I saw a Baldessari retrospective at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco almost a decade ago. I fell in love with his work. The mirror in the bathroom of Mom’s Basement presented a perfectly placed orange circle. I couldn’t help myself, I had to make a small homage. It cracked me up. A lot.
I was on I-20 just outside of Douglasville driving home from the holidays with my parents. I’m in the center lane of three, and ahead of me in the right lane is a truck, looks like the kind of flatbed truck with a small hoist used to carry sheetrock. Maybe 100 feet or so ahead of me, maybe less. Truck went boom, loud enough to hear the boom, and shit went everywhere. A blowout. Something went under the rear axle and got kicked up and tumbled into my lane. Looked like a lock box that mounts on the frame of large trucks. Box and shimmering bits spinning through the air, deformed, I could make out the stamped pattern, saw what looked like yellow insulation punctuating the torn pieces. I swerved, it tumbled to my right. I’m not sure how much of the avoidance was swerving, or it’s height in the air. In the moment my thought was, oh shit, that’s enough to fuck up my car pretty seriously, shit oh shit, if it hits the windshield even worse. The more terrifying thought is that it would have activated the airbags if I’d hit it. And then my car would have been left to its own devices to shed 70 miles an hour of speed with no input from me. I took the next exit to stop at a gas station and let my hands stop shaking. I tried with little success to clean ribbons of gunk that had been spun all over the windshield. Hydraulic fluid, or some kind of grease.
Back on the road and by the time I hit the state line the adrenaline finally crashed, so I took a moment to sit on a picnic table, reflect a bit more, and drink some vending machine coffee to pick me up, calm me down, for the remainder of the drive.
Born to run, or did my parents just think fat-baby-in-a-track-star-shirt was funny?
I wondered many times if another migraine would strike. At times I began to think perhaps the waiting was worse, a nagging little concern in the back of my mind after runs. Would this be the day I get another. After six months the nagging concern shifted slowly to small amazement and a begrudging appreciation for the growing gap from my last migraine.
And then 364 days since my last migraine, sitting a lunch with friends after a run, the little aberration appeared. A faint smudge in the middle of my vision. I made a hasty departure and on my walk home the smudged cracked, refracted, and began the familiar shimmer of an aura. The usual course of action. Excedrin. Shower. Nap. An abbreviated nap so I could still attend a family holiday lunch. I’ll not be abbreviating my migraine routine again. Though it was not a severe migraine and it was waning as I left home, recovering in a busy restaurant was unpleasant.
The upshot is I have a potential lead on triggers. As much as one would be tempted to think it’s the holidays and the stress involved, research doesn’t show stress in and of itself is a migraine trigger. Which is a little disappointing as my mind would love to make the connection that this migraine was caused by what has just been a shitty-feeling holiday season which is always a difficult time for me. Looking back at what’s been different for the last year, I think it could be as simple as a vitamin deficiency.
I have mild dermatitis. Particularly a form that causes small blisters on my fingers and palms that eventually lead to cracking and flaking skin. No serious harm, but generally just unpleasant. Sometime a year or so ago, my friend Cynthia took notice and pointed out that skin function is related to Vitamin B, and perhaps a supplement could help with the dermatitis. I gave it a try. After a few months I noticed I hadn’t really had an outbreak in a while, and I continued to take a B vitamin supplement for a while. But, as habits are formed, for whatever reason I slacked off and haven’t taken the supplement for a couple of months. And a couple of weeks ago I noticed the first dermatitis outbreak on my hands in quite some time. And then a week or so later I had my first migraine in almost a year.
The evidence is obviously correlation and I can’t prove causation through this observation. But, it’s enough to make me take the supplement again. Time will perhaps tell if I’ve found the underlying cause of my migraines. Or this could be another stab in the dark and there was no particular reason I went nearly a year without a migraine. After all, they have shown themselves to be rather mercurial in timing over the years.
This morning was the first time it really hit me, emotionally. Watching the Chicago Marathon, that itch started, the desire to be out on a course, running. And next Sunday the Seven Bridges Marathon will start, and though I registered for it, began training for it, I won’t be there to run it.
In August I set off on a 15 mile training run. It was midday, not the best idea, but it was mild for early August. It was a normal run. My friends on the patio of Good People having a beer took great pleasure in my suffering—something all runners do, knowing next time it will be themselves suffering. After finishing, it was a normal evening, everything going according to plan. I woke up Monday and everything was wrong.
My neck, my shoulder, my upper back. It all hurt. A lot. Work was difficult and by Tuesday I was sitting in a sports medicine office being diagnosed with an aggravated nerve, likely C5 / C6 in my neck. A couple of weeks of rest and muscle relaxers, an MRI, and confirmation of a slightly bulged disc. More steroids and the beginning of PT. And just like that it had been three weeks of no running. The emotional and mental equivalent of going off antidepressants cold turkey. I was an unpleasant human. With some time, my brain chemistry managed to rebalance a little, and I was able to supplement with rowing and cycling before finally getting the go ahead to continue running. Easy. Low distance. No training.
I accepted fairly early on that Seven Bridges wouldn’t happen, but maybe I could get back in the swing of things and run the Four Bridges half instead. But no, getting the go ahead, but only easy low mileage, that was pushed off the table as well. Again, not a big deal, always another race another day. This morning was just a bit difficult. Last year I was in Chicago to watch a friend run. It’s one of the best spectator events in sports. It’s wonderful. I was training for Memphis at the time. A race that didn’t go as I’d hoped, a race I was hoping to make up for in Chattanooga at Seven Bridges. So, it all circles around.
Not everything about this experience has been negative. It’s been a time for reflection, rethinking the role of running in my life, exercise in general. As soon as I was allowed to return to running, I was more thankful for running than I have been in a very long time. And, as my physical therapist pointed out, I’m hitting the age where running alone isn’t enough. It’s time to consider my core strength, especially considering the long, and delicate neck, I’ve inherited. I’m learning how to stand again, with correct posture. Same for sitting. And running. It’s all new again as I focus on form in a way I haven’t in years. It’s a little awkward, sometimes frustrating, but in the long-term, hopefully it will make me a better runner. And help me avoid further injuries.
Waverly, AL. Standard Deluxe, the Fall Boogie. ‘Nuff said.
Taken a few minutes before totality in Dayton, Tennessee. My phone stayed in my pocket during totality. A total eclipse is a truly amazing experience. The difference between 99% and totality is worth a day’s drive. That’s about all that can be said.
Beer in hand within moments of getting home. This is how voting feels these days.
The day after locking one’s self out of the loft, one gets new keys made to leave with friends.
Slossfest 2017. Contrast of the singular and the communal.