Freedom Run

Most of you know that I am an avid runner. Well, maybe not so much since my hip replacement a little over a year ago. Since my 1 year checkup showed that my implant has been incorporated into my skeleton I have given myself a license to return to my addiction.  Kind of.

I went for a 4 miler yesterday and did something I haven’t done in at least 5 years. I didn’t use a running app on my iPhone to track my mileage and time. Sure, I took my phone because having that lifeline is good, just in case. And pictures. I like to take pictures.

What has changed?

A few things. While recovering, maybe regenerating is a better word, from the surgery I started to read about the human body. I bounced around among tomes on evolution and fitness. As I read more, I started to focus in on a couple of areas – biomechanics and anatomy . NOTE: The links I just provided are a sampling of what is written and represent my gateway reading. There are many other books and articles. I encourage you to read all you can.

As my recovery continued I found myself looking for a job. That process, which is worth its own post or two, took several months and occupied a lot of my time. There was a guilt paradox going on. I had the “free” time to do more cycling and running but felt guilty if I wasn’t pursuing a job with that time. When I did find a job (a great one that has been very much what I hoped for) I committed to a long commute that kind of puts a twist on my typical morning workouts. I’m still adjusting to the timing.

All I’m saying is that my ramp up to distance has been slower than it would have been a year ago. And that has turned out to be a good thing. Since I couldn’t run, I read about it, and I found alternate forms of exercise. All of that informed my running going forward.

As a writer, I decided to start a book about what I’ve learned and to distill that learning into something readable and prescriptive. In taking my own medicine, I’ve re-thought how I run. Not my form, but my pace and mindset.

Photo Sep 20, 3 33 34 PM

I used to run to a clock and work on specific workouts. Statistics embraced me at the end of each run and were automatically uploaded to social media. I loved it because I got in contact with other runners, many of whom have become friends beyond the running. All of it reinforced my process. Was I addicted to running or to the tracking of my running.

Admittedly, I am not fast. I’m average or a little better, but I will never win a distance race. Period. Why was I working on speeding up my running? Did I really enjoy that?

On a run one weekend I was thinking about running. It was only 3 miles, but for my point in recovery, that was my goal. I looked around and started to play a little as I ran. On a wintery, Sunday morning in the New England town in which I live, the roads are quiet and the woods are stark and graphic. Sections of snow and ice make force you to pay attention, and I ran out into the road to avoid some of the obstacles. Then I started to run out and around in the road just for fun, like a kid pretending to be an airplane or stepping around some obstacle course. I smiled without thinking about it.

The run became fun. I’ve always enjoyed running, but this was a different kind of enjoyment. I still had my iPhone app running, but I was having too much of a good time going down some side roads I hadn’t traversed and stopping once in a while to hear a woodpecker hammering on an oak tree. That sounds carries on a cold, brisk morning.

Yesterday, taking advantage of a warm spell, I went out and followed my instincts. Although I didn’t run on a trail, I am able to use the margins of our country roads to good IMG_5122effect. My neighbors don’t seem to mind me running on the edges of their lawns. As you can see, that area is usually offered up to the gods of snow plowing anyway, so I’m not doing much damage.

I continue to use a natural style of running, meaning it stems from a barefoot mode of movement that prevents overstriding and encourages a forefoot to midfoot landing. What I have found is that it isn’t about how your foot lands, it is about not overstriding. In other words, your foot should not extend out beyond your knee when you step forward. The only way to do that is to keep a bend in your knee, which eliminates heavy heel striking. You can still heel strike, but without an overstride, you significantly reduce the impact.

That said, I do wear shoes. What I wear are have a low lift – only 4mm – and a nice wide toebox. IMG_5128

These are Saucony’s and besides the low cushion, low lift they have a cool color. Why shoes? Well, the side of the road is not a prestine trail. There are many interesting deposits which are the outcome of human activity.

 

The shards of glass are pretty common. The computer remnant was a bit unique, but there is always something. True, you hardcore barefooters will rightfully say that over time my skin will thicken and these things won’t matter. I started down that path and found that shoes don’t hurt in pursuit of good form. Sorry. Plus, I can take a running break at Starbucks and not have worry about putting on those gauze booty things.

More important, I gave myself permission to not worry about time or distance. Just run and enjoy the motion. Those times when I felt the pace going up, I slowed myself down to where I was breathing normal and not huffing too much.

What’s it matter?

Slower, means better form. Better form means less injury. I’ll post more about that sometime, but not right now.

This is about enjoyment of an activity I have done the majority of my life. I’m in it for the long run, so to speak. I already admitted that I’m not fast and my 3hour, 37minute and change Hartford Marathon is going to be my best. I managed a sub 47 minute 10k, too. That was my best at that distance. I’m okay with those times. Clearly, I’m not setting any records and improvement means taking a “work” perspective to running. That’s not my mode anymore. I’m running untethered.

What I’ve learned is running is about finding your pace and enjoying motion.

RUN FREE, RUN EASY

 

 

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Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Law and Religion*

*But, were afraid to ask

Catchy title.

Ever since what’s-her-name in Kentucky refused to do her job as an elected official there have been quite a few posts and articles on both sides of this story.

The funny thing is that there is only one right answer. This is one of those things that is so basic, so foundational to what our country is all about, I am appalled that people running for the Presidency of the United States don’t get it right. But, then again, part of the character of this country is that anyone can run for office.

Here’s the fundamental principle – We are a nation of laws, not religions. We are bound to uphold the laws and we are entitled to practice religion with freedom. Let me say it another way. Religion is a right of the individual. At the same time, the individual is also a citizen whose citizenship mandates that they live within the law. People have power because of their rights. Governments have power because we have agreed they can enact laws by which we will abide.

Constitution and gavel

For reference, it is the First Amendment to our constitution which guarantees the right to practice whatever religion you want.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Gorgeous. Just absolutely gorgeous. In just 45 words we are granted our individual freedoms. Except for that gun thing. That is in the Second Amendment.

There is a lot written about this amendment and what James Madison had in mind, but it seems pretty self explanatory. And the semicolons are cool.

I could go into how you can trace the First Amendment back to the hypocrisy of the PuritaThe Scarlet Letterns who were among the first to come the America to gain religious freedom. As soon as they established themselves, they proceeded to persecute anyone who didn’t agree with their religion. Indeed, they controlled the government.
They were what we term “bullies”. Indeed, when you look back in history just about any government run by a religion ended up being a bully. I could go into it, but I won’t.

I could go into how Roger Williams got so fed up with the Puritans that he founded Rhode Island and made it a state that tolerated real religious freedom. Roger Williams He was a staunch believer in the separation of church and state because when religion got embedded in politics, it diminished the religion. So, much of the ideal of the first amendment came from Williams. I could get into that, but I won’t.

I could go into the beauty of the Bill of Rights. Do you know what that is? Just in case you don’t (‘cause Sarah Palin doesn’t seem to know), I’ll explain. The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments of the US Constitution. They were originally incorporated in the body of the Constitution, but pulled into the amendments because they were different. The Constitution was about the form of the government and how the three branches of the government were to be organized to balance each other out. The Bill of Rights is just that – the most foundational statement of the rights of the individual in relation to the government. How beautiful is that? I could go into how they evolved, but I won’t.

I could explain that James Madison and a few others drafted most of the Constitution and then he wrote the Bill of Rights. Many of his ideas had been formed when he was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, which helped form the government that became entitled under the US Constitution.

James MadisonMadison was a Theist, like Jefferson. They believed in a God, but not necessarily in religion. Interesting? So for Madison, the separation of religion reason. In his mind, religion would corrupt government. So funny. In our 21st century there are great examples of corruption going both ways. What I get from this is it is men who corrupt, not government or religion. I could go further into this concept, but I won’t.

I could go into the first phrase that basically says the government can not proclaim a religion. That is the fundamental separation of church and state. What’s cool about it is that it is mandated in the Bill of Rights, which is all about protecting the rights of the individual. In its way, the Bill of Rights puts the individual’s rights ahead of the power of the government. And in order to assure that, it says the government can’t get into religion. This is the part of the First Amendment that the chick in Kentucky forgot to read. I could go into how this came from that whole Church of England thing with Kings and divorce and beheadings and great plots for movies, but I won’t.

I could take a step back and remind all of you that before the US Constitution was accepted we operated under the Articles of Confederation.  In short, the Articles were all about states rights and no or very limited federal government. It was a dismal failure. Which makes me wonder why anyone in their right mind thinks we ought to empower the states even more to manage common rights and services, like healthcare and education. Yeah, I don’t like big government, but I also would hate having to have a different currency for every state I traveled to. That was the reality back then. Different currencies. What a freakin’ mess. I could go into more of why it failed, but I won’t.

I could go into how wonderfully those first ten amendments are written. They are all short, to the point, hard to misinterpret (yes, even the gun thing) and foundational. Compare those ten to those that followed and you will truly respect the absolute genius of the Bill of Rights. As a writer they are the greatest example of the power of words and brevity that I can point anyone to. I could review them all, but I won’t.

What I will do is state without a doubt that I love our Constitution. I take it personally. Every day I exercise all kinds of freedoms that james Madison guaranteed me and that our Founding Fathers supported. Every day I am grateful that there are 10 churches in or near the small town of 15,000 where I live. They almost outnumber the pizza parlors, but not quite. Pizza is a religion here in New England. I don’t go to any of them, but I love that people are free to worship in any way they want. I am grateful that I can write that last sentence and not fear that some zealot is going to put a black bag over my head and…well, you know what I mean.

A Little White Church

We are a nation of laws. Those laws guarantee that we have the right to practice whatever religion we want, within the guardrails of civil justice. So, that chick in Kentucky is just wrong. Period. And her lamentations are an affront to my Bill of Rights and the freedoms the generations before me (including my dad who fought in WW2) lived and died for.  And that isn’t just my opinion. It is a fact. She is wrong. Period.

Take time today recognize how many times you exercise the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights or even just the First Amendment. I think you’ll be surprised how much you actually take for granted. Especially on Facebook. Geez.

And, if I may, our greatest freedom is the freedom of movement. So go run and run free!

Same Sex Marriage and Information Technology

An odd combination for a blog topic, but not really.

In the world of IT the pendulum of control has found a logical resting place. For the majority of enterprises those services within the enterprise that are considered common are under the  management of a central IT department. Services like email, data center servers and storage, shared network, remote access, security, and local connectivity are examples of services that fall into that category.

Before the pervasive use of IT, each line of business was best served by doing their own thing and focusing on their own bottom line. As technology became pervasive and the enterprise recognized that information was foundational, the recognized the need to share and interconnect systems. Barriers were quickly seen in technical, process and financial areas and acceptance of common standards developed to resolve those differences and make information readily available so the lines of business could focus on generating revenue.

handshake

You see, most enterprise leadership recognizes that IT is too complex and having each line of business do their own thing is not only inefficient, it leads to high risk from a security and financial perspective. Consistent delivery of connectivity, server, storage and desktop services provide benefit to the enterprise. Even for applications that are specific to a business process, there are still basic guidelines that are followed – not using static IP addresses in code, as an example. It is all for the common good.

The millennium transition (remember Y2K?) and a need for constant security readiness have taught most enterprises that they need to accept and enforce the right level of common infrastructure and standards. Times have changed and business has adapted.

global IT

Now, think about our national infrastructure. What would it be like if Eisenhower and Congress had thought to let each state make it’s own highway decisions? We’d have varying gauges a roads and different numbers for the same streets. Yes, there is a lot of local influence and investment in the national highway system but the foundational structure and rules of operation are mandated by the central authority.

US interstate

The examples of “common good” mandates can go on for quite a while. In almost all cases there is a transition point where local authorities or lines of business are given control, but they have to play within the standards that promote the common good.

When it comes to the rights of individuals, the common good in the United States is synopsized by the first 10 amendments of our Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.

It was primarily penned by James Madison and is one of the most eloquent and simple statements of human liberty ever made into law. My favorite of those amendments is the first one, which guarantees freedom of the press, speech and religion all in one simple sentence.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That is the entire amendment. It means that people have the freedom to practice religion in their own way without government interference. The counter is also true. The government can not force a religion onto its people (no law respecting an establishment…). This is a fundamental difference between what is civil action as expressed in law and what is moral action as expressed in individual religious belief.

Constitution and gavel

Kind of a simple construct. You may legislate civil actions but you may not legislate morality. Morality, expressed through religion, the press, and speech is an open forum, within the tolerances of civil action. Civil action is all about guardrails. Killing someone in a premeditated manner is murder and, as a society, we have decided that it is wrong. There are religions that concur with that fundamental, but it is not because of those religions that we hold it true that murder is wrong. As a society we have made that compact. Clearly, we do not agree on the consequences for murder, but we do agree that murder is wrong.

Marriage is both civil and social. We have wrapped legal fabric around an action that is a social construct so that there are basic rules that we follow in terms of licenses and dissolution. Even then, there are nuances in every state when it comes to how marriage is created or dissolved.

If the only reason for stating that gay marriage is not allowable is because of a religious cannon, then that is not defensible from a constitutional framework. The first amendment does not allow the government to make a law “respecting an establishment of religion.”

We the People

If your religion mandates that gay people can not marry, then do not allow that, but do not force your beliefs on the rest of the country. When it comes to the law of the land, you are totally allowed to follow your beliefs, but a) you must accept that other beliefs are just as valid under the law and b) you can’t ask the government to make your religious cannon into law.

I’ve tried to write a better ending to this post than the paragraph above, and anything I say beyond that seems trite or argumentative.

I often end my blogs with the wish that you run free. That, to me, is the purest expression of freedom. The freedom to move under the power of my own body and enjoy the world around me. Today I exhort you all to celebrate freedom. It can be difficult to hear what other people say, but at the end of the day, we should all be grateful that we have the freedom to say what we think.

Be Free

Just an Average Guy

I am an average guy. But, I am not normal.

And that is a good thing.

Very few things are average when it comes to people. Let’s start with the basic question: How do you measure a person? Height? Weight? BMI? Years of education? Income? Age? How many pushups they can do? How often they have sex?

I don’t want to ruin my reputation as a writer, but I did a lot of math and statistics in college. The first thing I learned is respect for the numbers. The second thing I learned is that with the right perspective, the numbers can be made to represent lots of things. It is a statistical thing. How you measure determines your results. In graduate school I did a really interesting (Hey! It was for me.) thesis that used all kinds of statistical machinations to see if my hypothesis was true. I won’t get into the gory details, but I will say that along the way I had to make decisions on how and what to measure. I was able to find all kinds of research justifying how I did it. I’d be fooling you and myself if I didn’t think I could have found the same amount of research to justify a totally different approach. And that was before the world wide web and Google and wikipedia. I had to use a real library and keypunch my statistical analysis onto Hollerith cards and batch run them in a thing called a mainframe.

hollerith01

Melancholy over numbers taught me one thing; I could measure an entire population, calculate the mean (that is the statistician’s word for ‘average’) and find that no specific sample equals the mean. It happens all the time. So why does average matter? For manufacturing I think these kind of statistics are priceless, but for people? I’m not convinced. Sorry Dr. Oz, psychology and the weight loss industry, but I think you have it all wrong. We don’t exist on a normal density function (normal curve, bell curve, whatever). Only the measurements do.

normal curve

If I look at my height (5’5″) I am in the negative side of this normal curve. But, if I look at the number of men over 50 who have run at least 3 full marathons, written several books, have a graduate degree, most of their natural hair, a US patent, and a hip replacement, I think I’d be on the very end of that long, positive tail.

Like everyone else, I exist on many curves. The average of me is the sum of many measures, many of which are not normal. And I am okay with that.

multi curves

By blurring reality with summary statistics, analysts are missing the micro-trends of normal. Normal is context driven and very subjective since there is no such thing as objective perception. Sorry Ayn Rand. Objectivism belongs in fiction, not in reality. Normal is a blend of traits, attributes and myriad other characteristics that make each of us different.

Why is this important? 

It demands a change in perspective. We focus on all the wrong things when we equate average with desirable. Think about body style, food consumption, exercise, and don’t even get me started on how fucked up our educational system is because we quantify all the wrong things and then apply them to our children.

What is normal?

As I am often willing to do, let’s take it back a few million years. Back when we were developing as humans and became the greatest hunters on this planet. The only animal that has learned to survive in all areas of the planet – well, except for cockroaches.

We didn’t understand statistics while we evolved. (Yes, evolution is a fact.) What we understood was that every person could contribute. I am assuming that unless you were a liability to the pre-history man, you were considered a positive resource to have. That meant that the range of acceptable characteristics was measured by contribution, not focus on a specific attribute. I say that because survival was about getting enough calories to sustain while we had sex to procreate, which led to the need for more calories. During that 2 million year period of pre-civilization our DNA got wired in. We learned to dream because we learned to track animals. Successful tracking meant we had to project our minds into the animal we were tracking to understand where they would go when we lost the trail.

Zip forward to today. (Sorry for the whiplash.) I am seeing people beginning to fight against that averaging of expectations. In some cases they are fighting at the outer edges of the curve (#StigmaFighters) in other areas they are fighting in the middle of the mix (Virgin Industries and other employers who focus on people). There are men and women I know who have found new strength in accepting who they are and then building on it in a positive way. Some lift weights that are heavier than me, others craft words that melt my mind, and others move across the world with fleet feet and strong hearts, touching the essence of what made man dominant – distance running.

You homework is to find one trait you are most average about and one that you are least average about. First, humor yourself that you are the product of 3 million years of evolution. Then have a beer. Then be proud of being just an average guy (gal). Then celebrate not being normal.

Run Free. Run Smooth.

The Resolution Solution

As I left my first physical therapy session after the magic six-week post op period I was very happy. The physical therapist said I was causing them problems because my recovery was weeks ahead of schedule. They were having to revise their plan for me to be much shorter. I was not working according to their schedule and I was glad to cause them consternation. Being fit and healthy has paid off in unexpected ways.

As I left the building, a smile beaming to everyone and a spring in my step, my main thought was that I wanted to get to the point in 2015 where I could put my sock on my right foot without mechanical aid. I got a kit for hip replacement that includes this could device. It is a half tube with cords on it. You slip your sock over it, then put your foot in and pull your sock up. Works great and it is the only device I still use.

hip replacement kit

Then I wondered if that constituted a New Year’s Resolution.

Excuse me if I get the whole NYR thing wrong. My family never really got into them. I am grateful for that because I don’t think I am built to handle resolutions of such intensity. If you are like me; my sympathies if you are; then making resolutions is a futile effort, unless the resolution involves training for a distance run. For some reason I can train using an extended plan and pretty much stick to the intent of the plan. Go figure.

Marathon_Walk1

I attribute my resolution paralysis to my short attention span. Maybe it is better termed Easily Diverted Syndrome or EDS. Wait! That won’t work. Anything acronym with “ED” in it can be mistaken for something related to erectile dysfunction. That has nothing to do with being easily diverted. At least it hasn’t impacted me.

Back on topic; how about calling it the Quickly Diverted Syndrome or QDS. Nobody can muck up an acronym with a “Q” in it.

It isn’t that I don’t make plans. It is that I need something more concrete to focus on. Here’s an example: “I will lose weight in 2015.” Losing weight is, what? An end state? A mantra? It sure isn’t a strategy or a tactic or a plan to get to an end state (isn’t that kind of a tactical thing?).

If losing weight is my goal, then I need a plan to get there. Is my strategy going to be diet, exercise, Dr. Oz’s next great cure, magical elixirs, or a combination of some or all of them? Once I decide what the strategy is, I need to put together a plan. It is more that just “I’ll eat less and workout more.” For me to make a significant accomplishment that takes more than a couple of minutes I need a sectionalized plan.

“Sectionalized.” I just made that word up. We can do that in the computer age.

Going back to the running thing. I am successful there because there are plans that break down what you need to do day be day over a period of weeks and months to get to a specific running goal. You just print them out and do what they say day be day and you win the New York Marathon. Sounds pretty simple, right?

It ain’t for me.

I often skip steps and modify others because, well, because that’s how I pretty much do everything. It is never the same twice. Maybe I’m not a good example to follow if you are trying to rally accomplish resolutions. There is one consistent thing I do in my self-created, dynamic universe and that is allocate time dedicated to doing whatever it is I need to do next to get to my goal.

You don’t have to become an automaton or a slave to your calendar, but you do need to honor the slices of time you’ve set aside. I am always putting in free time where I can digress and play like a 3-year-old, but I also spend some time understanding most of what I need to do to get to the end game and then sectionalizing those tasks onto some kind of calendar based program.

It is the proverbial “eating an elephant” process. A truly successful person is surrounded by elephant skeletons. I am certain Tony Robbins has acres of property litter with the carcasses of elephant projects he has devoured. Even in this phase, I can falter. It is easy for me to get lost in finding a tool to help me track all this shit to the point where I spend more time playing with the tool and not doing the shit.

Tony Robbins

The first step is to admit you have Quickly Diverted Syndrome. Once you do that, you can apply controls of governance to yourself, most of which involve allocating specific time to your actions (“I won’t spend more than 30 minutes trying to make Evernote work for this”). It isn’t foolproof, but it is far better than the more random approach I used to use.

It has even edged into my real world existence where I allocate time on my calendar to do the tasks I’ve committed to. If I don’t, then I face a day full of meetings and the only time I can do the real work is after hours. I don’t want that because, you know, Twitter.

So my first ever NY Resolution is:

 I resolve to sectionalize my resolutions so that I can actually achieve my goals. 

Now that I have put that stake in the ground, I need to think of some resolutions that are a little more demanding that getting to put my sock without the cool tool.

Enjoy the day! As always, I would enjoy any and all comments.

Run Free. Run Easy. Just Run.

Fit to Recover

I have been a personal advocate of staying fit for a long time. At least the last 40 years. This past week that advocacy paid off. A large reason for my speedy recovery from the hip replacement surgery has been my fitness. A 40 plus year pursuit of fitness has given me two benefits in making the recovery happen.

Let me be clear. I consider myself to be pretty much an average guy. I am not fast, big, or strong like professional athletes. I place pretty well for my age group in races that I have done and I’ve always been able to improve my performance or not have it deteriorate over time. I am proof that you don’t have to be a world class athlete to stay fit and have fun doing it. One indicator is that my weight really hasn’t changed much in the last 25 years. I still wear the same jeans I had from the mid-90s.

What I Had to Get Over

It might seem prideful, but I’ve always been very healthy and I attested that more to a consistent workout lifestyle than to any particular eating program. Whether it was running, tennis, racketball, cycling, or lifting, I was active all year round. I was never a musclehead, but weights of some sort have always been part of the routine to compliment the other activities.

Having to go in for hip replacement made me seem like a failure. All that work and effort and my body still failed me. Going into the surgery I did a lot of reading and talking to people who had replacement work done themselves. It was a consistent message that this surgery had a high degree of success and people returned to near normal activity levels. That improved my expectations and attitude, but the sense of failure still lingered.

Head in Hands

In retrospect, there are a number of things I would have done to hold off the onslaught of arthritis. Most of all I would have focused a lot more on my running form, not just running exercises to get faster or build endurance. Unfortunately, there are few materials that really talk about running form from a true biomechanical perspective. I have found one that is proven, but that is for a future post.

My Post Surgery Realization

Now that I am 1 week and 4 days post surgery and my recovery consistently gets called a “model” by the physical therapists and doctors, I realize that my level of fitness had two benefits.

First, it was a lot easier for the orthopedic surgeon to do his job. My legs are fairly lean and the muscles are fit from cycling a lot lately. It made it easier for him to get to the joint and to do the work. I was told a little about how much manipulation you go through when they test the joint. It is not something I want to find on YouTube, although I am sure I could find it.

Screenshot 2014-12-06 16.13.13

His incisions are clean and not showing any indication of infection or leakage and I can tell they are healing well. A fit metabolism comes with the general fitness. It is a body used to recovery from some trauma. I needed some pain meds to get through those first few days, but even that requirement has eased off quite a bit. I’m on to Tylenol a few times a day and one pain killer before bed to make for a better rest.

The second benefit has been in the process of physical therapy. I’ve got a good base to work from, but I am also used to the process of doing sets of exercises and keeping good form while doing repetitive motion. I expect the burn to happen when I push the edge and know how to breath to keep relaxed while putting in the effort. It is just a natural thing for me. The therapy progresses faster if you push it to the limit, but not much further. You can’t overstrain, but you need to work it.

Again, I’m not that unusual. I just have a habit that seems to be paying off.

The Fear Is Gone

I mentioned the fear of surgery in the last blog. It is normal. I really was not looking forward to being cut open. Now that it is all done I am looking forward to continued recovery and rediscovering different activities. Yes, I plan on running again and I will focus on the Pose Method of running. I will also start building the mileage on my bicycle, increase plyometrics and even getting into swimming. All that and just playing around like a kid. We all need to be kids.

All of this has led me to start reading a lot about biomechanics of the human body. It is a fascinating subject and I hope it will inform my active lifestyle in the future.

If this helps any of you to rekindle your desire to get in shape, then I am happy. Take your time. Find your limits. Give your body the recovery it needs, but be consistent and always push a little more.

I would love to hear your thoughts and views.

Thanks for reading.

The Bionic Journey Begins

On Tuesday morning around 8:30am a female anesthesiologist getting ready to administer a spinal block said to me that I would feel a little pinch.  I was sitting up resting against something akin to a massage chair. The second anesthesiologist had put a plastic mask over my mouth and nose and was feeding me oxygen. Several other members of the surgical team were off to the side preparing the computerized arm that would assist the surgeon in my total hip replacement.  I was expecting the anesthesiologist to say “You’ll start feeling a little sleepy,” but that didn’t happen. Actually, nothing happened. In one split second I was wondering when they were going to put me under and in the next I was in recovery with a nurse rubbing my hand and arm asking me how I was doing. About 4 hours had passed and I was now bionic. An average guy turned into a potential superhero. Don’t get excited.  I still haven’t figured out my super power, although it might be recovery from major surgery.

I did experience the one thing that I was dreading most – catheterization. I’ve had fantasies of nurses fondling my manhood, but this wasn’t one of them. Any man reading this will momentarily cringe at the thought of a rod being inserted in their member. It is just not a natural thing and something we are genetically taught to protect ourselves from. Then there is always the weird fear you have about the nurse being pretty and worrying if you will have a manly reaction to her touch. Well, don’t worry. That kind of thought is the furthest from you mind. With multiple layers of discomfort engaged, she used a confident hand and administered to catheter which, much to my dismay, wasn’t a painful as I thought it would be. It did feel good to get my bladder relieved.

When my room was ready I made the trip up to the 12th floor and got wheeled into my room. Then began the first of a repeated process of blood pressure, oxygen, pulse, temperature and going through the identification checks. And the meds. The meds were multiple pills, the best being those light narcotics that made the pain be fuzzy in the background.

I wiggled my toes for anyone who walked into the room like a second grader who had learned his first song on a violin. Feeling warm and cozy I figured I would settle in for a long nap and wake up in 2 days to go home.

Then it happened.

Her name was Stacy and she was the physical therapist. Hidden behind that cheerful smile, dark hair and pretty face was an evil demon. Well, that’s what I thought when she said “We’re going to get you up and walk for a while.”

Here’s where those many years of going out to run or being at mile 20 of a marathon and wondering WTF paid off. I didn’t protest or grumble. I knew this was where the rubber met the road and with the first step out of the bed I was going to set the tone for my recovery. Getting well is like going into training. There is a program and you have to follow it. Stacy was great and showed me the right way to get out of bed without twisting things. She also made me do it myself after she showed me.

I used a walker to go from my bed over to the door and back. That was all I was going to do on the surgery day. That small journey was about all I could take. She said it was also very good for right after surgery.  They’d be back for more later.

I was in and out of drug and pain induced sleep. Teri got there just after my PT and stayed with me until it was dark and she had to go to get to the grocery store before it closed. I was not great company, but just having her next to me was all I could ask for.

Day One Post Op

I won’t bore you with the repetition of pokes and prods except that I was very consistent in my blood pressure (115/65 on average) and heart rate (62bpm). My pain level never really got above what I characterized as a 4 on a 10 scale and the basic pain meds were taking care of it. That felt really good. I wasn’t trying to be a manly man and suck it up. If my pain went high, I wanted them to know because it meant something. Plus, a body in pain is not focused on healing, but on prevention. For a short time and in the right amount pain medication is a great curative.

The main program each day was my PT and my occupational therapy. That and mastering peeing in a bottle while lying down in bed. Not as easy as you think.

I got a toweling off and clean surgical pants from the OT. Even got into the clean T-shirt I brought. I was beyond being self conscious that I was commando style under my garments. Getting comfortable trumped most everything else.

On the morning PT I managed to steer the walker on one round of the 12th floor. That wore me out. I tried to read but my brain could not engage. I learned that daytime TV is totally worthless and repetitious. There are women discussion panels, hollywood watchers, stars who want to be psychologists, psychologists who want to be stars, and judges.

I was thankful for the sleep induction from the drugs.

When the second round of PT came time I was grateful for the escape. We started down the hall but this time we turned into the PT Gym. There I did some leg exercises (more on that in a future post) and climbed stairs. One day after surgery and I was climbing stairs.  I even impressed myself.

Day Two Post Op

PT was there first thing.  At 7:30am Stacy and I were rambling down the hallway in the walker and I was moving with a lot more flexibility, even though it was still very still stiff. In the gym I completed four rounds of stairs and Stacy handed me my cane. “This is yours to keep.” She set it up and I walked around the gym getting used to the rhythm of the movement.

I decided I would leave the walker and go with the cane. She said I could now move around freely and that she would warn the nurses so they wouldn’t try to tackle me. When we got back to the room she set me up in a chair, not the bed, and showed me how to get up and down and what not to do. She told me I should get up frequently but that was an unneeded instruction. I felt glorious with independence.  No one was going to stop me now. I could pee in a toilet. I was a big boy again!

With OT I learned how to put on my clothes and got to use this sock thing. I was skeptical at first, but it is a very cool way to put on socks when you can’t bend over. Being able to do that was the icing on the cake of me feeling independent.

Day Three Post Op

I was going home today. Early PT and visits from all the doctors and head nurses to make sure everything was in order. I had been moving a round with a cane with great ease and changed myself into my street clothes with great satisfaction. Dr.Gupta came for one last hospital visit and we covered all the details. After he left I recounted that I had gotten all of the “wants” in my new hip that I had listed. It was ceramic on plastic, done with computer assisted technology and the stem that will allow the bone to grow in (the option is to have the stem cemented in).

I got home and had a wonderful reunion with the family. They held off Thanksgiving dinner until the day I got home (Friday) and by the end of the day I was only using the cane to help me keep balance on the stairs and outside. We all stayed up late and had pumpkin and apple pie and laughed about things in general.

Today is day four, I am pretty much walking unassisted. I showered this morning and feel refreshed and nearly normal. It was much easier getting in and out of bed last night and this morning than at any other time since the operation. Basically, the recovery continues and much faster than I had expected.

I don’t have any biological reason that my recovery has been so good. I am an average guy except that I am now bionic. The only differentiator between myself and the other patients I saw on the floor who had undergone similar surgeries is that I am in shape. Not as good as I have been in the past, since I am up about 5 pounds, but I was still riding my bike and doing yoga up to the day before the surgery.  To me, the reason for the recovery is that I believe in running and the power that doing it well will give an individual. And keeping a smile on your face. It is hard not to recover when you are smiling.

I can’t end this without extending my thanks to all the the nurses and nursing aids who tended to me over the three days I was under their care. I was subjected to a constant barrage of smiles and good nature and, most important, true caring for my wellbeing. each time they touched me for a pulse or to feel my skin temperature they were healing me. It is a gift that I am grateful they share.

Belated Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.  As I remind myself each morning when there is that twinge of pain – “Persevere and be of good cheer.”  It was an admonition from a professor I had in graduate school, but one that seems appropriate right now.

Run free!

The Body of Writing

You won’t find blogs from me with the “N things you need to do to be a successful writer.” Frankly, there are a lot of people out there giving advise on how best to succeed as a writer so my voice would just be lost in the din. The best  advise I ever got was from Stephen King in his book “On Writing.” In that tome he dispelled some misbeliefs I had held and which had kept me from writing for decades.

Up until then I thought you had to have a fully formed plot in your head to be able to start a book. As I read other books I’d often wonder how authors thought of all the plot twists before they started to write.  I tried outlining and found that I was not built to construct that way. After each little attempt I would put it aside and let the idea simmer on a back burner.

At one point I decided to try writing the kind of literature people were buying. Romance novels! I had a friend who was an avid romance novel reader and she told me what made a good romance.  I attempted a few starts because at least I had a plot strategy. (Sorry, I can’t remember what it was. That notebook is decomposing in a dump in Arizona.) I did learn that I was not up to writing that style of book. I couldn’t even get out of the starting gate. I hadn’t read any romance novels, so it was not territory I could navigate. Reading is the foundation for writing. I didn’t really understand that, but have always been an avid reader.

Years later, when I read the King semi-biographical tutorial, everything changed. He recommended a very simple mantra. “Just fucking write.” Stephen freed me from the deception I had. He explained that he seldom knew where his books would go, he would just come up with the premise, start the story and let things get mixed together and develop as he went. It was as much a surprise to him as it would be to his readers.

So I decided to make my start and reinforced the effort by buying a fountain pen and a nice notebook. That was just something I wanted to do. Little did I know that creative first draft writing is all about using a pen or typewriter. A manual, tactile connection to each word.

Words on the page

Words on the page

Computers are fantastic. I love my MAC. But my first drafts are almost entirely written in ink or typed on a page.  I learned the difference between a first draft and an edited draft from King, too. That was the second liberating idea. Kind of a corollary to the first.  “Just fucking write and don’t look back.”  Get all the rambling thoughts and ideas out on paper first and don’t stop the stream of thought by trying to fix things that will obviously need to be fixed. There is no delete key on my fountain pen. Yes I do cross things out and make little notes, but I move forward with each touch of the nib to the paper or the key to the ribbon.

My #1 Olympia SM9

My #1 Olympia SM9

It might be that I am just a physical person, but this works for me. My sister, who is an expert typist and has immaculate penmanship, thinks I am funny. She was a professional secretary and she types faster than a manual typewriter can sustain. That little delay in putting the words to the paper makes me have to think of the word I am committing to. It makes me have to phrase the sentence and feel the rhythm of the writing. Good typing is all about keeping a smooth rhythm.

I got rhythm and off I went. At first by hand and later by keystroke, six-hundred pages later I had created my first novel.  It is entitled “A Bend in Space” and is still nicely tucked in my filing space awaiting my deft hand in reforming it into something that people would like to read. I like the concept and the plot but it needs work. I have learned a lot since then and need to go back and apply that learning. The beauty of it is that I have all my original writing to reference. Every moment of brilliance that leaked from my pen and every WTF-did-I-mean sentence that seemed necessary at the time. Nothing deleted.

By the time I started my second book, SYN-FIN, I was no longer afraid to just start attacking with words. In a nice bar in Santa Clara after a Cisco Users Group meeting I had a beer and began writing this image that started to form in my mind. For me writing is about how I describe the movie that is unfolding in my mind. Here’s the image:

Hungover, face down on the crushed granite of the Arizona desert, the early morning sun warmed the skin on the back of my neck.

frontcover

I loved the start. It still makes me smile, and that is all any writer can ask. Write what you like and about what is interesting to you and it will come off in the words you choose and the phrasing you make.

I guess I did come up with a list. You see what happens when you just start and let the words take you along?  This is what happened just now:

  1. Read.  Read a lot. Read often. Read good and bad and every genre you can stand.
  2. Just fucking write. It will get better.
  3. Don’t look back. Save editing and self doubt for the second draft.
  4. Don’t write to an audience. Write what you like. The audience will find you.
  5. Write anywhere and everywhere at any time.

Photo Nov 07, 5 15 18 PM

Sometimes, if I stop for a refreshment while waiting for a train, I’ll start putting words on paper. At home I have a writing area. Here’s my desk. I show it because it means you can pretty much write anywhere. I need to clean it up a bit, but it represents the history of writing because there is pen and paper, a manual typewriter (actually, several) and two laptop computers (MAC and Windows). And coffee. Coffee is important.

Photo Nov 18, 8 59 04 AM (1)

This is where I go word surfing. I like that term. Does that mean I have to wear a bathing suit when I write? Hmmm.

Want to be a writer? It’s all up to you. There really aren’t any rules. Go and discover your own and then publish a blog with a list of what you found. Feel free to use any of mine.

Run Free

It Hurts When I Do That

There’s an old joke, I think told by Henny Youngman, about a man who goes to the doctor and reports, “Doc, it hurts when I do this,” as he raises his arm. “Well, then don’t do that,” the doctor responds.

That is kind of what happened to me. When I went to an osteopath who is a specialist in hip issues for a diagnosis of my hip pain. It was osteoarthritis, which I already had a decent idea it was.

He did some mobility and flexibility tests (he moved my leg in several directions for about 10 seconds while I lay prone) and watched me walk for about 3 steps. His counsel consisted of basically saying that if there was too much pain he could prescribe something or give me a shot (neither of which I wanted). When I asked him about physical activity he said what I already knew. Ease up. I told him I was a runner and he said I should stop running or reduce it significantly. I did get to see the X-ray, and he pointed out where the arthritis is. Like I could really tell. I guess I got my $35 co-pay’s worth. He spent less time with me than I did waiting for him.

hip xray

Not my X-Ray

On a contrary note, my family physician, who did the referral, called me to see how it went (actually left his cell number for me to call back). He knows I am an avid runner and that this was a big issue. He spent a fair amount of time talking to me and doing the preliminary exam.

The difference between the two is their sense of self. My family physician has deep pockets of knowledge, but he never assumes he knows it all. When he did the exam he asked a lot of questions and did more flexibility tests asking how it felt with each one. The specialist seemed to have a conclusion as soon as he saw the X-ray and responded with a set diagnosis. Whether I was a physically active runner or not didn’t alter his approach or comments. I felt like I was almost bothering him to be there.

As a result I am left with finding options on my own. Yes, I am starting to look for a different specialist who is more oriented toward sports, but unless you understand what motivates a runner, you really can’t treat them for something like this.

What am I doing?

Well, I’ve shifted a lot of my workouts to cycling. I am building those muscles back up. I hadn’t realized how much I had lost in the last 2 years when I focused mostly on running. The motion and alternate muscle use feels good.

I’ve been able to run 3-5 miles and feel pretty much the same afterward, but I can’t run every day. I often do 5-10 minutes of treadmill running after I do a bike workout. The warmup seems to help and the dual workouts give me a boost.

What does it all mean?

Well, I doubt I’ll be running any marathons in the future. That’s OK. I can live with that. I do want to get to the point where I can reasonably to 10Ks and hit a half a few times a year.

To get there I am looking for ways to help my body find a new path. I am taking glucosamine daily and some ibuprofin if it gets too much. I make sure to stay in motion as much as I can during the day and I’m finding information about specific stretching and flexibility exercises. I have also gone back to cushioned running shoes since most of my running is on roads, not trails, but I have kept my minimalist form. When I run I feel very little impact. The benefit is that now I can shop for different running shoes! I’m thinking these will be my next purchase.

NB1400

I have noticed that the harder I work out, the better I feel the next day or so. That is a message my body is sending to me, although I am not totally willing to listen right now. I have a lot of faith in the human body. It can’t necessarily fix itself, but it can adapt if you work with it. Yeah, someday I may need a cortisone shot or even surgery. I’d like to see how far I can go without that. There is something inside me that says I can run again, like I used to. Maybe not as fast, but at least at distances that let me find the runner’s pleasure.

After learning to run again in a more minimal style, I am now going to learn to run again, period. Cycling has always been a love of mine, although not as convenient as running. These two movement exercises will help me find my path.

As always, Run Free!