Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Knee Surgery

Anyone Hungry Yet?... Seafood?

I really hoped to have some gory pictures, but knee surgery looks much more like trimming aquatic plant life in an underwater setting. How'd it go?, you inquire. Well, it went better than I could have hoped. I had some really crappy rough spots with dead cartilage cleaned up. I also had some wear spots that were better than predicted - with both bone and cartilage wearing down in perfect complimentary ways (so only minor steps taken). And then I had a pretty decent meniscus tear that took some fixin'. But, and this is a big 'but,' no microfracture required. I will be running again in three weeks rather than three months! Yay!

I have, though developed a taste for chlorine, so I plan to continue my swimming workouts through the Winter. I hope to spend a few days running and a few days swimming each week, both for recuperation and in order to enhance core strength.

Apparently when I came out of surgery I was a bit whacked. I had a couple of conversations that I don't recall. "Ahhhh, Lucas," I sighed at one point. My friend, Marisa, who was there to be my Flo Nightengale, replied, "What about Lucas?" "I was just thinking about him," I answered softly, smiling. In case you are wondering, Lucas is my ill-tempered feline (who loves me to death, but is ...oh, how to say this politely...difficult). It was an odd thing to say.

Anyway, I'm not taking any of the great painkillers, because I haven't needed them. I have an ice machine pumping cold H2O over my elevated (and sexily shaved) leg. All in all, life is much better than I would've predicted it would be when I awoke this morning.

More next Sunday. Thanks to all my friends for the ridiculous amount of calls, emails, and good thoughts. I loved and felt them all.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Greatest (running) Story Ever Told...

The Chilly Entrance to the Riverfront Trails This Morning

When you pick up a book to read, and the cover not only has the author's name and the name of the book, but also has a blurb stating that it is "The best novel ever written about running," you might think to yourself, sure it is...

In the case of John L. Parker, Jr.'s, Once a Runner, the blurb may actually be correct. If it is not the best, it is certainly one of the best. I had been hearing about the novel for years, but had mainly limited myself to reading more non-fiction articles and books on the sport/lifestyle of running. True, if you have read previous posts, you will realize that I do enjoy reading fiction (and fiction about running). But while a large number of runners are shockingly good writers, there really isn't a whole lot of fiction that really delves into running. Once a Runner lives and breathes running. It has peaks, valleys, denouements; all the things one expects in a good piece of fiction. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves the sport and wants a good read. You'll laugh. You'll cry...

While I can't do the winter wear extravaganza that Mizuno is putting on at Gary Gribbles in December (due to knee surgery), I was able to see their winter fabrics at work yesterday. Honest to god, if you pour liquid onto the fabric, it heats up. I have never seen anything like it. If you run in the cold, you should absolutely try the Mizuno products. If nothing else, just for the novelty of it. It is simply different from anything I've tried before.

Finally, I completed my last run for 3 months today. Knee surgery on Tuesday will put me on forced hiatus. The past 4 days found me running 8mi, 8mi, 5mi, and 8mi. I've tried to run super hard to empty the tank, as it were, but have felt nothing but great. Tomorrow I'll get a last quick swim in the a.m. before taking about 10 (endorphin-free) days off to let the holes heal. Then it will be a Winter of swimming and pedaling before emerging in the Spring (I hope) ready to run.

So get ready for some surgery and swimming blogging. I promise that if I can get nappy vomitous pics of the surgery that I will post them. So, until later, run in person and in your mind.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanks. Thanks a lot.

It has been an eventful and terribly trying year filled with job changes, stress, a depressing political atmosphere (in KS especially), and anxiety over upcoming surgery (next Tuesday). All of this has made the past year, as QE II would say, an annus horiblus.

In the midst of my depression, angst, and physical decline (well after about 30, we all are on the downward slope), I did try to think of some things for which to be thankful. The following is a list in no particular order:

- I'm thankful for my friends. In person, on line, Skype, and phone friends. All of you are collectively the best thing in my life (I did get that subject/verb agreement correct, seriously). I value you more than you could know.

- I'm thankful for the River and Clinton Lake trails that have allowed me so many wonderful hours of running alone with my thoughts, or together with my friends over the past years.

- As an overview to the preceding, I am really thankful for the running I have done and will continue to do. Running has become less of a sport and more of a raison d'etre for me. I am not a musician, a businessman, a Democrat, etc... who runs. But instead, I am a runner who also happens to be a musician.... you get the idea. It defines my very existence. I am most relaxed and spiritually 'at peace' when I'm pounding a trail or road. I'd expound, but I want to keep this brief.

- I am thankful that I live next to an Olympic size swimming pool. With surgery crushing my runs for the Winter months, life would be terribly dreary. And, while swimming isn't really my 'thing,' I am glad that somehow my karma set up my current locale just when I needed it.

- Almost finally, I am thankful that I have the ability to work. In this economy one can never be certain of the future. But I have a job, have been offered others, and am fairly confident (knock wood) that I could find something suitable should my current situation take a turn (which should not be the case). But I do recognize how many people are facing a terrible and uncertain future right now while our government does seemingly less and less to create jobs or assist those who are out of work and without hope.

- And finally, I am thankful for my family. While I am single, I do have family all around. My parents still live and have good health. My brother's family continues on with all of the foibles common to most American families. My Aunt and cousins and their families seem to be thriving. So all could be a lot worse.

- And finally finally, I'm thankful for my health overall. Knee problems aside, I really never experience anything too terrible. And without health, I cannot imagine truly having the capacity to enjoy life.

If you do want to donate to good causes, this is the time of year to do so. I switched my credit card issuer earlier this year from one that gives me cash back, to one that gives the same amount to the Sea Shepherds. That is about the easiest way to give - without even thinking about it.

Good local charities - wherever you live, you can amend your list to include ones in your area that match the following types of charities:

Health Care Access (low-cost health care)
the Lawrence Community Shelter (homeless advocates)
Bert Nash (mental health)
cockadoodlemoo.org (farm animal sanctuary)
KANU (Public Radio)
DCAP (AIDS care)

Whatever you can give will always be appreciated. I am thankful that I have the ability to give - even if it is just a bit.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bilateral Negotiations

I took a run by myself on the riverfront trails yesterday. It was the definition of a 'blustery day.' Wind, normally redirected and tamed as it passes through dense foliage, instead ripped between trees and vines denuded of their leaves. It was a truly odd experience to be on the trails for the first time in the season without the canopy.

The openness allows for a heightened awareness of 'where you are' on the trail at all times. You can also see the trail heading in the opposite direction during much of the run - something which is not apparent in other seasons. One of the neatest things I noted was a very long and very solid old iron staircase that headed down from the trail to the river's edge at .92 mi. I stopped and, after testing it for structural integrity, took it down to the banks. I can't think of another time that I ever did that. It was beautiful, and worth the interruption to my run. As I ascended a few minutes later, I couldn't help but wonder how the stairwell came to be place there. It is not a temporary structure. t is solid and comes to rest at its upper end a foot or two above the ground. Because there is no sign of any development around it, the stairs must have led up to a wooden landing that has long since decayed and left no footprint. I have been thinking about it off and on since finding it. It has crossed my mind that it could be part of the old North Lawrence park/fair grounds that went along the river in the late 1800's. I'm going to ask around, and let you know when I do.

Continuing on with the no-leaves theme; the run also reminded me (as it does every year) just how many incredible trees we have along the river. Their scale is really enormous for this region of the country. In other months, I never notice the trees because they are covered. The greenery they carry somehow diminishes the majesty of their scale. And the vines and volunteer plants that hang off of and between the giants are impressive in their own right. I spent a lot of the run simply looking upward (not a recommended way to run on technical trails - which this isn't) and observing the intricacies of the superstructure that underlies the three-season greenery. Quite impressive.

In swimming - yes, dear readers, I said swimming - I had a bit of a breakthrough week. My coach had been working to get me to do unilateral breathing on my dominant (right) side. I have always been a unilateral breather on my left side. And while I could swim decently that way (without too much post-swim dizziness), breathing on my dominant side was causing me to cough and sputter. I was quickly doubting whether I'd be able to actually pull this swimming-thing off. But at the end of a session last week, my coach mentioned bilateral breathing. She said that most triathletes swim using that technique. It is a little harder, but that I might be able to get used to it once I had unilateral breathing down. Just for kicks she had me try it. What happened next was amazing. I took to it as a cat laps milk (that's Shakespeare, people. No kidding). For me it was the most intuitive way I could possibly imagine swimming. My coach seemed a bit shocked and very pleased.

So, now I have my post-surgery stroke down (that sounds either really obscene or medically bad - too many meanings for one simple word). I hope to be able to emerge from the pool in a few months ready to take on a triathlon of some real proportion at that time. For me, finding the optimal way to breathe was the key to becoming comfortable in the pool. I hate doing anything I care about in a half-hearted manner. So achieving this breakthrough ticked off a step toward a major goal for the Winter.
Move Rec: If A Tree Falls - incredible documentary about the human spirit and a commentary on the limits (right or wrong) of protest.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Making a splash in the running world

No pictures this week (or maybe for a while). I began my transition from running to swimming for the surgery over the Winter months. I did run a slightly below average number of miles this week. But I took a couple of days off in order to meet with a swim coach in order to go at my new endeavor with the proper form. What I learned is that my form was really bad. I could swim some laps, but would drown a little bit each time. I'm not a lot better at the moment, but at least I understand why I'm drowning.

In all seriousness, I am now feeling the effects of the hyaluronic acid wearing off in my right knee. My left knee hurts quite a bit as well, but I'm going to let it ride until a couple of months post surgery (on my rt knee) when I'll have injections in both knees. The acid works so well that I should never have to have surgery in my left knee (knock wood).

I'm heading out to do a solid North Shore run this a.m. with my running buddy, Eric. Trails seem to be the best things for my knees. They rarely hurt when I'm bouncing off of uneven rocky surfaces.

One odd thing that happened while swimming was that I experienced another calf cramp. Normally I get those on long road runs. I was surprised and a bit disappointed that one would kick in while I was kicking in the H2O.

I hope to get in I hope to get in 12-14 more runs before the surgery. I also plan to emerge from the pool in the Spring with a buff swimmer's-build body that will enable an easy transition back to running and also add much-needed core strength. So maybe there will be a photo in 3-4 months.

Finally, I saw a movie this week called The Long Run, about an African woman in South Africa who is discovered and trained to run an ultra by a mono-maniacal German coach. While the running scenes were a little wrought (read not very believable), the general feel of the flick was really quite charming. I'll give it a tentative thumbs up (it ain't no Chariots of Fire). But I have seen worse...

Next week - transition week 2.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Something to read if the asteroid doesn't hit us tonight.

What an interesting week - perhaps only from a Proustian perspective, but oh, well. Due to the cold and darkness, a lot of my running was indoors. I did manage a couple of good road runs and a crappy (in terms of how I felt), yet stimulating(in terms of finding a new course) run this a.m. Good lord, I hope you are all still following me after that disjointed sentence. As I could've said, I felt like crap, but took a new route. I started down the blue course at Clinton, and as soon as I had a chance to access the shoreline, I popped off of the trail and ran along clay and sand mixture that lines the lake. It was pretty, quiet, and a little dirty. I also found an inlet that obviously hadn't had water in it for some time and traced the circumference of that as well before ending at a boat launching area. I plodded up the hill, and found myself back on the white trail. Even thought there had been a little wind when I began the run, there was a stillness that had fallen over the trail as I made my way back. It was interesting that there were plenty of cars in the lot, but I only saw one other person the whole time I ran - s woman with her two dogs right at the start of the run.

On Friday evening, I learned how two do two things. First, I finally took a few more tentative steps across that fabled bridge to the 21st Century, and installed a wireless router for my house (I'm using it to write in this blog right now). Second, I used a Red Box for the first time. Being one of the thousands who recently punted Netflix (that company's behavior really was similar to having your best friend kick you in the nuts and call you names), I had been using the library a lot recently, but did want to try Red Box. How cool. If you haven't tried it, go on line and give it a try. It'll hook you up with more titles (and shockingly genres like foreign) than you would expect. It'll also reserve movies, tell you which box has them, and give you directions (all for $1 or so). I recognize RB's shortcomings, but for quick easy entertainment, it is a viable option.

Finally - and this may be a bit esoteric - but I learned the difference between a clasp and a hasp...... anyone..... didn't think so. A hasp is a lockable clasp - like you might find on a shipping trunk, or a shed door. Ahh knowledge. It never gets tiresome.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tucson Running

Mountain shot from a car in Tucson

So, while not doing the ultra-marathon last week, I did have a couple of good runs in Tucson. On Sunday afternoon, I did a slow 7 miler in the heat along a dried-up river bed. It was really a beautiful place to run, with a shrub and sand-filled depression 100-150 feet wide on one side, and parks and trails lining the other. I had a small bottle of Fiji water with me. Once I depleted its contents after the first mile, I popped into a park every couple of miles to refill it from fountains. The temp was pretty good, 80F+ or so, but the absolute lack of humidity parched me and dried out my lips almost immediately. I had on SPF 70, and I'm glad I did. I was still a bit red (but not burned) when the run ended.

The next morning I got up early and ran in much cooler temps for 4 miles. Even though my hosts at Maya Tea and I had splashed a bit too much tequila (fine tequila it was, too) down our throats the night before, I was still able to do a nice run at an 8:15-ish pace. There were a lot more runners out in the morning. The cyclists seem to favor the afternoons.

Since my return I have just done a couple of 3 mile runs. I'll probably do that again tomorrow and knock out a long run on Saturday. I'm trying to give my knees a bit of a reprieve. I went to my orthopedic doctor as soon as I got into town to have him take a look at my left knee. The bad news is that it also has a bit of osteo-arthritis settling in. The good news is that it is not at all in the same scope or scale as the OA in my right knee. So, if it hurts, I'll be able to get hyaluronic acid injections and not worry about it (possibly ever again).

I'll post more on Sunday.

Below is a picture of a pretty farmer's market in Tucson.