Race Report: Tracy Runs Around the Bay 30K 2015

Around the bay medal, bib, t-shirtLet’s start with something positive: I finished.  The sun shone. The wind, which as Canadians we sometimes fear for its chilling effect, stayed in check.  The air buzzed with excitement the way it does on race day. Spectators cheered us on for the entire route.  I had my picture taken with Batman. The Grim Reaper failed to take me down.

And yes, I need to say this one more time: I finished.

That means I ran 30K on Sunday, further than I’ve ever run before. With 9,000 other people.

The Around the Bay 30K is the oldest road race in North America.  As the race organizers love to remind everyone at every opportunity, it’s Older Than Boston. See the back of the boldly coloured race shirt:

ABT older than boston

It’s also notoriously tough. 30K might sound a little tame for the seasoned marathoner. But this race challenges even the best of them.  Most years, it ends with a brutal hill. But this year road construction changed the route to take that one out.

But don’t think that means no hills. The first 10 kilometers have a few overpasses and a highway ramp. At least five of the last 10K is all rolling hills.

My race training for the Around the Bay started back in November when I joined a Running Room clinic designed specifically to get us ready for the big day. I soldiered through a rough winter of frigid wind chills and treacherous sidewalks and pathways. A tight IT band led to intense knee pain at one point, forcing me to back off of my training and then ease back in.  So I never did get up to the 30K distance in training and I followed my physiotherapist’s advice to avoid hill work.

Nevertheless, I woke up Sunday morning at 5 a.m. ready for race day. After much obsessing about how to dress for the conditions, I settled on my lightest weight winter tights, one base layer t-shirt under a lighter winter top, my neon pink convertible jacket/vest (the sleeves attach with magnets and I can easily remove them and tie them around my waist or stuff them in a pocket), gloves, my Buff, and sunglasses.  As just-in-case clothing, I had packed my thicker tights, my winter running cap, and a warmer top.

Not wanting to wither part way through the race, I had a careful plan for nutrition as well. I took a muesli-type breakfast on the bus with me that I prepped the night before and a decaf tea.  I toasted a breakfast pita that I ate in the car on my way to get to the bus in time for our 6:30 departure. I packed a package of Clif Shot Blocks, one Vega gel, and a baggie of almonds, dates and dried pineapples as my race nutrition.

Hamilton is about 90 minutes from London. Tom, who has been running the race for decades, organizes a bus every year.  He goes to the Expo the day before to collect the race kits. As each person boards, they collect their kit with the t-shirt, bib, and timing chip. Then we just sit back and relax until we get to Hamilton. The bus parks just a minute from the starting line and five minutes from the race expo and finish line at the FirstOntario Centre (formerly Copps Coliseum).  It couldn’t be more easy or convenient.

Or more fun. Four women from my triathlon club and at least eight or ten of us from the clinic took the bus too, including my main training partner, Julie, and our fearless leader, Angie.  Everyone was smiling and revved up, chattering away about the winter we’d endured, how many layers to wear for the run.

On the bus, getting ready to head to the Race Expo and starting line.

On the bus, getting ready to head to the Race Expo and starting line.

We got to Hamilton 90 minutes before the start of the race, with plenty of time to worry and fuss, take group pics, and make multiple trips, some necessary and some not, to the washrooms in the FirstOntario Centre in the hopes of avoiding having to use the port-o-potties along the route.

The forecast was for sunny but cool, with a north wind for at least part of the morning, temperature starting around -4C and climbing to 4C but with a possible windchill. I donned my just-in-case winter cap and pulled the Buff down around my neck.

The race director had visited our clinic a few weeks ago and recommended that we divide the race into three separate 10Ks.  My strategy going in was to do just that and to stick with 10-1 intervals for the entire race. When Anita and I did the Scotiabank half marathon back in October, we felt good and fresh at the beginning and skipped a few of our walk breaks. That caught up with me by the end.

So this time, I wasn’t about to skip any of those. I set out with four other women who had the same objective — to take the walk breaks every ten minutes.  Julie and Angie were among them.  We’d been assigned to the last corral.  For Around the Bay, I was hoping to finish in 3:30, keeping the 3:30/10-1 pace bunny in sight.

Problem number one: not once did I see that pace bunny. So that part of my strategy failed even before I crossed the mat. Never mind.  We all crossed at the same time and starting our GPS’s together. I had my Garmin set for 10-1 intervals, and the three-way display was set to give me average pace, overall time, and distance.

1-10K

On a sunny day when you’re running with thousands of other people, that first 10K feels so light and happy.  I ran along on pace with Angie and Julie, Amanda and Karen not far behind us.  We chatted but not much — I had already announced that I would be keeping my chit-chat to a minimum because that was the only way I could make it 30K.

We ran through some depressing residential areas that spilled over into industrial areas.  Before our third walk break, I’d tied my sleeves around my waist and stuffed my gloves into my water belt (I forgot to mention that I had one small water with me which I refilled a few times so I could be more independent about my hydration).  I already had my cap in my pocket and my Buff around my head, sleeves rolled up.

It was around that point that we ran into Batman and went for the photo-op:

ATB batmanSo you can see that it’s still fun.  Then the overpasses started, those slow long climbs that then level off just before going down again.  And then another. But no problem. It’s still early in the race. They hardly affected our pace even.

Here’s something: Angie and Julie are both faster and younger than I am.  I can usually stick with them on training runs, but they have a bit more juice on race day. I’m sure my undoing started early on when I kept up with them instead of backing off of my pace a bit to conserve for later.

Amanda and Karen fell out of view somewhere behind us not too long after we took our photos with Batman.

The race organizers really go all out for this one. Each kilometre is clearly marked with a big sign and a different motivational saying each time.  They’re all about “no pain, no gain” and toughing it out and the rewards of being able to say you finished. I wish I could remember more but they all blend together now.

We climbed up a ramp and there it was — the sign telling the 3-person relay teams that the relay transfer area for the transition between the first 10K runner and the second 10K runner was just up ahead.

Still feeling fresh and fast.  I drank small sips of water every walk break and took a shot block or two every twenty minutes or so.

10K-20K

With the first 10K behind us we were still on pace to a 3:30 finish, which was my main goal for the day.  If my first 10K mistake was trying to keep up with the younger and faster, my second 10K mistake was stopping with them for a bathroom break.

I almost never need a bathroom break during a race, and I certainly didn’t feel the need for one then. But at about 12K or so, just before the water station, there was hardly a line-up at the loo and we stopped. I didn’t really have to go but I went anyway.  That set off a chain of events that resulted in me falling behind.

Remember I had my sleeves tied around my waist? Well, shortly after the bathroom break I didn’t need, I realized that something was amiss with my jacket. Between the water belt and the race bib belt and my phone holder belt and the sleeves tied around my waist, there was a lot to deal with and it was all twisted up, my jacket not pulled down properly, and who knows what was going on with my two layers of tops?

So I reached around while running and started to try to sort that all out. And then my sleeves dropped down around my knees, like shackles, and just about took me down. Of course by now the knot was so tight I couldn’t loosen it. As I tried, they dropped down again and again I almost tripped.  As I battled with that, the space widened between Julie and Angie up ahead and me struggling to deal with my clothing.

I got it all figured and then we had to run across a metal bridge that was not happy on the feet one bit. Shortly off the bridge it was time for a walk-break. Up until then, I’d been keeping them on task with the breaks, but I could see that they weren’t stopping. I took my break anyway, sticking to my plan.

When that minute came up I hit my stride again and in fairly short order I caught up with Angie and Julie, who had by then realized they’d missed a walk break and decided to take it.  I came into the two-person relay change point with them at 15K and continued with the for a few more kilometers, but by around 18K I had to let them go.

I still felt pretty good.  I remember hitting 18K and thinking, “Only 12K to go! I do 12K all the time.”  I opted for Gatorade at the water stations at that point.

The sign said 250 metres until the three-person relay transition point at 20K. I felt fairly strong still. Maybe a bit tired. I knew my pace had slowed, which is why I lost Angie and Julie.

But with only 10K left, I wasn’t worried. Then I overheard someone behind me say to the person they were running with, “And now the fun begins.”

Yep: the rolling hills.

20K-30K

The race route took us into a charming residential area with long, gentle, wooded slopes up and down, up again, down again, for what felt like forever but was probably just about 5K or so.  My legs still had some spring in them up to 23K because I have a vivid recollection of feeling proud of my accomplishment at that stage because I felt better than I did at the end of the Scotiabank half marathon and yet I’d already run further than the half.

23-27K were just a blur of 10-1s, small sips of water, shot blocks and Gatorade.  I think I high-fived a police officer at 25K. At one aid station they had quarter pieces of banana in the peel I grabbed one as I went by and as I tried to pull off the peel I’d lost all dexterity in my fingers.

The last 3K just went on and on and on. By now, church was getting out or something that there seemed to be traffic everywhere. The police were out in force doing a stellar job of directing traffic, but that just meant that the motorists had to wait and wait and wait.

I overhead a runner say to her friend as they passed the 3K mark, “Only 15 minutes to go!” I did the math in my head. I can’t even do a kilometre in 5 minutes when I’m doing the sprint stretches on a fartlek day. If I could maintain a 7-minute pace, which I wasn’t sure I could (I had stopped looking at my watch way back at around 25K after the high-five with the cop), I could make it to the end in 21 minutes.

As I approached the stretch beside a graveyard, the Grim Reaper stood at the top. He yelled at me to stop smiling. In point of fact, I had stopped smiling quite some time ago and it was just the absurdity of seeing the Grim Reaper that brought on a brief chuckle before I bore down in earnestness once again.  It’s not that I doubted I would finish. I just wanted it to be over sooner.

The thing was, it’s not like I was exerting myself cardiovascularly or anything.  My breathing wasn’t even laboured. But my legs had some mechanical issues. They didn’t want to move anymore. I had an extra package of shot blocks but if I eat more than a package of them I feel ill. So I reached for the Vega gel and tore it open with my teeth (fingers not working anymore, remember). This was the only time in the race that I lingered over a walk-break, with less than 3K to go.

This is around the time that I started to ask myself what the heck I thought I was doing and why did I sign up for this race and is this supposed to be fun or what the hell?

Okay, 2K to go and a walk break just behind me, I pep-talked myself into picking up the pace and skipping any remaining breaks. 3:30 had come and gone.

I had my Garmin set for 20 10-1 intervals, and I was on 19 with just over 1K to go.  I ran through the next walk break, just minutes from the finish.  I rounded the sharp corner to head down the ramp into the FirstOntario Centre and someone shouted, “Just 150 steps to go.”

I started to count my steps and couldn’t keep track. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other repeating to myself “perpetual forward motion, perpetual forward motion.” I could see the finish and I wanted to burst through with a triumphant surge of energy. Not so much. I crossed the mat and kept going off the arena floor to the food area.

A guy handed me a plastic bag and I opened it as I walked past the assembly line of apple juice box, granola bar, and crates of green bananas (like I mean bright green; I declined). At the end of the food line a woman congratulated me with a finishing medal and I sort of staggered over to a photographer who was taking post-race pictures against an official back-drop.

My legs wanted to stretch so badly and I saw lots of people on the ground stretching it out, but I knew that if I went to the floor I would never get back up again.  I saw a chair and made my way over. Just before I got there someone scooped it up and took it to a woman who needed medical attention.

I ran into Sherry from my clinic. She’d run with her brother and they’d come in just a few minutes before me. I can’t remember what she said but in the middle of her talking to me I felt light-headed and needed to go. Granola bar. Bathroom break. Chair.

I took out my phone and asked someone to take a picture of me post-race. As you can see, I’m looking a little frazzled and wild but happy.

me post-race, happy but frazzled, with medal.

Chip time: 3:42:08

 

The joy of diagnosis: Sleep apnea (Guest post)

Testing for sleep apnea

Testing for sleep apnea

I’m sick…. ill, and I’m really happy about it! I’m relieved to know that I have sleep apnea, and especially that it’s severe. Although my treatment hasn’t started, good treatment is available. Also, there is a definite physical reason behind some of the problems I’ve had in recent years, even though it’s an extremely serious condition. The regular interruption of breathing that defines apnea can cause serious strain on the heart in addition to some of the other symptoms that are more easily observed and that have troubled me. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is common, often arising in middle age (I’m 48), though less in women than men. Mine may be encouraged by allergies, sinus problems, a small jaw, and body weight. (Non-obstructive or central sleep apnea (CSA) is due to problems with how the brain controls sleep.)

In recent years I’ve known something was wrong with me. I seem always tired, lethargic, and have trouble concentrating. I can nap pretty much any time of the day. I may be more irritable too. I thought I was being lazy, not trying hard enough, failing to manage my time. It was hard not to beat myself up. Or perhaps this was related to my migraines or tension headaches. Maybe I was depressed?

I worked on my organization, I got more exercise, set multiple alarms for the morning, put inspirational notes next to the bed to help me get up, and treated my headaches more seriously. They all helped, but I’m still tired most of the time, and the stress of the situation actually did make me depressed. Another problem seemed to be my recent dramatic snoring. Sometimes the dog even left the bed! I live alone and so have little idea how I sleep, but when there was occasion, others observed not just the horrific noise but that I seemed to have trouble breathing.

I tried sleeping on my side, which helps my snoring but also aggravates my shoulder and hip problems. It turns out that I have mild apnea on my side, and severe (stopping breathing about once a minute) on my back where I prefer to sleep mostly. That was the diagnosis from the sleep study, in which the patient gets all hooked up with electrodes of various sorts (including glue in the hair,) a snoring microphone (!), and a breath monitor. (In a private room like a tiny institutional hotel with a shared bathroom.)

Now I have the choice of the very effective CPAP machine (standing for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) which would normally be the obvious choice since I have adequate health coverage.  Many of my friends find the machine has changed their lives — yeah, they say that, almost all of them.

Sure, some complain that it’s embarrassing to have to wear the mask to bed, making one an unattractive bed partner, like Darth Vader. But it must be better than the snoring, to be sure; and if that’s a deal breaker, it’s not much of a “deal.” Also, some people find the mask uncomfortable, and while they’ve made big improvements in design in recent years nobody wants to wear an apparatus on their head if they don’t have to; so sometimes people refuse to use it or don’t use it regularly. My problem is that I have a rare genetic vascular condition (HHT) that manifests in ways that mean that I can’t scuba dive, of all the odd things, because of the forced air; I suspect the positive air pressure of the CPAP may pose a similar problem. I’m waiting for advice from my specialist, but it may be best for me to try the alternative dental appliance; it’s not typically best for severe sleep apnea, but it may be best for me.

One downside of this diagnosis is the complication to my body image: weight loss can eliminate sleep apnea. I would certainly love to lose some weight. Yet of course, as the sleep specialist understood, I’d have done that already if I could.

On the other hand, people do lose weight sometimes as a result of addressing their sleep apnea. More energy makes them more active, I suspect, and less inclined to seek energy in food; though an improvement in mood might help too. Anticipating this reminds me of the perverse pleasure so many of us have when an illness makes us lose weight: “because of the flu last month I can get into my old jeans!” Although if I should lose weight from treating my sleep apnea, it would be due to improved health. I just need to resist letting that possibility fuel weight loss fantasies that take up time I could be spending actually enjoying my life.

Time and energy are the real promise of treatment. In my homemade efforts to fight the energy loss from sleep apnea I got more active; now — with treatment — I should be able to perform and recover better (running-walking with my dog and yoga, recently the quite ambitious ashtanga style), and I’ll have the time to exercise more. I’ll keep repeating that to myself, and let the weight fall where it may.

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #22

This is where we share stuff we can’t share on Facebook page for fear of being kicked out! Read why here. Usually the posts are about body image, sometimes there’s nudity but we’re all adults here. Right?

By the way, Facebook recently clarified its stance on nudity, writing, “We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures and other art that depicts nude figures.” For the full story see here.

Why does a fitness blog even care about body image? You can read about that here.

 

If you’ve ever felt body conscious while on the beach then this woman’s story is guaranteed to make you feel better.

When Rachel Hollis posted a picture of herself on the beach, wearing a bikini, to her Facebook page, something amazing happened.

It racked up over 300,000 likes, which is a fair more than she was expecting.

The reason for the incredible response is because of the powerful caption she gave the image, which was an inspirational message to mothers.”I have stretch marks and I wear a bikini. I have a belly that’s permanently flabby from carrying three giant babies and I wear a bikini. My belly button is saggy. . . (which is something I didn’t even know was possible before!!) and I wear a bikini.

“I wear a bikini because I’m proud of this body and every mark on it. Those marks prove that I was blessed enough to carry my babies and that flabby tummy means I worked hard to lose what weight I could.

 

It’s easy to see why such pure photographs would be well-received. Women, the ones online commenters insist are dangerous sex pariahs en route to ruin, are shown here as harmless. They’re laying on couches, relax with each other, and stare at the camera or off in to space like no one is watching.

Photographer Anastasia Pottinger has a powerful photo series called Centenarians that reveals what the human body looks like at 100 years old. It’s a remarkable achievement to live so long and the marks of age are well worn on the oldest people on the planet.

The photos are taken of nude 100 year olds in black and white and they shine light on the universal truth of time. Deep wrinkles and sagging skin make the bodies look almost unrecognizable but they’re also beautiful in an emotional way.

Three years ago and unhappy with her body, Adelaide mother of three Taryn Brumfitt was preparing to undergo cosmetic surgery involving a breast augmentation and tummy tuck.

It was while observing her daughter playing prior to the surgery that Ms Brumfitt began to question her choice, not only for her own body but from the future perspective of her children.

“I had an epiphany. I thought ‘how am I going to teach Mikaela to have a positive relationship with her body if her mum can’t love her body as it is’,” she said.

Cancelling the surgery, Ms Brumfitt committed to a body building competition and routine aimed to sculpt her physique and led her closer to achieving “the perfect body”.

“I just think, how did I even come to that but I did,” she told 702 ABC Sydney.

“I guess it was a personal, social experiment for me to discover how it would feel to have the perfect body. I got that body. I shredded every ounce of fat and wore a bikini and strutted on a stage and nothing really changed.

What followed has seen Ms Brumfitt lead a global campaign for change, starting with a before and after image of herself posted on her social media account, seen today by more than 100 million people around the world.

Food fear and righteous eating

Guest blogger Nancy McHugh was interviewed on Utah Public Radio by Tom Williams on his show Access Utah. They talked about the lecture she was giving at Utah State University on food marketing, food fear, and orthorexia. They also talked about her forthcoming book, The Limits of Knowledge. You can listen to her talk about “clean eating” here.

Dr. Nancy McHugh

Struggles and strategizing: back at the beginning, again

I struggle with my weight. It’s been a lifelong drama, with many supporting players: relatives, doctors, well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) friends and boyfriends, teammates on the many sports teams I’ve played for, nutritionists, therapists, you name it. Sometimes there’s relative peace—when I’m active, social, well-rested, not too-too busy in my work life, and my relationships are on an even keel—life is calmer and I worry less about it.

Lately, as menopause has announced its presence in my life (I’m sorry, but who thought this was a good idea? evolution, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do) the struggle has resurfaced. My sleep is interrupted, and I have less energy (but more mood swings—yay) and my cravings for sugar and carbs are at an all-time high. Add to this a heavier-than-usual workload this semester and 108 inches of snow in Boston (and by the way, it’s snowing again now—argh) and it’s no surprise that my average baked good consumption is up, and I’ve gained weight.

Samantha, Tracy, Nat and the guest bloggers have written loads about the failures and perils of diets—they don’t work in the long-term and contribute to lowered self-esteem and increased weight. I know this, too—my research areas are obesity, eating, and health behavior change. And yet I keep flirting with the idea of dieting again. For me, diets are like bad ex-boyfriends—I’ve forgotten the pain and suffering they imposed, how the relationships failed or even backfired. I just remember how good-looking or charming they were, full of seductive promises that “this time, it’ll be different”.

So what am I to do about being back in a state of weight-panic THIS time? Here are three things I’ve done this week. I’ll report back later on to let you know what’s happening—what is working, what I’ve jettisoned, what other responses I’ve adopted, and how I’m feeling.

1. I bought a book.

For an academic, nothing is more reassuring than book purchases, especially when one is confused, frightened, stalled, or in need of comfort. Just the thought of reading books, especially in a comfy study or library, is reassuring.

library

The book I bought is Gretchen Rubin’s “Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives”. The New York Times Well Book Club is running an online discussion, which caught my eye this week. Partly out of academic curiosity, and partly out of need to do something, I got the book and checked out the online discussion.

There are loads of books with loads of theories about behavior change, and of course this blog has talked about many of them. When I actually get around to reading this book I will fill you in. For now, all I’ve done is taken the quiz to set the stage for where I fit in Rubin’s behavior-change taxonomy. From there she has lots of suggestions for tailored strategies to optimize effectiveness.

Now, I have no particular expectation that this book is better or more effective than others; I will report back on my experiences later on. But for now, just owning this book feels like it’s helping me regain a little more perspective, which is good.

2. I’ve stopped eating sugary foods (at least for now).

While talking with a therapist about my energy levels, cravings, menopausal moods and general dissatisfaction with life on planet Earth these days, she suggested that maybe stopping eating processed sugar for a while might result in improvement of my overall mood and well-being. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about stopping eating these:

apples

but rather, stopping eating these:

bakery

For now.

I’m on day 3 of the no-baked-goods-and-other-sugary-stuff plan, and will report back on what I’ve done and learned.

3. I’ve changed primary care doctors.

This was a very big move—I’d been with the same doctor since 1998, and value familiarity, loyalty, and the deep knowledge base she has. But I never felt comfortable talking about my weight with her, and dreaded what she had to say, which never felt supportive. We squabbled about calcium and vitamin D supplements, and frequency of mammograms (she disagreed with the USPSTF recommendations which I wanted to follow). I would delay physicals in order to avoid being weighed.  Again, even though I know how bad the effects of weight stigma are on women in healthcare settings, it still took me a long time to act.

The first meeting with my new provider was eye-opening: she spent an hour with me (unprecedented in my experience), and we talked about weight, activity, menopause, sex, etc. in ways that felt positive and centered on my goals and needs.  I told her that I was willing to be weighed for my yearly physical and also when there was a medical need for complete accuracy (say, if this was a surgery pre-op visit).  Otherwise, I said I really didn’t want to be weighed, that it was a deterrent to my seeing her  She agreed, and we moved on smoothly.

Here’s how I handled the scale issue with the nurse (who I saw before the provider came in). She introduced herself and said, “I need to get your weight and height”.  I responded right away with “I’m not going to get on the scale, but I’m happy to tell you my weight; I weighed myself this week.”  She said okay.  When we got to the scale, she said, “you’re not going to get on the scale?”  I said no, but then told her my weight.  Then she asked, “are you willing to have your height measured?”  We both laughed, and I said yes indeed.  It turns out I’m the same height as the last time I was measured.

The issue of primary care office visits and weighing of patients is controversial and far from settled.  For what it’s worth, in a US National Institutes of Health document about treating obese patients, one of its recommendations is to weigh them during visits only when it’s medically appropriate.  I’m not here to speak authoritatively about this issue, but I did want to include how I handled my experiences and fears of weight stigma in this environment.

I’m very lucky not to be on any prescription meds, so I don’t see healthcare providers often. But I’m hopeful about my prospects moving forward with this new practice.

I’ll report later on progress, shifts, and lessons learned. For now, thanks for reading.

6000 WordPress followers!

Thanks everyone for reading, following, sharing, liking, and commenting.

Welcome to our blog!

Here’s a little history of our ever-growing blog community:

We started the blog at the end of August, 2012.

Things were quiet in those first few months.

On May 13th, 2013 we welcomed our 500th follower.

On November 28, 2013, 1000 followers.

I think we lost track of 2000 somewhere in the middle.

On December 25, 2014, 3000 followers.

Then on January 27, 2015, 4000 followers.

Sometime in February we hit 5000 and now 6000.

That’s a thousand new followers a month since December!

How our blog community has grown! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, if that’s your thing.

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Back to walking to work

It’s still quite cold in London, Ontario but the sidewalks are dry and clear and the past two weeks I’ve been walking to work. I know from my time using a Fitbit that my walking commute is the best way to get daily exercise in. I’m lucky, driving takes 10 minutes, walking 30 so I really don’t need to change much to make those steps happen. My feet and hips are aching a bit, I look like an evil garden gnome AND I’m very glad to be getting back to walking to work. Yay spring!