Not yet a Kobayashi Maru

26 06 2011

When Captain Kirk was a mere Starfleet cadet, the Kobayashi Maru drill was a test in coping with a no-win situation.  In the scenario of the 2280s, a distress signal comes in stating that the Kobayashi Maru has struck a “gravitic mine” in the Neutral Zone and is rapidly losing power, hull integrity and life support. There are no other vessels nearby. The cadet is faced with a decision:

  • Attempt to rescue the  crew and passengers, which involves violating the Neutral Zone and potentially provoking the Klingons into hostile action or an all-out war; or
  • Abandon them, potentially preventing war but leaving the crew and passengers to die.
Kirk quite famously took each option once and failed the test, then hacked the computer before his third try and reprogrammed it so he was able to effect the rescue.  Kirk does not believe in the no-win situation.  And neither do I.

As desperately hopeless as I felt in my last post, I did go on to run the Peoria race and did as horribly as I expected.  However, I ditched my timing chip at the first water stop and turned off my Garmin because I was tired of carrying the weight of my own mental pressure.

I slogged through the following week, doing much less than I should have, and confronted the next big test yesterday: the Rock & Roll Seattle 1/2 Marathon.  Undertrained, overweight and with a body depleted by 3 days of intestinal flu, I hauled my tired old carcass to the start line and did the race.  Yes, I walked most of it.  Yes, I was slower than I’ve ever been.  Yes, it was a great lesson in humility as well as a testament to determination I wasn’t sure I had.  But it was not a Kobayashi Maru because I feel like I emerged a winner regardless of all else.

A person has a lot of time to think when they’re shuffling along with some 26,000 other people.  And in those few moments when I wasn’t utterly captivated by the beauty of the present moment, I had time to reflect upon the past and plan for the future.  The trip itself was a refreshing break from what has lately been a life filled with chores and stress.  Enjoying the company of  my husband and a very dear friend at dinner the first night was a wonderful way to start the weekend.  Having a burger, a beer and a nap after the race was a fitting way to end it.  Now I’m sitting at the airport awaiting the flight which will carry me home, back to the madness of everyday life.  I’m glad to have had these 48 hours in this beautiful place and ready to forge onward once I return.  It’s been a great weekend.  I worked hard and loved it.  I definitely won.

No clever sci-fi reference today….just a moment of painful honesty

18 06 2011

My running lately has been sporadic and slow.  I’m uninspired, uninclined and unimpressed.  I’m sitting here in a hotel room in Peoria with the Steamboat Classic 15k less than one hour away, and I don’t want to go.

At a time when I’ve been “thinking outside the box” and pushing myself to do things I’ve never done before in an effort to make myself better (like hiring a trainer, ordering special food and joining a marathon training group), physically and mentally it feels like I’m moving backwards.

The diet is a bitch to stick to, the weather has thwarted much of my training and my spirit is as low as it’s ever been.  I expected the CPAP machine to fill me with vigor and desire.  Of course it hasn’t, because I’m still getting used to the damn thing.   The Bistro MD food is delicious but it didn’t erase my shameful lust for burgers and fries.  The trainer and the group are great but sometimes represent more obligations for me to dread.

I looked at the past few years’ results for this race and saw that I am likely to come in last.  Dead, stinking, ridiculous last.  I’ve done it before and hated it.  But yes, *somebody* has to be last.  In one way it could be a testament to courage, in that nobody else as slow as me has taken on this race.  But when yours is the name preserved in html for all time as ‘LAST’, it still sucks.

But I’m here and I paid and I guess I’d better get out the friggin’ door.  If anybody out there sees my elderly bulbous form stagger across the finish line and uses it as inspiration to get their ownselves moving, I suppose I’ve done my job.


….’round the moons of Nibia, and ’round the Antares maelstrom, and ’round Perdition’s flames I will run before I give it up!

14 06 2011

With apologies to Khan Noonien Singh (who was paraphrasing Captain Ahab when he said that in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan), I’m borrowing that phrase for my new mantra as I pass through a bit of a rough spot in my training.

Since last posting, I’ve received my CPAP machine which has boosted my energy and decreased my hunger levels in the past few days but it has taken a bit of getting used to.  Wearing a mask that blows air in one’s face all night long is certainly something different to experience.  While it has increased the quality of my sleep,  the quantity is yet a work in progress.  As a result, I’ve been a bit more easily fatigued and am struggling at the moment.

I’ve also started training for the marathon according to the CARA schedule, which called for an immediate reduction in long-run mileage but an increase in speed.  Combine all of those factors with a spate of freaky weather and it adds up to a nadir in the roller coaster of athletic life.

But I will survive and I will improve.  And I will make it… round the moons of Nibia, the Antares maelstrom and the Berlin Marathon.  I think I’ll skip Perdition’s flames for now.



Today — ran 3 miles; about to ride bike for 25 miles

June 13 — session with Personal Trainer:  upper body

June 12 — long slow painful 5 mile run on a beautiful day when I should have done better

June 11 — through a crazy no-Garmin and no-parking fiasco, I missed the long run with the marathon training group so I came home and worked in the garden for 2 hours

June 10 — session w/ Personal Trainer

June 9 — unplanned rest day; massive thunderstorm for 8 hours

June 8 — 3 mile run in 90 degree weather; need I mention I was miserable and slow?

June 7 — planned rest day

June 6 — session w/Personal Trainer; 3 mile walk with dogs



I’ve begun subscribing to Bistro MD frozen food delivery, and I love it.  I’ve always said when speaking about my enjoyment of electronic bill paying and other robotic shortcuts, “once you take me out of the equation, everything works perfectly.”   I decided to apply this approach to healthy eating, and it seems like it will do the trick.  I’m only getting 5 days worth of meals because I need freedom to enjoy life as well as extra calories on Friday/Saturday to support my weekend athletic pursuits, and that work out well on all levels.

So, off to bike now, and then hit the front garden for more planting.

As always, more later…..

There are no lonely Klingons…

5 06 2011

….but I as a mere Terran do yearn for the company of others, and never more so than when training for a race.  Since the majority of my friends and family are best counted on to join me in the pursuit of food-and-drink-centric merriment, I decided to sign on with the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) for a marathon training program.  I figured I would at least be guaranteed a bit of camaraderie on weekend long runs even if all I saw of the others were elbows and shoe soles as they all ran ahead of me.

I attended the program’s Super Clinic yesterday which was (rather ironically, I thought) held at the UIC Medical School in the City.  I was very impressed with the number of resources offered and the level of expertise as well as enthusiasm of the staff.

Among the speakers were runners, CARA staff, a team of sports medicine physicians, a nutritionist, physical therapists and some very high-level trainers.

Coach Bill Leach,  who has been training runners for over 40 years at the college level as well as amateurs like myself, spoke to us about the importance of proper training to avoid overuse injury.  He even gave us private access to some drill videos on his website and demonstrated some of the exercises we would find there.

We will also have 24/7 access to a team of physical therapists from NovaCare who can advise us about the inevitable aches and pains that crop up.  They spent a good deal of time instructing in posture and stretching and other easily-overlooked precautions that will keep us running instead of limping.

But the big name among the group’s mentors is Hal Higdon.  Yes, the actual real live Hal Higdon who writes for Runner’s World.  In fact, he designed our training program and gave each of us a copy of his book “Marathon: the Ultimate Training Guide” which could be considered our text book, I suppose.

While the whole experience gave me a much-needed burst of enthusiasm, there was one particular exchange which resurrected memories of events long-forgotten.  Perhaps it was being back in a medical school classroom that seemed to throw me backwards in time, but I found it amusing.

During Hal’s session, he told us many things including the fact that all of us novice marathoners who may never run more than a 10k to date *would* complete a 26.2 mile marathon in 18 weeks.  He also stated that those of us regularly running more than 6 miles should not worry about suffering from mileage reduction because the plan would steadily advance from 6 mile runs back to and beyond their previous maximum distances.  Upon finishing his narrative, he invited questions.

Immediately, some perky little wisp of a girl raised her hand and said “I’m running a half marathon next weekend.  What should I do after that?”  My eyes rolled and I slowly swiveled my head around to look at her as the med school memories came rushing back.  With annoying regularity there would always be SOMEONE who would ask a question designed to alert the rest of the class to their superior insight.  It might be a legitimate question, although it rarely seemed like it, but the greater message conveyed would be “I want to impress everyone with how much more I know than the rest of you schlubs.”

Unlike my former professors, Hal handled it with aplomb.  “Is this your first half marathon?” he asked.

“Oh no,” replied Boasting Betty, “I’ve done a few others.”  Now I’m grinding my teeth because if this chick has trained for more than one half marathon, she can intuit what to do next.

Hal my new hero responded, “A few others….well, you know everything then.  Paula Radcliffe get out of the way!” and the crowd absolutely roared.  “Just take a couple of days off then follow the training program.”


With that comment, any future head-trips down memory lane back to those long lost classrooms in which I sat feeling every day like the oldest, slowest, least-supported person in the room were exploded as if by a blast from a Class 10 Photon Torpedo.  I left the seminar feeling well-equipped and just as capable as anyone else in the room.  Maybe even more than some.

Me likey.Tlhingan Hol makes you Smile



Friday — nothing, no excuse

Saturday — nothing, overslept

Sunday — rode 15 miles on the bike, then walked the dogs 3 miles


Still a work in progress.  Ate too much junk on Friday and Saturday, then reined it in once more.  Daily input-output stats on my Excel spreadsheet were pretty embarassing and I have resolved yet again to do better.

Breaking free from Tyken’s Rift

3 06 2011

File:Tyken's Rift.jpgTyken’s Rift was a space-time anomaly which was enountered by the Enterprise D in 2367.  The telepathic transmissions of an alien trapped in the rift caused the crew to lose the ability to achieve REM sleep which created mental instability and led to all sorts of bizarre behavior.  Previously another ship, the USS Brattain, had been trapped there and the sleep disturbances created mental mayhem so profound that the entire crew eventually murdered one another.  Fortunately, this is not going to happen to me.

I recently underwent a sleep study and was diagnosed with “moderate sleep apnea”.  Last night, I returned to the Center for Sleep Medicine to be fitted for a pressure mask and again test overnight to determine which amount of air pressure will force open my collapsing airways so that I can sleep healthfully once more.  Apparently, I’ve been having “micro-arousals” about every 3-4 minutes during the night when the soft tissue in my airway relaxed and cut off airflow.  My blood level of oxygen then dropped from the expected 97% or so down to a dangerous 75% before  a lifesaving mechanism in my brain reawakened me for a few seconds to restore the muscle tone necessary to allow air passage.  This is why I’ve been so tired for months, maybe years, and perhaps even why I’ve become an obsessive carb-craver in recent times.

Learning about this potentially lethal condition came as a result of my being an information geek.  Earlier this year, I constructed an athletic training log for myself in order to observe training patterns in hopes of achieving new goals, correcting mistakes and tracking aches/pains before they became true injuries.  At one point, I decided to include a daily entry for sleep statistics–length, perceived quality, morning energy level—to see where I could improve on that important component as well.

Then I came across an ad in a magazine for a machine called a Zeo—a sort of alarm clock with a headband.  The headband contains sensors which measure brain waves, score the quality of sleep on a scale of 1-100 and download all the information to the computer.  It turned out my sleep score (a proprietary measure constructed by the Zeo manufacturer) was well below expectations for a person of my age.  Even worse, the ratio of deep to light sleep to REM and wakefulness was ridiculous.  Crazier still was the fact that the readouts were telling me I was awake up to 4 hours a night.  I’ll admit to being too often annoyed by what I call a “menopause night” where I awaken every hour or two, glance at the clock, maybe go to the bathroom and then go right back to sleep.  But spending a total of 240 minutes awake?  No way.  Not unless I’m getting beamed aboard a spaceship and having my memory wiped upon return.  Or so I thought.

I mean, I know I snore.  I’ve done so for years.  My mother did.  My husband does.  So does my son.  I know snoring can be associated with apnea.  But I didn’t know I had “that kind of snoring.”  Well, I guess I do.

Last night’s “CPAP titration study” will allow prescription of the most comfortable type of mask and the proper pressure settings.  And when the equipment arrives in 7-10 days, I will begin sleeping like a person is supposed to sleep again.  It will be nice to feel rested in the morning.  It will be great to see how my athletic performance improves.  I will be ass-over-teakettle to see some of the extra weight drop off with perhaps less than the usual Herculean effort.  But most of all, it will be superb to live a healthy life for more years than I might have done otherwise.  “Live long and prosper” is a postulate which only applies if you actually live long.



Sunday — rest day

Monday — personal trainer session; upper body and core

Tuesday — went to the gym:  treadmill, bike, elliptical for a total of 75 minutes

Wednesday — rode bike outdoors for an hour

Thursday — rest day


Other than one stellar day, it pretty much sucked again.