Em oi! #430: The Ravell’d Sleeve

The kid started daycare this morning. So there’s that. The upshot is that I have a few minutes to think about comics. Apparently I finished inking this one on October 10th, which means it took me nearly a month to erase the pencil lines and scan it. Oops.

If you are going to ask me, “Hey Em, why have you been so obsessed with Heidegger lately?” The answer is I’m not sure. I watched a couple of entertaining videos about him last month (example 1; example 2). (I spent a lot of the last twelve weeks sitting on the sofa with a fussy/hungry/just cuddly baby, watching videos about philosophers.) Heidegger’s ideas about learning to live authentically through being aware of our temporary, fleeting lives are interesting in the same way that Buddhism’s ideas about samsara are interesting. And in fact a long time ago I edited a book of essays about Asian philosophy that discussed the similarities between Heidegger and Zen Buddhism. But at the same time, as I’ve been spending time watching our dogs and the kidlet, I’ve become somewhat convinced that the way to live authentically isn’t to live with an awareness of one’s own mortality, as Heidegger would have it, but more to live in the present. Of course, the rejection of “noise” (das Gerede) is probably a good idea to help us learn about the value and connectedness of life (das Sein).

There’s also the problem that Heidegger was kind of a Nazi. A lot of sites that talk about his philosophy gloss over this or sort of apologize for it, but he never really did so. I should note that I have mixed feelings about that article’s seeming removal of culpability from Arendt by saying she was “in thrall” to him. Dude wasn’t a vampire; she made a choice to defend him. But that also raises the question of why, which is not satisfactorily answered.

Simone de Beauvoir’s remarks are influenced mostly by my understanding of her quote about “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” Her meaning is about socialization, I believe–being a woman is essentially a social construction. Times of upset in one’s life that require a reorganization, like marriage and births, are times when one can feel one’s socially assigned role shifting significantly, sometimes whether one wants it to or not. There are certainly a lot of people who have told me sort of soppy, annoying things about motherhood (e.g. don’t come up and tell me I’m the most important person in my son’s life, I am not his only parent and I don’t want that kind of pressure), but the “mom shaming” one hears so much about has not really been a problem.

I have been approached by a lot of old people who want to look at the baby though. What’s up with old people?

For more on Donald Winnicott’s ideas about motherhood (or parenthood, if he were writing today), you can see the book Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. She goes into it much better than I could. Or Wikipedia has a summary here. Basically, “meet the child’s needs, and it’s okay to fail a little bit.”

All right, I am going to spend the last twenty minutes of my lunch break with my head down, since I slept 4.75 hours last night. Whee.

We’ll file this under RC547 L86 2017, for Internal medicine–Neurosciences. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry–Psychiatry–Neuroses–Sleep disorders–General works. Because there doesn’t seem to be a call number for “sleep deprivation torture caused by having a newborn around.” Also, why is psychiatry cataloged under “internal medicine”? If internal medicine just means “stuff inside the body,” it arguably contains (as a category) all branches of medicine except maybe parts of dermatology. Weird.

Em oi! #429: The Weight

Hey guys, I remembered how to draw. Sort of.

For those who are totally confused by the set up described here, basically the jogging stroller has an attachment that holds the car seat, and the baby rides in that. I didn’t give this much thought before he was born, but the whole thing adds up to quite a bit of weight. I have found I’m getting faster going up hills when I’m not pushing H though. This past Saturday at the Indian Lake trail run, I got up the Hill (you know which one if you’ve been out there) faster than ever before. Of course I ran the rest of the course at a fairly slow pace overall, but I was proud of how many people I passed scrambling up that hill.

Also, babies are hard to draw. I just want to say that. And by the time I master what he looks like now, he’ll look different.

Bonus panel:

This one is going to have a shorter chat than usual because, well, someone just woke up from his nap I think. In the meantime, we’ll file it under RG801 L86 2017, for Gynecology and obstetrics–Obstetrics–Puerperal state–General works. I admit that this feels like a bit of a cop-out, but while there’s a subject heading that seems relevant (postnatal exercise), there doesn’t seem to be an obvious call number associated with it. There is an obvious call number for prenatal exercise though, which reinforces the idea that once you give birth, you’re not that interesting anymore (medically or otherwise). Seriously, we got sent home from the hospital with only a few lame self-care instructions given that I’d just had what I’m told was major surgery (like “don’t drive for a while.” I asked, “How long is a while?” Nurse: “I don’t know, you need to ask your doctor.” What, really, you don’t know how long after a c-section I should avoid driving? Don’t you do this ALL THE TIME?).

I could rant about that all day, but I won’t. People are idiots, we already knew that. Anyway. Hope you’re all enjoying the nice fall weather. I am. Talk to you all later.

Em oi! #428: Male Bonding

This is based on actual conversations I had back when I was still going to aikido (something I did up to about 20 weeks). It surprised me when I was talking to guys about pregnancy–and I mean guys who have kids–the two things they know about pregnancy are 1) there is a lot of puking, and 2) get an epidural.[1] Actually, after making this observation, a friend pointed out that most people don’t spend as much time with their spouses/significant others as I do on a day-to-day basis, so the vomiting and labor may be the biggest parts of what most men remember about pregnancy. That and cravings, I guess. But just like I didn’t actually throw up until I got the stomach flu in March, I didn’t really have any exciting cravings beyond granny smith apples with peanut butter.

So when I originally drew this comic, I messed something up–I drew and inked another comic on the other side of the page, and the ink bled through. Fortunately, B was able to save the art with Photoshop. He also produced this version, which I actually think is in many ways much better than the original, betraying a good sense of comic timing as well as an acute awareness of, well, Em (Em qua character and Em qua me):

I’m filing the first comic under HM1161 L86 2017, for Sociology–Social psychology–Interpersonal relations. Social behavior–Interpersonal attraction–Friendship. The second comic will be filed under BJ1491 M48 2017, for Ethics–Special topics–Hedonism and asceticism. Renunciation.

I wanted to add a few notes about running during pregnancy, since I have pretty much finished running[2] (though not working out) at this point, and since I anticipate that in a few weeks, the topic won’t be of too much concern for me anymore but that I may want to retain the information for posterity.

I have run seven races while pregnant[3]:

Race / Distance Date Time Place
New Year’s Day Dash (5 mi) 1-1-17 45:09 54th of 144 in age group
Freeze for Food 5k 3-4-17 29:15 5th in AG
Freeze for Food 10k 3-4-17 (directly after the 5k) 59:21 15th in AG
44-Furlong World Championship (about 5.5 mi) 3-18-17 54:15 11th overall (of 18 women)
Donald Dash (12k-ish trail race) 5-6-17 1:36:18 25th in AG
Ice Age Trail Half Marathon 5-13-17 DNF DNF
Blue Mound Trail Race (10k) 6-3-17 1:32:30 20th in AG (of 20)

I think this kind of paints a picture. The weather is always a major factor for any runner, but it’s especially a big deal during pregnancy. For example, the Ice Age Trail race was extremely humid–in another year, I would have finished, although slowly (I was on pace for a three-hour half–significantly slower than I’ve ever done on that course–but of course in another year I would have probably been a little faster too). But this year, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and ended the race after the first 6.5-mi loop.[4] In fact, “more” is basically the watchword for running during pregnancy–you need more water, more calories for a given distance, more bathrooms,[5] and eventually, more time.

The situation is not quite as 100% clear-cut as I’m making it sound here, though. Here’s a chart of my pace from November until July (click to embiggen):

As you can see, I have gotten slower, but things are uneven. On the other hand, this is skewed by the fact that I moved my training inside as of May and took to the elliptical only as of mid-June. The moving average is set to a period of five because typically I run five days per week, although since I switched to elliptical only it has been 4 days / week elliptical, 3 days / week swimming.

So here, briefly, is a list of my advice for running during pregnancy. Standard disclaimers apply–this is basically what worked for me, but it may not work for you, or even be feasible.

  1. Read Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by James Clapp.
  2. During the first two trimesters, running was a lot easier when I was running with others. The further along I got, the more true this became. Getting up in the morning in time to meet my running groups got harder and harder though.
  3. Bring water. Also, bring more snacks than you would normally.
  4. You can get a support belt that will help prevent your uterus from bullying your bladder. This belt was most helpful between about 13-20 weeks.
  5. Eventually, moving the workouts inside, where there is climate control and easy access to bathrooms, is a good idea.
  6. Expect recovery to take longer than usual.
  7. Don’t run down a mountain–you will eventually have to run back up. This might be good advice for any time, honestly. I did this around twelve weeks, at altitude (in Colorado), and nearly passed out later that evening because I didn’t refuel well–just downed a coffee and a bagel and took a nap. So if you do decide to do something stupid like this, eat two bagels.
  8. Just because people often compare going through labor and running a marathon doesn’t mean that you have to show up for labor ready to run 26.2 miles. Similarly, it’s okay to switch to elliptical when your joints/organs can’t take the impact anymore. Just keep moving.
Photo courtesy of Blue Mounds Trail Race.

The funny thing about this photo is I remember feeling so victorious as I crossed the finish line. But in reality, I look incredibly toasted (and covered with mud). And eight months pregnant. Some things are unavoidable.

[1] It is perhaps unsurprising that men who have watched their partners go through labor both with and without an epidural will say, “Get the epidural.”

[2] My current workout regime is ~25 mi/week on the elliptical, 3,000-5,000 yards of swimming, and 3-4 days of lifting weights. I can still deadlift 115 lbs at this point, but I’m getting some funny looks from various gym bros (suck it, gym bros).

[3] Technically I was pregnant during the 2016 Burbee Derby, but I didn’t know it yet, so I’m omitting that here.

[4] I’m still kind of disappointed in myself about this. I’d never DNF’d a race before. (For those who aren’t runners, DNF = Did Not Finish.)

[5] One highlight of the IAT race was stepping off the course to pee in the bushes and discovering I’d chosen a thorn bush to crawl into. Good job, me.

Em oi! #427: Media Is Misfortune


I cut this up into panels for easier viewing. Click here to view the original.
A few notes and sources:

  1. Chomsky didn’t develop this theory (properly called the “propaganda model”) alone–he co-wrote the book with Edward Herman. Wikipedia suggests that the theory was more Herman’s than Chomsky’s, but everyone seems to call it Chomsky’s theory. Here is a video that explains it in more depth than one panel of a comic can do. As a (former, I guess) southeast Asianist, I have mixed feelings about Chomsky…he seems to be generally accepted on this point, but he was so, so wrong about a number of things (specifically, the Khmer Rouge)…
  2. Here is the main interview with Zizek that I referenced. I do enjoy the contrast between the well-dressed BBC host and the Ziz, who always looks like he has been awake for about 43 hours and hasn’t done laundry in a week.
  3. Foucault’s stuff about the power structure and revolution was touched on in this earlier comic.
  4. Fitzgerald has a weird face. Sorry, dude. Of all the real people I’ve tried to draw, he is the weirdest. And this is including J-P “Walleye” Sartre.
  5. Chomsky and Foucault didn’t get along either.

Chomsky was, (possibly) surprisingly, on the side of Hillary Clinton during the last election, while Zizek wanted people to vote for Trump–not because he supported Trump; in fact, he views DT as immoral and terrible, in many ways a total disaster. But he believed that by electing DT, the left would see some galvanization and would begin to reconstruct itself, not just to offer opposition but to offer a viable alternative that did not include neoliberalism/late-stage international capitalism/what have you. Interestingly, I think he was right to some extent. I knew a few people involved in local activism while Obama was in office, but I now know many, many more people who are calling their senators and congresspeople regularly, going to rallies, and actively supporting various campaigns to change the country for the better.

As I’m writing this, however, DT has pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord.* What this will actually mean for the world in the long run is difficult to say at this juncture, since it was a largely symbolic voluntary agreement that many (well, Honduras Nicaragua [ed: damn it]) claimed didn’t go far enough. But I do think that without the governmental impetus, the solution to global warming will wind up coming from the business community–that capitalism will eventually have to save us. If the idiotic old men in power can’t see the writing on the wall, the entrepreneurs can, and in this country money speaks a lot louder than treaty obligations. Which is ironic, because I think that the revolution Zizek had in mind was not essentially the renaissance of cultural capitalism in the role of savior, but (of course) socialism (“the good old welfare state,” as he would put it). To paraphrase Oscar Wilde (or, really Ziz quoting Wilde in the video linked just there), it feels like a bad idea to use private industry to lead the mitigation of the environmental disaster caused by private industry, because their motives will always be profit-driven rather than altruistic, and that means that people not living in the first world are going to wind up getting screwed somehow. On the other hand, as someone who is worried about the environment, I guess I’ll take what I can get at this point?

Circling back to the Ziz’s point about the president as the motive for revolution: the problem is that Trump is a good enemy but ultimately inept. The left doesn’t really have to do anything–they (we) just have to stand there and he’ll turn his administration into a dumpster fire. It’s been less than six months and there’s already been talk of impeachment on the floor of the House by Republicans. Thus, while the base is fired up, the democrats in congress don’t seem to be doing much in the way of providing alternative leadership or pivoting to embrace the more liberal Sanders wing or the multicultural Obama wing–they don’t have to.

And this is where the lack of objectivity I mentioned begins to bother me–rather than seeing any individual action the administration takes as the flailing of an inept and failing regime, the leftermost voices seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on interpreting how this is going to lead to fascism/autocracy/A Handmaid’s Tale/insert your particular fear here. I suppose this is the reverse of Obama, or perhaps more accurately the flip side of it. I discussed a few posts back seeing voters in 2008–especially African American voters, since I was in a heavily African American area of Philly–reconstructing Obama in their own image so that he could serve as a vehicle onto which they could project their ideas/hopes/dreams. Now on the other side, we have the left projecting its fears onto DT–perhaps because of a lack of transparency on his part that keeps him feeling like a remote and unknowable figure, or perhaps because this is how people always deal with their leaders–just as we must imagine that we live in a community filled with others who are basically the same as we are in order to become a nation, we must imagine the same thing about the leader who we will likely never meet in person–that he or she is a specific type of person that either is like us (for those leaders we like) or totally foreign to us (for those we hate).

To provide a possible counter-point to my own point here, I’ll add that while I was sketching out this comic, I found this video on Jacques Lacan,** about whom I know very little (he is widely admired by many of the continental philosophers I mention here, especially Zizek, but not widely discussed in the [undergraduate] philosophy curriculum, possibly because he’s largely still seen as a psychologist? Or because undergrad philosophy is kinda naff in a lot of ways). Anyway, the video quotes Lacan as saying, “What you aspire to as revolutionaries is a new master. And you will get one.” Lacan meant that what people want, from the time of infancy, is basically an “ideal parent,” someone who can make everything okay, and we carry this desire into who we vote for. Whereas it is better, following Sartre’s idea of radical freedom, to accept that no leader is going to be able to do these things, and instead to embrace the fact that if we want something to happen, the best way is to make it happen ourselves. Go out and break glass ceilings, clean up the environment, make art–do what you need to in order to be awesome every day.

We’ll file this under P95.82 U6 L86 2017, for Philology. Linguistics–Communication. Mass media–Special aspects–Political aspects. Policy–By region or country, A-Z. This allows it to sit next to the original being referenced, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Media, at least at my alma mater.

Footnotes:
* When I say “pulled out,” it’s not clear how Bloomberg / the individual states and cities saying they’re still going ahead with the Paris Accord requirements plays into this argument. Bloomberg is of course a total centerist neoliberal (and so on and so on).

**  Yes, I watch stuff like that for fun.

Em oi! #426: Genetics

Necessary background to this: OB functions at my medical practice happen in Monona, about 25 minutes from here. There’s also a clinic with a lab in Middleton, which is maybe 5-10 minutes away.

So. This feels a bit like whistling in the dark, to be honest.

Tay-Sachs is a degenerative nerve disease, invariably terminal, that is inherited in a recessive pattern on chromosome 15. It’s much more common in a couple of ethnic groups–it was first spotted amongst the Ashkenazic Jews (i.e., Jews with an Eastern European heritage), but I believe it’s also somewhat common among French Canadians and Cajuns. Originally, there was a hypothesis–I think it was called the Jewish Fur Trader Hypothesis–that had all these groups being connected somehow, but in fact it turns out there are different genes that are more prevalent in each group, all of which produce the same symptoms.[1]

Anyway, a test for Tay-Sachs was first developed in 1971 (one of the first such tests available), and since then because of the push for genetic testing, rates have dropped precipitously, even among the ultra-orthodox.[2] There are actually places in the country you can get tested for free (like Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philly), and they used to run drives to get people screened at the Hillel Foundation on campus, if I’m recalling correctly. So it was always kind of in my mind that I would have to get tested if I married someone of Ashkenazic heritage, and I assumed that most people who could be affected would know that. But perhaps not. I was later told, after the encounters chronicled here, that most people don’t walk in to their first appointment and request to be tested for certain conditions–even though the nurse actually asked me specifically if there was anything I wanted to be tested for. This encounter also led me to determine a law, which I formulate as “The more time you spend around medical personnel, the more likely you are to realize that they have as high a rate of idiots as any other profession.” That same nurse pictured in the first panel also advised me not to lift more than 25 lbs. I didn’t ask her what pregnant people who already have a toddler do (other questions not asked: For what lift? Do you mean with one arm, like a dumbbell curl, or like don’t deadlift over 25 lbs? Do you realize how weird and Victorian that sounds?).

Anyway, come back Monday, we’ll do politics.

Let’s file this under RG580 G45 L86 2017, for Gynecology and obstetrics–Obstetrics–Pregnancy–Obstetrical emergencies. Diseases and conditions in pregnancy–Other diseases and conditions in pregnancy, A-Z–Genetic disorders.

Notes

[1] Which, by the way, is kind of interesting in itself–that there isn’t a one to one correspondence between genetic issues and diseases, because in most (all?) cases, the disease was observed first, based on the symptoms, and then a genetic test was developed for it later. We’re only just beginning to use this knowledge to our advantage in treating some conditions, like cancer. Somewhat relevant PhD Comics comic. This is also why the whistling in the dark comment–when you get your results back, they say something like, “We can say with 92% certainty that you’re not a carrier,” because there’s a tick box on the form where you note your background and they look for those genes, so in theory you could still be carrying a gene they didn’t test for.

[2] The ultra-orthodox tend to be anti-selective abortion, which is weird for various reasons of Jewish doctrine that I won’t get into, as it relies on my somewhat untutored understanding of Talmudic doctrine. Also I should note that rates of out-marriage increased significantly in the twentieth century (probably not among the ultra-orthodox), which would lead to lower rates of Tay-Sachs as well.

Em oi! #424 + 425

Things everyone knows about pregnancy: there will be voms.
Things I had no idea about: the cramps.

Apparently, it’s not uncommon (and totally normal) to get cramps–pretty severe ones, strong enough to wake me up–during the first trimester. I was unaware. Luckily, that stage lasted only a few days or a week, in my recollection. But really, there’s nothing more disconcerting than being awoken from a sound sleep by pain.

Now that I’m well into the second trimester, all is fine on the cramps front, but my life has not become magically more dignified. For example, yesterday when we were replacing our dryer, I bent down to clean some lint out of the vent pipe and nearly dislocated a rib. It turns out that having my uterus taking up a lot of my torso (and I’m 5′ 3″, so there’s not a ton of space there) has made me a lot less flexible.

Tant pis.


The photo in question:

Photo via White House twitter (https://twitter.com/ObamaWhiteHouse/status/660548212768399360)

Regardless of where you stand politically, I think we can all agree that Obama was amazing in so many ways.

The end.

RG551 L86 2017b and RG551 L86 2017c.

Em oi! #423: Introducing the Kwisatz Haderach

So a thing happened. Some time ago, actually, though I wasn’t quite ready to discuss it publicly before now (case in point: I drew this comic thirteen weeks ago, and I didn’t expect I was going to publish it here, so I didn’t give it a number). I’m currently twenty-five weeks pregnant, as of today. Or maybe as of yesterday. I actually lost count recently and had to do some math to figure out where I was again. As far as I can tell, I’ve basically been pregnant forever and, with fifteen weeks to go, I will continue to be pregnant forever. People keep saying, “August will be here before you know it!” That is not true. Now that I have entered this world of measuring out my life with coffee spoons, I can say with certainty that August is an impossible amount of time away.

It’s actually not that bad, pregnancy. Or rather, I’m somewhat aware that a lot of my discomfort is the result of my own stupid choices. For example, my muscles all hurt; a reasonable person might choose to run less or lift less weight at the gym, but I have not made that choice. I have heartburn, and a reasonable person might choose to not eat curry a minimum of three times per week, but that is a future I am not prepared to face.

A few notes on the comic:

  1. The “gaze” being discussed is not really a Foucauldian thing–it’s closer to Lacan’s conception of gaze or Laura Mulvey’s concept of male gaze. Though Foucault did talk about the medical gaze, his bigger point about bodies was about the shift from people who look like x can do x to “we can create someone to do x” (so instead of looking for a strong young man with good posture etc. to be a soldier, find a young man and train him to be strong and have good posture and do the soldiering). But in many ways Foucault has become the philosopher-muse of the strip, so I decided to put him in.
  2. This might actually be the first comic that both Bryan and Foucault show up in the same panel together. So we have conclusively proven in the Em Oi! universe that Foucault is not Bryan in disguise. Just in case anyone was wondering?

Up until now, Em oi! has served as both an occasional journal comic as well as a somewhat joke-based comic. I’m afraid, for those who are uninterested in pregnancy, that there will be a number of comics on that topic forthcoming. But fear not, I’ll get back to making fun of philosophers eventually.

We’ll file this one under RG551 L86 2017, for Gynecology and obstetrics–Obstetrics–Pregnancy–General works.

Super Belated 2016 Round-Up

Books read:

  • The System of the World, by Neal Stephenson OMG
  • The Two Towers and The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Texts from Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
  • The Princess and the Pony, by Kate Beaton
  • Cecil, the Pet Glacier, by Matthea Harvey
  • “The White Album,” by Joan Didion
  • Angels in America, by Tony Kushner (reread)
  • Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir, by Roz Chast. Reviewed.
  • Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel. Reviewed.
  • Are You My Mother?, by Alison Bechdel
  • Tomboy, by Liz Prince
  • In the Blood, by Suzan-Lori Parks
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two, by Jack Thorne, based on a story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
  • Alan Mendalsohn: The Boy from Mars, by Daniel Pinkwater
  • Equal Rites, by Terry Pratchett
  • Wyrd Sisters, by Terry Pratchett
  • The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett

It got a little escapist there at the end. I should note that this list is somewhat incomplete–it doesn’t contain, for example, several nonfiction reference books I read, nor the three times I re-read HST’s obituary of Richard Nixon.

Best book I read: Probably The System of the World, which is itself the third part of a trilogy. Is it 2,400 pages of fanfiction about Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, and the invention of the calculus? A treatise on globalization and economics? An in-depth look at the difficult political transition between Queen Anne and King George I? A joyful romp around the world with the Royal Society? All of the above? Totally worth reading, whatever it is. Someday I want to meet Neal Stephenson so I can give him a high five.

The 2017 reading list can be found here, and my theater reviews are here.

Races run:

Race Date Distance Time
New Years Day Dash Jan 1 5 mi 39:49
Freeze for Food 5k / 10k Jan 23 5 km / 10 km 26:57 / 49:14
LMR 20k May 7 20 km 1:48:47
Ice Age 50 half marathon May 14 13.1 mi 2:01:23
Blue Mounds 18k June 4 18 km 1:55:24
Dances with Dirt July 9 13.1 mi 2:11:13
Madison Mini Marathon Aug 20 13.1 mi 2:07:22
Safe Harbor Labor Day Dash Sept 5 10 km 55:24
North Face Endurance Challenge Sept 18 13.1 mi 2:18:19
Indian Lake Trail Race Oct 1 12 km 1:07:49
Fall 15k Oct 16 15 km 1:19:17
McCarthy Park Trail Race Oct 30 18 km 1:39:46
Wolf Pack Trail race Nov 13 29 mi 5:29:30
Berbee Derby Nov 24 5 km 36:47

Best finish (in terms of pace): Freeze for Food 10k (7:56 pace); New Years Day Dash (7:58 pace); Fall 15k (8:32 pace)

Best finish (in terms of place): Wolf Pack (2nd woman [of two], 8th overall); Fall 15k (3rd in age group, 4th woman of 27); Freeze for Food 5k/10k (6th in age group in both).

Lessons Learned at the Wolf Pack Trail Run

20161112_074310
At the start.

I ran 29ish miles on Saturday at the Wolf Pack Trail Run. 29.28 according to my watch. When I signed up, I thought the race would be 28 miles–it was billed as two 14-mile loops, but there was some overlap between the loops and some extra so it worked out weird. It took about five and a half hours. I was the eighth finisher overall out of fourteen. I was also the second woman finisher…out of two. There were several other women who started the race but dropped out (at least three, possibly more). So really, I was one of only two female finishers. That’s not bad, right?

Here are some things I learned during this time:

  1. Miniature Snickers bars are better than miniature Three Musketeers. Potato chips are not as good as boiled potatoes dipped in salt. Hammer makes a peanut butter gel that is kind of gross–definitely inferior to the GU gel.
  2. I should eat more when I’m running a distance like this.
  3. The Richard Bong Wilderness Recreation Area is a huge prairie area in southeastern Wisconsin. It was once slated to be an airport. I don’t know why it didn’t become one. But it has miles of trails.
  4. Trails that are frozen in the early morning are hard on the ankles. Once they thaw, they get kind of squishy and are hard on the hips.
  5. Mud can pull your shoes off. Oops.
  6. After a while, it’s not going to hurt any more than it already does, so you might as well run because you’ll get done faster. I had a real low point from about mile 19 to mile 24ish. But I rallied during the last 4-mile loop and even passed two people during the last mile (I only passed about four people all race, so this was significant). Looking at the results, one of the people I passed went on to finish about three minutes behind me, so it made a difference.
  7. Running where hunting is going on can be nerve-wracking, but hunters tend to be pretty methodical. Also, I think bullets are expensive, so they don’t want to waste them on you, because you’re not a pheasant.
  8. The hooded sweatshirt I got for this run is awesome and I’m not taking it off until spring.
  9. Driving home right after an ultra sucks. I cramped so badly. But listening to this interview of Lorretta Napolioni on Travel with Rick Steves was REALLY INTERESTING. One of the best interviews I have heard in a long time.
20161112_102715
Some of the trails.

Although I am inherently an angry liberal, I’ve decided to try to talk to more people about politics lately because why not try to understand things outside of my liberal bubble. I had a nice conversation about politics with a woman I ran with for about seven or eight miles. She came from a more conservative part of the state, although she wound up voting for Clinton because of Trump’s statements about women. She was upset about the outcome of the election, but described Trump mostly as more transparently corrupt than Clinton. She wondered if he would be impeached.

Wouldn’t that be interesting.

My longest run for this race was the 18 miles I did last weekend while pacing at tBunk. Before that, I did 16 a week or two ago and 19 at the beginning of September. Otherwise I was busy racing on the weekends. I have gotten faster over short distances, but this wasn’t the best strategy for building the endurance needed for this kind of race. Oops.

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A few minutes after finishing, before I staggered to my car.

Whatever I did right or wrong, I feel good today. I had a little light blistering on one foot (caused by my foot striking the uneven ground in a weird position) and some chafing and whatnot, but my muscles were back to nearly normal twenty-four hours later. I went down and watched the finishers at the Madison Marathon on Sunday and thought, wow, they look like hell. Do I look like that when finishing a race? And also, races are much more fun when you’re spectating instead of running them. And then Monday morning, I went out and ran five miles. Maybe I’m finally getting decent at these longer distance races. On the other hand, I don’t see myself doing any more this year, and next year is a big question mark, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

The Election, and a Few Notes on Pacing

My blog got a bunch of hits the day after the election, as though someone was hoping I’d have something to say. And– I don’t know that I have anything to add to the ongoing fury, but I do have one observation.

In 2008, I went to an Obama rally in Philadelphia. It was October, not long before the election, and after eight years of Bush I didn’t feel especially optimistic that he was going to be able to bring us the change he was promising. My friends and I walked a long way through Philly to get to the rally, and then waited in line for a long time.

I live in a liberal area, but also a very, very white area. So while I knew Madisonians were enamored of Obama, it wasn’t quite like it was in Philly. As we waited under the hot noontime sun, I looked at an array of t-shirts featuring the senator dunking, the senator in African colors, the senator looking senatorial in that iconic HOPE image, Obama as Lincoln, Obama as a Russian comrade. They were different aspects of the man, different avatars. I began, dimly, to realize that all of these were ways in which the community–of democrats, but also of African Americans–were projecting themselves onto the man who was shortly to become president, convincing themselves that he was one of them, that his concerns were the same as theirs. This is like the imagined communities that Benedict Anderson wrote about. People imagine themselves into the political community of the nation; regardless of what the politician actually says, they find the ways in which it’s relevant to their lives.

It wasn’t until the current election and the selection of Hillary Clinton for the democratic nominee that I understood what was going on. The job of a leader is to lead, but to really inspire the populace, a leader has to provide a somewhat blank canvas for people to project something of themselves onto. I realized this even as I was doing it myself, feeling moved and significant to be voting for the first-ever woman who had a ghost of a chance of winning. I even own a magnificent t-shirt similar to those I saw back in 2008; this one features Hillary as George Washington and Bill as Martha.

The flip side of this, of course, is that we project our fears onto the opposition. Notwithstanding the fact that our current president elect has done and said some terrible things (for which, G-d willing, he’ll answer someday), I think the current hysteria in the liberal press is a bit overly dramatic. Trump is not the Antichrist; he’s just some guy. Are bad things happening? Yes. There have been some hate crimes committed this week. But those are still illegal. Let’s not lose sight of this fact: we are not living in a dictatorship. This isn’t the Philippines, people can’t just walk into your house and shoot you for free right now. He is not going to dismantle every liberal advance of the last fifty years. I don’t think he can. Is he going to be embarrassing and tone-deaf? Yes. Is he going to start a nuclear war? I don’t believe it.

We’ve had good presidents and bad presidents, and the country has always survived them. In fact, the country has pretty consistently alternated between liberal and conservative leadership for the last forty years at least. The majority of Americans don’t make their decision based on much more than how they feel they’re doing when they step in the voting booth.

We may not be happy with the results–those protesting are justified in doing so, in my opinion, and I think we need to abolish the electoral college–but running around shrieking (and reading five hundred think pieces about how this happened) is not going to help anything. Instead, try to be kind to each other, and continue to speak truth to power wherever you can, stand up for the downtrodden wherever it is necessary, and consider getting involved with local politics. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching Parks and Recreation, it’s that being an angry person at a local committee meeting can sway the motion of the wheels of power.

For the majority of voters, this was not a referendum on the state of the soul of the nation. It was two crappy politicians making half-believable promises. I desperately want to believe that it is not the case that 50% of the (voting) country is composed of racists, sexists, bigots, anti-Semites. They’re just people who are frustrated with the current administration. I’m actually willing to place a bet that most of them did not vote against Clinton because she was a woman, or because they have some complex view that boils down to reasons why women cannot be president. If anything, the handful of liberals who have confessed, “I wasn’t that happy with Hillary” is the reason for why she lost–she was inspiring to me, but a moderate neo-liberal isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and a lot of them would just rather not make the effort to go vote for her. Hillary will always be president in my heart, and let me be clear–I cried when I realized she was going to lose–but the truth is, a lot of people think about the whole situation and shrug.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Stop reading the news, you’ll be happier. Get off social media and go outside. The moon is nearly full. Look at the stars and think about how small we all really are. And also this.


Okay, who wants to hear about pacing?

Last Saturday I joined my friend Sandy in Kettle Moraine State Park for 18.2 miles of fun after dark. For four and a half hours, we hiked, jogged, and occasionally fell down over wide trails that occasionally grew rocky and hard to navigate. The stars were magnificent, the temperature was chilly, and the woods are dark and terrifying.

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I tried not to let on to Sandy the tenor of my thoughts, but it’s basically like being in every horror movie ever made. When you’re pacing, the person you’re running with has been running for 50+ miles, which puts one in an altered state of mind. It falls to the pacer to try to create reality for them, specifically by not introducing weird ideas about the terrible things that could just jump out of the woods at you.

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Foxes make noises that sound like screams. A whole bunch of foxes can sound like children screaming. It’s a really weird thing to hear in the middle of the woods. Coyotes sound like you’d expect. And then we came around a bend and realized we could hear a sort of humming noise, like traffic at a distance. But we were in the middle of the woods out past Whitewater, not a spot known for heavy traffic patterns. In fact, when I looked at a map later on, I was fairly sure that we weren’t even near the meagre one-lane road that ran past the park. I told her I thought it was traffic anyway, because all my other ideas about what it could be ranged from the outré to the mildly macabre.

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In the dark, it’s hard to get clues from the environment in the way you normally would. For example, you can’t see the horizon or in many cases tell if you’re going up or down a gentle slope. Your internal proprioception can begin to fail and you find yourself running in all sorts of weird positions.

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As I was leaving, Sandy got her hiking poles out and went off to spend the next seven hours hiking alone through the woods (and then another six hours with her next pacer). I am staggered by the amount of commitment and mental fortitude that an event like this requires. It feels superhuman. I shivered halfway home, eventually stopping to buy decaf coffee, chocolate milk, and cheesy popcorn at the only 24-hour gas station I could find. Then I stuffed popcorn into my mouth the rest of the way home. #noregrets

Occasionally I’ve been asked if I was going to do a longer ultra–something 50+ miles long. I always say “maybe.” It’s certainly daunting. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel up to it. Pacing for a 100-miler was awesome though. I’d totally do that again.

Tomorrow I’m off to the Richard Bong State Recreation Area to try and run 28-ish miles and not get shot by hunters. I am overly enthusiastic and under-trained. Should be fun!