Friday, June 14, 2013

Putting my back into (or is that out of?) it.

I am finally succumbing to the inevitable. For months I have avoided trying to pass my woes and misery onto this blog. I have left my moaning and groaning to the luxury of my friends on Facebook -- I  mean, isn't that what Facebook is for?

Yet, it seems unfair that I have only let a select group of my acquaintances into my lament full life. Admittedly some of my Facebook friends also subscribe to this blog, so hey, they get this twice. Aren't you a lucky bunch? Happy pills and alcohol will be handed out to this lucky band of people. It's the least I can do and in the scheme of things and it's cheaper than your cumulative  therapy bills -- just sign the waiver posted at the bottom absolving responsibility to well... I'll leave that up to you. Just post photos for the rest of us ;)

So, you may ask, why is there a distinct lack of posting on this site in the last few months? Fine, I have just moved country -in fact a whole ocean and continent away- and that is usually a good enough reason. Yet, international moves for us, are just an annoying feature of our lives. Like the common bout of flu, except we get to clear out our closets and drink all of the half opened bottles of liquor left over from Christmas.

Nope, the main reason of late, is that I have been broken. Quite distinctly (but figuratively) buggered.

It is a truth universally accepted, that a lower middle-class British family with some limited savings must be in wont of a Victorian cottage.  It's our goal to buy a quirky, cold and frankly bizarrely built house with its accompanying hotchpotch garden.

However, in our race to buy a 'quirky, cold and frankly bizarre house', we seem to forget that these houses have usually been standing in the same place for well over one-hundred years. They have ne'er moved an inch, they have not been defeated. Through storms, wars and the industrial revolution, these houses have been a fixed point in time -- like Captain Jack, except well... Less cute and more 'brickier'. (That's my Doctor Who reference done; let's cross that off the list).

If the might of nature and various examples of European artillery didn't make a dent, why do we believe that a weedy and unfit, small and skinny, mother with a hammer-drill will succeed in making a dent? Delusion. A great failing.

Armed with my newly purchased hammer-drill -who I named 'Bernard'- I set to work. Just some brackets here, a little shelf there. Oh, a nice picture hook just over there and let's fix a wardrobe just over the... Actually, lets not. In fact, please pass me some painkillers and a chair.

In mid-February, I developed some twinges and aches. Annoying and uncomfortable, but I am no spring chicken and all old hens get the odd crick. Another couple of weeks and those twinges become numbness, and then the pee'ing started. Oh lordie, could I pee. My life began to revolve around the nearest bathroom. Could I make the walk to and from school without the bathroom? Probably. Make a thirty minute car trip? Possibly. Do the food shop and pay at the checkout? Doubtful. I have so much junk in my house, as I have rushed into a store to use their dubious bathroom facilities, but then felt so guilty I had to buy something. Anyone want a big, blue, jewelled door handle? No, neither do I, but it was the cheapest thing I could find in the local hardware store.

Another two weeks in and the worst happened. In the local supermarket cafe. Just as I was reaching for a fruit bun. I started the line-up normal enough. By the time I came to pay, I looked like the stand-in for Quasimodo in a village production of 'The Hunchback of Notre-Dame'.

Three days of prescription medication and then, (as they didn't work) half a bottle of wine, (which did), I was finally able to move.

That was the middle of March and now three months on, I am still broken. Although in the manner of an old house. I have now gone from glaringly and newly broken, to the point where the cob-webs and dirt have covered up the worst of it.

After a month of physiotherapy, I still get numbness and twinges. The leg-pain has died down and the peeing is beginning to rectify itself. (It's ten-thirty in the morning and I have only been once -- Woohoo!) Yet, I am far from fixed and I have had enough now.

I am sick of being broken. I am tired of not being able to do the simplest things without painful consequences. I hate having to resort to alcohol or painkillers by six o'clock in the evening. The weather is improving and I want to run in my funky shirts, but I am having to limit myself to the occasional walk and slow jogging; it's frustrating. I am not the most house-proud of people, but enough my limit is being tested now. Even I draw the line to feet sticking to the kitchen floor.

Here, I am in my local coffee-shop -my haven against the horror of my unkempt house- contemplating my next move. I have another round of physiotherapy in about an hour and I know where this is leading. I know what his next move will be and it's one I have been dragging my heels against. I have a monthly review at my family Doctor next Tuesday, and I know I will be referred to a consultant. I will be scanned and prodded and poked. I have avoided this because I am terrified that once I end up on the consultants list, I will end up on the surgeon's list.

My Mother had so many back problems as I was growing up. She had back surgery and it never really worked. My Mother was in pain pretty much till she passed away. I have been working hard never to be in the same position, and yet, here I am.

I am scared. However, fear is something I can control. It's just our bodies reaction to not knowing what is coming. That's life and if we planned our whole future then we would never do anything. Christopher Columbus didn't know he wouldn't fall off the edge of the world when he headed West. Look, what awaited him. Potatoes. I mean, the advances of our civilisation due to potatoes. Fish is just fish and boring until you add Chips to them, (or custard -- reference number two. I am on fire today). Oh, I suppose his trip also led to the development of America and the digital watch, but, look... Potatoes!!

I need to embrace the fear and reverse it. Raef? Sounds like Christopher Columbus's Cabin boy. Umm, maybe not. Perhaps I just need to remember Potatoes instead.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Falling in love again.

Making Birmingham fun and exciting.
Not as easy as it seems
I have a long standing policy of not doing shoe reviews. It's not as if I don't want to, but this blog is about me and not what I have on my feet; I am in the lonnnng process of developing a review site, for when I get time and motivation - so far I am about 2 years behind. I have only one shoe review I have posted here and that was my first love - shoe love that is.  The Merrell Pace Gloves were my go to shoe for such a long time; so much so, that they have the honour of being the first pair of runners I had worn out. I used them for everything, shopping, running, you name it - well almost everything, there are some things a girl has to keep secret. ;)

When I break my tradition, it's not done lightly. Before I start, I will state, these shoes were given to me as a tester. However, I have had a few freebies in the past, but this is one of the few occasions I have decided to post a review here. So, you will probably get the idea, I like these a lot.

When I left Canada I had to clear out my closet and make decisions. You know the ones - should I ship the PVC cat-suits, chains and whips? Where to rebury the bodies? Oops, did I say that out loud? I am joking *cough* honestly. ;)

I mean decisions about shoes. There were three piles of shoes: shoes to carry, shoes to ship and, shoes to donate. With the Merrell Pace Gloves being the one shoe that had to go to shoe heaven. Okay, the Merrell Mary Janes had to be laid to rest too, but that was because of the disastrous, impromptu trail run I had with my son and the large mud, poop pile I had accidentally run through. No amount of cleaning fluid were going to get those puppies smelling sweet again. So they were laid to rest with the Pace Gloves.

So, as I placed my circa 2011 New Balance Minimus into the donate pile -along with the motion control clodhoppers I had worn once in my young and naive days- and boxed up my Luna's and Merrell Trail gloves (wide) to ship along with about ten other pairs, I took a gamble. I placed the (at the time) new Skora Forms and the VivoBarefoot Breatho's into my suitcase. Before you mention, yes, I have a lot of running shoes. Haven't you heard of the irony of the barefoot runner blogger?

The Breatho's were my tried and tested technical trail shoes. To date, I haven't found a pair of minimalist trail shoes as good as these. The gamble was in the Skora's.

They had been in my possession for about two weeks before my move back to the UK from Canada -given to me by David and Kyle at Skora- and I hadn't tested them enough to see whether they were a winner. These were going to be the only road shoes I could wear for three months as our shipment came across the Atlantic - missing the storm 'Sandy' by hours. We had a few days of panic there, as our worldly possessions left NYC about 36 hours before the storm struck. I mean, where would be able to find fluffy handcuffs in the UK? Scary thought!

The Skora's were going to be the only shoes I could wear over the British winter. These were the only shoes, I would be able to use as I sought out the safe trails. Until my family had settled permanently then I would be road running - a lot!! The Skora's had better live up to everything I had heard about.

Oh boy, did they fulfil their brief. That's not boy briefs - behave guys!!

As I ran over the icy canal paths in urban Birmingham, they gave me a fun and wild ride only bettered by my homespun running aqua booties. (And fun and wild is something Urban Birmingham does not have a world-wide reputation for). As I ran through easy, muddy trails, they scrubbed up nicely. I concede that I didn't try them on technical trail, but I am well aware that road shoes do not tackle unkempt mountain passes - that's what the VivoBarefoot Breatho's were for. Even the Merrell Road Gloves failed on very wet and slippy, technical trail. Luckily I survived that foolhardy test without the need to call the mountain rescue team - it was a close call.

They kept my feet warm and as I am a Raynud's sufferer, warm feet are as essential as Doctor Who on a Saturday evening - When it doesn't happen, you are numb and senseless. As I ran longer, the Skora's, like your old slippers, were just more and more comfortable.

As our cold winter was replaced by our cold spring, they kept performing until... I broke my back - well, slipped a disc. This wasn't a running injury - can you slip a disc running? Nope, this was a, 'we now live in a Victorian brick house which is determined that occupants should not use hammer drills without consequences'. My new best friend -my hammer drill who I named 'Bernard'- was not as nice as it claimed to be on the box. So, the last few months have been a little haphazard in my running. But whenever I felt the urge to attempt to run like a broken snail, the Skora's were the shoe I picked up.

The long delay in getting my back diagnosed -welcome to the NHS, still better than no healthcare-meant I was trying everything to keep moving. I even went as far as to buy a pair of 6mm heel-toe drop New Balance shoes, with some squishy foam - the ultimate 'transition' shoe *shudder*. My soul -or is that sole?- did go down a few dollars on that purchase. Yet, the Skora's were still the shoe that seemed to cause as little discomfort as possible.

A fairly impressive write-up so far, but that is not enough to qualify for 'love' status in my book. I don't go for 'one-trick' ponies. I need a relationship that fulfils all of my needs. Oh er misses! So, what was the clincher?

I am doing it right now. No, not the clincher -which sounds like a strange position in Pilates- I am standing. I am standing and walking and sitting. I am not in my running gear, but in the coffee shop waiting for a friend. I am in shorts and a coat - Did I mention the weather here sucks? I am wearing make-up (another shocker), and I don't smell of post-run sweat. The reason I love the Skora Forms, are due to the fact I can wear them anywhere at anytime. The leather and the styling mean that if I want to put them with day-to-day clothes, they are smart enough to do it. If I want to go to the store, they are comfy enough to last all day. If I want to go for a run, I can do that too. If its cold, they keep my feet warm. If its warm, they don't rub, so I can wear them sock less -a feat (get it, feat? Feet, feat? No?) that only the Merrell Pace gloves have succeeded in. If they get mucky, they are easy to clean. For ninety-five percent of the time, these shoes deliver. Okay, what about the other five percent? Name me one shoe in your collection that you can permanently wear come rain or shine? In the gym and on the school run? One that you can wear to a restaurant as well as running around those easy forest trails on a cold day? Yep, you can't.

Oh and as a bonus, there is no stink. Well I haven't suffered from it yet. My Vibram's were banned from the house due to their 'pong'. My Merrell's had to be aerated occasionally. Yet, after eight months or near constant wear, my Skora's still smell as fresh as, well, a pair of new shoes that have just come out of the box.

The only situation I haven't managed to test these shoes in, is how they stand up to the height of summer. Some have said that they are very warm, some say the goat leather doesn't cause a problem. As the British summer looks like just that; a British Summer; I am not sure if and when I would get to test that out. As of yet -the first week of June- we have managed a top daytime temperature of about 18 degrees Celsius. That's about 65 degrees for my North American friends. Not exactly sweaty weather. Maybe the Skora Base or Phase may be better, although you may suffer the unfortunate stink problem. I can't comment as I don't know - but it's something to consider.

So, yes, I admit it. I am in love. I have a new shoe-affair. There is another rival to my affections. Just don't tell my family, they may get jealous.