The Long Road... #2014reboot

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Friday, February 24, 2012

#390: Groin Pulls and Other Injuries

Not Pennsy's Groin
Pulling your groin... it's always sounded a little obscene to me. I guess I was never really sure where my "groin" was. I thought of it as the general area of the crotch, as in "he got kicked in the groin. Actually, the groin muscles are part of your hip adductors. They help you close your legs. I learned this when the surgeon implanted an IVC filter through a vein in my groin. Long time readers will remember the day I had my bikini line shaved for the first time. To be honest, I haven't given my groin much thought, since then, other than the standard cleaning and maintenance that any responsible owner give to his equipment.

But on Wednesday night, I pulled my groin while swimming. I'm trying to think of a wussier sounding sentence. Swimming is the exercise we recommend to people who are old and stiff. People with arthritis can swim. People who are already injured can get into the pool, for Pete's sake. But there I was, doing the Breast Stroke, which is basically a resting stroke, when I snapped my legs together and felt a sharp, burning pain from my hip to my inner thigh. My first thought was, "Oh, so that's what a groin pull feels like." My next thought was, "This had better not screw with my running." And finally, the killer: "You wuss. You just pulled your groin SWIMMING!"

I leave it to you, Dear Reader, to contemplate the experience of treating your injured groin with ice packs.

When I was in high school, my friends Bobby and Dwight were always convincing me to "go out" for one team or another, with fairly consistent results. There was the basketball tryout where the coach pulled me off to the side and suggested I go out for wrestling. The night on in the throwing pit when I discovered I could not safely predict the direction I would be hurling the discus. There was the week of wrestling where I discovered the humiliation of trying to throw a young man who appeared to be fastened to the floor with lag bolts through his feet. Then there was the night I went out for swimming. I don't know how many miles Coach Troy made us swim that night: 12 or 15, I think. I remember being passed a lot by guys who had propellers for feet. I remember feeling like my legs were made of burning jello, and missing school the next day because I could not move any of my limbs. But mostly, I remember handing Coach my excuse for being absent. In perfect cursive, Mum had written, "Sore from swimming." He read it silently. Looked up at me. Read it aloud, softly, so as not to embarrass me, for at heart, he was a kind man. Then his eyes filled with a kind of tender pity, as if I had missed school so I could travel to San Francisco to try on prom dresses. Swimming was never really the same for me after that.

Still, when I joined the Y, the pool beckoned. I used to be a decent swimmer, and I wanted to keep my cross-training options open for the days when I wasn't running. Mrs P found me some trunks at the Goodwill, I picked up a pair of those weird goggles at Meijer, and off I went to the water. It soon became apparent that I had forgotten a great deal about swimming.

Where are those tree-huggers when you need them?
My endurance is pretty good for a fat old man. I can run for a couple of hours and require no medical attention at all. My first 25 meter length of the pool at the Y left me wondering if they would have to drag me up onto the deck to administer CPR, or if they could just do it while I lay on the bottom. My heart pounded so hard I could hear my pulse. I gasped for breath with my elbows hooked on the edge of the deck, hoping the people from Green Peace would find me in time. I could not believe I could get so tired so fast.

I've been practicing since then. Asking for advice. Watching YouTube. Studying the dolphin-like 10-year-olds who come to swim practice after school. I'm getting better. But today I have this little twinge in my groin and I don't want to aggravate it, so I'm giving it a rest. I've missed a training run, and I'm in a grump.

Which prompted me to think of other injuries I have sustained in my long and storied athletic career. Other than the sore knees I experienced when I first started running, I have had only one injury on the road. I strained both my Achilles tendons during my first 5K, which is its own funny story. I once strained a shoulder doing a bizarre exercise where you hold a medicine ball up over your head, then throw it down to the floor as hard as you can, catch it, and repeat. I've never had more than a blistered ring finger from lifting weights. And the only injury I sustained during my LIVESTRONG at the YMCA training was from doing a stretch where you lie on the floor and cross your leg over your body, twisting your hips into a sort of screw shape of which my sacroiliac joint did not approve. Then of course, there was the bout of Pickleball Shoulder I experienced recently. The less said about that, the better.
 

The upshot here is that discounting poor conditioning or male stupidity, I have never been seriously hurt while running.  I give credit for that to the techniques and philosophy of Jeff Galloway. Using walk breaks early and often has enabled me to keep going without pain or injury. An important part of this approach to training is respect for recovery days. So I want to cross-train. I want to do something besides run that will keep my metabolism cooking. It's just that all these exercise things are so dangerous. Cycling, for example, wears me out almost as fast as swimming, and involves Pennsyltucky drivers, a notoriously aggressive breed.

I'd try shuffle board... but I hear it's really hard on your knees.

Peace,
Pennsy

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

#389: Running for Lent

Yesterday's run:
2.82mi/30:00 @ 6:30 AM, North Y, Red Pegasus, Recovery run, no breaks, 2% grade to 6.0 mph. Nike+ failed.
In the weight room:
Machine circuit,  Legs, Shoulders, and Chest.
Today is Ash Wednesday. At Lent, I try to chose a meaningful fast and a meaningful Lenten devotion. The monks call it a Rule of Life. It's one of the few acts of piety that still touch me. I love Lent. I love the journey from ashes to resurrection. So that's what's on my mind today.

My fast is pretty simple. Dairy Queen. Well, soft serve ice cream in general. Stopping for a cone or a shake has become a daily habit after work or a workout, and I suspect that is a big reason why my weight has plateaued, in spite of my increased training hours. So instead of a large Shamrock Shake, when I feel the craving, I'll say a little prayer of thanksgiving. This may do me a lot of good. I actually quit smoking this way, many years ago.

My devotions are a little more complicated. I've been wasting a lot of time lately. Playing video games. Browsing Facebook. Napping. Those aren't bad things, but I have more important goals than winning at Words with Friends. So here are the things I want to DO for lent.

  • Home. Mrs P and I have been very busy and very tired. Our house looks like a place where crazy people live. That makes us crazy. We are going to schedule time to work on the house together and finally finish the task of moving in that we started more than a year ago. We're gonna wear a path to the Goodwill in the next 40 days.
  • Health. My marathon training is on track, but I want to become more intentional about my nutrition. I have found that using a food log from time to time helps me to focus on what I'm eating and how I can improve my choices. I'll be logging my Lenten meals, and checking in with Nancy the Dietician at the Y from time to time. 
  • Heart. As the days lengthen, it becomes tempting to try to do more. Lots of invitations come in. I start hankering to act or write or any of the million things I do to please myself and avoid chores like taxes and yardwork. When I'm planning my hours, I need to remember that I only have so many of them to spend, and make sure I'm spending them on the things that are most important to me: Mrs P, Running, and my new job as a trainer with LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. Those are the "Big Rocks" I have to make sure are in my jar before I fill in the gaps with other things.
  • Hands. I'm not sure what this one is about. I just sort of fell into this "4-H" kind of thing. I guess it means keeping on top of my training. As the days get longer and busier, it will be more tempting to cut  out a workout here and there. To neglect my sleep. To shorten up a long run. A marathon is serious, and possibly dangerous business. I need to continue my resolve to make myself as ready as I can to finish that race in May.
So there's my Lenten Rule of life. It pretty much means sitting down with my planner a couple of times a week and making sure I'm on course. Keeping my schedule aligned with my goals. Prayerfully considering my choices. Living the life God gave back to me with gratitude and purpose.

The Ash Wednesday liturgy puts it this way;
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church,to the observance of a holy Lent,by self-examination and repentance;by prayer, fasting, and self-denial;and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word(Book of Common Prayer, p.265)

I can live with that.

Peace,
Pennsy

Monday, February 20, 2012

#388: Exercising Together

The Loneliness of the
Long-distance Runner
I am learning the beauty of exercising with somebody else. I like the solitude of running alone. It gives me a chance to meditate without the distraction of other runners who are usually pulling away from me into the distance. I like hitting the weight room where the most complicated conversation is usually a grunt of recognition of a request for a spot. Still, there is joy to be found in numbers.

The Club with the Worst
Initiation Ever
My first and most important attempt at working out with a group was with my LIVESTRONG at the YMCA class. I signed up because they offered me a free 12 week membership, but before long I realized the power and encouragement that comes from working out with people who celebrate and uplift one another. People kept telling us how inspiring we were. I don't think they realized how much we inspired one another.

The Striders were kind enough to
wait for Pennsy so he could be
in the picture
I kept reading about how finding a running club can help you, and I found John's Striders: a local group affiliated with Lexington's John's Run/Walk shop. I joke that I don't really run with the Striders, I run behind them. But even in the back of the pack, I find people who struggle and overcome. My first time out with them was on a 13 mile run among horse farms. Three of us trailed along together for most of the run. Both my companions from that day have now finished marathons, and I look forward to joining them. Other times, I only see my fellow Striders in the pre-dawn darkness before they leave me to trot along behind on my own. Just knowing they're there can draw me along through the end of a tough run. And of course, there's my friend Bob who runs with a nasty limp and a pacemaker keeping his wounded ticker going. You'll find us chatting in the morning mist while our speedier companions inspire us. Cardiac Bob and Cancer Bob: Someday, we'll make a buddy picture.

ZUMBA!
The YMCA has shown me a whole other world of exercise thorough the dozens of classes that go on there all day, every day. My membership gives me free access to most of them, and I have really come to enjoy dropping in on whatever class is going on when I have an hour free before or after work. I've taken spinning classes, which kill my quads in a way that running never has,)After a spin on the treadmill, I enjoy Yoga classes with a Buddha-like instructor who is equal parts forest nymph, giddy cheerleader, and Zen master. Pilates always challenges me, and I really like the fact that I can do a little more each time I get on the mat. TRX give you an awesome workout, and I use the term literally. I am in awe of Coach Carrie and my classmates as they fling themselves through movements that leave me panting on the floor in a puddle of my own sweat. And if you don't like Zumba, there is probably something seriously wrong with your soul.

 Solitude? Yeah, right
Then there's the pool. I've always found swimming to be the most solitary of sports. I splash along with my awkward strokes, goggles fogged, barely finishing each lap while some 80-year-old in the next lane does her Esther Williams impression for what seems like miles at a time. Then, Mrs P started taking swimming lessons.

Swimming lessons were a part of my childhood. Every summer, the kids in my hometown would gather at Dormont Pool where patient grown-ups taught us to put our faces underwater and blow bubbles. We gradually progressed, year by year, to the diving boards on the deep end. Mrs P never got that chance, Now, in our dotage, we are sharing the experience of her learning to swim. She meets with Mr. Ted on Saturday mornings, then we go to the Y together a couple times a week so she can practice. Yesterday, we shared a lane. I swam my labored laps while she practiced her drills. It won't be long before she's a stronger swimmer than I am. She loves the water. We've finally found an exercise we can enjoy doing together. Last week, we even took a water aerobics class. She laughed like a child, and I fell in love with her every time I saw her chlorine-soaked smile.(She has taken to devilishly pinching my bum under the water, which is also a plus.)

It doesn't have to be like this...
If you're reluctant to exercise with someone else because you're embarrassed about your body, or worried that you won't be able to keep up, or for some other reason, I encourage you to get over it. I remember the shame of high school gym class, but I have found that grown-ups are much more encouraging. Nobody's ever made me feel bad about myself because I can't fold my legs like a pretzel or cycle for an hour without collapsing across the handle bars. There is joy out there alone on the open road, but there is joy in the mirror lined walls of the exercise studio, too. The only way to keep exercising is to find something that's fun. And there is fun to be had in the company of other people who are fighting for their lives, just like you.

Peace,
Pennsy

Saturday, February 18, 2012

#387: Long, Slow, Chilly Run

As my marathon training turns serious, I want to make blogging a more consistent part of the process, so here's today's run report...
52° - 43°, 15.8 mi/3:41:09 @ 3:09 PM. Arboretum. Red Pegasus. 1:00 run/1:00 walk for 8 miles, then 1:30 run/1:00 walk. Splits 13:41, 13:21, 13:47, 13:22, 14:02, 13:23, 12:56, 13:17, 13:17, 13:02, 14:35, 14:08, 14:51, 14:53, 15:04. Lost my key. M saved me.
All of which means I had a really beautiful, sometimes puzzling, and ultimately weird run today.


And in case you're wondering, the answer is yes, 3:00 in the afternoon is a really stupid time to start a long run in the middle of winter. I slept in this morning, and had a serious dearth of gumption so I put it off for way too long. Then, when I saw that the temperature was 52°, I just couldn't stay inside.


I intended to make this a very long run. I had fantasies of 20 miles dancing in my head, but given my speed and the lateness of the hour, I would have been running until bedtime. My most recent long run was 11 decent miles followed by 3 miserable ones, followed by 2 miles of wishing someone would put a bullet in my head. I decided to just try and improve on that and see how far my legs would carry me.


I chose the Arboretum because a) it's a trail in a park, so there's no traffic to deal with, and b) I had nearly collapsed on my last long run, and the Arboretum trail is a circle, so you're never more than a quarter mile from the car if things turn weird. Which they did.


I used a very conservative Run/Walk interval: 1:00/1:00 for the first eight miles, then 1:30/1:00 for the last 8. This worked really well for me. The short run interval at the beginning forced me to hold back on the early miles. Now that I get a good look at my splits, I'm thinking that stretching out the run to 1:30 might have been a mistake. I certainly started slowing down at 10 miles, which will be a problem in Pittsburgh, where the toughest part of the course is around mile 11. I need to be training so I'm very strong at 10 miles, not starting to fade. My plan is to have no more long runs any shorter than 11 miles. I'll need both conditioning and pacing to climb that hill on May 6.


At mile 11, I felt great. At mile 12, my calves started hurting a little but had recovered well after the minute walk breaks. I was running happy after mile 13, knowing that I had completed the half marathon distance without misery. By mile 14, I could tell I was slowing, but I still felt strong. I knew I could go on for a few more miles. I said out loud, "I feel good. I'm going for 17." I got to 15 in good form, feeling prettier than I probably was. 


Then, at around 15.2 miles, my phone rang. It was Mrs P's ring, and I noticed it was really getting dark out, so I knew she was calling to check up on me. I assured her that I was feeling great, going for a new personal record for distance, and would be home soon. Yes, it was dark. No there were no lights on the path. No, I wasn't wearing my little flashing lights. I was fine. Don't worry. Love you. Buh-bye. And as I closed my phone and slipped it back into my pocket, I realized that my car key was gone.


So here's where I am. It's dark. The temperature has dropped almost 10 degrees since I set off in shorts and a long sleeved tech shirt. I own only one key to my car. We lost the duplicate years ago and added replacing it to that long list of things we ought to take care of some day. It's Saturday night. It's a three-day weekend. And I'm wandering back and forth on the path looking for a single key, in the dark, using my cell phone as a flashlight. #fail. 


I called Mrs P for help. She brought me warm, dry clothes and a flash light. We hiked the .25 miles to where my phone rang, and found the key easily. Then we walked back to the parking lot holding hands in the cold Kentucky night. It was much more romantic than you might imagine under the circumstances.


Which made me kind of glad that I dropped my key. Even if I didn't run 20 miles today.


Peace,
Pennsy

#386: Brain Nuggets

I love words. I love my friends. And I have come to the conclusion that playing Words with Friends is an almost perfect waste of both.

We aren't fighting against cancer,  we are fighting for our lives.


If you want to be a decent human being,  get to know the person who gets paid to clean your toilet at work. They have something to teach you.


My heart breaks with joy every time I look in the pool and see the surprise and pride in Mrs P's face when she realizes that she is actually learning to swim.


My dogs drive me insane sometimes and that isn't their fault. I need to learn to be a better dog for them.

Don't tell me you're inspired,  tell me what you're inspired to do.

I could spend all day telling you how amazing I think cancer survivors are, and never spend a second bragging. I am humbled and proud to be counted among them.

Nothing really serious
 should ever be taken completely seriously.

It is amazing how good the rest of your life becomes when you know you could run a mile if you really had to.
There have been a lot of uniforms and costumes in my life: Boy Scout merit badge sash. Church choir robe. Shakespearean tights. Back stage blacks. I worked hard for each of them. But that yellow shirt is still my favorite.

If you really want to improve your kicking, you should buy some flippers,  the swimmer advised me. I can just throw it in the bag with my goggles, my heart rate monitor, and my yoga strap. Swimming. Running. Yoga. There is no exercise so simple that someone can't figure out away to sell you gear for it.

Wouldn't it be great if you could create something really useful by combining household dust, dog hair, and the cold brown puddle you find at the bottom of yesterday morning's coffee cup?

The most heroic people I've ever known had no idea that they were being heroes.

I have always had a crush on Lesbians and Piano Players. What's up with that?

The only real limit to our ability is our will.

It is hard to serve teenagers because they've seen all your crap before, and are unimpressed.

I get angry when I see the same vultures who celebrated her slow-motion suicide for thirty years pretending to care about Whitney Houston now that she's dead.


The quickest way to diminish your ability to meet the needs of the world is to neglect the things you need yourself.

You can fit a lot of stupid onto one little bumper sticker.


I don't know if they intended to be, but The Village People were right about the YMCA.

Young Man, I was once in your shoes
I said I was, down and out with the blues
I felt no man cared if I were alive
I felt the whole world was so jive

That's when someone came up to me
And said young man take a walk up the street
There's a place there called the Y.M.C.A.
They can start you back on your way





God has blessings for you beyond anything you can ask or imagine. 

If I ever get one of those tramp stamp tattoos,  I think I would like it to be the Chinese character for "butt crack."

Peace,
Pennsy


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