82-second first lap. I didn't feel terrible! And for the first set, I stayed right there: 80, 83, 82. We were just cranking out the 400s - cheering, handing off, grinding. Shockingly, no one fell off pace or slowed. We finished our set and we had moved up another couple of places in the standings!

Cheering Josh on

Jeff hands off to Josh

Jonathan handing off to Paul

Me handing off to Jonathan, who appears to have ditched the shirt by now

Time was winding down, and now the families started to arrive. David and the baby came for a bit, but had to leave for nap time. It didn't matter, anyway. I tried to hold him and had to give him back: I was so weak and tired I thought I would drop him. And I couldn't feed him because I had just pumped, taking advantage of our off time while team one took over again! Poor planning - I didn't know they were planning to come by. Our second set was much like the first: Kenny to me. Me to Jonathan. Jonathan to Paul. Paul to Will. Will to Pou. Repeat. Every time I finished a rep, I'd catch my breath and drink something sugary and try to recover. By the time this set ended, I was starting to limp. My left hamstring has been slowly healing, but my right was now developing a nasty knot and I was afraid it would tear. I honestly thought I might not be able to finish the relay. But I had to - our strategy was working, and we were now in 5th place in our division!

Rich and Kevin

The team cheering me on!

When team one took over again. they planned to do just three rounds of 400s and then hand back to us. We would do three each, too, and then the whole team would just go straight through until time was up. I had enough time during my rest for Jessica, Jonathan's girlfriend, to do some manipulation and work through some of the sticky hamstring muscle fibers (she is a PT). I think she saved the rest of the race for me: I was able to complete every one of my 400s. My stride was tightly restricted, and I was really almost limping, but I could finish. 

Speaking of finish..."FINISH!" is still ringing in my ears from Sunday. Casey came out to cheer and hollered that at each and every one of us at each and every lap as we rounded the 300m mark! We all joked later that we heard "FINISH!" in our dreams that night. As we entered the final hour, we lined up single file on the track and took turn after turn. We saw some amazing laps in those final minutes: Kenny somehow STILL dropping easy 67s, Will powering through, Jonathan running a 400m PR. Pou heard the times around him and decided it was time to break 70 seconds - and did, on his final lap of the day. I heard him tell Paul that, and I decided it was high time I broke 80. Limping, hamstring pull, total exhaustion - those were excuses. Kenny ticked around the oval, shouted Go, and set me on my way of my very last lap. I ran 79. It was the best I could do - but I was under 80! 


It was down to the final minutes, and we realized that Will would probably have the final lap. As he took over, we knew he'd have 10 or 15 seconds left. We made a split-second decision and told Will - who probably ran the finest that weekend - "Keep going!" Poor Will - he ran nearly a 600m final split as we all counted down. 

Done. Thirty-one hours and 15 seconds! We were elated but tired. We knew our times exactly thanks to the spreadsheets we maintained, but the TSP leaderboard was a disaster. We ended up not finding out our official place until Wednesday morning: fifth in the freestyle devision, eighth overall, first team from the USA. I am so incredibly proud of us. We completed this in terrible weather, with a bunch of misfit runners, and a lot of dedication. Every single runner performed beyond their expectations, and our team support was outstanding. And I was thrilled with my own running! I was worried I'd let my team down - instead gave them a tiny boost. My average pace was 46 seconds per mile faster than predicted, and even during the night legs I never ran over 6:40. It was a great team effort from everyone, runners, support, spouses, and the like, and I was proud to be a part of it! 
Back: Jeff, Pou, Rich, Kenny, Paul, Jonathan, me, Josh. 
Front: Will, Kevin
On the ground: Jeremy

Would I do it again? Actually, YES. You'd expect some hesitation so soon after the race, but I would totally do it again. Next time? Top three, baby.