A Tale of Four Socks

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and it led to The Best Customer Service Experience Ever.

Let me ‘splain. No, there’s too much. Let me sum up.
Bonus Points to the first person – other than HCRP – who can name that movie reference without Googling. I hereby invoke The Official Online Interaction No-Googling Before Answering Clause/Oath.

Back to Socks.
It’s been a big week for me and socks.

Yesterday I got a by-name-mention on my favorite running blog. Which had to do with socks. (Click the link, I’ll wait for you to get back. Promise.)
See? Right here where I said I’d be.

Today my heavy weight Thorlo running socks (a link to which I can’t find) kept my feet warm standing around outside in 30 degree temperatures for four hours volunteering at a 5K/10K. Well those and my faux Uggs boots. But the socks were a pretty big factor too.

Then when we got home I had a package in the mail that made my day and restored my faith in corporate integrity and customer service.

In August 2012 I ordered a pair of orange Thorlo Experia running socks through an Amazon.com vendor. I specifically wanted a pair of orange because my BFF Lisa has MS and orange is The Official Color of MS Awareness. I decided not to wear them on training runs – I had a couple other pair of Thorlos for that – and to make them my Race Socks. Not that runners are superstitious about having a particular pair of socks for races or anything like that . . . I got the socks and wore them in maybe two races before I (was horrified when I) noticed a ‘run’ in one of them and a hole in the other. They were still wearable, but they weren’t in the pristine condition I’d insured they would be with meticulous care. And, not wanting them to fall completely apart, I ‘retired’ them.

Thorlo Experia socks are not inexpensive, therefore having this pair of ‘retired’, high dollar socks staring at me week after week really started grating on my nerves. So I did what anyone would do: I contacted the vendor from whom I’d purchased them.
Their reply was less than satisfactory.  Their name will remain undisclosed because I don’t need to have the socks sued off of me for libel.
Despite chronicling the meticulous care with which I had treated these socks down to the number of uses and laundering practices, they stated their ‘policy’ that after thirty days they are no longer responsible for replacement and wished me well and invited me to buy a new pair from their stock.
*blinks*
*blinks again*

Again, I did what any self-respecting consumer would do: I stashed the offending, apparently unrefundable, unreplaceable, $14.99 pair of socks deeper in the shelf where my winter weather running gear, bandanas, headbands, and other, in tact socks reside so as to escape their unraveling, orange, mocking stares and tried to forget about them.  Which worked for a couple months until one day when I was searching for a particular headband and they fell at my feet.

I’d recently bought a new pair and, for some inexplicable reason, still had the card they hang on racks by and there it was on my dresser with the mailing address for Thor-Lo, Inc. in Statesville, North Carolina right there on it. I tossed the traitor socks and the hanging-thing card in the bag I carry to work every day where they stayed for about a month.

Until the day I glanced down at the bag where the traitorous, ravelling socks were lying there mocking me and I decided to send them back from whence they came. But not alone. No, I sent them with an appeal to their maker to make good on what I knew to be the otherwise superior quality of their products by replacing this clearly inferior pair.
I shared my history with their fine products, including the touching tale of My First Thorlos and how they’d taken me from frightened, newbie runner to successful half-marathon finisher. I told them how I had successfully converted HCRP from being an “any sock will do” runner to wearing only their fine socks for both training runs and in races.
I used phrases like “otherwise fine quality of your products” and “absolutely do not represent your brand quality” in reference to Traitor Socks.
I sucked up.
Hard.
I wanted these socks replaced.  For free.  No other pair of this brand and style had ever come undone like this.  It was an aberration, an anomaly, a veritable anathema in the world of Thorlos!
And I didn’t want them replaced in any old color. I wanted orange.  Orange Thorlo Experia Running Socks. So I explained the significance of the orange socks and about Lisa and how wearing those socks reminds me that I’m also running for her (among many other friends whose mobility is limited by things they didn’t choose) in every race.  And I sent the socks and eloquently written letter off to Experia Land.  Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting a reply, let alone a replacement.  I was just tired of those mocking, orange stares but wasn’t about to throw away a pair of Thorlos!  I am not a monster, I am a human being!  (More movie reference bonus points.  No Googling Clause/Oath invoked.)

 

This afternoon when we got home there was a small plastic mailing pouch with something squishy inside from a return address I didn’t remember ordering anything from. I did a quick mental run-through of recent Amazon purchases and nothing came back that fit “squishy thing in small plastic mailing pouch”.
So I opened it.
And lo and behold I saw this:
IMG_0960I’d like to draw your attention to two little details on the ‘invoice’ that accompanied those neon orange socks.  And I have no clue why the second image is sideways OR how to fix that.  Sorry.

No. Charge.

No. Charge.

This was their message to me: Enjoy!

This was their message to me: Enjoy!

Now that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what I call Customer Service with a big ol’ heapin’ spoonful of integrity and standing behind one’s product.

Dear Thor-Lo, Inc.:
I may have mentioned my Running Blog in my letter requesting a replacement for that rogue, raveling pair of traitorous socks. I have literally several followers who hang on my every word about running and running paraphernalia. Especially bras and socks.
Please know that henceforth and forevermore your Thorlo Experia Running Socks will be The Official Running Socks of my little corner of the World Wide Web, and of my feet in every mile I run.
Sincerely,
One Very Happy, Vocal, Blogging Customer

Vini. Vidi. Badissi.

No, I’m not calling myself a badass.  Badissi is one of the ‘uncommon’ Latin translations of the verb “run” or “ran”.
As in: Vini. Vidi. Vici?
Only instead of “I came.  I saw.  I conquered.” it’s “I came.  I saw.  I ran.”
But not ‘away’.  I did not run away.  Either with or from anything.  I just ran.

Saturday was another race under my belt.
I finished 257th out of 291 and dead last in my age group.
Freakin’.  Awesome!

And yes, I know, I know, I know what you’re itching to tell me.
I know all the platitudes about how many miles I was ahead of the people on the couches and that hey at least I did it and that it doesn’t matter if you finish last as long as you finish and all the other pablum we spew at late/last finishers when we’re working Finish Lines and as Course Monitors.
The truth is that none of that means a hill of beans until we are saying it to ourselves.
And meaning it.
Which I don’t just quite yet.
But back to Saturday’s race . . .

Truth be told I had no business running a 10K Saturday.
I hadn’t run in over ten days and that last run had been only two miles.
After some discussion with Tonia – my running buddy/mentor/yoga nazi – and HCRP I settled on a plan: Run the first three miles, walk miles four and five, run the last 1.2 miles.  And at all costs to myself and others: Finish.  Running!

HCRP stayed with me the first couple miles to make sure I wasn’t going to have any dizzy spells (I didn’t).  I ran my 5:2 intervals the first 3 miles then slowed to a brisk walking pace.

Walking mile 3 to mile 4 wasn’t bad.
Oh don’t get me wrong, the more people who passed me the higher my “I don’t want to finish last” anxiety crept, but I kept it at bay with a mantra of “Plan the run – run the plan!” and reminders of last year’s two month ‘break’ courtesy of Runner’s Knee courtesy of adding too many miles too quickly.

Walking mile 4 to mile 5 . . .
Well.
It sucked!
I kept looking over my shoulder to be certain there was someone behind me that wasn’t the “Bringing Up The Rear” Police escort or (even worse) the Running Club’s truck picking up the cones that marked the course.
And somewhere between the mile 4 marker and the (I am certain someone moved it) mile 5 marker the following conversation took place in my head.

Bad Voice: This sucks!  This is stupid.  Just start running.
Good Voice: No.  Plan the run – run the plan.
BV: Bullsh*t!  Look!  Everyone is passing you!  The Tutu Girls have pasesd you!
GV: So?  We’ll pass them back once we start running at 5.
BV: There is no ‘5’.  They forgot to put the marker out.
GV: No they didn’t!
BV: Someone moved it.  We have gone way further than a mile since we saw ‘4’.
GV: No we haven’t.  I don’t think.  Let me check Endomondo.
(Checks phone which is inconclusive since I was using the interval training program and not the straight run tracker.)
BV: Well?
GV: It wasn’t moved.
BV: You have no business being out here.  You are completely undertrained for this.  You’re making a fool of yourself!
GV: Hey!  I’m out here aren’t I?!  Besides between being sick and surgery recovery I was out of commission for training for ten weeks!
BV: Excuses!
GV: Reasons.
BV: And what about the last two weeks?!  What about those?  People run DRUNK!  You could have run with a few little dizzy spells.
GV: Hey!  Everyone I talked to said running with that dizzy thing going on was ill-advised at best.
BV: Excuse.
GV: Reason.
BV: How much further?
GV: I don’t know!
BV: You suck at this running thing.  You are inconsistent at best and you really think you can train for a marathon with your track record?!  Track record!  I crack me up!
GV: Shut up.
BV: Excuses!
GV: Reasons.
This went on for quite some time until, mercifully, the Mile 5 marker did show up and I switched from the audiobook I was (mostly) listening to back to my running playlist, hit ‘shuffle’, and Gwen Stefani came roaring to the rescue of my attitude.
Do you know how impossible it is to beat yourself up with Hollaback Girl rockin’ in your brain?  Now that I think of it, Good Voice sounds an awful lot like Gwen!

So I finished the race.
I finished it running.
I wasn’t last.
There was neither a Police car nor the cone truck behind me either.
There were 34 other actual human people behind me.
Including The Tutu Girls.
For some reason early on in the run I’d seen the two girls wearing net tutus and decided as long as I was ahead of them (they didn’t look to be very experienced runners) I was doing good.
We all do that.
We find the Other Runner we pace ourselves by.  Sometimes from in front and other times from behind.

And with having run a grand total of only sixteen miles since January 14th my time (6.2 in 1:20:52) was actually pretty respectable.
So maybe I am a little bit of a badass after all.
I badissied the b-a-n-a-n-a-s out of that race!

Cyndi Lauper had it wrong!

Before I get all deep and philosophical I want to make sure we’re all on the same mental soundtrack page. To whit I would like to fit you with the appropriate earwig for this post. Go ahead, give it a listen, I’ll wait til you get back.

See?
Early 80s pop makes the world a better place.
Now, where was I?
Cyndi Lauper . . .
deep and philosophical . . .
changing everyth . .
Ah! That’s it!
Changing everything!

One of my absolute favorite pages on Facebook is Queen of Your Own Life. It isn’t your typical fist pumping, man bashing, Gurrrl Powerrr, type page. It is by turns gentle, loving, and supportive; while offering occasional thumps between the eyes that often leave a nearly visible, lasting mark all delivered via “Memes” that are easily shared and quite memorable.
They also have a website and a book, but since I’m not getting a commission from them you can find all that stuff yourself.
So there!
Aaaaaand I digress . . .

So this morning’s Thumpspiration came in the form of this little goodie:
549210_10151406045787567_1959635268_n

I saw it early on, liked it (both personally and in that Facebook kinda way), thought about ‘Sharing’ (in that Facebook kinda way), thought “Nah”, then got another nudge and clicked “Share” and just tossed it out there.

A couple hours later a young woman I have known forever but have never met face-to-face (isn’t the internet a wonderful place?) commented on the post and we had a discussion about the post itself that culminated in me commenting “Isn’t it amazing how running changes your life?”
And then, I started thinking.

You see, like me, she was largely sedentary throughout her youth and early 20s and about a year or so ago she decided to change that and began running.
Unlike me she didn’t wait until she was nearly fifty years old to do it! Wise beyond her years is that one.
Like me she was terrified of every possible terror a newly minted runner can face: “looking foolish”, falling, failing, quitting/giving up (yet again).
But she did it anyway.
She laced up and ran. And I’m pretty certain that first run, like mine, both sucked and was awesome all in the same panted breaths.
She’s had good runs, bad runs, first starting and finish lines; struggled with the age old question “Which shoe is really right for me?!”, and slogged through all the unsolicited advice about socks, Glide, and every-other-running-thing.
And, like me, it has changed her life in one seminal way: Fear is, if not ‘no longer a factor’, at least much less a factor every single day of her life.

Because that’s what running does.
It takes you past that “I could never run THAT far!” distance to the “I just ran THIS far!” further distance.
It takes you from “Oh really, I just want to run races of THIS distance!” to “I can totally train for THAT race of that-longer-distance!”
Once you’ve done one thing you “have never/could never do” that pretty much takes every other “have never/could never” right off the table!
Once you have chosen to do one thing, to take one action, that gives you greater control over improving your body and your life experience, you realize that every other thing that falls under that general heading is totally within your grasp to do.
No matter what it is.
Relationships. Jobs/Careers. The State of Your Surroundings. You name it – it’s just another race of a different distance.

So, my dear Ms. Lauper, I’m certain you will understand when I respectfully disagree with the premise of your groundbreaking earwig hit and posit that while money may buy a really great pair of running shoes and some uber cute running skirts, it is the running that changes everything. Not the money.
Money just makes it easier to look cute while the changes take place!

The long and winding – and apparently spinning – road.

I was back running again!
Running felt good.
Running felt AWESOME!
Last Monday HCRP was suffering from one of running’s inevitable yet always a little embarrassing sideliners (chafing) so we got home and I laced up and headed out for what had to be one of The Best Runs Ever.  From the first step out of the driveway through to the last one back across its imaginary Finish Line everything felt great!
The legs.
The lungs.
So much so that at the halfway point I contemplated turning right instead of turning around and extending the run.  But I didn’t.

Experience has taught me many things.
The proper places to apply Glide.
Which running bra fits and works best.
Never, ever, no matter what, ever change brands of running shoes in the middle of training for your first half marathon.  Ever.
And finally that I am, after all, somewhat more of a superstitious person than I’d ever considered myself.  Okay, maybe notsomuch ‘superstitious’ as a really, really, really big believer in certain rites and rituals.
One of which has become: Plan the run and run the plan.
I suspect some of that has to do with the whole mental component of running.
If I set out to run ‘X’ number of miles on ‘X’ course or trail that’s what my brain begins running long before I’ve even taken my gym bag out of the trunk of the car.  Changing that at the last minute is, in my experience, a recipe for disaster!

But back to Monday.
Oh how I want to go back to Monday when the birds were singing and the trees were treeing and the legs and lungs were functioning on an equal level and God was in His heaven and all was right on earth.

Oh Monday when I could stand up, sit down, look up, turn my head, roll over in bed, and otherwise directionally reorient my head without everything inside said head shifting and turning like I was on some kind of one-woman tilt-a-whirl that nobody else but me could see or feel.  Out of absolutely nowhere I started experiencing these intermittent, inexplicable dizzy spells.
Oh.
And in between dizzy spells I spent pretty much all day Wednesday, most of Thursday, and good portions of Friday feeling full-on, Jumbo Margarita drinking champion, drunk.  I had not in fact slammed a margarita of any size to begin my day so this feeling was completely unwarranted.

I chalked it all up to the weather induced sinus pressure I had going on and could actually feel pressing on my inner ears when laying down, and started taking Sudafed to ‘dry things up’.  Facebook – the modern day oracle of medical consultation – actually provided some credible advice from one of my Running Mentors TLC who recommended Dramamine at night to stop the whole being jolted awake by a “falling out of the bed” dizzy spell when I had the audacity to roll over in my sleep.  It worked.  TLC is a genius.

Of course never knowing when I was going to go from sober to ‘drunk’ to tilt-a-whirl made me a little hesitant to head out running Wednesday or Thursday and by Friday I was just exhausted from the constant sense of uncertainty and disconcertingness.
Friday I broke down and went to our Primary Care Physician’s office where, after a basic examination it was determined that there was irritation and pressure on the inner ears but absent an elevated white count, there was really nothing to do but treat symptoms.
He gave me a prescription for Antivert.  Antivert has proven utterly worthless during the day because it makes me feel stoned on top of drunk which might work well for certain celebrities but not for me.
He suggested I switch from Sudafed to Afrin.  I’m not even going to get started on the worthless piece of advice that turned out to be and the waste of plastic packaging I think Afrin is.

We put off Saturday’s run until Sunday.  Between the roller coaster my consult with a new (love him!) chiropractor had me on (stand up, lay down, sit up), and the fact that it was cold and if I don’t have to run in cold with an ‘inner ear infection’ diagnosis I am not going to run in cold, putting it off seemed prudent.  Sunday I was still being a Good Patient and taking the Antivert and Afrin which pretty much knocked me out of commission for running.

So today I’ve kissed and made up with Sudafed and for the most part I feel like a sane, sober human being.
Unless I stand up too fast.
Or sit down too fast.
Or look up from my computer screen or desk too fast.
Or just sit completely still not moving or changing the overall orientation of my head.
I actually did a little jog across the lobby where I work to test the “Will the bouncing up and down of running make me dizzy?” theory/question.  For at least 20 feet it doesn’t.
As I told one of my ‘nother Running Mentors on Facebook: I’m actually contemplating throwing caution to the wind and getting a couple miles in this evening just to cut the “I’m about ready to punch someone in the face” factor. I figure if Rich runs with me I can just stop and grab hold of him if a dizzy spell hits. I mean, people run drunk/buzzed all the time and since this isn’t alcohol induced I’m at least assured of not hurling!  (Of course by the end of the day it was cold and drizzly and I am erring on the side of inner ear care caution and staying out of that mess.)
The above was in response to her posting and tagging me in this picture.  And as she said change “worked out” to “run” and it should be our warning label!
544503_10151492695875477_1740940058_nI have an appointment Thursday with an ENT to rule out BPPV for which I could have written the “Signs and symptoms” section.  I’m hoping to hear (ironic, no?) that it’s that viral inner ear infection thing and will pass because honestly just reading about the treatments for this make me want to vomit.

So that’s where things are in As The Middle-Aged Woman Runs.
Or Doesn’t.

And I have NO CLUE what’s up with the font colors on this post.  They look write in the write/edit box, but not at all when I Preview.  Guess we’ll find out what happens when I click ‘Publish’…