This is a special-topic post. Super-boring for anyone not interested in knee injuries or P90X. Sorry.
I have bad knees. First of all, I’m knock-kneed (officially, genu valgum). I don’t much like the look of it, but more concerning is that it makes the supposedly straight hip-knee-ankle line more more of a triangle. It results in all sorts of problems, including chondromalacia patella - a softening of the cartilage under the patella.
I made this a whole lot worse in my teenage quest to dunk. I did way too many squat presses with way too much weight, which overbuilt my quads, which pulled my kneecap up which meant that the cartilage on its underside rubbed on my femur every time I bent my knee. (I never did dunk a basketball, but I did get enough air to dunk a volleyball.) I had a special brace that was supposed to hold my kneecaps down, but they didn’t work very well.
The result was that I had arthritis by the time I was in my mid-20s. Then, when I was 30, I ruptured my right ACL in a Shotokan Karate tournament. I had an ACL allograft to repair the knee. It turned out that I already had Grade IV chondromalacia (the worst), and that was “cleaned up” too. The cartilage should look like a hard boiled egg; mine looked like that fake crabmeat.
I had the allograft because it was the most agressive option, supposedly it would get me back the fastest and fullest. Unfortunately, as strong as my new ACL has proven to be, I completely destroyed my patellar cartilage during rehab - all those knee-bending exercises that help build the muscles around the knee to support the new ligament just tore them up.
So, three years later, back under the knife I went. This time, both knees were operated on and I was in a wheelchair for a month, then on crutches. As soon as I was out of the braces, I went back at it again, and had so much swelling and pain that I couldn’t work out for more than a day or two a week - with the support of too-frequent drainings (via a giant needle - horrid) and cortisone injections.
Still not smart enough to shift approaches, I went on a tour of leading knee surgeons. “What can I do?” All three started off with “Well, you’re really too young for knee replacements.” One suggested that I consider osteotomy - my fibula would be sliced diagonally, realigned, and pinned in a geometry that would align my hips, knees, and ankles. That was enough to scare me off of all of it, and I gave up.
I had been a hard-core 7-days-a-week competitive athlete from 13 to 30 and I turned into a couch potato. I couldn’t bike for more than an hour and walk the next day. I gave up backpacking. It was horrible.
Finally, after my second daughter went to pre-school, I decided that I had to exercise for exercise’s sake. I had never done exercise in my life - I had done athletics - and it’s very very different. I decided that NordicTracking was the right thing - little knee bend, controlled motion, full-body, cardio. So I bought one for $50 on eBay and started doing it every morning. I had to ice daily for the first couple of months. Thankfully I got the full West Wing on DVD that Christmas and was so motivated to see the next episode that I quickly worked up to about 45 minutes a day. And I skied hard. That got me back in OK shape. But it was so boring.
Then - drumroll please - on our annual Memorial Day camping trip, a friend told me about P90X. If you watch TV, which I don’t, you’ve probably seen the infomercials. I bought the DVDs, weights and a pull-up bar, and put in the first DVD. When I started I could barely do most of it. Jumps, deep knee bends, push-ups, pull-ups. You name it, I couldn’t do it.
P90X is a very structured 90-day program. I made it through 45 days that first time and had major trouble with… my shoulder! I could barely move my arm, couldn’t raise it above shoulder level, and it hurt like crazy. It took 3 doctors to figure out that I have artritis in my clavicles (from all that shooting for all those years) which led me to compensate in odd ways which ended up in tendonitis in my bicep. UGH! I did nothing with that arm or shoulder for almost two months while it healed.
Voltaren, which is essentially a topical version of Aleve, worked wonders for me to control the swelling from the arthritis. I still use it on my shoulder or even my knees when things start to flare up.
I’ve also found glucosamine chondroitin very helpful, although I’m no controlled study, when I forget to take it for more than a few days my shoulder and knees remind me.
Once I got past that roadblock, I started to see results. Miraculous results. You can find hundreds of before and after shots of people with newly ripped abs from P90X, and they are real - I know some of them.
I don’t look quite that ripped, but my results are miraculous for me. I am almost pain-free. I can run five miles with no swelling. I can ski, three maybe even four days straight. I can do a deep knee bend - painlessly, even thought it makes an awful crunching sound. I can jump, cut, turn, and spin. I can bicycle. I can pick up a ball and shoot around without fearing that something terrible is going to happen. I’m hoping to start martial arts again this fall.
Why did it work? I think that it’s:
Lessons learned: run from the knife, never say die, and just press play, every day!
In addition to being full-time Mom, I’ve been spending my post-ClickEquations time:
Most importantly, my girls need time and space. On our almost-daily walks in the Wissahickon, for example, we stop and play in the creek for half, or even a full hour.
When we had to figure out what time my 11 year old should get her ear drops (4 a day), it took over an hour of construction (she’s a Montessori kid and self-described “hands-on learner”), exploration, and confusion before the satisfying “Ahhh…. I get it!” came
At work, I no longer get a dozen emails in an hour, most of which can be dealt with in 20 seconds. Instead, I get a dozen emails a day, and almost all of them are about big issues - things that I have to think deeply about or that require a lot of work (What do you think about this business? Which market makes more sense to attack first? What do you think about this guy?)
I am also lucky enough to be attending an Aspen Seminar in the fall, and have a scary bulkpack of classics to read, grasp, and digest. Slowly.
I find this shift, this pace enormously challenging. So I’m going to use it as an opportunity to learn to be slow and effective, on the bigger stuff. I still check email way too frequently, so I’m switching from push to checking every hour. I look at Twitter too often, so I’m taking a hiatus for the rest of the month. Facebook decided I wasn’t me and deactivated my account, removing that distraction. I’m going to check news just in the morning and at the end of the day.
I’ll be back at it full-tilt in mid-September, so I have to learn this quickly. And, BTW, if you want to connect on any of that work stuff - or join us for a walk in the woods - let me know.
The New Yorker just published a long, loving profile of Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, appropriately titled “A Woman’s Place”. For a brief moment in time it was at the top of Techmeme. Sheryl also did a popular TedTalk.
She mostly blames the male domination of the tech industry (and world leadership) on women. I think, mostly, she’s on the right track. She gives solid advice to young women - “lean in”, find a 50-50 husband, wait to have kids until you’ve established yourself (and don’t think about it until then). She focuses on what we can do rather than what others do to stop us, and I agree with that appraoch 100%.
She’s also an interesting model. She has all the normal super-powers: crazy-smart, hard working, clearly emotionally intelligent. She also had a critical and powerful mentor (get yourself one of those, girls). And she espouses some unusual views, including some I’ve been advocating for years: an approach to managing life based on blend rather than balance, forget about career planning, don’t focus on the fact that you’re a girl. I like Sheryl, I bet we’d get along well.
Yet it pisses me off that she’s the newest girl tech darling. Why? Because she’s a #2. She may be the best #2 in history, but I wish we had #1 role models.
After receiving the 10th email asking why I’m changing my name, I decided I’d just explain.
My parents named me Lucinda Bromwyn Duncalfe. Roughly, it means light princess of the cowshed (yeah). Lucinda is an old family name from my Mom’s side. Bromwyn is what they really wanted to name me but were worried about how unusual it is - it’s Welsh. My full name is (truncated) iambic pentameter. I always liked my name, always felt comfortable with it, like it says who I am. (As does Lu, which has a lot fewer letters and has followed me, sooner or later, everywhere since I started playing basketball in 7th grade.)
The first time I married, I eloped and did nothing by the book; the marriage was an utter failure. Trying a different approach seemed like the thing to do. So the second time I did the full traditional thing, white dress and all. Although it took me a while, that included changing my name. I first tried Duncalfe-Holt but that was too long and awkward. I didn’t start using Holt alone until my first daughter was in school, when family cohesion seemed important. The idea that I should give up my name, just because I’m female never sat well with me. Now, 8 years later, I don’t think it matters if my name is the same as my husband’s and daughters’, and I still feel a lot more like Lucinda Duncalfe than Lucinda Holt.
I played with the idea of changing back for about a year. A few months ago I started the expensive, onerous process. When you get married you just go to a Social Security office and they change your name. Changing credit cards etc is a pain, but the name change is nothing. I’m told that it’s straightforward in divorce too. But in my situation I had to get fingerprint cards done, present myself to the Court, pay a big fee, then publish a notice in two newspapers, obtain proof of publication, and I still have to go before a judge.
Coincidentally, my court date is next week. That timing turned out to be good, since I’ve moved on from ClickEquations and had to change my contact information anyway. So, as of yesterday publicly, and next Wednesday for real, I’m back to being who I was for the first 37 years of my life.
It’s going to feel great. Like home.
We sold ClickEquations today. And I’m changing my name back to Lucinda Bromwyn Duncalfe (long story, and no I’m not getting divorced). So it seems like a good time for a fresh blog - and you found it! (My old stuff is still at www.cerealceo.com.) I also have a new email address: lucinda at duncalfe dot me and a new Twitter handle: @LucindaD.
I will help with the transition for a month or so, then spend the summer with my girls (yeah!). I plan to do one more company - let me know if you have a great idea or know someone who does.
I've started and/or run too many venture capital-backed software companies, plus one ill-fated food startup.