Category Archives: Health and Fitness

Maggie, the Ancient One

Hello friends. We made it to another Saturday. Last week was a rough week. Our oldest dog, Maggie, has been having some issues. She is seventeen years old, which is pretty old for a dog. The past few nights she has been very restless, whining almost all night. Yesterday, about 3’oclock AM, we had to take her to the emergency vet. She had not slept at all and was behaving like she was in pain. The vet looked her over and gave her a relatively clean bill of health. She did say that it is possible that Maggie has dementia. This really sucks, for her and us.

Right now she is calm and sleeping on the couch next to me. She goes through these episodes a few times a week. Sometimes we will find her standing up and staring off into space. There isn’t really much we can do for her. It’s terrible watching a beloved companion deteriorate in old age.

One of the big side effects of Maggie’s up-all-night episodes is that we don’t get a high quality and sufficient quantity of sleep. If you haven’t read the book by Arianna Huffington, entitled, “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time,” get it and read it! It explains the immense importance of sleep. Low quality and/or not enough sleep can drastically impact our performance in all areas, and potentially sets us up for horrifying diseases like Alzheimer’s.

I’m not really sure how to handle the sleep situation. Maggie sleeps in the same room with us, and I don’t think we can change this. She needs to be close to us. So, I may look into getting her a sleep aid, like doggie melatonin, or something.

On another front, I am down three pounds this week. My eating was better last week, and I was able to get in a couple of runs. I expect to be in the low 230’s by next month’s 5K. As long as I can stay on my plan, there shouldn’t be any problems.

We have a lot to do today. I’ve neglected some of my manly duties, like lawn maintenance and cleaning the exterior of the house. Our place is starting to look like a haunted house, just in time for Halloween. Denice is not pleased.

That’s all for now. Until next time.

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Barefoot Benefit 5K

I ran the Barefoot Benefit 5K today. It was my first time running in an actual race. I really enjoyed the experience. The race was at Sequoyah Hills Park in Knoxville Tennessee, my hometown. As the name entails, the race was intended to be run barefoot, although that was not a requirement. I was surprised that out of the hundred or so participants, only a small handful were actually running barefoot. Go figure.

The course was entirely grass, held in an open expanse of the park. The Tennessee River flowed silently next to us. The ground was soft from a recent rain. This made it a little more difficult than running on pavent. The soft earth steals a little of your rebound energy with each step. I came fully prepared to run on pavement and was a little surprised when I found out the race was going to be in the grass. As a regular barefoot runner, I can tell you that I would prefer not to run on grass. Sure, it’s soft and easy on your feet, but it conceals potential dangers. You can’t see what’s lurking under it. The grass can hide all sorts of things; broken glass, dog poo, used condoms, AIDs infected needles… just use your imagination.

Aside from the turf, it was a really fun event. It was a beautiful day, and just cloudy enough to make the temperature comfortable. There was a cool breeze blowing during most of the race.

20171015_133748Denice and Sylar were there to cheer me on. Sylar is in training to become Denice’s service/therapy dog. He did great today. He only lost his shit a couple of times when I was passing by. The race was broken down into three laps, so every time I lapped he got a little excited. It felt really good to have them there.

I don’t remember my exact run time. I saw the clock at the finish line, and it was at forty-two minutes and something. Yeah, I’m slow, but for a fat guy, I suppose I’m doing ok.

I have another race coming up in November. This is a ‘conventional’ 5K, on the streets of downtown Knoxville. I will be running it barefoot. After seeing that a small fraction of racers actually raced barefoot at a barefoot event, I am expecting to probably be the only dude out there running shoeless. Should be interesting.

 

Our Journey into the Desert

Hi friends. Denice and I recently returned from a week in Phoenix Arizona. We went there in the hopes of finding help for Denice at the World renowned, Mayo Clinic. Denice sufferers from severe chronic pain from complications from a previous back surgery. We have exhausted the capabilities of the medical institutions here in Tennessee, so we had hoped that Mayo may be able to do something more.

First of all, the area where Mayo is located is beautiful. Their campus is amazing. It is the desert, full of giant cacti, dusty plains, jagged mountains, searing heat, and all sorts of strange plants and animals. We had a little bit of free time in the evenings to go and explore, and what we saw was spectacular.

The Mayo Clinic is a very impressive place. Denice had a team of doctors who all worked together to help find a solution to her chronic pain. We discovered that her back is structurally perfect. All the fusions and hardware look great. That is a relief because we were worried that more discs may have degenerated since the surgery. Of course, that still leaves her in severe pain that exists in the damaged nerves themselves, something that is very difficult to treat.

We returned home at the end of the week. The clinic gave us a couple of good treatment options, one of which Denice is unable to do right now. Basically, the only way forward is through a treatment plan that Mayo offers at their Pain Rehabilitation Clinic. It is a three-week program that teaches pain management techniques, that according to them, should help Denice control her pain without (or at least with less) pain medication. They are confident that the program will greatly improve her quality of life. She has already enrolled and will be starting in November.

The last couple of months of this year are going to be rough for us. I will have to stay home and work during the weeks, so I will only see her for a few days through this whole process. Lucky for us, Denice has a strong support system in her family, in particular, her mother and stepdad, who will be traveling from Colorado to stay with her through this. With their help and the help of her brother, I think we are going to be able to make this happen. Yes, it is going to happen, and we are enthusiastic that it will make a positive difference in her life.

Down, but not Out

Last week I had a bit of a setback. I was on my usual after work jog around the park. It was nothing out of the ordinary, just a quick couple of barefoot miles. I finished the run and drove home. When I stepped out of the car I noticed a pain in my left foot. I bent down and pressed on the spot that hurt, and that made it really hurt. As you can imagine, my mind was flooded with the worst “Oh Shit” thoughts it could conjure up.

The next morning, it still hurt, and I made the not so smart decision to go to work anyway. Spending eight hours standing and walking around did not help matters. I was considerably worse by the end of the day. I came home almost limping to the door. I was hoping that after a good nights sleep, it may be better. It wasn’t. At that point, I wasn’t taking any more chances. I called into work and told them I wasn’t coming in.

Later that night I am sitting in the exam room of an orthopedic clinic. The Dr. checked my foot out. I almost jumped out of the chair when she found the spot. A few x-rays later, I had a diagnosis. Peroneal Tendonitis.

The good news was nothing was broken or torn. It was just an inflamed tendon. It was very uncomfortable, but would ultimately heal up.

During my barefoot running journey, I have had a number of what I call, growing pains. When I first started the soles of my feet hurt. As they adapted, that went away. Then the outer edges hurt, and that went away. Then for a while, my calves were very sore. That went away. Later on, my knees were hurting. This worried me, but it also went away. There have been times that I hit a big rock and literally had to limp home. After a day or two of rest, I was fine. This injury really had me concerned though. It just felt different than all the others.

For a few days, I was almost depressed. I was afraid that I may have to give up running, at least temporarily. I have found that I love it. I did feel quite a bit better when I learned that it was just a temporary injury, and I would ultimately make a full recovery.

I think one of the drivers behind the injury may be my recent obsession with improving my speed. I had gotten into the habit of always trying to beat my time from the last run. I think this contributed to me losing focus on my form, and overstriding. This is a no, no. I have decided to not worry about speed at all. For the foreseeable future, I am only going to worry about keeping my form correct. After all, I’m not training for a race or seeking to best anyone. I simply like to run, and that is more than enough for me.

I did get out Friday for a lap around the park, which is one mile. I took it slow and gentle. My foot did great. It feels almost 100%. Even still, I’m not going to push it. I will slowly build back the distance.

Screenshot_20170904-112404During this whole ordeal, I found some new friends. I got some really good advice from the great folks at The Barefoot Runners Society. For those of you who have an interest in barefoot running, or running in general, they have a lot of resources on their website. You can find the forums here. Check them out.

Trotting through the mud

The rain was heavy yesterday, and the trail was showing it. It was still a little misty when I set out this morning. I knew it was going to be a dirty run the first time my Vibrams disappeared into ankle deep mud. It was awesome!

I ran across my reptilian friend above in mile three, at the bottom of a steep hill. He was slowly making his way across the trail when I surprised him. As I bent down to get the photo, he retracted his limbs and head into a beautifully painted shell. A friend’s daughter asked if, “I kept him.” I said, “No, that would be trutlenapping.”

20170812_200548I did a total of four miles today on the trails of IC King Park. It is the most I have ever run in my life… until next week. I plan on adding a mile a week. Next Saturday I am going to attempt a run to Abram’s Falls, in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The round trip will be almost exactly five miles. The hills are much steeper and longer though. It will be a challenge.

I feel pretty good. My feet are sore, but not as sore as they were last week. My recovery time is getting a little shorter after each run. The runs are getting easier, and more natural too. I feel like I’m discovering a hidden power, that has been lying dormant inside me my entire life.

I don’t know where all this is going to lead me. All I know is that it feels right. It feels good to run.

Running in Five Fingers is “Foolish?”

Good morning, mammals! I just got in from my trail run. I did two miles on the lakeside trial at IC King park. I know most of my fit friends out there will not be very impressed with such a feat, but for me, it is quite a milestone. It is the longest that I have run non-stop off road, and that isn’t even what has me excited. The amazing thing is how damn easy it was. If it wasn’t for a little pain in my feet (which are still bruised from hitting a patch of rocks a couple of days ago), I would almost call this run… effortless.

I remember back when I was in my twenties and going through a running phase. I was actually lighter back then, at around 200 pounds even. I took up running on a rubber coated track at a local high school. I was also using conventional padding “running shoes.” It was absolute torture. I could barely crank out one mile, and that nearly put me on the ground. Needless to say, the phase didn’t last long. It was too painful.

Up until a few months ago, I had been suffering from foot pain, mostly in my left heel. It had been that way for years, mostly I thought, from having a job where I stand on my feet for eight to ten hours a day. I was getting worse, so like most people, I take my concerns to a doctor, a podiatrist to be exact. She gave my feet a quick look, and then basically told me that my feet were defective. “Supination,” they roll to the outside. She told me that I would have to have custom-made orthotics to correct the problem. I had just discovered the world of barefoot and minimalist running literally a few days before, so I asked her if doing these activities would help my condition. The look on her face instantly changed to one of, “Oh boy, here we go. I’m going to have to set this poor uneducated fellow straight.” I specifically told her that I would like to try walking and running in Vibram Five Fingers. She said that doing so would not help my condition, but only make it worse, and possibly cause a severe injury. “Face it, kid, you’re broken. You weren’t born to run, you were born fucked up.” (my paraphrase)

I was pretty downcast after the doctors visit. I followed her advice and got fitted for some high-tech orthotics to straighten my birth defected feet out. I worked a few weeks in them. There was some reduction in pain, but it didn’t really “fix” me. Little did she know that I still had plans to experiment on the dark side.

20170726_080939Not long after that fateful day with the podiatrist, I got my first pair of Vibram Five Fingers. I had to order them off Amazon since none of the stores around here carried them anymore. I was quite surprised by this. A few years ago they were all the rage, now they were nowhere to be found. I asked why and was told that there had been a lawsuit against the company. The lawsuit was apparently due to Vibram claiming that the Five Fingers would help strengthen your feet and decrease injuries from running. I don’t know all the details of the suit, but the outcome was not favorable for Vibram. This caused a lot of stores to pull the Five Fingers. This worried me a little, but I was still determined to find out for myself if they could or could not help me.

The shoes finally arrived, but they didn’t fit. I gave it my best guess but was off. They were too big. No problem. I returned the shoes and reordered the next size down. A few days later I had my KSO’s. They fit like a foot glove. By this time I had seen every video of Christopher McDougall and Barefoot Ted that was available on Youtube, and I had just started reading Born to Run. I was very happy to get my Vibrams, but I had already advanced a little in my thinking. Doc had told me that running in Five Fingers would be foolish, but now I was ready to go one better. I was ready to try walking and running in nothing but my bare, broken, feet. Total madness!

I am now a few weeks into it. I have been running almost every morning, barefoot, and now running on the trails with my Vibrams. I haven’t been stupid though. My feet and legs are not conditioned to do this yet, so I am taking it slow, listening to my body. The first mile I did barefoot, left both feet bruised and hurting, so I took a day off. The next time I ran I took it very slow. After today’s run, my feet are sore again, so I am taking tomorrow off to let them rest.

At work, I have noticed that, besides the bruises, I have no more heel pain. I think my feet are changing, getting stronger. I am very impressed with the results of my barefoot experiment so far, but I need to cautiously continue, to see it through, and then make a conclusion.

Monday morning I am going to add a little more distance to my morning run. I am going to slowly, maybe very slowly, add distance. My weight is dropping, and I hope that as it goes down and my feet stronger, I will eventually be able to handle long distances without the need to recover after every run. We’ll see.

 

 

The road that remains

I reached forty years of age this past weekend. I’m now in the half-time intermission of my life. The plays have been pretty conservative up until now, and the score shows it. I think it’s time for a new game plan.

Denice and I just got back from a really great time, on vacation in Colorado, her home state. We spent most of the week camping in the Rocky Mountains. I witnessed in these past few days some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It helped me realize just how little I have seen of this world.

We traveled across the vast openness of the Colorado plains, over windy mountain passes that were clothed with green Pines and whispering Aspen trees, on into the high desert mesas. Wild. That’s what Colorado is. It is a wild place. I feel a pull inside me to explore wild places. This trip has left me hungry for more of the wild.

At night it was so dark that I could scarcely see my hand in front of my face, but the sky above was a dazzling ocean of stars. For the first time that I remember I was able to clearly see the Great Rift of the Milky Way.

In the down time of our trip, I had been reading the book, Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. The book is awesome, by the way. It is mostly about ultra-running. I felt inspired one morning and decided to go for an early morning run. I awoke just as the sun was coming up. I put on my Vibram Five Fingers and set off into the wild. I have been doing barefoot walking for a while, with a little bit of running here and there. This particular morning I ran about a quarter of a mile to the lake, and then a half-mile up into the rocky hills. On the initial ascent, I spooked a deer that was feeding on the grass around camp. I made it almost to the top of the ridge and was pretty tired, so I decided to head back to camp.

20170726_080617

The day after my run, my calves were very sore, and my feet were a little bruised from the rocks. It felt good though. It felt good glide across this unforgiving terrain with nothing but the equipment I was born with (and the aid of a thin strip of rubber). It also felt good to feel the pain afterward. I know that I can handle this stuff now, and I think it’s time to stop holding myself back, afraid of breaking something. I’m going to start running a little every day and hitting the trails on the weekends. I think my weight issue will take care of itself if I just pursue the joy of moving under my own power.

So, my new game plan for the second half: Number one… stop playing it so damn safe. Life is a short and fast adventure, not a game of chess. If you play it too safe, you will miss the whole point. Number two… I can do way more than I think I can, so I’m going to test myself in the wild, and not hold back. And, number three… People are what this is all about. I am going to stop neglecting the relationships of my family and friends and make it a point to seek out and forge new friendships.

Till next time.