Can Being Sad Make You Slower?

For the last week or so, I’ve been sad. There’s not really a better or more elegant way to say it. There’s a whole range of reasons that I’m particularly sad about Floyd the Cat dying, but the end result is really very simple and probably not shocking. I screwed up nearly every assignment I had last week and barely kept it together for an interview — hopefully enough though. I’m back on track for work now, but I’m still sad.

(I’m also well aware that there are a number of you who think I shouldn’t be that sad about a cat we had for five months or who are surprised I am. But, you know, the probability is I liked Floyd the Cat more than you, so who cares what you think.)

I also may have gotten scammed by an 11-year-old yesterday. Or, I may have bought an absurd number of cookies. Partially, I felt bad because I used to have to hock all kinds of things door-to-door in school — wreaths, cheesecakes, lap-a-thons — and I bet you’d like to think that oh, I lived in a simpler time, but no, I’m pretty sure my parents just figured I could take care of myself. Partially, though, I had also heard a UPS truck pull up and Floyd’s ashes should be delivered by UPS any day (don’t ask), so when it was some kid with a cookie order sheet instead, I just started handing him cash.

The result was this conversation when Steve got home:

Steve: Did he leave you any paperwork or anything?
Me: No
Steve: Did you get his name?
Me: No
Steve: A receipt?
Me: No. *pause* I gave him $15 and he said he’d bring me cookies in a month.
Steve: What kind of cookies? Like boxes, or dough, or frozen dough?
Me: Um, I don’t know. But, I picked the mint chocolate chip ones.

Besides not being mentally sharp, though, there’s no good reason I shouldn’t be physically ok. I didn’t sleep much the beginning of last week, when we were trying to figure out what to do about Floyd, and then I didn’t sleep at all one night. And, obviously, all that laying on the couch and crying didn’t happen on its own. That was some hard work. But, since then, I’ve had plenty of sleep. Physically, there’s nothing wrong (except one niggling hamstring). And yet.

And, yet. I ran a 40:48 10K on Saturday. Apparently, everyone expected me to run that slowly except me.

Then, I spent a few days dragging my legs around at 9:00 pace. Actually literally dragging the leg with the screwed up hamstring. But, we’re not going to talk about that, because it’ll go away. Monday, I screwed up my back doing push-ups, which sounds like something a pathetic person would say. Tuesday, I killed myself to swim slower at Masters than I have since I started going back to Masters. Wednesday, I did some more dragging.

All of this meant I was not super optimistic about the hard workout today. But, why? There’s nothing physically wrong. Why am I sucking so much?

It turns out there’s not a ton of research on emotion’s impact on athletic performance. Most of the studies have been done on the optimal levels of stress and anxiety. Breaking news: too much is bad, too little is bad. Obviously, there is a lot of research about depression and the crippling physical effects of that, but that’s not really applicable. Depression is a little more than just being sad your cat is gone.

So, I headed out for my hard workout today with a sense of unease, but no real reason for it.

The run was 4 x 2 miles, starting at 7:05 (more-or-less marathon pace) and then each 2-mile effort descended at 10″/mi, down to 6:35 pace. That sounds hard. But, it also sounds like the first two shouldn’t be that hard. If I plan to run 7:00 miles for 26.2 miles, then two miles shouldn’t be bad.

It was and it wasn’t. Every step of the workout was shockingly harder than I thought it would be. 7:04 did not feel easy, but it happened. 6:50s were so bad that I figured there was no way I’d be able to run 6:35s The 6:42 nearly killed me. I was one giant flailing mess hurtling down the side of the road gasping and squinting. Before one of the efforts, I don’t remember which one, I let out an actual moan out-loud, “God, I don’t want to do this.” I’m not sure who I was telling, but it needed to be said.

And, then I did the last one. The first mile of it was easy. Maybe because I thought it would be impossible. But, the second mile wasn’t. And, the last half mile of the last mile was the most painful thing I’ve done since the last most painful thing. Kidding. Today was way worse. I thought, it’ll be ok if I don’t finish, it’ll be ok if I don’t hit the time, it’ll be ok. Then, I thought, stop being such a fucking loser. I had to do this to prove that I can, that I won’t let all the terribleness decide things for me, or to pass out and definitively know that I can’t.

When the watch beeped for the end of the second mile, I stopped and wobbled. I saw stars. It felt like everything was going to come up, but I didn’t even have the energy to dry heave. I grabbed my knees. I walked in circles and decided it was too soon to walk and grabbed my knees again. Eventually, I started walking, then shuffling, then jogging. I dragged myself home. And, you know what, I’m still sad. That didn’t change, because epiphanies only happen in shitty novels.

But, does it have to make me slower? Maybe, probably some definitely. It certainly makes it harder.

Time to Run a 10K

I’m running a 10K tomorrow morning. I don’t know that I feel like I can run a 10K, but I don’t know that I can’t either, so. Steve keeps saying we should have a memorial 5K for Floyd to raise money to cure FIP — which, as a side note, apparently has almost no funding or research devoted to it, even though it’s a terrible 100% fatal super crazy mysterious viral mutation, because there’s just not the collective will or interest (which is why if you feel so inclined you should donate to the UC Davis research into FIP) — so I guess I can just consider this my memorial 10K.

Physically, this week has been light on workouts. But, my legs still hurt a lot and feel painfully heavy. That’s what ‘stress is stress’ means — your body can’t always tell if the stress is deliberate training load or emotional wreckage. Yesterday, I dragged myself out for a run with some 2′ efforts at goal 10K pace and, though I hated nearly all of it, I was able to do them.

That means, hopefully, tomorrow will end better than the last time I tried to do a race after an emotional shitshow of a week. Summary: that race ended with me sitting down six miles into the half-marathon and crying. Though I made it six miles, which as far as I have to go tomorrow, so I should be good.

Any bets? How will I do?

RIP Floyd

I was wrong. I thought Floyd had another week or so left. I thought I would stay home today with him, since Steve flew to LA last night for a one-day business trip. I thought I would hang out with Floyd, get some work done, and do my hard track workout. But, things can take a sharp turn very quickly.

Yesterday, Floyd seemed fine, as fine as you can be when you have a 100% fatal untreatable virus. He ran to the door to greet me when I got home, ate some food and a little ice cream, wandered out to the patio and back. He seemed fine. And, then after Steve left, around 10:45 last night, suddenly Floyd couldn’t walk. I watched him stand up and fall over. He stumbled and dragged himself halfway across the room before collapsing. I carried him to his bed and tried to give him some water, but he was so upset and confused. He jumped out of my arms, but his legs couldn’t hold his landing and he crashed into the wall.

We thought we’d see how he was in the morning after sleeping, but he never fell asleep. He threw up the first time in my bed around midnight, and after I cleaned it up and put his little bed and some towels on top of our bed for him to lay next to me, it just got rapidly worse. He started shaking and making these little moaning noises as he tried to breathe. He’d still try to get up, but would just fall back over. Sometimes, I’d swear he had actually stopped breathing, but then he’d have a sort seizure fit and let out this terrible wailing noise. Those painful, awful seizure fits got more and more frequent and violent after 5 a.m. I laid in bed next to him, dozed off twice during the night for 20 minutes and each time woke to him trying to struggle to get up. And he just kept looking at me wondering why was I doing this to him.

At times, the look he got as he stared at the floor, with both his front paws splayed out, reminded me of the look I get when I’m really sick. It’s the I can focus and make this go away if I just try hard enough look.

After Steve said good-bye over the phone, I took Floyd to the emergency clinic early this morning so they could put him out of his pain as quickly as possible. With him crying and limp in the front seat, barely able to see consistently anymore, we got caught in the very early commute traffic. The sun was just coming up and blinding both of us. And I’d been laying in bed all night, half reading a magazine article and trying to keep up my tiny cat’s spirits, I’d forgotten it was just a regular Wednesday.

I was the only person at the emergency clinic. I said good-bye and promised they’d make it stop hurting now and they took him away. I could have stayed with him the whole time, but then they want to make it pleasant and not messy for the owner, so they do it by IV drip and it takes much longer. We’d had enough time and he just needed to be done.

This blog will be about sports again soon, but not right now. One last time, it’s about Floyd:









And, on we go.

Yesterday was the first day – other than when we were in the mountains and didn’t have internet – that I didn’t post anything on here. It’s probably obvious why. And, I don’t have anything particularly brilliant to say today either.

Although I pretty much just want to sit on the couch and watch TV, I’ve more or less been getting some work done and most of my workouts. I even managed a pretty hard workout on Sunday. Well, sorta managed. I did five of the six efforts, which is like a B+. I suppose there just isn’t really anything else to do. So, on we go.

Sunday, it was actually really sad, though. I headed out for a ride and when I got back and was changing to go back out for my run, Floyd was following me around. But, he’s not doing great. He was sort of stumbling and I had to hold his water bowl up for him to drink out of. And, he so wanted to go outside with me.

After I got home, then, and while he was still feeling pretty active and able to do stuff, we brought him up to the open space ridge above our house and took him for a walk on his leash. He loved it. And, then we took him down the street to the ice cream shop, so he could have as much vanilla ice cream as he wanted, which was like two spoonfuls –but that’s a lot for a 4 lb. cat. Now, he pretty much just eats ice cream, turkey, and steak, and spends all day sitting on his heating pad. I may let him have some beer too, since he’s always wanted to try one.

When he was like 3 months old. Always about the beer.
When he was like 3 months old. Always about the beer.

And, in the next week, maybe two, it seems like that’ll probably be that. And, he’ll be done.

I don’t know what else to day about it, so, instead, here is a video of a horse that ran amok in a bike shop.

What Can We Handle? Floyd the Cat Has FIP and Isn’t Going to Get Better

There are, throughout life, these little moments that are so insanely perfectly awful that they become wedged in your brain as symbolic of so many other things gone wrong, of larger problems. And, yet, there is nothing to do but store these moments up as stories to turn into bleak jokes at parties or trot out as anecdotes in future novels. You can only hold onto them.

I had one of those back when Steve was released from the hospital after six days and surgery — six days that I had driven back and forth, slept little, crammed in work when I could, and slowly come unraveled. The afternoon after Steve was released, I had to oversee my high school kids at a cross-country meet because the head coach was out of town, at which I quite literally nearly drove over the side of a cliff because I was so gone I couldn’t tell the car wasn’t in reverse. Then, I moderated an election debate, even though I had no wherewithal to do so, because I had already committed before the accident. On my way home, I was stopped at a DUI checkpoint and the cop who tapped on my window was the same cop who had pulled me over a few weeks earlier. At that time, a few weeks earlier, I had started crying from whatever myriad of fatigues and small slights seemed overwhelming then. But, that night, and that whole week Steve was in the hospital, I didn’t cry. So, the cop tapped on my window, I rolled it down, and he said: I’m glad to see you’re having a better week. Which was so unequivocally untrue, so mind-blowingly inaccurate — whatever had seemed so terrible a few weeks earlier paled so drastically in comparison to the previous six days — that I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t do anything but laugh hysterically.

It was one of those perfectly awful moments.

I had another one this past Friday. For a variety of reasons, this week was harder than it should have been — too many stories not panning out, essential calls not being returned, the kind of fatigue from work that builds up sometimes into a sharp malaise. And Thursday I went to an event that, because of specific circumstances I won’t go into on a public site because I’m not as stupid as I look, was sort of awful and tiring.

So, I intended to wrap up work early, run/explore a new trail, hang out with Sachini on Saturday, throw my own one-person Oscar party Sunday — you know, have a weekend. Then, I got back to the car from my run Friday afternoon and there was an email on my phone from the vet: Just got test results back. Looks like Floyd unfortunately has FIP, which sucks and strikes kitten. Protocol is generally to make them comfortable: sometimes they can go on for a few months before being put down and, sometimes, if they’re really sick, then they have to be put down right away.

Wait. What.

I rushed home and jumped on my computer, because isn’t that what we do now when something is wrong. I learned that FIP (Feline Infection Peritonitis) is a rare, strange, and 100% fatal disease that comes from a very common virus that somehow, in some cats, mutates into a fatal version and destroys their organs — in summary. There is nothing to do about it.

It turns out, then, that Floyd isn’t just sad and not eating. He doesn’t need a friend. He’s anemic, yes, but it can’t be fixed by antibiotics. If the diagnosis is right, and it almost certainly is, then he is simply dying.

But, Friday evening, I didn’t have a lot of time to do anything with this information. I had to be at a writing critique group that I had previously committed to. So, off I went.

At the group, I got ripped into. It happens. The story I had written wasn’t great and there were problems with it. That was why I had submitted it for critique. There would have been things that people could have said that I would have understood. But, instead, it started with one girl, who I’m fairly certain already didn’t like me based on my previous mocking of her use of the word ‘passionate’ in conversation, spending an inordinate amount of time telling me mostly everything was wrong. The main character wasn’t likeable, it didn’t resonate, it lacked description (writing groups are always going on about more description), it was shallow and not colorful, it wasn’t believable – even the things that were actually literally true. And, perhaps what was most odd to me: some words were wrong or used incorrectly or didn’t make sense.

Since I do write for a (pretty decent) living, I don’t generally use words incorrectly. It’s not something I’ve done since college. I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about.

While other people in the group had other things to say, some good and plenty bad and most of it fair, the initial barrage was more than a little overwhelming. The criticism slowly piled up and the confusion over my word choice kept cropping back up. When I said the well-manicured women had “expensive husbands,” someone had crossed out “expensive” and written “wealthy,” as if I simply didn’t understand the difference between the two words. (No, it was deliberate, supposed to be a commentary, oh nevermind.) When I described big houses with “moderate lawns,” no one knew what that meant, perhaps I should describe the lawns, were they green, what kind of grass was it. (It’s not really about the lawns, oh nevermind.) And, the one that really stung: When I used the phrase “mediocre happiness,” it didn’t make any sense, she didn’t understand, how could happiness be mediocre?

Oh, honey.

I tried to respond at first. Then, I stopped. There’s not much to say really. And, my brain was too full and there was nothing left to be nice with. I tried, instead, to be polite, but I’m well aware my politeness comes across as cold, as I think you’re an idiot but I’m trying not to say so.

And, then, at the end, when it was all a little much, the girl turns to me and says: I thought you said you could handle it, haha.

Which I don’t know that I actually said. It’s not the word choice I would use. But, I’m sure I conveyed some similar emotion or idea, and it’s true. I can handle it. It’s fine. I’m not going to hate myself because of what you said or give up my job because you think I’m so very terrible at it. But, in that moment, it didn’t mean I didn’t want to punch her. It was one of those so perfectly awful moments that becomes etched in your brain.

Because Floyd is most probably going to die. For him, this disease is not something he can simply handle or deal with. No amount of positive thinking is going to make it go away. And, we’re going to have to decide, make a list of what is too much, when will we put him down (since with animals, as opposed to ailing humans, this is simply a given). When he loses control of his bowels? Gets paralyzed? Just wastes away?

I hold out a small hope that it is actually something else, something treatable, but the odds are it’s not. And, we will handle it, all of it, all the horrible specific awfulness of dying and the shocking pain of what I love being suddenly gone without knowing when that will be. Because it is painfully, horribly sad. But, it is also something that we will go on from. There are many terrible things in life and, for all that this is awful, this will not be the worse that ever comes. And things can either be handled or they simply can’t.

So, girl who made the ‘Whole Foods ought to be called Whole Paycheck’ joke like it was an original, yes, I can handle you. Of course, I can handle you. But not tonight, ok? Not tonight.

Floyd the Cat is Sick

This has nothing to do with sports or running or training, other than that giving Floyd his medicine is costing me a lot of time and skin.

Floyd the Cat is sick. This was him yesterday, laying all day in the sun, so I tucked his 49ers scarf around him:

Floyd did nothing but lay around and glare at me all day.
Floyd did nothing but lay around and glare at me all day.

He has some infection, which is causing his red blood cells to break down or something, giving him anemia. So, he’s anemic and his kidneys are enlarged I think and his body is trying to fight off the infection. He hasn’t been eating much for a couple weeks because of all this, so he also lost a pound. That’s a lot when you weigh 4.5 lbs.

The vet prescribed an antibiotic, which we’re hoping will kill the bacteria and that it’s not actually some other more rare and less treatable thing that is causing the infection. The vet also prescribed a steroid to help him put on weight again and eat and stuff, I think. (It gets a little murky when vets start talking.)

Hopefully, he gets better. He already felt enough better last night that he started slamming his head into the door and meowing at 5 a.m. until we let him in our bed. He usually sleeps in his bed in the bathroom, but I guess he was just all excited and awake? I don’t know, he didn’t tell me. And, then he sat on my face until 8 a.m. and poked me in the eye. “Are you awake yet? How about now? How about now? Hey, now? Hey. Hey. Hey.”

Aww, Floyd the Cat.
Aww, Floyd the Cat.

Race Report: Kaiser San Francisco Half-Marathon

Short summary: I ran a 1:27:52. This is, by far, my fastest half-marathon and well within my goals for the race. I am understandably very happy with the time. But, since sub-1:27 was so real at one point I could feel it in my bones, the result also comes with that vague sense of dissatisfaction and ungratefulness inherent in blowing up during the last miles of a race.

(Since a lot of people seem to be coming here looking for the Kaiser Half Marathon results, here they are.)

Long summary: I didn’t run with my Garmin GPS. Don’t you remember running races where dozens of watches didn’t start beeping near every mile marker? I decided since I had no specific pace to go off — and, really, sticking to some exact number isn’t my personality anyway — I would just go by feel and other people. Nothing too fast, nothing too slow, see how I felt, push it hard.

I have no photos of the race, since Steve was at team camp (a difficult concept to explain to people) and I haven’t seen any pictures other people have taken yet, so here is a photo of Floyd helping me get ready the night before:

Floyd loves to help pack.
Floyd loves to help pack.

I warmed up with Ilyce, but then lost her when I went for a second last-minute bathroom stop before the start. I also lost my ability to get close to the actual start. I ended up pretty far back from the line and it was surprisingly crowded even once we started “running” – in some ways more so than the races with 10 times as many people, perhaps because the road and organization is so much smaller. I was trying to get around people running 8:00 and 9:00 miles, which is fine but not my pace, and they were getting so mad at me that I just ditched the road, jumped over the curb, and ran through the grass for half a mile or so.

The first couple miles I ran in the 6:20s and thought ‘shit, I promised myself nothing faster than 6:30; I promised myself no blowing up.’ But, the first couple miles are downhill and then you turn and come back up and I was running low-6:40s. So, instead of stressing about the exact times as we ran up and down and around, I just ran.

For six or seven miles I sort of zoned out. When you’re wearing just a regular watch, you do this weird running math over and over that creates a lull in your mind. At least for me. Each mile marker I would look at my watch, figure that at the next mile marker a 6:40 mile would bring me to 19:24 or whatever and then I’d repeat 19:24, 19:24, 19:24 over and over in my head so I wouldn’t forget. Not that I actually ran any 6:40 miles. I ran 6:17s and 6:45s and 6:33s, but it was a marker and a mantra. I don’t really look around at other people or scenery, either. I think I mostly stared at the ground and repeated 19:24 or 25:33 or 32:57 or whatever and willed myself to go harder. Here and there, I’d surge (something I NEVER do) to force myself to pick it up and pass such-and-such person or stick to such-and-such group. And, the thing that was interesting was every time I pushed it to catch up to someone I’d then find myself passing them.

I’m making it sound easy and it wasn’t. It hurt and sometimes I’d think my limbs were going to fall off but that would pass and sometimes I’d think I was running faster and going slower but that too would pass. I was really thirsty by the time we hit the first aid station two miles in, which was concerning, and the sips of water were making my stomach all gurgling. But, what are you going to do? Stop?

Right before mile 7, I caught up with a guy who had passed me earlier and he turned around and said, “Well, aren’t you tenacious.” Um, yeah.

At mile 7, you hit the Great Highway and run in a straight line for just under three miles and then turn-around. It is terrible. Everyone knows it is terrible. I have run this race twice. Once, in 2006, which was actually the first time I ever ran 13 miles at all. And, once in 2010, when I sort of fell apart on this section. (I actually have only run one other open half-marathon besides those two, which was really 11.8 miles because people are dumb.) So, I knew it was coming and I was so worried.

There weren’t really any women around me by that point and we had more or less sorted ourselves out, so I ran with my odd group of guys. There were a couple tri-dorks with visors and compression socks and lots of watches and heartrate monitors. There was a guy, who I swear to god looked like a Kenyan except that he was running my speed. There was a like 50-year-old Asian man and a few bros in t-shirts. I deliberately stared at the ground, so I wouldn’t stare at how far we had to go, and just focused on trying to run “faster” and we somehow kept up the same pace.

I felt great at this point. Which means I felt awful and in a lot of pain, but I knew I was running great. We hit mile 10 in 1:05:30. That’s amazing! Breaking 1:27 is totally possible! How awesome would it be to run a 1:26:xx – that is a serious time. I thought all I have to do is run like a 21:00 5K. I can definitely do that, just keep running like I’m running. In actuality, all I had to do was run 6:50s for those last 3.1 miles, slower than I’d run any of my miles to that point. But I couldn’t do it.

Because I didn’t want to regret anything and I didn’t want to just miss sub-1:27, I picked it up. I pushed it. Our group broke up. I thought: I can do this, I can do this, less than three to go. Then, we hit the 12 mile marker and I had run a 6:55 (or something, math got a little fuzzy). Then, it got slower. And, slower.

And, I wouldn’t have known I was running slower except in that last mile suddenly lots of people were passing me. I still thought I was running fast. It just turned out “fast” was like a 7:30 mile. Some of the guys from our group caught back up to me and I pumped my arms as hard as I could and tucked in on their heels. Four girls passed me in the last half mile and I tried to surge with every one of them. But, my legs just wouldn’t go anymore. I knew I was still doing good, but then I finally could see the clock and oh my god 1:28 was creeping up. No, no, no. I went as hard as I could and could feel the dry-heaving starting before I’d even hit the finish, but I got in under 1:28.

Then I walked back to my car. This is the sign that was right in front of where I parked. I like it. They’re not saying you shouldn’t swim or wade. They’re just letting you know people have drowned.

Ocean Beach in San Francisco.
Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Floyd the Cat Helps!

Yesterday, after I went for an easy jog (I hate the word jog, but, in this case, it may be apt) to test out the ankle, Floyd wanted to sit on my shoulder and get all my sweat all over him. This is his favorite and only trick. For an animal that doesn’t take baths, he does spend an awful lot of time getting dirty.

Floyd the cat's favorite place to sit.
Floyd the cat’s favorite place to sit.

Then, he helped me stretch – primarily by trying to hunt my leg and sitting on top of me while I laid on the roller. He also tried to drink the water in my ice bucket this morning, but it was so cold that he ran away too fast for me to get a picture, see:

Floyd thinks ice buckets are stupid.
Floyd thinks ice buckets are stupid.

Besides sitting on your face or shoulder, Floyd also enjoys computers and long walks on the beach. OK, really, he just enjoys computers and very short walks in which he sits on your shoulder while YOU walk. His favorite places to sit include, under the computer while you’re typing:

Floyd helps me do work.
Floyd helps me with my computering.

in the laundry basket, in his chair, or in the paper recycling bag:

Floyd helps with the recycling.
Floyd helps with the recycling.

And, then he was so tired from such a hard day yesterday, that he had to nap all evening, not even getting up to ‘help’ me make dinner.

So tired!
So tired!


Mint-chocolate Snowcap Cookies

I made cookies again last night (shocking!). And, perhaps, to serve me right for eating too many cookies, I burned my tongue on the hot melted chocolate.

Mint chocolate snow cap cookies.
Mint-chocolate snow cap cookies.

Mint-chocolate snow cap cookies are the best: powdered sugar, mint, chocolate. I couldn’t make them for a long time, because nowhere has mint-chocolate chips. Eventually, I actually ordered mint-chocolate chips from Hersey’s.

I used this snowcap cookie recipe. Except, of course, I did my standard switch out from eggs to flax seed. And, instead of melting all the chips, like the recipe says, I melted half of them for the dough and then used the other half as regular chips. It makes one big hot melted mint-chocolate mess.

And, you can lick the melted chocolate bowl:

Making cookies. And, then lick the bowl!
Making cookies. And, then lick the bowl!

Now, I’m headed off to a writing workshop, a run, and picking up tapeworm medicine for Floyd. Ew.