Monday, September 18, 2017

Blogroll Irma

Here, read this while I figure out how to go back to being normal Nicole and not traumatized Nicole:

Tampa Bay's escape from Irma was more than luck

Read the Washington Post article that comes up first. I'd link to it directly, but I think it will prompt you to purchase a subscription if I do it that way, hence the Google Search approach.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


I spent some time cleaning the house this morning, then made my way over to the gym for arm day. Actually, it really could have been any workout day of my choosing, given it has been over a week since I last did any voluntary exercise. I also checked the runDisney website for an update on Tink. Still no news. Rats. (I've decided to clean up my language a bit. It's been pretty terrible lately, and I'm better than that.)

Oh, I'm sorry. Is an update on my half marathon training not the story you're here for?

The story you want to hear is one I'm not quite ready to tell. Because even though it has a drop-to-my-knees-and-thank-a-higher-power-I-don't-really-believe-in happy ending, it was the most terrifying thing I've ever lived through. And all I've been able to do this past week is envision the different ways it could have played out: how my family could have been split apart, how we could have been looking at a best-case scenario of homelessness and a worst-case scenario of.... well, THE worst-case scenario.

Remember how I said things had to get "End of Days" bad for me to leave my home?

Yeah. Irma was looking THAT bad for St. Pete.

But in the end, we got lucky. And things are slowly starting to return to normal, beginning with my mother and grandmother finally being able to go home yesterday. Although their house survived Irma, they had no power, so they stayed with us until it was turned back on. We've been helping them over the course of the last few days move the contents of their house - which they had moved to "safety" into our house - back into their house, including their three cats and dog.

Hence the house cleaning and getting everything back in order in our own house this morning.

I'm tired.

Star Wars Emperor Palpatine saying "I need sleep - would you agree?"
So give me a few more days to finish eating my Hurricane Irma leftovers, catch up on sleep missed over the last two weeks, and stop inwardly crying so much, and maybe then I'll be able to share exactly what happened from September 9th and beyond.

Friday, September 8, 2017

T Minus Two Days

Not getting much sleep lately. Wonder why.

You can say you aren't going to worry about something until you know the facts, but knowing the fact the Atlantic's worst hurricane ever is possibly coming right for you is pretty worrisome.

Jimbo from South Park "It's coming right for us"
Shooting Irma won't help.
But I was still slightly relieved by the fact most models predicted on Wednesday that Irma may head East, giving us on the Gulf Coast a fighting chance.

And then yesterday's predictions came out, and a friend of mine called it to my attention on Facebook:

Hurricane Irma models as of Thursday 3pm
Yeah. Everything shifted West. 
The biggest picture on top is the most horrendous scenario, because that puts Irma going right up the center of Florida. It also comes from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, which is considered to have the most accurate model for predicting hurricanes.

K. Am I scared? You're goddamn right I'm scared.

So it looks like it's coming right for us. BUT - another stroke of luck - what we thought might be cat 3 Irma has been downgraded to a cat 2 Irma by the time she gets to us. So 80 mile per hour winds then. Fan-fucking-tastic.

Anyway, I had sprint intervals on the agenda today, so since sleep wasn't happening and I had a little time before project "Help Husband Apply Hurricane Panels to Windows" started (and try to put in a full workday as well, because who knows what's going to happen next week), I decided to go complete my sprints around the lake near my house. You know, the same one with ducklings and otters and cute baby animals of all types. Speaking of ducklings, they're still there. A little older, of course, but not fully grown yet. I wonder how ducklings fare in 80+ mph wind?

But back to running... there was something particularly liberating about each one of those 30-second sprints I did this morning. Because when you are running your heart out, there's no chance to think about the what ifs. My mind was free from all of the planning and worrying and catastrophizing - it only had two priorities: A. breathe and B. get Nicole as far as possible as fast as possible. No room for any other thoughts.

Thoughts like... Will Disney World be ok?

And more importantly... Will my Mom's/Grams's house be ok?

They got the mandatory evacuation order yesterday afternoon. At first, they didn't get any other details except that evac was happening at 6 am on Friday, and panic ensued. They weren't exactly prepared to be ready that quickly, so my mom called me freaking out about everything that needed to be done. "Well... how long do you have to get out?" I asked her. It appears the city neglected to give them that information.

After doing a little research, I found out that, yes, evac began at 6 am this morning but at least they had until 8 am Sunday morning to get out (not that they should wait that long). However, what evac means is that if you don't have a special sticker on your car indicating you're a resident of the evac area, you can no longer get in. And a major part of their preparedness plan involved mine and Ben's help. So last night, we spent most of the evening doing what we could to help them get ready around their house.

And evacuated Grams's cat, Mittens, and 30 cans of soup to our house. Progress.

We also took one of their two minivans so that we could get back and forth to continue helping them tonight. Man, their two minivans have really come in handy this summer.

Anyway, I also learned we're expecting additional guests on Sunday. Our friends down the street live in a 100-year-old house. With a newborn baby, they didn't want to take any chances, so they are also coming with their dog to hang out when Irma arrives. Party on.

Between the painful process that is evacuating my family, prepping their house for what might be its ultimate end, and making last minute preparations for our own house to keep everyone safe, I'm not sure how much time I'll have in the next day.

5 pm update. Irma shifted West again. Awesome.

So I guess this is it. You probably won't be hearing from me again.

This weekend. I meant you won't be hearing from me again this weekend.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Nicole's Hurricane Checklist

Ok, so how the hell do you prepare for a hurricane when:
  • you've been trying to hammer in good eating habits by consuming 99.9% fresh meat, veggies, and fruit, and most of the edibles that will survive a power-outage are highly-processed nutritionless crap;
  • you adhere to a structured (but sensible) mostly outdoor workout regimen; and
  • your livelihood depends on you having a working laptop and internet access?
I don't know about YOUR plan, but here's mine for what it's worth. Of course, if you are starting to plan now for Irma, um... procrastinate much?? Put this in your back pocket for the next one, though, it may not be very far behind...

Step 1: Go to the library. Be grateful that your employer gives you paid time off, and you've banked enough to get you through two weeks of a power outage if for some reason you can't work for that long, so you're not going to worry that much about it and you might as well have something you can entertain yourself with by candlelight. It's also very important that said entertainment is Grandma/Mom appropriate, because they got the news today that they are required to start evacuating beginning at 6 am tomorrow, and who knows how long they'll be staying with you for.

Books my husband and I picked up at the library
I'ma curl up with a good read and 120+ mph winds. You?
Step 2: Go to the grocery store. Implode when all of the canned tuna, salmon, chicken, and veggies are sold out. Compose yourself and ask your husband about how you can keep stuff cold for as long as possible if the power goes out. 

My provisions currently include the following:
  • Fresh chicken and salmon: To be cooked the night before the hurricane arrives and used in salads before fresh veggies go bad
  • Eggs: To be hard-boiled and used in the same way
  • Bananas: Slightly green, have some shelf life
  • Green smoothies made with pre-frozen bananas: To be blended before power goes out and kept in the refrigerator with ice packs and consumed first 
  • Almond Milk. Not shelf stable, unfortunately. They were out of that. I do have two cans of coconut milk though
  • RX Bars
  • Gluten-free cereal - both hot and cold. Wonder if I'll be able to get hot water, though... When I lived in NJ, I had a gas stove and was still able to cook when the power went out during Sandy. I have electric here, so not as lucky.
  • Coffee. But there's that question of hot water again. Wait, no coffee??? Are you fucking kidding me?? (We've been over this, iced coffee is not my jam).
  • But jam is my jam. Got two types of jam, actually.
  • And sunbutter
  • Nuts
  • Paleo Wraps - just a stroke of luck I had these from a previous Thrive Market order
  • Loaf of bread, chips and salsa - food to keep the husband happy should definitely be part of your hurricane survival checklist
  • Bottled water
  • Whatever my mom's bringing
So most of the above heavily rely on the fact that I have plenty of ice, will keep my fridge/freezer cold for as long as possible, and also have two coolers I can use if needed. But if it comes down to it, I'll eat damn PB&J (er... SB&J?) sandwiches. 

Step 3. Go for as many runs outside along the bay as possible while you still can. Sure, you'll probably have one or six of the worst runs of your life because of exhaustion and stress and the like, but... who knows if your favorite path along the bay will still be there in a few days and when you'll even be able to go running again? No regrets.

Andy Dwyer from Parks and Rec running.
And I'm going to die.
Step 4. Marry an Eagle Scout to handle everything else. You know, the minutiae like batteries and flashlights and candles and boarding up windows and filling up bathtubs and first aid and stuff. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Run Boy Run

This world is not made for you. Irma's coming. The west is on fire. Nowhere is safe.

Meanwhile, in St. Pete, Florida, things felt pretty dire yesterday, when in reality we just still knew nothing.

You know nothing, Jon Snow.
Maybe we've all got a better shot living north of the Wall these days. 
Now, things have to be "End of Days" bad for me to leave my home. I'm not in an evacuation zone. My husband says we live at the top of "Mt. St. Pete," because at 43 ft above sea level, we're at the highest point you can get here in the 'Burg. Hey, maybe that's why my first mile on any given run is always a teensy bit faster than the rest. I get the extra bump from running down the world's smallest, most gradually rolling hill.

Another reason we won't leave is that our ideal position makes my house the evac point for my mother and grandmother (+3 cats and a dog). They live in nearby Treasure Island, right on the water in a lovely small duplex that was built in 1952-ish. SO yeah... I may have mentioned yesterday that I was worried about our landscaping. Meanwhile, a cat 5 hurricane will send Casa de Mama right to the bottom of the bay.

The real potential tragedy here is that my grandmother has been an artist for most of her 89.5 years of life, and her home is filled with her oil paintings, prints, and stone sculpture, which will go to various family members that live across the country once Grams is no longer with us. I have some of her stuff. I'd happily take more. Let's just hope I'm being overdramatic here per my usual MO and her house would be fine, just fine.

So yesterday, we knew absolutely nothing about our role in Hurricane Irma other than it COULD come our way and it COULD be a gigantic storm of epic proportions when it got here. And this is why I fucking hate hurricanes - because this is the hysteria it has already caused:
  1. No bottled water anywhere. (Don't worry, I've got two cases. That will last me at least a day. Ben and my mom have more).
  2. No gas at Wawa - ONE local gas station - but I'm sure there are other gas stations that could be out. (I also have a full tank, thanks to my husband and the fact that we're Chevy Volt owners that telecommute and mostly drive on electricity).
  3. No canned food. This is where I will admit I am under-fucking-prepared. I am not a fan of food that has a long shelf life, don't buy it, don't cook with it. But I went to Trader Joe's yesterday to stock up and there was no tuna. No canned chicken. No canned veggies. No soup! Umm. Maybe now is when I try intermittent fasting, that seems to be trendy. Perhaps I'll share my Hurricane Preparedness Pantry with you tomorrow. 
  4. Sandbag mania: So yesterday, the city of St. Pete announced they were opening 3 areas for residents to pick up 10 sandbags per resident from 4 pm - 8 pm, and that they'd be giving out sandbags every day this week beginning at 7:30 am. My husband and I planned to pop over there after work to pick some up (not for us, but for my mother's house, for which - when you think about it - sandbags are going to do Jack Squat), but by 5 pm, the lines were so long at each of the 3 locations, they were turning people away because the last people in line likely weren't going to be able to get in by the time it closed at 8. So instead of going for my Wednesday morning run today, I was up and out the door with Ben by 6:45 to get on line for goddamn sandbags. I knew we wouldn't be the only crazy ones - the line was already forming at 7 am for these things. So we passed the time by playing the only appropriate music we could think of: "It's the End of the World" by R.E.M. and "The Final Countdown" by Europe. We got our sandbags by 8am, thanked the city workers for their help, and went over to my mom's place with our precious loot. But seriously, you may need a police escort or an armored vehicle in the future if you go anywhere with sandbags around here. The craziness continued today, with 2+ hour lines forming at every location (and they even added three more locations!) There were people posting on city forums all "IVE BEEN WAITING 2.5 HOURS, ST. PETE NEEDS TO BE MORE ORGANIZED, RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE." Come on, people. The city doesn't HAVE to do this. They aren't responsible for protecting your home from a natural disaster, but it's a nice helpful FREE service they offer to those that choose to live here. Here's a photo I borrowed from the city website, which doesn't even begin to show the giant lines of cars I saw around town this morning:
Images from Saint Petersburg, Florida on Hurricane sandbag giveaway
The struggle is real, people.
And the REASON people are scared shitless is that we just saw what Harvey did and know our time here in Florida - and very specifically, the Gulf Coast - is coming. 

We just weren't thinking it was going to be this soon.

But then some new predictions came later this afternoon, and for the first time in a few days, I found I could breathe again.

Hurricane Irma Path as of today.
That red box is me.
So this is about as good as it could possibly get for us, knowing fully that being anywhere within the path of a hurricane is bad news. AND I'm not trying to downplay the suffering that anybody who is currently experiencing Irma is going through. But if this scenario happens, here's the hope:
  • That we're looking at maybe a cat 3 by the time it gets to us instead of a cat 5. Now, my frame of reference would be Sandy and Irene, both cat 1 when they hit NJ, though, so it would be great if Irma slowed her roll just a teensy bit more. 
  • That the Gulf of Mexico isn't going to drown my Grams/Mom's house.
And this is the biggest relief of all. Because having to live with my mom and Grams for an extended period of time is much scarier than the hurricane itself.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Summer Sads

Before I got all crazy about Hurricane Harvey, I started feeling what I call the "Summer Sads." I was wondering when this would set in again - it seemed to skip over me the last two summers. But for most of my adult life, I still got the Back-to-School Blues, even though I haven't gone back to school in ages and I have perpetual summer now that I live in Florida. Yet something just feels...over.

Star Wars Luke Skywalker saying "Noooo!"
This is how I feel when Labor Day comes and goes.
Maybe the Summer Sads are back because I've been watching too much depressing shit on Netflix. So on a positive note, at least Stranger Things will be back soon. And we are getting into my most favorite time of year - Pumpkin everything!!! (Although I have yet to decide how I'm going to handle pumpkin everything. I had a pumpkin coffee from Dunkin Donuts, and it really wasn't as exciting as I remembered it. Not worth it.)

But I feel reminded about all the things I wanted to do that I just didn't get to, and there's not enough time to cram it in with only three weeks before summer officially ends. And all of the better parts of summer are behind me, and I just need to get into the mindset of homework and early morning bus rides again. Err... that's not right. I need to get into the mindset of fighting off the two H's: Hurricanes and Halloween candy.

That isn't exactly what has me down.

Each season is a metaphor for life, which reminds me how fleeting it all really is. Spring: your childhood, where everything is fresh and new. Summer: your best years, still young and free. And here I am, coming to the end of the summer of my life. Sure, there's beauty in fall, but... things just start falling apart. Cooling off. The sun doesn't shine as brightly and your days are so much shorter.

There's some beauty in winter, too, I must remember. When you look at winter with the eyes of a child, it's full of wonder. Only through the wisdom of adulthood does winter bring misery. It's one of a few reasons why I said "peace out" to New Jersey a few years ago.

Of course, some of us don't even make it to winter. I could be outside walking my dog tomorrow and this could all be over. We act like we have all the time in the world, but you don't know. You just don't know. You can only hope.

And, ya know, do everything within your power to try to keep your summer going for as long as possible. Eat right. Exercise appropriately. Try not to stress out too much. That sorta thing.

It's hard not to stress when you've got the "End of Days" staring you in the face again, though. Just as we were putting in our last palm tree in our new landscaping last week, Ben and I got the news that Hurricane Irma was potentially coming our way, so that was excellent timing #sarcasm. And now it's looking very likely that we're going to get hit.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

When exercise becomes unhealthy Part 2

I was investigating a dip in traffic to the blog this week and discovered I inadvertently changed my privacy settings. Way to go, Nicole. It was a particularly bonehead thing to do given I'm still trying to rebuild an audience after killing RttDS last January. So if you're here, I am very grateful you're still sticking with me. Thanks.

Yesterday, I introduced the moment I started seeking new answers to problems that had been building throughout my entire life. I had been juggling a restrict/binge/purge cycle for years, and prior to 2012, I had tried unsuccessfully to end this through therapy. I think part of the problem was that I wasn't willing to stop the intense exercise - I was only focused on the "binge" portion of my problem. Here are some things that were happening to me that should have clued me in sooner that I was overdoing it:
  1. Loss of menstrual cycle: I didn't start journaling until about 2010, so I have fuzzy timelines on this, but I had been taking hormonal birth control up until 2009. I stopped because I figured taking hormones for 10+ years was a bad idea. Shortly after I stopped the BCP, I stopped getting my cycle regularly. I likely would have lost my cycle sooner - BCP was artificially keeping it going. As I shared in this post, it came back late 2015 after I stopped the running madness.
  2. Compromised immune system: Like I said yesterday, I was sick all of the time in 2012. It was particularly bad that year because I faced lots of stressful events then, and wasn't doing myself any favors adding in the extreme exercise. But even in the years following, I'd find myself feeling run down frequently. Since 2015, I've had less of a challenge fighting off infection.
  3. Night sweats: TMI? About once a month, I'd wake up in the middle of the night absolutely drenched. It could be the middle of the winter, it didn't matter. This was the absolute WORST because a. Gross and b. There was no chance of me going back to sleep when this happened. I never tied the hormonal chaos my body was going through back to this, but given that it hasn't happened in a few years, I think it's safe to say the intense exercise was connected.
  4. Compulsion: While not a physical symptom per se, I feel like it's important to address here. Exercise was *the* thing my life revolved around. All social engagements were prioritized around my training schedule. I was even late to my bridal shower because I needed to hit the gym the morning of, and my husband wasn't ready to go to the gym with me on time, but I just would not cut my run short. It's no longer the end of the world if I miss a workout these days.
  5. Lack of improvement: Remember I said yesterday one of those overtraining signals is still hanging around? This is the one. The thing is I DID get faster and I DID lose weight when I began half marathon training, even though some of the other problems above I had already been experiencing for a few years. And things kinda evened out for me in 2012... and then started to get worse, and haven't improved since. 
Star Wars Han Solo shrugging.
Things are supposed to be getting better now, damn it.
BONUS SYMPTOM: Anxiety. I don't know whether to include this here or not. It COULD be related. I can't ignore the fact that it certainly peaked in 2012 while I was training for two half marathons, but there was a lot of other stuff going on. I've experienced it less intensely over the last few years, but I think there are other things in my life besides my running and eating habits that are contributing to that as well. 

I've noticed my anxiety has increased since I started the meds. I confirmed with New Doc this week that bupropion acts like an amphetamine. "That can be a bit uncomfortable for someone with anxiety," he says. Gee, doc, ya think?! He's changing my script, although the lower dose has more of an immediate release. We'll see how that goes.

Anyway, I share the above in the hopes that it can help you or someone you know to figure out if you have an unhealthy relationship with exercise. There are plenty of other ways your body could be yelling at you to slow down, but the biggest thing is that you've gotta be in a place where you are willing to listen. Something about living through a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy finally got me to listen and start looking for answers. Gotta live our best lives now because tomorrow is not promised.

Friday, September 1, 2017

When exercise becomes unhealthy Part I

Hurricane Harvey had me thinking a lot about my experience during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

2012 was kind of a crazy year for me. I had started a new job in November, 2011, so I was still learning the ropes in 2012. I ran my first (and still my fastest) half marathon in April. I was planning a wedding, got married in June. I then left that job I had started in 2011 for another one right after the wedding. Oh, I ran my second half marathon in September. And then I went on my honeymoon a week later. While I was away, my grandmother died, which was pretty hard on my dad's side of the family. I began another serious job search. So... yeah. A lot happened.

Right before Hurricane Sandy, I was hit with an infection. I had a nasty abscess under my arm - I used to get these frequently in college, but hadn't had one in about ten years. I had attributed the abscesses to being overweight, and figured they were a thing of the past since I had dropped about 20 lbs and kept it off. So I was very surprised to see one return. Maybe it had nothing to do with weight, and everything to do with stress...

In any case, I went to see a doctor, who suspected it might be MRSA and gave me a powerful antibiotic to fight it. I didn't get better, though... I got worse. For two and a half weeks, I suffered, and woke up one final morning covered in hives. Turns out I was allergic to the antibiotic they gave me.

Between that experience and a glimpse into the "End of Days" that was Sandy, I knew something had to change. I began to question what my existence had become.

1. Why was I getting sick all of the time? Even before the MRSA problem, I was always frequently feeling run down.
2. Why was I job hopping all of the time? Before 2013, I hadn't held the same job in a calendar year since 2005. Anxiety wasn't the whole reason for that, but definitely a major part of it from 2011-2013... coincidentally around the time I began training for half marathons.
3. And why could I show so much control and delayed gratification in so many facets of my life - exercise, finances, volunteering - but could NOT get my eating disorder under control?

So I can pinpoint that late 2012, right after Sandy hit, is when I started to look into unconventional approaches to solving my issues. Because "diet and exercise" weren't really getting me anywhere I wanted to go. My initial search lead me to read Wheat Belly by William Davis, and I started my first public blog in 2013 about my experience trying to kick wheat and gluten grains from my diet. Spoiler alert: it failed.

Now, what's the most logical next step to take when one has trouble restricting one item from his or her diet? Why, find an even MORE restrictive diet, of course! In 2014, I found Paleo and started reading things like Mark's Daily Apple and It Starts with Food (aka the Whole30 or Whole 9 Life). Yet what drew me to these resources was not so much the attention they gave to food, although food featured prominently... it was the information they provided on living a healthy lifestyle.

And that nudged me towards the fact that I needed to quit running cold turkey.

Which is why I started this blog in 2015. Because I wanted to stop running... except I didn't want to do it until after I got a sub 2 half marathon. So here I am, still running, and maybe that's a dumb thing to do.

But maybe it's not.

Because it's easy for me to look back NOW at all of the signals my body was giving me in 2012 (well... from 2009 to 2015) to stop running so HARD, start eating more, and maybe take a break once in a while.

And I'm not getting a single one of those signals today.

Ok, I lied. One is still kinda hanging around.

Star Wars Han Solo shrugging
And I'm not 100% sure what to do about that. 
Tomorrow, I'll share what those signals were in the event you are experiencing any of them... so that maybe you can recognize if you might be in the run/eat/repeat cycle, and get some help getting out of it sooner rather than later.