14

I got sliced all the fuck up!

Hello from the other siiiiiiide…

Okay, sorry. I don’t even really like that song, but it felt appropriate? Nah, I just couldn’t think of a better way to start this thing off. This is gonna be…a graphic and super TMI post, but I feel like some of it could be helpful to some and worth reading for others. Mostly, I just kind of want to write about it for my own sake. But yeah, if you’re squeamish or don’t want to read awkward details about surgery and shit (literally and figuratively), I’d advise moving along here. Otherwise, yeah, I’ll try to deliver this with my typical snark, tone, and raunchiness. Good luck?

Pre-surgery

I was dreading pretty much every part of having surgery, but the prep stuff sounded extra awful.

Danielle (my wife) and I showed up at the hotel I was going to be staying in the night before–and she’d be staying in until we went home–around noon the day before my surgery. We checked in and hit up the grocery store a block down the street to get some last minute items. I was already twelve hours into my clear liquids only diet and starting to regret going for my last pre-surgery run that morning because it had really set off my runger. I was starving! This didn’t help my mess of nerves much either.

At this point, it was time to start the bowel-prep process. Ugh. I chugged a bottle of mag citrate and popped a few laxatives. I knew I couldn’t be far from a toilet from here on out, but I still had to head to the doctor’s office for my pre-surgery appointment. Luckily, we made it there and back before the action started, but I was really worried I was going to shit myself while sitting in the examining room at the doctor. Eep!

Well, bottoms up?

Well, bottoms up?

Everyone I saw kept asking if I was excited and ready. And really, I wasn’t? I was terrified as fuck. I think the first thing I said to Danielle that morning was “what the fuck am I doing? Really? Why would I do this? Why would anyone do this?” I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve never had surgery before and I’ve never been under general anesthesia. And it’s even more scary when you’re coming out the other side with your junk all rearranged and having no idea how it’s going to work or feel or really what recovery is going to be like. And it’s hard for me to give up control and be vulnerable. Letting someone put me to sleep so they can do shit to my body is the scariest thing to me.

So night-before texts.

So night-before texts.

Anyway, most of the day was pretty uneventful. Mostly just me getting up every so often to run to the bathroom and shit my brains out. Actually, I’d describe it more as pissing out my ass. Though, oddly, it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected it to be. It was just tiring and weird. Mostly, I wanted a sandwich.

I didn’t get much sleep, but I figured that wouldn’t matter much anyway, I’d be taking a nice four-hour nap during surgery.

Surgery day

Surgery day started early. Not quite as early as Disney race days, but it was a 4am wake-up. I had to chug another half a bottle of mag citrate and…give myself an enema. Now, I’ve never given myself an enema before, but let me tell you, it’s weird. Would not recommend! Unfortunately, this process didn’t go as smoothly as I would have hoped. I followed the instructions and then sat on the toilet for a few minutes waiting for everything to come out. Then…I blacked out. And started convulsing. And blacked out again. This all woke Danielle up who came running to help me. She stayed there with me and calmed me down until the lights in my head came back on. I honestly thought I was dying. In reality, it was probably due to the fact that I hadn’t eaten in like 30 hours at this point and had drained my body of just about everything inside of it.

Once that whole ordeal was over, I got dressed and gathered up the stuff I had to bring with me to the hospital. I really wasn’t ready for this. Danielle drove to the hospital, which was good because I don’t think I could have really done it myself. We arrived at 6am and there was pretty much no one to be found. It was eerily quiet and we were kind of unsure where we were going, but eventually a nurse came out and asked what we were trying to find. When I said I was having surgery and told her my name, she remembered it from her list and got me checked in.

After being checked in, the nurse took me to a room to prep for everything. I thought my nerves were as bad as they could have been, but they kept getting worse. She provided instructions for how to properly wipe my body down and wear the gown and such. I was struggling to keep it together while she was talking and the moment she walked out of the room, I completely lost it. I mean, full on waterworks. I was hysterically crying and freaking out. I’ve literally never been so scared in my life. I wanted to dive head first out the window. Could I back out? I couldn’t do this! Gahhhh. It was bad. I’m not proud of this.

Prepped for surgery! Notice how a month off my hormones made my boobs disappear :(

Prepped for surgery! Notice how a month off my hormones made my boobs disappear :(

Through all of this, Danielle was amazing. She was my rock. She was calming and reassuring. She stayed next to me and held my hand and was strong for me, when I couldn’t be. Between this, the convulsive-black-out affair from a few hours earlier, and all my emotional freak-outs the day before, she was incredible. It’s not being hyperbolic to say I wouldn’t have made it to surgery without her. She was my everything. I don’t know how people do this alone. I couldn’t have. And the kicker is we had gotten into a huge fight two days before and I told her I didn’t want her help and refused it. I told her not to come with me and to be out of the house when I got back from the hospital. Look, I haven’t had any of my hormones this year because of being required to stop them for surgery so I’ve not quite been myself recently, okay? I was being an asshole and terrified and not handling shit well–figuratively, at this point, since all the literal shit had been forcefully removed from my body. But she wouldn’t let me push her away even as I tried to end our marriage. God, I’m a fucking asshole.

Moving on…

My doctor came in and told me I’d do great and I just tried not to cry more.  Then the anesthesiology team came in and I was fighting to keep myself together again, but I had Danielle’s hand in mine. While the anesthesiologist went through his checklist of questions and explained this to me, the student (or resident or nurse or…honestly, I don’t really remember) stuck the needle into the vein in my hand. I didn’t even notice. It was a pretty slick distraction move. Not that it matters, I’m not bothered by needles.

Once they got the IV going, they told me they’d put something in there to calm me down, but I had to say goodbye to Danielle. I was on my own now. I got wheeled out of the room and down the hall. Fuck I was freaking. Honestly, I’m freaking again just typing this. There are literally tears coming out of my eyes. It’s weird, I cry more while off estrogen than I do on it (which is pretty much never).

Look, I really want to be clear here…I was not okay. I didn’t even believe I was going to be okay.

After I was in the operating room and they moved me to the table, the mask went on my face. Everyone tried to be so calming and reassuring and I just wanted to not make a fool of myself with my freaking out. And, well, that’s the last thing I remember. I was out.

I woke up roughly three and half hours later. The first thing I remember feeling was “okay, that’s over…I’m alive…I woke up. FUCK. Holy shit! I didn’t die! And…that’s a good thing!” I turned to the nurse and immediately asked when I could see my wife. All I wanted was Danielle. Nothing matter more than Danielle right then and there. They said in a little bit. Then I asked about 32 times if everything was okay or if there were any complications. It’s like I couldn’t believe them that things went well.

After another hour and a half of me being in and out of consciousness, I got wheeled into my room and Danielle was there. I’m pretty sure I cried again just seeing her. But it was a good cry this time. She said the doctor told her everything went perfectly, but that was it. I had made it. I had proper parts.

Danielle took this when she first saw me, about 90 minutes after being woken up.

Danielle took this when she first saw me, about 90 minutes after being woken up.

In the hospital

The next three days were mostly uneventful. My butt was sore from only being able to lay on my back with a very low incline. The food was surprisingly not terrible. Though, I couldn’t eat my first meal, I got super nauseous after a single bite of lettuce. The nurses and techs were incredibly friendly, but not exactly super speedy to respond to some of my calls.

French toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, and oatmeal!

French toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, and oatmeal!

Scrambled eggs with cheese, french toast, bacon, english muffin, oatmeal, apple slices, plain greek yogurt. I didn't eat all of this, but just a little bit of each.

Scrambled eggs with cheese, french toast, bacon, english muffin, oatmeal, apple slices, plain greek yogurt. I didn’t eat all of this, but just a little bit of each.

Most importantly, I had my little friend. My morphine button. I pressed it and I got morphine. This was a relationship I could get behind. The pain was pretty manageable with the button, to be honest. I also had these compression things on my calves that basically just continuously massaged them to prevent blood clots. It was heaven. I wanted to steal them and take them home with me.

Let me tell you, this button is GREAT!

Let me tell you, this button is GREAT!

I didn’t see the doctor until the day after my surgery, but she said everything went perfectly and was looking good. For some reason, I wasn’t really prepared to believe this. I asked if I could see everything and she told me I didn’t want to yet and wouldn’t let me.

Thank you for the flowers, Ellen!

Thank you for the flowers, Ellen!

I spent most of the time in the hospital much more coherent than expected. I only slept a few hours each night and spent most of my time awake for like an hour and then asleep for a half hour. In person, I would sometimes start talking and then trail off, but I was able to tweet, text, chat, and read on my phone. My friends were really great. Mostly I just texted them jokes about having a vagina. “It’s going to be a pink Valentine’s Day!” “I’ve had a vagina for exactly one day and I’m already binging on Gilmore Girls.” Lots and lots…and lots of taco-related jokes.

Would have loved a good shave.

Would have loved a good shave.

So sexy.

So sexy.

My mom visited me a couple times and one of my best and oldest friends came by to spend a couple hours with me, as well. It was nice to have visitors. Danielle spent a lot of time with me, but she has friends in Philly and I wanted her to take some time to see them as well. I know this has been a long stressful process for her too and she was short on sleep. But it was a lot nicer when I wasn’t just hanging out by myself.

Honestly, I didn’t really want to go home yet at the end of the three days. I had a catheter and drains sticking out of me. It was hard to move and I didn’t even get to sit up, let alone stand or walk, until I was preparing to be discharged. I was afraid of the cats jumping on me at home and not having my morphine button.

Well, I'm out of the bed!

Well, I’m out of the bed!

Getting up out of the bed wasn’t as bad as I thought. I just sat there in a chair for a while afterwards until we were ready to actually go home. Then, I got wheeled out to the car and I tried to set up as best I could in there for our two-hour drive back to Jersey City. I slept most of the ride home.

My sweet ride!

My sweet ride! And, yes,, that is a bag of my pee in my hand.

At home

After getting out of bed, the car ride, and the walking from the car to the house and up our front steps, I was starting to hurt quite a bit. Just a bit too much moving. I had some Percocets in me though, so that helped a bit.

Danielle worked from home the first day I was home and I just stayed in the bed while she took care of everything I needed. I couldn’t do much and it was hard to move because of the catheter and drains and crap hanging out of my body. Everything was a big production. I also hadn’t pooped since before the surgery and I was starting to get a little worried about that. I had no idea how that was going to work. I couldn’t push at all. I started popping stool softeners to help, but those can take a little while to work.

For my first few days at home, I just stayed in bed and kept the bedroom door closed to keep the cats out. They were not thrilled by this. They love to sleep on the bed and Hattie and Fry are really needy for my attention. The two of them love to sleep between my legs.

My best buddy in the world hung out with me to watch the recording of last week's all team meeting at work.

My best buddy in the world hung out with me to watch the recording of last week’s all team meeting at work.

At one point, a package was being delivered and I had to answer the door while holding a bag of my own urine. So I can check that off my bucket list now!

On my sixth day after surgery, I had my post-surgery appointment. This was to check on how things were doing and remove the catheter, drains, and packing from inside my brand new, top-of-the-line 2016 Vagina™. I was also going to be given my dilators and actually get to see thing. I’m going to be honest here, my crotch looked kinda like someone exploded a grenade inside a cheeseburger. Or a sandwich from Arby’s. Not a pretty site, but it kinda looked like a (very, very swollen) vagina.

The dilation is important because your body treats it like a wound and you want to make sure it doesn’t close up. To maintain width and depth, you have to insert a dilator a few times a day and keep it in there for a while.

Again, I was a wreck though. I was really scared of it hurting when the doctor pulled everything out of me. I didn’t know what to expect. My doctor was amazing though. She was calming and reassuring and honest. She told me everything was great and the surgery went perfectly and things were looking great. Nothing really hurt coming out, but it was some of the weirdest feeling things I’ve ever felt. SO weird! I practiced dilating and then that was about it. About four hours roundtrip driving and an hour in at the doctor. I just wanted to get back home and get back in bed…also poop.

So now that I was home again, I realized…I didn’t know how to pee…or poop still. I hadn’t pooped in a week at this point, but with the percocets and having everything completely emptied prior to surgery, it wasn’t terribly surprising. Well, that night, the stool softeners kicked in and went a good four or five times. Felt good to get it out! Peeing was weird. I still don’t really know how to reliably tell if I even have to go. And then when I sit on the toilet, I don’t know how to do it, how to push control the right muscles. I just kind of sit and wait for the magic to happen. And then it just sprays EVERYWHERE. I mean, everywhere. I guess that’ll change once the swelling goes down.

Anyway, things got a lot better once I had everything out of me. I was more comfortable and had a lot more mobility. I could get up on my own and move around and not have to worry as much about the cats. Though, somewhere in the process of resting in the hospital bed and getting home, I had pinched my sciatic nerve and so I’ve still had to be careful how I bend because of that.

It’s now nine days post-op and I’m making progress. I can feel it and see it. Dilating is weird, but not the worst thing. Mostly, it’s just boring and leaves me sore afterwards. I still kind of dread it each time, but it’s never as bad as I expect it to be. I’ve been able to do it with the biggest dilator too, which is encouraging. Though, I have gotten lube on my work computer’s keyboard in the process. Oops.

I’ve been starting to let the cats back in the bedroom with me for a bit. I have a lapdesk that I just keep in place over my crotch at all times to protect me from them. They just like to sleep a little further down between my legs. Hattie likes to lay on my chest, all up in my face.

It’s nice to be on the mend, but I still have sooooo far to go. I can get up and move around the house and lay on the couch and stuff, but I still can’t quite sit up straight for more than a little bit at a time without being in pain. And I’m still not feeling well enough to be stir-crazy yet. I’m certainly not even missing running yet. Today is the first day I actually feel up to being able to do any sort of work, hence why this post is happening today. Still, I feel gross. I haven’t showered in nine days and my hair is a knotty mess that completely holds the shape of the ponytail it’s been in since 4am the morning of surgery when I take the hair tie out. I was only just given the OK to shower on Wednesday, but I’m still kind of scared to do it. I’m sure it will be fine, but I need to work up the courage. I need to get clean and wash my hair.

I’m also totally over wearing diapers and would love to put my big girl undies back on.

I had no idea what it was going to be like to look down and not see a penis anymore, to see a vagina. But it wasn’t weird at all. It felt so normal. Just kind of like, of course I have a vagina…why wouldn’t I? What is weird, though, is the mapping of nerves. It’s hard to tell for sure where pain or an itch is. “My balls itch…but I don’t have balls.” “The head of my penis hurts…so…my clitoris?” I know this will work itself out over time as my body figures out where all my old nerves are now, but it’s an interesting feeling!

Overall, the pain is mostly manageable with the percocets. I try to take as few of them as possible, but it’s getting better day-by-day. Sometimes, I wake up in a bunch of pain or if I move around too much for a while, the pain will start to creep back up on me. Still, those first five or six days really sucked. No one can prepare you for how rough they are. You’re totally helpless to do anything on your own, relying on pain meds, unable to move much, and don’t even know how your body works.

A bit on why?

So, I mean, why go through all of this? I don’t expect cisgender people (people who aren’t trans) to really understand, but it’s a feeling of oneness with my body. To have genitals that feel like mine instead of just something attached to me. It’s freedom to live a more normal life and have to worry less about public restroom access and the TSA. To dress and present myself how I want without worry of people seeing what I’ve got going on down there.

At this point, after having been living openly as a woman (i.e. myself) for more than two years, my last remaining dysphoria was related to my genitals and my breast size. This fixes one of them. It allows me to just feel more comfortable with being me.

And a big bit of it is running. In theory, with where my testosterone level was on blockers, it should actually go up a bit now. I was at practically zero and now I have a chance to maybe be in the normal female range. We’ll see if this actually pans out, anything could happen, but I’m hopeful. Regardless, to no longer have to deal with the side-effects of Spironolactone (my blocker) will be a big deal on its own. I truly expect to be a stronger, faster, and happier runner after this. And, as you know, running is #1 to me.

That’s about all I’m going to say about that. I’m not going to justify what I neededI had to do that enough just to be able to have surgery in the first place.

Other stuff

I’m sure some of you, mostly just those who are trans, are wondering who did my surgery and details like that. I went to Dr Rumer in Ardmore, PA. Surgery was in Drexel Hill, which is basically Philly. We don’t really get a lot of options for doctors when it comes to bottom surgery in the US, but my first choice was originally McGinn. Unfortunately, that was going to be a year wait for surgery. Heck, it was six months just to get a consultation. With Rumor, I got my consultation inside a week and a half. And my surgery date was three months later, mostly because I wanted to wait until January, not because she couldn’t schedule it sooner.

Up until this point, and you should probably ask me again once I’m healed up, Dr Rumer has been great! She has a really great bedside manner that is calming, yet honest. She makes it easy to trust her and feel comfortable. She wasn’t phased at all by my horrible anxiety.

Rumer also worked with my insurance so I didn’t have to pay $20k out of pocket and then go through reimbursement. Though, just having insurance that covers bottom surgery is still a big deal that I’m very grateful for.

I know some people do this on their own, but I don’t know how they do it. I couldn’t have done it without Danielle. Both before and after surgery, I needed her so much. I wouldn’t have made it otherwise. The other day, she said to me, “what I learned in the last week is that you’re not as strong as I thought you were, but I’m much stronger than I thought I was.” It may sound like a weird thing to say to your wife, but it felt perfect. It felt real and honest. And it meant that I was finally able to show my wife of four and a half years something I’ve never been able to before.

It’s kind of weird to have this over with. For twenty years, I had such a weird relationship with the idea of even having surgery and then when I finally made a decision for what I needed, this moved pretty quickly. I still don’t even really know what to call it, SRS (sex reassignment surgery), GRS (gender reassignment surgery or genital reconstruction surgery), bottom surgery, GCS (gender confirmation surgery), the surgery, taco installation, getting your junk rearranged. The more serious terms in that list are pretty problematic for their own reasons so I tend to just stick with making a joke.

12

Are you excited?!?

Content warning: This one gets kinda real and possibly graphic.

No. Not really. I’m not, actually. Sorry?

At this point, it’s kind of like an open secret. I’m having surgery next week. And because I’m trans, when I say this, people automatically assume it’s THE SURGERY™. Some people get kind of weird like “is…this…like…down there?” In this case, they’re actually right, but it’s such a weird thing to just be like “hey, I’m getting my dick cut off! WOOOOOO!!” Talking about your genitals is kinda weird, ya know? I’m generally a pretty open and candid kind of person, I don’t shy away from talking openly about things, but it’s still kinda awkward. Mostly I just make jokes about it that make everyone around me feel uncomfortable…

“Yeah, I’m getting all kinds of 🔪ed the fuck up.”
“🌭🔪🌮”
“🔪🍆”
“I’m getting my outtie turned into an innie.”
“I’m going to a BYOT party…bring your own taco.”

I don’t know, it’s just too awkward to talk about without jokes, I guess.

Honestly, I didn’t even plan to talk about it all. I wanted to keep this quiet. It’s not really anyone’s business what’s going on with my body and I really didn’t want it to be a thing. Really, I didn’t even think I was ever going to have this surgery until a few weeks before I scheduled my consultation in early October. However, it’s hard to tell people “hey, I’m going to be out of the office for six weeks” or “I won’t be able to run for at least six weeks and I don’t know how to deal with that” and not have them ask why. Or people who are trying to make plans with me and I’m like “yeah, I’ll be stuck on the couch.” Or trying to deal with my current pre-surgery dietary restrictions.

So it just kind of slowly started coming out because I’m not really the kind of person who likes to make up lies or dance around the truth. I’m nothing if not brutally honest and I lived a lie for way too many years to want to be making up more now. Besides, there have been a lot of situations where being secretive about it was more effort than just be like “yup, getting all vagina-ed up!”

When people find out they’re like “OMG ARE YOU EXCITED?!” And, yeah, I get it, what do you say when someone tells you they’re getting a 🌮 installed? But…no, I’m not excited. I’m feeling every damn emotion ever, but excitement is like the least of them. I’m just anxious for this to be over with. I’m ready for all the stress of trying to make this happen to be gone. It’s actually a lot of work to get someone to cut your dick off. You’ve got to deal with:

  • insurance and figuring out how a $20,000 surgery gets paid for
  • getting multiple doctors to talk to each other and share info
  • setting up and going to a bunch of doctors appointments for consultations, pre-surgery, labs, physicals, etc
  • multiple therapists whom you have to convince you’re trans-enough to deserver proper genitals so they can write you letters stating such
  • working out with HR and your manager taking time off of work
  • who is going to feed your cats while you’re in the hospital
  • who will help you during recovery
  • a sorta tough list of dietary restrictions for two weeks prior to surgery
  • getting a prescription filled for Percocet can apparently be difficult?
  • pre-surgery bowl prep 💩
  • NO HORMONES FOR FOUR WEEKS BEFORE SURGERY SO OOPS YOU’RE SLOWLY TURNING BACK INTO A MAN* AND BEING AN EMOTIONAL SMORGASBORD OF BITCHTITUDE TO EVERYONE ANYWHERE IN THE TRI-STATE AREA BECAUSE WHAT EVEN IS HAPPENING TO YOUR MIND AND BODY RIGHT NOW?!

And that’s all stuff to do before you can even have surgery.

Do people get excited for surgery? Is that a thing that happens? It’s certainly not for me. Sure, I’m excited for the improvement to my overall quality of life months down the road, but there’s still a long way to go for that. I’m not exactly going to get to enjoy having a vagina for a while, ya know? Realistically, I’m just trying to deal with the fact that I’ve never had surgery before or been under general anesthesia and it’s kind of a scary thing. And I can’t run for a while so it’s going be full-on CRAZY AMY UP IN HUR!

It just sort of feels like the world is still stuck on this idea that when people transition, surgery is the ultimate goal and that all trans people want this. “Now you’re really a woman.” Not really. Diving into an actual discussion about this is a whole separate topic that many posts could be written about–and much more seriously than this disaster right here. But, quickly, not all trans people want to have surgery. Everyone transitions differently and in a way that feels right for them and is within their economic/life/work/whatever means. And the goal of transition is simply to be able to live life as yourself. Surgery, if part of that at all, is just a step to enable that end.

So yeah, I’m really not excited about it. It’s kind of like having a busted car sitting in your driveway for a long time and then finally having the money to get it fixed. You’re not excited to fork over the money and take it to the mechanic, but it’ll be really nice when you have it back and can go about your life again.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to call anyone out or whatever. I’m not mad at anyone or anything. If you’ve said this to me, it’s cool. We’re cool. I just kinda…have had this on my mind for a while now. And I do appreciate all the great support I’ve gotten and the countless people who have made it really clear they want to be there for me and help in whatever way they can during my recovery. That stuff is super awesome and I love you all.

And now the whole internet knows about my junk ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

* I wasn’t actually a man, ever, so I can’t turn “back into one.”  Trans women have always been women, even before transition. This is just my personal shorthand for “the changes from HRT that make my body and mind feel more in line with who I am are quickly being undone and now my body is growing hair again and my face is starting to look weird and fuck.”

** Also, let me just drop in here this whole thing is based on how I feel and should not be taken as representative of all trans people.

10

2016 Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge

Look at all these medals!

Look at all these medals!

I’m going to try to do a recap of all of the runDisney Dopey Challenge in a single post here. We’ll see how this goes, but I’ll try to keep it short.

This was my first time doing the Dopey Challenge–if you’re not familiar, it’s a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon over four days in Disney World. I’d done the Goofy Challenge, just the half marathon and marathon part, three previous times and the half marathon by itself once before that. So I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what to expect going it.

Training

My training was pretty weak, much like how most of 2015 was. Looking back, it was much better than my training was for the 2015 Goofy Challenge, but I came into this race with 300 fewer miles in 2015 than I ran in 2014. While my training was short (we’ll call it nine weeks) and overall mileage was much lower than I’d like, if you just looked at the last two weeks, you’d think I was in good shape. My peak week was 52 miles with an unplanned-but-totally-felt-amazing 20-miler. This is what I held onto going into the race, knowing that I felt great running 20 miles when I had planned 15. Not to mention that last year’s Goofy Challenge went really well with less training so I was feeling like I’d at least have fun and not struggle too much. I mean, with this being my eight marathon and my goal being “have fun,” I felt like i had the experience and attitude to overcome short training.

This is my weekly mileage in the second half of 2015, ending with the week including the Dopey Challenge. Not sure why DailyMile split the week spanning 2015 and 2016 into two bars on the graph, but weeks 53 and 1 are the same week. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This is my weekly mileage in the second half of 2015, ending with the week including the Dopey Challenge. Not sure why DailyMile split the week spanning 2015 and 2016 into two bars on the graph, but weeks 53 and 1 are the same week. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Pre-races

I made the trip down to Disney with my wife and our friend, Ellen. We flew down on Wednesday and promptly went to the expo. We didn’t actually spend much time there because we wanted to get a little Magic Kingdom time in before calling it an early night.

5k – 27:39

Because the 5k starts a little later than the other races–6am, as opposed to 5:30am–we got to “sleep in” a little until 3:45 before getting up to head to the buses. Unfortunately, there was a major bus issue and we waited for over 40 minutes for any bus to come at all. Still, we had plenty of time, but it was definitely annoying!

Flat Amy for the 5k

Flat Amy for the 5k

Ellen and I quickly hit the porta-potties and then hopped in the corral. Before we knew it, the race was off!

Knowing it was just the first of four races, we kept things nice and easy and just had fun with it. It was over in the blink of an eye!

Before the 5k with Ellen

Before the 5k with Ellen

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10k – 57:36

My wife joined Ellen and I for the 10k with our slightly earlier wake up time of 3:30. Other than a slightly earlier wake up, our morning was much the same as the 5k was. While waiting in the corral, an old radio station friend, Jaclyn, found us to say hi. I hadn’t seen her in probably close to a decade at this point, many many years before I even thought about transitioning, so it was nice to see her.

Flat Amy for the 10k

Flat Amy for the 10k

Once the race was off, Ellen and Danielle (my wife) took off and left me behind. I didn’t mind too much, I just was going to do my own thing. But after a minute or two, I found myself right next to Ellen again. My wife was no where to be found. It turns out that she ran an accidental PR and was 29th overall and 5th in her age group. Typical.

Before the half marathon with Danielle!

Before the half marathon with Danielle!

The 10k really wasn’t much different than the 5k except for the fact it was raining a bit. Nothing too bad, though. Besides, I love running in the rain! For real, it’s my favorite.

Wet.

Wet.

With about a half mile left, we passed Phineas and Ferb and you KNOW I had to get a photo with them. Ellen kept on running and after two other runners rudely cut me in line before I could get my photo, I took off at a 6:15 min/mile or so pace to catch up to Ellen before the finish line. Probably not the smartest thing to do.

Phineas and Ferb!

Phineas and Ferb!

And almost as quickly as the 5k was over, so was the 10k! I had planned a 60-minute even 10k, but ended up running a bit faster and finished with a 57:36, which was still well within my “taking it real slow and easy” range.416807_216760450_XLarge

After the race, I showered and ran over to the Boardwalk for a meetup with Lauren, Patrick, Nathan, Amanda, and a few others.

Eat Up Tweet Up!

Eat Up Tweet Up!

Through the afternoon, my calves were feeling really tight. While I attributed this to just being on my feet a lot while in the parks, I was pretty worried about it and tried to rest them as much as possible throughout the day. We called it a day pretty early, around 6:30 or so, and I spent some time stretching, foam rolling, and ice bathing my legs to make sure they’d be good to go for the half marathon. Even with all of that, I was able to get to bed by 8:30!

Ice bath! Brrrr!

Ice bath! Brrrr!

Half Marathon – 2:14:02

Waking up at 3:15, my legs felt a little better. They were nowhere near where I wanted them to be, but there was some improvement. The weather was warm, around 60º and very humid, 100%. I met up with a few of my #runchat friends before getting in the corral, but I was a little nervous about how tight my legs were feeling.

Half Marathon Flat Amy

Half Marathon Flat Amy

Ellen, Danielle, and I all started in the corral together, but as soon as the race started, we got separated. They were off and I was left behind on my own. I didn’t mind too much as I prefer to run alone, but I would have preferred to plan that from the start so I could have started in my own corral and had slightly shorter waits for photos.

Fireworks to start the race!

Fireworks to start the race!

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Magic Kingdom!

Magic Kingdom!

Tomorrowland!

Tomorrowland!

My plan for the half was to take it extra, extra slow. I stopped for a quick pee break in the first mile and then just took photos and had a good time. At one point around mile three, I had almost caught up to Danielle and Ellen. I was maybe 20-30 feet back from them, but then I saw Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph and needed to get my Sugar Rush on a photo with them. The line was super long though and I waited for a solid five minutes. Still, it was worth it!

Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph!

Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph!

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It was SO foggy all race. I promise you Spaceship Earth is behind me here!

It was SO foggy all race. I promise you Spaceship Earth is behind me here!

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Serious high five at the finish!

Most of the rest of the race went by uneventfully. I kept things slow and easy and took a bunch of photos. I just had a lot of fun with it. I took water and ate a gel, two things I don’t normally do in a half marathon, but I wanted to help my body get through and be ready for the marathon. When the race was over, I was so soaked in sweat that I could wring my tank top out four or five times and water still poured out of it like it had be dunked in a bucket of water.416807_217027044_XLarge

After the race, I tried to follow the same course of action as the previous day, rest my legs as much as possible. We had dinner at Mama Melrose in Hollywood Studios–I had a beer, which is something I’ve never done the night before a marathon. After dinner, it was pouring rain, but we still walked all the way back to Beach Club, where we were staying. With my calves being a worry, this wasn’t the smartest idea, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. As soon as we stepped foot out of the park, I took my sandals off and walked the rest of the 1.3 miles back barefoot in the rain. It actually felt great! I really enjoy feeling the ground on my bare feet.

I looked ridiculous after the half marathon

I looked ridiculous after the half marathon

Like, really, I looked ridiculous

Like, really, I looked ridiculous

When we got to the room, I followed the same routine as the night before, stretching, foam rolling, and ice-bathing. Got to bed around 8:30 again. Perfect!

Marathon – 3:59:51

Walt Disney World Marathon Flat Amy

Walt Disney World Marathon Flat Amy

We went with another 3:15am wakeup, but I felt great when I woke up. My legs were feeling good and I was awake. The weather was about the same as it was for the half, but without all the fog. Danielle wasn’t running the marathon so Ellen and I quickly got dressed and made our way to the bus. I, again, met up with a few #runchat friends before the race, which was a little too much energy for Ellen, she headed off to the corral early. I got a huge hug from Lauren Bailey…twice! And I made sure to photobomb my friends Erin and Katherine (thanks Christina for making sure I got in it!).

When I got in my corral, I was lined up just behind the 3:45 pacer, a little fast for the level of training I put in and being the day after a half marathon. And that gets me to my race plan, I should probably tell you about that because it was a really good race plan for the training I had and for being the last day of Dopey. I planned a 4:30 finish, taking water at every stop in the first half and Powerade at every stop in the second half, gels every five miles, walking all hills and water stops, and taking all the photos. And, of course, not pooping my pants like I was 100% sure was going to happen last year. So that’s a pretty good plan going into a race as I was and I had been planning that for a couple months. Well, because Race Amy thought she was SOOOOO much smarter than Last Couple of Months Amy, I told a perfectly good race plan to go fuck itself for no reason whatsoever. I stood there in my corral and revised my plan to be no walking and 4:15 or better. Because I’m smart. Yup. </sarcasm>416807_217458443_XLarge

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Totally taken before I was ready!

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When the race started, I tried to still keep some control over my pace. I was in the C corral so I wasn’t exactly surrounded with slow runners. I let them pass me and kept on a reasonable pace for my new 4:15 goal. As soon as I started running, my legs went from feeling good to feeling like crap, though. Figures.

I kept things steady and just enjoyed myself–the theme of the whole weekend. I took some photos here and there, but didn’t wait more than 30 seconds for anything.

Going through Magic Kingdom, I was feeling okay and running a little ahead of schedule. I really enjoyed the course changes to include New Fantasyland and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.416807_217945231_XLarge

With Disney World Speedway not existing anymore (I can’t believe how quickly that tore that thing out of there!), the trip from Magic to Animal Kingdom was back to the way it used to be prior to the 20th anniversary course changes. I actually didn’t mind the removal of the Speedway from the course, but it would have been nice to have something else in its place to break it up a little besides an additional out-and-back down a random road. Also, the relocation of the RVers messed me up a little. They’re one of my favorite parts of the marathon and I was keeping an eye out for them to take my annual selfie with them.

Again taken before I was ready!

Again taken before I was ready!

I was feeling good when I got to Animal Kingdom and, as I crossed the halfway mark, I was ready to take on the second half. I hit 13.1 at 2:03:52, way ahead of schedule for 4:15. So, I decided, “fuck it, I’m going for sub-4.” Because, again, I’m smart. I started doing some math in my head on how to run the second half in a 1:56 and then started slowly taking my pace down into the mid-8s. I also started taking Powerade at water stops from here on out.416807_217583363_XLarge

I was pretty damn sweaty at this point. I didn’t feel dehydrated, but my clothes were dripping sweat. When I stopped at the graveyard for a photo, I wasted close to a full minute trying to unlock my phone and, eventually, gave up. I was just too sweaty. So sweaty, in fact, that that was the last time I ever saw my phone’s screen turn on. More on that later.

Definitely my favorite photo!

Definitely my favorite photo!

The graveyard photo op was the spot last year where I decided to stop holding back and just let myself go and it felt like a good place to start thinking about the same this year. There were still 12 miles to go, so I couldn’t just let it all go, but I didn’t feel like I needed to be in conserve mode anymore.

I grabbed a gel at mile 15.4 where they were handing them out. I had taken my 0, 5, 10 mile ones on plan, but had held off the 15-mile one. I ended up not finishing this one, my stomach actually wasn’t into it, despite it being my preferred flavor and brand. I didn’t take another gel after this and only took Powerade every other stop.416807_217586448_XLarge

Heading towards ESPN Wide World of Sports and the 17th mile marker, I was starting to feel it a bit. I was still okay, but I was not looking forward to the three miles in Wide World of Sports, which are full of turns and generally feel like eternity. Though, I did end up slightly picking up the pace in here. I also took a banana, but tossed it after one disgusting bite. I hate bananas.

This looks like a baseball card photo!

This looks like a baseball card photo!

I got my name called in the baseball stadium which was nice and got this amazing photo of me looking like I belong on a baseball card. I hit mile 20 on my way out of ESPN and did some mental math, I had 55 minutes to go 10k for a sub-4 finish. Basically, I just had to keep the pace I’d been running and I’d be good. It was time to head to Hollywood Studios!416807_217535962_XLarge

As I started into the big banked onramp where the Toy Story army men like to hang out (in between the 21st and 22nd mile markers), I was starting to feel real tired, but I knew what was ahead of me: the energy and crowds of Hollywood Studios, the walkway to Epcot, and then the World Showcase. I had this.

Unfortunately, my stomach wasn’t feeling super awesome. I knew I was going to be dealing with some nausea for the rest of the race, but I wanted to just stay as strong as long as I could. Miles 22 and 23 were my fastest at 8:07 and 8:10, but my stomach was getting worse and my legs were starting to get pretty tired and sore. I don’t typically have stomach issues while racing, but I have had them before so I knew what the last few miles were going to be like. I knew I was going to have to slow it down a bit and was hoping I’d picked up enough time to still stay under four hours, but I was already starting to feel like I was going to have to let it go…not unlike Elsa.416807_217663099_XLarge

As I came out of Hollywood Studios, I knew my nausea was only going to get worse, but it wasn’t too much farther to go. I crossed the bridge from Boardwalk over to Yacht Club and knew I’d be coming up on where my wife was cheering soon, but I needed a short walk break for my stomach. I was really trying to hold it down. I started running again after a few seconds and passed my wife right where she said she’d be on a bench in front of Beach Club. As I ran by, I yelled “Ice bath! Ice bath! Ice bath!” Channeling my inner Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez (you know, when he yells “Sandlot! Sandlot! Sandlot!” at the end of the movie while running from The Beast). I really wanted that ice bath. <- Never though that’d be a sentence I’d say!

After I rounded the corner into the back of the World Showcase in Epcot, I knew it was going to be a fight for that sub-4 finish. I was down to a run/walk thing to deal with the nausea and eventually gave in and realized I’d be more like a 4:01 or so. I was doing the math and looking at the clock and knew I was losing too much time with the walking.

When I rounded my way out of the World Showcase and into Futureworld, I was determined to run the rest of the way. I knew I had a fighting chance to go sub-4. Then…I took my final walk break just after passing Spaceship Earth and accepted that it just wasn’t going to happen. <Judi Dench> Or so I thought…</Judi Dench> something came over me and I decided I was going to run the rest of the way as fast as my legs would go even if I threw up all over myself. I picked it up and made a break for it. I knew it was going to be a buzzer-beater and, when I got within sight of the clock, I gave it everything I had left. I couldn’t believe it, but I snuck in at 3:59:51! Not bad! I also stopped immediately and bent over about to throw up. A volunteer came running over to help me to the side and held a bag for me, but I ended up keeping everything down.416807_217774363_XLarge

I had SO much fun with this race! I feel like I always do. Unfortunately, I took my phone-which was in a plastic bag-out of my pocket to tweet about my great race only to find that the screen wouldn’t turn on. I sweat so much that I shorted out my phone…not the first time I’ve done this. So I spent the next three days in Disney World with no phone.416807_217927185_XLarge

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I really couldn’t be happier about going sub-4 for this race. That’s my third fastest marathon since transitioning and my fastest Disney Marathon by 24 minutes. I’m also now four-for-four with negative splitting this race. If only I could do that in any other marathon!

Look, after you've done the Dopey Challenge, a Road Mickey is necessary

Look, after you’ve done the Dopey Challenge, a Road Mickey is necessary

Overall thoughts

Dopey was great! I had a lot of fun and found it really not that hard to do all the races. However, I don’t know that I’d do it again. It wasn’t the running. The running was fantastic, I loved every minute of it. Dopey is just tough logistically. It’s a lot of extra running stuff to pack (two pairs of running shoes instead of one, etc), a lot of early nights and early wakeup, and a lot of saving your legs instead of enjoying Disney World.

I was really pissed about my phone. Not so much because of the cost to replace it when I got home, but more because I just didn’t have it for taking photos and I felt super disconnected and helpless for the rest of my trip. I also ended up losing some great shots from the first half of the marathon: a selfie with Mr Skellington, my selfie with the RVers, the turtle with a race bib outside of Animal Kingdom, and the starting fireworks.

14

Motivation is tough, a running update

Accidental twinning with the wife for our run together

Accidental twinning with the wife for our run together

There are currently 54 days until the 2016 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and I couldn’t be more excited to take on the Dopey Challenge for the first time. I’ve done the Goofy Challenge, a half marathon and marathon on two consecutive days, three times, but Dopey ups the ante by also throwing a 5k and 10k into the mix.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be going into this weekend not really prepared for the races I’ll be lining up for. Much of this year has mirrored last year for me with running ups and downs, mostly downs from May on, so I certainly won’t be going into this race after crushing a few 60-mile weeks. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a couple 45-mile weeks in, but even that will need to be done carefully since I haven’t been running high-mileage since May.

Last year, the races went much better than expected and I had a lot of fun. Most of this was due to smart race-day strategy and not caring about time. I’m weary of expecting the same outcome this year, but I can be hopeful and use the time between now and then to put in as much work as I can.

I’m starting to get myself pulled back out of my latest-in-a-string-of-many ruts, but motivation is still tough. Yes, I love running itself, with or without races. My mental health needs it. Still, that’s rarely enough to just roll yourself out of bed at 5:30am for a pre-work run. That said, in the last couple weeks, I’ve been able to get my body back on track for the early wakeups and I’m back to pre-work 8-milers–one of my measures for how running is going. I’ve got a few strong weeks of running going now and I’m starting to feel great again.

But this is kind of where things get a little weird this time around.

Typically, I have a loose plan in my head for multiple races down the line. My upcoming race is first priority, but I always have an answer to “where will I go from there?” Things almost always change, but no race is ever the finish line, it’s just another mile marker. Even goal races and PRs are mile markers. They’re not an end goal, just a part of the journey. Qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon? More mile markers. I’ve got sooooo many plans and running goals for after that!

Normally, I’d have plans for where I go after this race for added motivation to keep up the hard work. Everything builds on top of what you’ve done and my next race or two should build upon training for this race. That’s typically the plan, before reality and life get in the way, at least.

The problem right now is there are no plans after Dopey. There can’t be plans. After this race, I’ll out from running for anywhere from six to sixteen weeks. No running at all. Nope. None. Insert puke emoji here. This period of time is going to be real rough for my mental…and physical health. Depending on where in that range I come back, I might be starting from basically zero. Even at the short end, I’ll have lost just about anything I do leading up to Dopey.

manhattan sunrise

I’ll miss the view on my morning runs while I’m out

While I have some hopes for what I’ll be able to do by the end of 2016, that’s all they are right now, hopes. I can’t plan anything because I don’t know how long I’ll be out. Will I be able to race a fall marathon? Will I be able to run a fall marathon at all? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m basically going into a black hole.

Coming back to the present, this makes it hard to really push myself now for Dopey. This isn’t a foundation to build upon, it’s kind of just it. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been able to get myself on track, but on those mornings when it’s really hard to get myself up to run, what will be the motivation? Even injury prevention is kind of moot at this point. Insert another puke emoji here.

Both last year and this year were rough for running, but I think I’ve got a bit of a handle on what caused that and I really believe I’ll come back super strong late next year, but there’s little I can do now to affect that and it’s kind of driving me nuts.

3

I am a transgender woman with mental illness and I am a finalist to be on the cover of Women’s Running

Women's Running Cover Runner Contest

I’m a finalist!

Because my life is totally weird, I’m currently a finalist in the Women’s Running Cover Runner Contest. The eight finalists were chosen from over 3,000 applicants and the winner will find herself on the cover of Women’s Running magazine.

To be perfectly honest, this is a super surreal thing to me. When I entered, I didn’t think there was any chance I’d be chosen as a finalist. Just a quick look at the bios of the other seven finalists makes it clear some really amazing women with incredible stories entered. When I read their bios, my immediate reaction was that I don’t belong among them.

I do have a lot of conflicting feelings about things like this. If you read my bio on the site, I’m not hiding being transgender. I’m pretty upfront about it. However, I’ve always hated the idea of being treated like I’m special. I don’t want to be on the cover of a magazine simply because I was born with the wrong junk and being trans is all the rage in the media these days. I have no desire to play into the voyeurism of trans lives by cis (not trans) people.

If this blog post is not your first introduction to me, you probably know already that I’ve done a bunch of interviews for sites about being a transgender runner, not to mention all the stuff I’ve done for MyTransHealth. I’m sure it looks like I’m someone who seeks attention and loves to have the spotlight on her. The reality is, these things always make me feel intensely awkward and uncomfortable. I’ve even done a few interviews that I never publicly linked to because I didn’t want to add anymore attention.

I’ve also turned down just as many interviews as I’ve done. My first question anytime I’m approached for an interview is what is the story about and what’s the angle? If it feels like my involvement can have even a small positive impact for trans people, I’ll accept. Otherwise, I say no. I look for articles that are trying to highlight the struggles of trans athletes or trans people at the gym and are taking the stance that transphobic bigotry is not acceptable. If a writer isn’t willing to take that stance or is just looking to write the same voyeuristic story about a trans person’s life that’s been done over and over again, I have no interest.

This brings us to the Women’s Running Cover Runner Contest. Why do I want to be on the cover of a magazine? Honestly, it’s not having me on the cover of a magazine that’s super appealing to me. The reason I want to be on the cover and why this matters to me is because for a women’s running magazine to put a transgender woman on their cover means they’re willing to take the stance that trans women count the same as cis women in athletics, or at least running. They can’t put a transgender woman on their cover and then say she’s not a woman. This is really big to me. Of course, a magazine cover doesn’t instantly change the world, but Women’s Running is a major running magazine and having a transgender woman on the cover would still be pretty rad and, at the least, makes a statement. It doesn’t have to be me, it doesn’t matter who it is. It just so happens that right now I have this opportunity to be a part of their support for transgender athletes.

Women's Running Cover Runner Contest

Now, that’s all fine and well, but if you read my bio for the contest, you’ll see that what I really talked about was mental illness and how running has been there for me to help me through. It’s no secret that I suffer from depression. I’m not ashamed of it…anymore. I talk openly about not just about having depression, but also spending a lot of time feeling suicidal and wanting to die. I do this because I don’t think it should be a stigma. I think it should be something that can and should be openly talked about.

The question asked for this contest was “how has running changed your life?” This was my response:

Running has literally saved my life time and time again. When I was transitioning, running was a safe place to deal with all of the things going on in my life and process both the ups and downs of it all. There is no way I would have survived transition without running. Even outside of transitioning, running has always been there for me as an escape from my depression and a way to work through everything so I could move past it. It’s brought me peace and bliss when I most needed it. I’ve started runs feeling on the verge of suicide and by the end had a huge smile on my face and saw nothing but the beauty in the world. I wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t have running in my life.

This isn’t hyperbolic, this is my life. Running isn’t just this amazing thing I love to do because it’s fun, feels great, and makes me feel awesome. It’s literally my lifesaver. The more I run, the more put together and stable I am and the less I want to die. This is what I wrote about because this is the answer to that question. Running keeps me alive.

So, yes, a transgender woman on the cover of a women’s running magazine is pretty rad and super important to me, but my story for how running has changed my life is about mental health. To break it down to the simplest terms, being trans has affected my running, but my running has affected my mental health.

I really do hope I win and I hope you’ll take the time to visit their site every day to vote. I also hope you take the time to read the bios of the over seven finalists. And if you think one of them should be on the cover more than me, please vote for them every day.

2

Do I even have a blog anymore?

behind the ear cat tattoo

It’s so cute!

Oh hai! I guess this blog is still a thing, huh? I’ve been super busy lately, but I feel like I always say that. Anyway, I just wanted to drop a quick update here.

In most recent news, I got a new tattoo last night on a whim…while not entirely sober. To be fair, the idea for the tattoo wasn’t new as of last night, I’d been wanting it for a while and the opportunity just sort of came up to make it happen. I guess this definitely solidifies my cat lady status, though.

I’ve also been running again, which is basically great and I feel like a human again. My mileage hasn’t been high, by any means, but for the last six or seven weeks (with the exception of last week), I’ve run 22-28 miles. I will definitely take that! In fact, I even ran seven days straight for the first time ever a couple weeks ago. Typically, it’s rare for me to run even five days straight if I’m not actually in training mode, but I kept waking up in the morning wanting to run. A couple days, I actually woke up at 5:30am and tried to talk myself into going back to sleep and failed. That’s literally never happened before.

I’m still not going to be running Chicago Marathon this year, but at least I’m running again and beat the depression.

Unfortunately, I still don’t know for sure what was causing my problems, but taking vitamin-D supplements and lowering my testosterone blocker dosage seems to have have helped. For the most part, I still don’t feel strong and as energetic as I did in the winter and spring, but I’m at least on the right track.

Lastly, the thing that’s been sucking up ALL my time has been MyTransHealth. If you haven’t heard about this yet, it’s the non-profit and website I’ve been working on building with a few of my friends. We want to help connect trans people with doctors who are knowledgeable about trans health. Things are going really great, but it’s been sucking all my time. We just ended our Kickstarter last week after raising over $33,000! We hit our goal in three days and hit two stretch goals after that! I’m still so floored by that!

Besides starting the #transhealthfail conversation on Twitter, we also got some amazing press. I talked to Mashable, TechCrunch, Cosmo, BuzzFeed, and a bunch of other sites. I also was a guest on the Less Than Or Equal podcast! And that’s just the press stuff that I handled. We also had articles in Crain’s, Vox, Tech Insider, The Daily Dot, UpWorthyMic, and a ton more. It’s been a really wild thing so far, but I really love our team and I love what we’re doing. We’re looking to launch this fall and we’ve got big plans!

I guess that’s it? Yeah, that’s probably it for now. Fingers crossed that I find some time to write more here. I miss it!

7

Running and sanity update

Running still sucks right now.

Last week, I ran six miles. One four-miler and two runs that were supposed to be four miles, but only wound up being one. I just couldn’t go at all and found myself a mile from home disappointed and miserable. Fun times! I did manage to make it 5k this morning though which felt like a small win, but I think the only reason I was able to get myself out of bed at 5:30 was how disgusted I’ve felt with myself lately.

I still don’t know for sure what’s wrong with me, but I’ve gone to the doctor and had labs done. At my first visit, she agreed with me that everything absolutely pointed to a potassium (high) and overall electrolyte issue. It pretty much explained everything. She ordered some labs to verify and they came back totally normal on the electrolyte front. Harrumph! The interesting thing was a severely low vitamin D level. This can also explain a lot of my problems, but what it doesn’t explain is how it got there and why now? Why did this start when it was getting warmer out? It’s completely counterintuitive. Spring and summer should mean higher vitamin D due to being out in the sun more. She didn’t want to rule out any possibility of there being something else going on, but for now we’re going to work no the vitamin D and see if we can get that up and if it helps.

Another interesting thing from my labs was my testosterone was the lowest it’s ever been, 3 ng/dl. My last set of labs, just two and a half months ago had a level slightly higher than it had been over the course of the previous year. Kinda weird! Since the “normal” female range is 20-50ish, she wants to try to get me into that range. Of course, I’ve brought this up to the doctor who prescribes my hormones and she’s always stuck with not wanting to mess with it. For now, I’m going to go with the taking less spironolactone route and see if I can get it up just a little. In theory, this should have a lot of positive effects on my running, energy levels, and other areas of my physical well-being. We’ll see, I guess.

In the meantime, not running is continuing to completely destroy me emotionally. And what’s making it even worse is how much weight I’ve gained while not running. It’s been less than two months that I haven’t really been running and I’ve gained nearly ten pounds. Most of my clothes are starting to not fit. Even my running clothes aren’t fitting anymore! I feel and look gross and that’s only exacerbating my depression and overall self-loathing. Ugh!

I just feel all-around miserable right now and it’s been tough to keep it all together. More and more, after I eat anything I feel entirely disgusted with myself and just want the food back out of me. I haven’t actually done anything yet, but I do get scared at how much I think about making myself throw it up. On a conscious level, I know how awful and dangerous that is. I know that I consider throwing up to be one of the worst possible experiences ever and I typically will avoid it at all costs when I’m sick or drink too much, but sometimes it feels like that’s the only thing holding me back. Scary!

I’ve talked about this so much recently, but all of this is what happens when I can’t run. I start to completely fall apart throughout my entire life. It’s probably not healthy to rely on running so much to make my whole life work, but it typically does work and has zero side effects!

11

A Racecation Without the Race

The bib I should have been wearing

The bib I should have been wearing

As you already know, I was registered for, and trained for, Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota this past weekend. And as you also know, I DNSed this race. And, if you follow me on Twitter, you might also be aware of the fact that I still went to Duluth anyway to cheer and did not handle it in any way at all like an adult.

Even though I wasn’t running, I still wanted to head out and support my fellow runners. Good crowd support is a hugely important part of running a marathon so I felt like I should give back a little. Plus, a non-refundable flight (the most expensive part of the trip) and a chance to see a place I’ve never seen before didn’t hurt either!

Earlier last week, my work had a 24 hour hackathon where we get to hack away on any project we want to work on. We get to build some really cool stuff and it’s always a great time, but it’s intensely tiring. There is a lot of drinking and not a lot of sleep. I was hacking away on my project until 3:30am before calling it a night and crashing on a couch in a conference room. After just two and a half hours of sleep, I was awake and hating pretty much everything, but I still had a lot of work to do on my project so I wanted to get right back to it. I knew it wasn’t going to be super functional yet and it was going to be ugly and crashy, but I really wanted to have a proof of concept to present to everyone at the end. I plugged away at full steam until the very end of the 24 hours and was pretty proud of what I had created.

Anyway, what’s this have to do with my racecation? Well, shortly after giving my presentation, I had to hightail it out of work to catch my flight. People were still presenting (some super cool stuff, too!) when I left, but there was no time to stay. I hopped on a train to Newark Airport and jumped on my flight to Minneapolis.

Remember, I’d only slept two and a half hours and had woken up at 6am the day before.

I touched down in Minneapolis just after 8pm and hustled my way over to pick up my rental car. I had a two hour drive to Superior, WI ahead of me still. Luckily, the drive was incredibly uneventful and I was able to make great time.

Nicest bathroom in an airport ever?

Nicest bathroom in an airport ever?

You may have picked up on the fact that I drove to Superior, WI and not Duluth MN. That’s because Superior is right next to Duluth and by the time I went to book a hotel they were all full. So I ended up staying in a dorm at the University of Wisconsin-Superior which was just a ten minute drive to/from the Grandma’s Marathon finish line. Yes, you read that right, a dorm. Apparently, this is a thing and a few of the area colleges rent their dorms out for race weekend. I had actually heard some positive things about it so I figured I’d give it a shot.

When I rolled up to UWS, I found myself plopped down in a room that looked exactly like the dorm I lived in at Rutgers many (many) years ago. It was a little weird, but also kind of cool. You don’t get much in the way of amenities, a towel, a pillow, bedding, a bar of soap, and…a Hershey’s kiss. The bathrooms are dorm bathrooms and don’t come with hairdryers or anything like that–I was smart enough to think about this and bring a travel dryer with me.

Once I was all checked in and dropped my stuff off, I asked about places to eat nearby that would still be open. It was 11pm and I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours. It didn’t seem like I had a ton of good options, but the two guys working the check-in suggested a local bar with a really great burger. The burger turned out to be decent and the bar was pretty dive-y, but I was totally okay with that. The bartender carded me…which was the first of many times I was carded when buying alcohol on the trip.

I got to bed around 12:30 or so and woke up early so I could run out to Target real quick to buy a pair of cheap flip flops to wear in the shower since I hadn’t remembered to bring any with me. After a quick shower, I headed into Duluth to get coffee at Duluth Coffee Company where I planned to plop down and work for the day–I didn’t want to use a vacation day so I had told my manager I’d be working remotely. When I walked into the coffee shop, they were blasting Jawbreaker and continued playing awesome music for the four hours I was there. It was pretty damn great.

Once I was done with work for the day, I figured I should head on over to the race expo and at least pick up my packet. I had been seeing tons of runners out doing their pre-marathon shakeout runs and coming in and out of the coffee place; it was really starting to hit me hard that I wasn’t running anymore. So, in what was probably a mistake, I walked on over to the expo. On my way over, I started to think, “fuck it, I want to run…I can’t not run.” I was definitely not in any state to be running a marathon; huge lack of sleep, horrible diet, dehydrated, etc, but I was really getting close to making that decision. I started going down a mental checklist of things I would need to buy at the expo and what I’d need to do to prepare for a race I wasn’t prepared for. However, by the time I actually got to the expo, my knee was bothering me just enough to knock a little sense into me.

The expo was pretty crowded, as these things tend to be, and it was a little confusing over by the packet pickup area, but I squeezed my way through. I can’t say I was in a super good mood being at an expo for a race I had registered for, worked REALLY hard for, and wasn’t running, but I was reasonably okay.

Then it happened.

The moment I had my race packet and bib in my hand, I started to fall apart. Bad.

I couldn’t get out of that expo fast enough. I felt a huge lump in my throat and it took all my strength to hold back the waterworks. You may not know this about me, but I don’t actually cry very often. It’s actually pretty rare. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve cried in the last five years and when you factor in that the last three years have been the most intense and emotional time of my life, it might actually turn out that I’m dead inside. I mean, it’s not that I don’t feel sad (I sort of do all the time), it’s just that I never quite can cry even when I start to feel like I’m getting close to.

Anyway, I got out of the expo as quickly as I could. I was probably even pretty rude to people as I tried to squeeze through the crowds to the exit. I didn’t need a whole mess of random strangers seeing me have an emotional breakdown. Tears were coming out, but I knew I needed to stop holding back. I needed to feel this and finally cry it out and process it all. I needed that, but I also needed to at least get back to the car first and not breakdown in front of people.

When I got to the car, I let it out. I cried. I hated everything. I really just wanted to go drown myself in Lake Superior. I was not okay. And I felt dumb. Really, really dumb. It’s a marathon. It’s not the end of the world. It wasn’t even my first DNS and I’m sure it won’t be my last.

The thing is, though, running is really important to me. In fact, it’s the most important thing to me. I literally credit running with saving my life. It’s so important that it’s the only real reason I have stopping me from getting gender confirming surgery (you know, the one that turns my downstairs from an outtie to an innie). I don’t want to lose three to four months of running while I recover. And the most fucked up part about this is I’m fairly certain this would actually help solve the problems I’m having which are keeping me from running right now and kept me from running Grandma’s, but more on that in a bit.

So there I was, crying my eyes out and being miserable in the car. I was really struggling to handle the fact that I put in the work for this race, more work than I’ve put in for any previous race. I was super emotionally invested in this race. It was really not pretty, but eventually, I pulled it together and decided to get dinner since I literally hadn’t all day. Dinner was nice and I chatted with the waitress for a few minutes about what the cool bars are in town.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my night. I didn’t fly out to Minnesota to hang out in a cinderblock-walled dorm room. After a FaceTime with my wife where I wallowed and felt sorry for myself followed by a reprise with a close friend, I decided I should go out and do something. I went to a bar recommended by the waitress…which, going to a bar alone is sort of a big deal for me. I have no problem doing some things alone, but going to bars has never been on that list and this was the second night in a row alone in a bar in a state I’d never been before. Groundbreaking…or something?

Drowning my sorrows

Drowning my sorrows

The bar, the Red Herring Lounge, turned out to be pretty rad. I had a couple good beers and chatted it up for a bit with the bartender who was super nice. She suggested I head on down to where the finish area for the race was to check out some local bands that were playing in a tent next to the one where the official Grandma’s Marathon party was happening. Eventually, I made my way down there and watched a couple bands with another beer in my hand. But, I was feeling pretty miserable so I called it a night before the show was over.

Yup, savory donut

Yup, savory donut.

On race morning, I was woken up at 5am by runners heading out for the half marathon. Less than five hours of sleep, of course. I took my time getting ready and really tried to hold myself together as best I could, but I knew it was going to be emotionally trying to be out there cheering. On my way over to my cheering spot, I stopped at a place called Big Apple Bagels and was reminded of my policy that if it’s not from the greater NYC area, it’s not a bagel, it’s just a roll…or a savory donut.

I had made plans with Twitter friend Teal to meet up and cheer with her. She was in a very similar situation as me, she had trained for the race and gotten injured two weeks before race day. We chatted about how much it sucked, but we did a pretty good job of keeping it from turning into a pity party.

During the more than four hours I was out there cheering at mile 24.5 I coined the term “running dysphoria.” It’s kind of like gender dysphoria, a thing I know more about than I’d like, but related to running instead of gender. This is what I have right now.

Once I was finally out of strength to keep it together, I knew it was time to call it a day and start my two hour drive back to Minneapolis. I wasn’t crying, but I wasn’t okay on my walk back to the car either.

This drive wasn’t quite as uneventful as the first. I was on a race against the fuel gauge in the car. I needed to return the car with a full tank, but I didn’t want to have to stop twice for gas. I was constantly checking the car’s estimated range against Google Maps’ distance and knew I was going to be cutting it close. The car was giving me 20 extra miles past what I needed…until it stopped showing me distance and just said “low fuel.” That’s when I started to freak out a bit. Since it wasn’t a car I knew, I didn’t know what that really meant in terms of remaining fuel. Then I got stuck in some traffic and made a wrong turn while trying to find a gas station. My anxiety level went through the roof, but I made it to a gas station in time! I probably didn’t need any more anxiety in my life after the couple of days I had just had.

After dropping off the car, I started to fall apart again. I saw runners in the airport and the runner dysphoria kicked back into gear hard. After getting through security, I started to break down again. The tears came back out. The lump in my throat reappeared. I was, again, not okay. And I, again, felt really stupid and pathetic. I went into a sit-down restaurant since I had a ton of time before my flight and tried to hide how much I was crying as best I could. I texted with a few people and tried to make myself feel better, but nothing really worked. The only thing that was enough to at least break the tears was getting rickrolled by the music in the restaurant while burying my misery at the bottom of a surprisingly decent burrito.

Then, to add insult to injury, my flight was delayed for over an hour because of rerouting issues and then us not having enough fuel on the plane (!!!). It was delayed to the point where I no longer had a ride home from the airport. Ugh.

So, yeah, that was my racecation. No race and not much of a “cation” either.

In the end, as miserable as I am/was, I think it’s good I went. Even though I couldn’t run, I got to support my (other) community and I got to see a pretty cool new place I’ve never been to before. Duluth is definitely a rad little city (more like a big town), but it sort of feels like it should another town in Nightmare Before Christmas to go along with Halloween Town and Christmas Town. Marathon Town. It feels like this whole city prepares all year for this race and it’s all that matters there. Definitely feels like the biggest thing going on in Duluth. But whatever, that’s kind of cool. Also, I was a little unnerved by “Minnesota Nice.” I don’t know how to handle everyone being so incredibly nice. Being a Northeast gal, it’s super weird to me.

tl;dr: I went to Duluth for a marathon I didn’t actually run and was intensely emotional about it.

Lake

Lake Superior and the Ariel Lift Bridge from down near the finish line (click to expand!).

Lastly, since I mentioned it up above, my current state of running… Yeah, it’s really not any better, in fact, it’s worse. Thanks to a few helpful internet friends, I do have a theory that, at the least, makes a ton of sense. My testosterone blocker, Spironolactone, doesn’t just stop testosterone, it’s also a potassium-sparing diuretic. Bummer. I mean, I knew that and I knew it before I ever started taking it. I just figured it’d all even out since I run so much. I guess maybe it doesn’t. Anyway, it might actually be that I have too much potassium in my body, the opposite problem most runners have. This would cover my symptoms of sore and fatigued muscles with a little dose of arrhythmia. And it would make sense that I run fine when it’s cold out, but two years in a row (100% of the time since I started hormones), I started to have these same problems when the weather started getting warmer. Increased sweating means increased electrolyte loss which means increased chemical imbalance in my muscles. I can’t prove it and I’m not sure how exactly to test if this is it, but it all adds up. Plus, my last set of labs, which were just two months ago, showed my potassium level at the absolute upper limit of acceptable. It’s totally possible that I just got pushed over the edge. I’m not sure what to do about this other than increasing my salt intake and decreasing how much kale and avocado and other potassium-rich foods are in my diet. I mean, really, if you eat anything close to healthy, you’re going to have a ton of potassium. Ugh.

Or…I could just cut the problem off at the source (pun intended) so I don’t need spiro anymore.

10

The decision to DNS a marathon

How I feel while writing this

How I feel while writing this

I haven’t really posted about it here yet, but my training for Grandma’s Marathon has completely fallen apart. I don’t know exactly what caused it, but it’s gotten really bad. When I say bad, I mean I’ve been heavily considering DNSing (did not start) the race for the last couple of weeks. Yeah, that kind of bad. I’m not injured, I’m just…my body hates me.

Rather than make you read this whole post to get to the important takeaway, I’ll just drop it right here. I have officially decided not to run Grandma’s Marathon in two weeks.

The last time I checked in with y’all here, it was halfway through training and things felt like a positive-leaning mixed bag. I had some good weeks, I had some bad weeks, but I was still hopeful to have a good race. I still felt like a 3:30 finish was possible, but I’d likely just go for sub-3:40 and use that as a jumping off point for the fall.

Unfortunately, since then, things have sort of nose-dived. Hard. Into a volcano. Filled with alligators…that can somehow survive the lava.

It started three weeks ago with my 19-mile long run. Two days before, I had skipped an 8-mile run to give my legs a little extra rest, but didn’t think anything of it. The 19-miler went reasonably well, that is, it felt like most long runs do. The only weird thing was my left calf felt a little tight from the start. It wasn’t too bad so I didn’t think much of it, but it stayed like that for the whole run. Because we had a wedding to attend two hours away that afternoon, I had gotten up very early to knock out my run and get ready. This didn’t leave me with any time to stretch it or ice or anything afterwards. By the time I was showered and ready to go, I could feel my calf didn’t feel right. It felt kind of like I had pulled something in there. Luckily, I was able to wear flats to the wedding, but it was outside with a lot of walking up and down hills and such to get to different parts of where the wedding was. Throughout the night, things didn’t get any better.

I took the next two days off, which involved missing one run and pushing one back a day. At first I wasn’t too worried, but the pain stuck around without getting much better. I ended up missing that whole week of running minus a four-mile trail run. I even missed my 20-mile long run that weekend.

I tried to get back into things the next week, but my body was exhausted as if I had been pushing myself hard. I had no energy and my legs felt about how they do 4-5 days after a marathon. I missed another long run. I tried to get out there to do it, but I stopped after four miles when I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go the distance. Since it was a Saturday, I figured I’d just give it another shot on Sunday, but when I went out there Sunday, everything hurt right away. Calves, quads, knees. It was really bizarre. Because I hadn’t been running, my legs should have at least been rested. It was the kind of pain that said “do not run through this! Stop now!” I listened.

This brings me up to this week. I’ve done one 4-mile run and it felt like garbage. Surprisingly, the very easy effort I gave turned out to be a pretty quick pace. Still, my legs felt awful. Again, it was that whole feeling like I just ran a marathon 4-5 days ago thing.

I really don’t get it, but that last run was the final thing to push me over the edge to a DNS. Could I finish a marathon right now? Probably. Could I still finish somewhere in the mid-3:40s? Probably. But what does that get me? What does running on a body that’s clearly telling me not to do for me? I’m risking actual injury by doing that. If I didn’t have the Chicago Marathon 16 weeks after Grandma’s, this might be a different story. I might just go for it and have fun. But Chicago can still be a good race for me. It’s where I scored my PR. Running Grandma’s does nothing but put more wear on my body when I could instead take the next couple weeks to recover myself and get ready for Chicago training.

If my marathon goal is to a BQ, running a marathon just to add another tick to my marathons-run total does nothing to help me. If I were in good shape, it could be a good tune-up and jumping off point, but that’s not the case. It can do nothing but push me further from my goal.

I’m super, super bummed about this and I’ve been pretty depressed because of it for the last couple weeks. Unfortunately, running is tied very closely to my emotional well-being. This works great when running is going well, but when it’s not…yikes.

The thing is, though, there will be other races. This isn’t the end of the world and I know I’m making the right decision.

The weird thing is since nothing is refundable, I’m still planning on getting on the plane and going out to Duluth in two weeks. I’ll hang out and cheer and just enjoy the scenery, I guess. Since everything is already paid for, it doesn’t cost me anything to go.

My real concern right now is I don’t know what really happened. I don’t know why my legs feel like a boy scout troop used my muscles to earn their knot tying badges. In reality, I don’t feel a ton different than I did this time a year ago. I see a lot of parallels between now and the last couple weeks of training before New Jersey Marathon and the months following. The warmer weather is definitely a contributing factor to both, but only a small piece of the puzzle.

A lot of me wants to just say I pushed myself too much, but I scaled back quite a bit from what I did for New Jersey and I still burned out. Maybe hormones have had more of an effect on my fitness than I thought and the minor tweaks to my marathon training aren’t enough. I tried adding cross-training. I was reasonably good about strength work. I started foam rolling daily. Maybe I need to completely rethink how I train. I really don’t know and that’s what upsets me the most. I don’t know what I to learn from this and how to prevent it from happening again. I had fallen back in love with running pretty damn hard in February, March, April, and early May and I was crushing a lot of runs. I know I still have it in me. I just need to figure out what I keep tripping over.

2

A week with the Apple Watch

AppleWatchFor the last week, I’ve been keeping a diary of what it’s like living with (and using) the Apple Watch. Strapping a smart watch to your wrist isn’t the same as buying a new TV for your living room. A smart watch becomes an intimate part of your life. It changes things.

I wasn’t sure the best way to present all of my thoughts, so I decided to simply dump an unedited transcript of the diary I kept here.

For reference, I pre-ordered the 42mm space gray Apple Watch Sport at 3am on April 10th when pre-orders opened up. I did not receive my watch on launch day (April 24), mine came on April 27th.

Day 1:

My watch showed up just after lunch today. I opened it at my desk at work with a handful of my coworkers awkwardly standing over me. The packaging was nice, but seemed extremely wasteful in comparison to Apple’s other products.

The initial setup took a little while to sync everything over from my iPhone, but was otherwise easy and painless. I opted not to sync third party apps over right away.

My watch had around 67% battery remaining right out of the box.

My initial impression was that the watch felt great on my wrist, very light and comfortable. Having rather large wrists for a woman my size, I was glad I got the 42mm model, it seemed to be the right size for me. The 38mm model would have likely been dwarfed by my wrists.

Figuring out force touch took me a little while. From the keynote demos, I had the impression that force touch was more of a slamming down of your finger on the watch face, but it turns out to actually be a firm pressing down instead. This took me a few hours to figure out after struggling with a success rate of just around 10% with the slam-your-finger-method. Once I figured this out, using the watch become a lot easier.

I started with the “utility” watch face, an analog one. This seemed like the nicest looking face that provided me the information I was looking for. I wanted to try the elegance of an analog face instead of an easier-to-read digital face.

Apple Watch Utility Watch Face

The Utility face

The delay for the screen turning on when raising your wrist to look at the watch wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected based on reviews from The Verge and Daring Fireball. However, it was just enough in addition to the extra half a second telling time on an analog face takes that I switched to a digital face by the end of the day. I went with “modular” which also shows you more information about your next calendar event. Perhaps if I was the kind of person used to keeping an analog watch on my wrist, I might be quick enough to feel comfortable sticking with the utility face, but I haven’t worn a watch regularly in close to fifteen years. Though, I’m sure I’ll spend most of the week trying out different watch faces. I’m curious to see what I end up landing on in the end.

I checked my heart rate a few times throughout the day and the watch seemed fairly accurate. I’ve never worn a heart rate monitor or regularly taken my pulse before so I can’t say with much certainty how close it is to other forms of measurement. However, it did clock my resting heart rate between 55-59 bpm which is pretty close to the handful of times I have taken it in the last few months.

Sometime mid-afternoon, I switched my sit/stand desk at work to standing mode. Two minutes later, my watch told me to stand for a minute. I thought that was a little weird since I was currently standing already and had been for a couple minutes. An hour later, I dropped my desk back into sit mode and my watch again told me to stand. I had just been standing for an hour straight.

After I got off the PATH back in New Jersey on my commute home, I looked down expecting all the notifications I missed while underground to pop up, but instead my watch let me know I had forgotten to take my phone out of airplane mode. I don’t usually put my phone in airplane mode on my commute, but sometimes Tweetbot gets a little confused and doesn’t queue up favorites properly. I’ve found that switching to airplane mode serves as a good workaround to avoid Tweetbot erroring on me.

I made a quick stop at Duane Reade on my walk to pick up a few toiletries we were running low on. I always use Apple Pay at Duane Reade so I figured it was a good chance to try it from my watch. I expected this to be super awkward, but it really wasn’t that bad. The biggest issue was the numerous taps and button presses it takes to actually use Apple Pay on your watch. It makes sense though, it could be easy to accidentally trigger it if it was always on.

As I was doing my nightly strength workout and foam rolling, a friend and I started sending heartbeats and sketches back and forth. It was neat, but seemed totally pointless except for trying to be cute and waste time.

Before getting in bed, I hopped in the shower real quick to shave down the forest I had let grow on my legs over the last week. I left my watch on the entire time and didn’t have any issues.

By the time I laid down in bed and stuck the watch onto its charger, I was at 29% battery. This was around 10:30pm. Not bad after starting with only 2/3 of the battery and me playing with my new toy constantly all day.

Apple Watch Modular Watch Face

My initial configuration of the modular face

Day 2:

I woke up at my normal 5:45am to catch a 7am spin class and slapped my watch on my wrist just before leaving the house at 6:15.

Once I was on my bike and started pedaling, I started up a new “indoor cycling” activity using the builtin Activity app. I swiped the screen over to show my heart rate since this seemed like the only information I’d actually need during my class. Once my hands were back on the handlebars, the screen turned off and I only noticed it turning back on again when I actively went to check my heart rate. I felt a few notifications come in, but I didn’t feel distracted by them or wondering what they were.

My heart rate throughout the class was in the mid-160s which I guess was roughly accurate? I kind of expected it to be higher than that, to be honest. Though, I read today that Consumer Reports found the Apple Watch’s heart rate monitoring to be just as accurate as their highest-rated chest straps so I guess that’s probably fairly accurate?

After 45 minutes of what turned out to be my best spin class ever, according to Flywheel’s total power, I was eager to see the calorie count for my workout. My Apple Watch showed 251, which isn’t even in the same ballpark as the 915 calories that the Flywheel app estimates. The Apple Watch only knows my heart rate and must base on that, whereas the Flywheel app knows the time, torque, and RPM from my ride, but not my heart rate. Additionally, the Flywheel app estimates based on a person weighing 145-160lbs (I weight 145, for reference). When I entered the class into the Garmin Connect app with the time and distance (provided by the Flywheel app), I was given 584 calories. This feels like the most accurate of the three to me.

After hopping off my bike, I hopped in the shower and again left my watch on with no problems.

By 1:15pm, I still had 70% of my battery left at 7.25 hours off the charger and 45 minutes of active heart rate monitoring.

During the walking part of my commute home, I realized the proper way to think about the Apple Watch isn’t to think of it as its own thing–which because of it’s reliance on your iPhone, it can’t be. Instead, you have to accept that the watch is nothing more than a companion to your phone. A window into in existing thing in your life. Quick access.

I reveled in the simplicity of a quick glance at my wrist to check for important notifications. The red dot at the top of the watch face indicating new notifications is the almost the perfect antidote to the notification anxiety we’ve let our smartphones bring into our lives.

I started with only a pared down list of apps allowed to notify me my wrist, but I expect this to change over time, likely in the direction of fewer, not more. My Apple Watch is for the notifications I really care about, things that may be actionable or are ambient information that is only relevant in that moment. While my phone is always in reach, usually in my back pocket or sitting next to me, a quick flick of the wrist to check for anything important feels like a timesaver.

I walked in the door at home with 48% of my battery left. I had been wearing my watch for twelve and a half hours at this point.

I changed real quick for my second workout of the day, a four mile run. I slapped my Garmin Forerunner 220 GPS watch on next to my Apple watch and headed out the door while contemplating the insanity of going for a run with a $650 iPhone, $400 Apple Watch, and $250 running watch.

I used Apple’s Activity app to record my run since Apple doesn’t allow third party apps to have access to the heart rather monitor yet. Annoyingly, the app counts you down from three instead of just starting as soon as you hit the button like my Garmin does.

When my Garmin beeped at four miles, I stopped the run on both watches and compared. The Apple Watch measured 4.23 miles to my Garmin’s 4.01. Mapping my run using DailyMile’s route tool gave me 4.05 miles. Not accurate enough for serious running and training. As a point of reference, I had my phone (which the Apple Watch relies on for GPS) in my pocket with the screen facing towards my leg. Tomorrow, I’ll try having the screen facing out.

I got into bed at 10:40pm with 20% of my battery left. 16.5 hours off the charger and two workouts.

Garmin vs Apple Watch

Day 3:

I woke up at 5:30 for a nine mile run this morning. Again, I strapped my Apple Watch and my Garmin onto my wrist side-by-side and I stuck my phone in my pocket with the screen facing away from my leg. This time, the Apple Watch measured 8.88 miles compared to the Garmin’s 9.01 miles. DailyMile’s route tool measured the run at 9.25 miles. So this time the Apple watch measured short instead of long.

While I was cooling down, I tried to see my mile splits for my run, but was disappointed to not be able to find them on either the watch itself or in the Activity app that was installed on my phone when I paired my watch to it. For me, this is a complete deal breaker. If you’re a runner who is training for something, those splits are very important.

My hour and sixteen minute run ate 20% of my battery so I dropped my watch on the charger, which nicely snaps in to place with zero fuss and charges quickly, while I showered.

While walking to the office, it really hit me how much the Apple Watch demands very granular control over notifications. It’s a control that doesn’t really exist in apps yet, but developers will have to start thinking about this. For example, I want Slack notifications if I’m mentioned, but not for @all, @channel, or other keywords I alert on. All of these notifications are fine for my phone, but not for my wrist. For Tweetbot, I only want DMs and mentions; favorites, retweets, and follows aren’t necessary for me to know about immediately. With Tumblr (I know), I want asks, fan mail, replies, and only reblogs in which something is added. The thing all of these notifications have in commons is that they are either things I might want to take action on or are people saying something to me. Other notifications may be useful, but they’re not important, they’re fine to see whenever I actually decide to check on them myself. I don’t need them buzzing my wrist.

Right before lunch, I got this nice little notification that I was already crushing my activity for the day. The watch will periodically pop in with things like this to let you know how you’re doing on your move, standing, and exercise goals.IMG_2147

After lunch, my watch was at 93% battery still. This was five hours of being hammered with Twitter notifications. An hour later, 90%.

At ten to three, my watch told me to stand. I’d been sitting for not even twenty minutes after an hour with my desk in standing mode. Doesn’t this thing know I ran nine miles this morning on exhausted legs and was beat? It also seems that the watch doesn’t care if you’ve had a long standing session, it still wants you to stand each clock hour.

The weather outside was literally perfect today so I used Starbucks as an excuse for a mid-afternoon walk to enjoy it all. I paid for my iced coffee using my Starbucks card in Passbook. Just like on your phone, you’re given a QR code to scan. This was the most awkward thing ever. It doesn’t seem like it’d be much different than using Apple Pay with your watch, but there’s something totally awkward about how you have to contort your wrist while trying to line it up with the barcode reader. Maybe having the reader positioned differently would help.

Overall, the watch is really starting to feel useful. I find myself both more and less distracted at the same time now.

I’m more distracted thanks to a frequent buzzing on my wrist telling me something possibly important just happened. It’s like having someone screaming in your face “HEY THIS JUST HAPPENED! LOOK AT IT!”

But on the other end of things, I’m definitely way less distracted. The only things that buzz my wrist are potentially important notifications, not all notifications. The things buzzing my wrist are the things I want to know about right away and may want to take action on. They are the things I am constantly checking my phone for. Having these notifications on my wrist greatly cuts down on the number of times I check my phone or OS X notification center. I can trust that if it’s important, I already know about it. This allows me to keep up with important stuff without the distractions of the unimportant stuff. I’d often fall into the trap of checking my notifications and getting bogged down in the fluff. “Oh, an Instagram like, let me go see how many likes this photo has.” Knowing I can quickly check my wrist with all of the fluff filtered out is totally liberating. Plus, all I have to do is flick my wrist and look for a red dot at the top of the screen indicating if there is anything or not.

Today, I wore a dress with not pockets so my phone was either sitting on my desk or in my purse all day. While I was at work, I didn’t even need to think about my phone as long as I was staying on my floor. I’d go to the bathroom or to meetings and leave my phone behind. On the train, I controlled my music from my wrist. As I walked home, my wife sent me a few text about dinner. Without my watch, I likely would have missed them. Even in pants with my phone in my back pocket, I typically don’t feel my phone vibrating while walking (I keep my phone on silent 95% of the time). I was able to quickly respond without fishing my phone out of my purse using the canned responses and walk into the house with a pizza already on its way.

After nine hours off the charger, I had 68% of my battery left.

Overall, I’m really impressed with how smooth and snappy the UI is…until you open something that needs to pull data from your phone. Then things get painfully slow to the point where I give up and simply reach for my phone. For the most part, third party apps aren’t even worth bothering with.

I love the digital crown. I find myself using it to scroll over touching the screen. It just feels smooth and with the perfect amount of resistance. I love the taptic feedback when you get to the top or bottom of a screen.

I’m still fiddling with my watch face, but I think I’m pretty close now. I tweaked it to remove the moon phase. It’s existence felt purely ornamental.

Apple Watch Modular Face

My current watch face configuration.

I tried out heartbeats and sketches again with a coworker tonight. My impression hasn’t changed. Cute, but that’s about it.

I got into bed with 50% of my battery remaining after exactly 14 hours off the charger.

Day 4:

I woke up at 5:30am again for a seven mile run. I walked out the door with both my Apple Watch and my Garmin, but this time I fired up the Nike+ app to record my run with splits and the Apple Activity app for heart rate data. Sort of a pain in the ass to have to start a run on two different apps.

Annoyingly, the Nike+ app kept sounding off stats from my pocket for each mile. This is all configurable, but I’ve never used Nike+ so I hadn’t yet configured all the settings how I like them. Generally, I prefer my Garmin’s simple beep every mile. I don’t need my stats read to me.

Today, the Apple Watch and my Garmin measured very similarly. My Garmin was seven miles and my Apple watch was 7.07 miles (my iPhone screen was facing my leg). A 1% delta between the two is close enough to negligible for me.

Even harder than starting two running apps and a Garmin at the same time was stopping them all, but in the process I discovered double-tapping the digital crown switches between your last two apps. Neat!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to view my splits in the Nike+ app on either my watch or my phone. I’m sure they’re there somewhere, I just couldn’t find them easily. But when you finish your run, the watch app shows a mini map of your run for you. Why would I even want that? I almost never look at the maps of my runs. I’d much rather see my mile splits right there. I almost always check these immediately after finishing my runs.

Mostly, this all seems to be par for the course for running apps. They’re just barebones windows to basic info. Sure, it’s absolutely a tiny screen on your wrist, but my Garmin shows my overall time, overall pace, and distance (you can configure what you want, this just happens to be what I prefer). It’d be nice to get these three bits on screen at the same time. I also can’t figure out if any of these apps having manual lapping or prompting for intervals on the watch itself or if you need to access that via your phone.

iSmoothRun was my iPhone running app of choice before I got my Garmin a year ago and they’ve said they have an Apple Watch app coming any day now. I’m really hoping that’ll give me what I’m looking for. Though, Apple not allowing third parties to access to the heart rate monitor means I’ll still be running with two apps going.

My run this morning used 18% of my battery so I charged my watch while I showered again. I feel this will be my normal routine. While the battery life on the watch has been incredibly impressive given what Apple rates it for, the heart rate monitor really takes a beating on the battery. I’m kind of surprised it’s that much, actually. However, my Garmin, which has onboard GPS and no heart rate monitor, seems to get about 50 miles of running to a charge so it’s comparable.

One other interesting thing about my run today, with a third of a mile left, I found myself with a choice of darting across the light rail 30 feet from of an oncoming train (they move really slowly) or waiting. I broke into a quick sprint and went for it. We don’t need to talk about how dumb this was. Anyway, later in the day, I was looking through my heart rate data and was able to match it up to my run and see that my heart rate spiked to 194bpm from the mid-170s where it was during the last couple of miles. Really cool!

As I walked off the train on my way to work this morning, I effortlessly skipped a boring song that just came on. My phone stayed in my back pocket.

When I got to work, I pulled out my phone to check into Tumblr HQ on Swarm as I do every morning. This felt super cumbersome, even with the today Today widget. Swarm is a perfect use case for an Apple Watch app. Seems like a no-brainer to me, but it doesn’t exist yet.

Normally, I get up and walk around or just go to the bathroom a lot while at work just to keep moving. I like to stretch my legs. But some days it’s tough, either I’m really busy or just super exhausted. It’s these times when my watch yelling at me to stand is super annoying. As an office worker, you almost have to have a sit/stand desk if you want to strap an Apple Watch to your person. And even with the sit/stand desk, sometimes the watch seems to struggle to detect that you’re actually standing. My watch told me to stand at 11:50 today after I’d been standing for the last hour straight.

I’m starting to wonder if my taptics are working properly on my watch. It’s hard to get a feel for how prominent the buzzing is supposed to feel. One of my coworkers remarked that he felt like he needed to turn the intensity down on his watch, but I feel myself longing for a little more. Most people I’ve talked to seem to say literally the exact same thing I’ve said about it so who knows.

I’m also finding I have very little interest in third party apps on my watch. It’s not even just that they all mostly suck, but it just doesn’t seem like what this thing is for. The watch feels like it’s for getting quick info or performing single touch tasks. More than apps, I just really want fine grained control over notifications. With tighter control over notifications, the Apple Watch could actually save you from notification hell instead of putting you there as I was afraid it would.

Halfway through a code deploy at work today, I looked down at my watch and force touched the screen to clear all my notifications. The force touch seems to double as the perfect release for pent-up tension.

After work, I met some friends for runner happy hour. Instead of checking my phone constantly like I do when I’m out, I left it face down on the table and relied on my watch to tell me if there was anything I needed to know. Depending on how use your watch, it could easily distract you from being present with the people you’re with or it could free you from distraction.

After fourteen hours on my wrist, I unstrapped with 57% of my battery left. I don’t even check it during the day anymore. There is not battery anxiety at all. You only need to be onboard with dropping it on the charger every night…which isn’t that big of a deal, I don’t think I’d want to wear it while sleeping anyway.

Day 5:

The watch is starting to blend into my regular life and simply feel like a natural extension of the technology I already use every day. Not having to nurse the battery helps a lot with this, I think. You just let it be and it tells you want you need to know. The first four and a half hours of today only used 7% of my battery.

Just like every other day so far, my watch told at me to stand after I had already been standing for an extended amount of time. This is getting old, but there are enough times when it is right that I haven’t stood in a while that it’s worth having. I think.

This evening, I stayed in and took it easy. I just wanted to relax. I happened to fire off a tweet relating to my crush on Anna Kendrick and then my wrist started blowing up for the next two hours. Not very relaxing. It may be useful to start making use of do not disturb mode or simply taking the watch off when I want to relax.

Even with a ton of notifications today, my watch only used 47% of its battery for 14:35. However, my phone’s battery seems to be draining much quicker. That’s a bummer.

While I’m not one to invoke “this would have never happen if Steve were still alive,” it’s hard to not see how different the Apple Watch would be with Steve Jobs alive, well, and at the helm still. The Apple Watch does (or tries) to do a lot. Some of it, it’s very good at. Some of it, not so much. There is nothing simple about the Apple Watch and learning all the interactions takes some time. Steve Jobs was very much “this is what and how you’re going to use this.” The Apple Watch is “we made it do everything so you can figure out what it means to you.” It’s just different. I don’t know if that’s good or bad yet.

Day 6:

I rebooted my phone and my battery life seems much better though. So maybe it’s not an issue. We’ll have to see.

This morning’s run was 4.02 miles on my Garmin ad 4.06 on my Apple Watch. 1% difference again. It seems to be getting more consistent, but I’m not sure if I trust it yet. I just stuck with the Apple Activity app today, but I’m starting to get curious about what other apps do with GPS data. They all rely on the same data from your phone. They ask the phone where it is and it gives it a map point, but do any apps try to process that point and snap it to a road or reject points that are radically different than the points before/after? How often do they poll for data? I’m just wondering if different apps may provide difference mapping results.

After my run, I showered and my wife and I hopped in the car to drive down to Philly. My watch buzzed a few times while I was behind the wheel and it definitely took some self restraint to ignore it until stopped at a light. I don’t drive a lot anymore, but I could see the Apple Watch only adding to the distracted driving problem in our society.

When we go to Philly and walked into the race expo for the Broad Street Run, I again wished for a Swarm app on my watch. It’d be so quick and easy! As we walked around the expo, I received a ton of texts from some friends I was talking to. Getting the notifications on my wrist was a nice way to see what was worth pulling my phone out to reply to and what was fine being left without a reply. I felt less distracted than if I was looking down at my phone for every message.

We walked across the street to Reading Terminal Market and it just felt like another perfect use case for a Swarm app.

Getting into the car to head to a friend’s house, I asked Siri on my phone to pull up directions. I typically use Google Maps, but I was feeling lazy. Without doing anything, I started getting buzzing and directions on my wrist while driving. It was actually super distracting to the point where I killed navigation on my phone after a few minutes and switched over to Google Maps. I could see this being really helpful in certain situations, but for city driving with lots of turns and streets really close to each other, it was the worst.

We spent the night hanging out with our friends and I found myself distracted, but less so. I was looking at my watch a lot, but the distractions there where filtered from what was on my phone. I was taken away from the conversation few times and for shorter amounts of time. Still, I felt like I was being just as rude as I ever am.

Day 7:

I woke up at 4am today. Yes, I was surprised that 4am was actually a real time too, but it was there. The plan for the day was to knock out six miles before we headed back into Philly for the Broad Street Run. I was running perfectly on schedule, but four miles into my run, I felt my wrist buzz. I don’t typically feel distracted by notifications while running, but it was 5am on a Sunday. I knew it was either my wife telling me I was running late or…her saying she work up feeling sick and couldn’t run the race. This information was actually really helpful. Knowing our plans were going to change, I was able to stop worrying about making it back to leave in time for the race.

We ended up getting in the car and driving home and I again felt the distraction of a buzzing wrist while driving. I did my best to ignore it. Just like when trying to relax, I think do not disturb will be a must here.

After getting home, I changed to run again. I still had another twelve miles scheduled for the day. I ran out the door and finished my run at the bagel place near our house. It was about 10:30 while I was waiting in line and my watch was down to 47% battery. To be fair, I took it off the charger at 4 and had run 18 miles with it.

My two runs were measured at 6.08 and 12.08 miles on my Apple Watch and 6.24 and 12.08 on my Garmin. I sweat a lot on my second run today and it made me think about the fact that Apple made a big deal about the Apple Watch being water resistant enough to run with and avoid issues from sweat, but it requires you to keep your iPhone on you which isn’t water resistant at all. That’s kind of a problem.

Sometimes, the watch display doesn’t turn on when I expect it to and I end up twisting my wrist back and forth trying to get it on before giving up and just pressing the digital crown. This doesn’t happen a lot.

Tonight, I was doing a strength workout at home while trying to maintain a text conversation via my watch. And when I couldn’t respond with a canned response, I would walk over to my phone to type it out. It was actually way less than ideal and totally made my workout take way longer.

I crawled into bed just as my watch was alerting me that I was at 10% battery left. It asked me if I wanted to go into power reserve to extend battery life.

Two and a half of those hours were active heart rate monitoring. The watch had 10% battery left when I took this screenshot.

Two and a half of those hours were active heart rate monitoring. The watch had 10% battery left when I took this screenshot.

Overall thoughts:

I’m still trying to find a decent running app. There are a bunch out there, but I guess I’m just picky? Or maybe the problem is that I’m trying to mimic the things I like about my Garmin and fix all the things I hate about it.

When it comes to the GPS for runs, I’m just looking for some consistency here. GPS is a very imprecise technology and you have to expect a fair margin of error, but my Garmin tends to measure runs very consistently. I can usually count on it to sound off a mile in the same place every day and measure the a route the same every time I run it. This is what I’m asking for. For the short term, I plan to keep running with both watches. The Apple Watch works as a nice heart rate monitor and the Garmin is at least consistent.

Going back to what I had thought about on Day 6 regarding different apps doing different calculations with the same GPS data, my run this morning was measured at 5.07 by the Apple Activity app and 5.12 by Runtastic so it seems like there may be some processing of the data there rather than taking the points as is. I’ll have to keep looking into this.

Overall, I’m really loving my Apple Watch a lot more than I expected to. It’s not perfect, but it’s really good. As a toy, it’s definitely neat. As a communication and productivity tool, it really depends on how you use it and what you want from it. As jewelry, it’s really pleasing to look at, for me at least. And for for running, it’s probably more than good for a more casual runner, but for a serious runner it just doesn’t cut it…at least not right now.

I’m hopeful apps will improve now that developers actually have watches on their hands and with the addition of the native SDK at some point later this year.