Of Run Love and Injuries

For the year of 2019, it’s been an interesting and challenging time. I came into 2018, a few years sober, regular runner and determined to try achieving my goals of half marathon and a marathon. I felt pretty solid, albeit slower than my youth. I had amped up my distance and in April I had run a 10K adventure run with what I felt was a respectable time and placed first in my age group.

Then sometime in May, I began having problems. I was struggling with intermittent pain in my left leg along with swelling near the top of my left fibula. I also believed that my ITB was week. I had to moderate my running.

In June, I saw my physician. X-rays showed nothing skeletal so I was referred to physical therapy. From that I learned a lot, but I still had problem with swelling and occasionally, some pain where that bump appeared.

By the time I finished therapy in October and with the daily workout routines, I felt strong. Immediately after therapy was completed, I had a 5 mile run and although I finished strong and with a good time, the lump showed up as large as it ever has with little bits of pain every so often. I kept at my continuous therapy, but the lump never went away.

I went a few weeks without running entirely, but this time the lump didn’t go away at all. Back to the doctor and MRI initial results are a torn miniscus with indications of osteoarthritis.

Sounds like knee surgery in 2020.

It will improve my quality of life, but mostly because I love running. The freedom to move outside, the therapy it provides me, the enjoyment and peace it brings me. Even if my ‘running’ is nothing more than a slow self absorbed shuffle jog, anything is better than being hindered and held back like I am now.

Fear of Irrelevance

One of the contributing factors to my drinking was fear of irrelevance.

Everyone at some point deals with concerns for irrelevance.

The irrelevance of being left behind in an ever changing work environment that faces down sizing regularly. The thought of irrelevance that comes with being in a contentious divorce or a bad custody challenge. The thought of becoming irrelevant to your off spring due to age and the differences in generational culture. The thought of taking on more than you planned and becoming overwhelmed and unable to make a positive impact in anything. The concern that of all the relationships you’ve had reached an expiration date and by that very nature you can become concerned that you may become irrelevant to your current relationship. The concern that you become irrelevant with all the non-constructive time you spend drinking, planning around drinking and recovering from drinking.

The thought of being irrelevant can be pervasive and stressful. The further reality is that drinking can amplify these very real feelings.

So, how did I finally cope with it? Sobriety helped immensely. Let’s face it, when drinking our minds can go to places that our sober selves just don’t waste time on. The drinking mind can dwell on the darker elements of our lives and lament without end. The sober mind can focus on the here and now, the what needs to be done and the doing of things. The sober mind is much more capable of dismissing feelings that come from very small places.

I’m not without those small moments where these same things can come to the forefront. But the limited amount of time that happens is so much smaller than when the drinking mind is in control.

I feel grateful for where I am and this is one of many reasons I say, I will not drink with you today [IWNDWYT].

 

 

“Do What You Love” is BS Career Advice

“Do what you love” is BS career advice. Plenty of failed writers, novelists and fiction authors can tell you that. Plenty of would-be entrepreneurs and start ups lay along that road of dreams. And the list goes on.

I know because I explored those ideas. I had day dreams of being a writer and waxed poetic over the fame and notoriety that would surely follow. I did the homework and realized that for me to make a living at the time  (pre-internet) I would have made pennies a word and that the only way to make it a good living would be to achieve that rare hit. That one in several million novella or non-fiction blockbuster that brought the worlds attention flocking to your feet. The odds were against me.

I love to run, but I’ve seen very little realistic opportunity for me create a career around what I love. My ability to run does not excuse the fact that in this vast world, I’ve never been a high performing amateur, much less an elite athlete. And as life progressed, we have the commitments of time like making enough money to pay the rent, put food on the table and provide transportation.

“Do what you love” is such a purist oversimplification of what really should be a more complex concept.

“Do what you love” is frequently and inappropriately interpreted to mean “Do ONLY what you love and accept no compromises”. Or “Refuse to do anything else to do what you love and accept no compromises”.  This interpretation smacks of a serious lack of reality based pragmatism.

Life is filled with things we don’t want to do. No one really enjoys going to the bathroom. But it’s what we have to do to survive. I personally don’t enjoy having to lay down to sleep every night, but its what I do every day to survive. Frequently stopping for water or food is an inconvenience when we have better things to do, but it’s what we have to do to survive.

In response to the idea of “Doing what you love” as career advice I offer the following:

  • “Aspire to what you like while covering the basics”. 
  • Find something other people will compensate you to do for them. It doesn’t have to be glorious, fabulous or set the world on fire so long as it covers the basics. It can be a service or a product, just something.
  • Do what’s necessary to support yourself and take care of your responsibilities. Even if it means taking multiple jobs. Nothing can undermine your sense of pride and well being than finding yourself dependent on the welfare of others or welching on debts.
  • Strive for what you prefer. As you do what’s necessary, keep your eyes open for what you prefer and strive for that. In every aspect of life and work there are hidden gems and aspects of things you may find intriguing enough to keep you interested. Stay open to that.
  • Learn to appreciate what you get for what you do. When you have a job or career, someone is paying you for the value you provide to them, no matter how much you don’t enjoy it. Don’t agonize or lament about the perpetual woes of where you are. Appreciate the income you get.
  • Steer career changes to grow to love what you’re doing, or at least not hate it. I don’t know how many people I’ve met that tell me stories like “While working at x I got involved in this thing that led me in a completely different direction.” I’ve met a teacher that became an IT specialist for an entire school district. Law enforcement officer that became a chiropractor. A CFO that became a successful insurance salesman. And the stories go on and on. I have an education degree and I’ve been working for global IT companies for over 30 years.
  • Be flexible. Because people change, as you will too. People can find themselves falling in love with things others find routine or abhorrent. People can also find themselves falling out of love when it becomes a ‘job’ (aka “chore”).
  • Persevere. It’s absolutely rare the person that wakes up every day of their life saying ‘yay, I’m excited to get up and go do this for a living’. Even at something they ‘love.’ Do what you have to for today, because who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Dear TV Designers – Gimme Bluetooth

First let me say, thank you. Lighter weight designs and wall mounting, built in app functions like Amazon video and Netflix, and playing from a USB stick all deserve a round of applause. What an addition of functionality and versatility.

However, I could REALLY appreciate the option of directly connecting one or more bluetooth headsets. That way a few of us can enjoy whatever we want as loud as we want without disturbing the rest of the world. Or being disturbed by the rest of the world that may be too inconsiderate to think you might actually want to hear what’s on.

The one instance that I truly appreciate this type of functionality is with the Roku 3 remote jack. If you want to blast a show, the audio is streamed from the Roku to the remote through a standard audio jack ON THE Remote. What an AWESOME idea.

Why aren’t we seeing more of this?

Image result for arsenio hall things that make you go hmmm gif

How would it be with a bluetooth connection on a tv capable of multiple headsets, possibly with independent and individual volume control. Will we ever know?

 

 

Why don’t I listen….

I had just finished the River-N-Rapids 10K trail run held in the Hillsborough River State Park in April. It was a grueling and great experience. I’ve live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida and never knew that we had even mild rapids. Of course, that’s part of why I was doing this particular run was to see something new. 

I was a bit proud since I finished first in my age group. And knowing that my next commitment was a long way off, I decided to take a breather for a bit to allow full recovery.

At the end of the second week, as I woke up for a morning run, I had numbness and pain from the middle of my back through my shoulder blades radiating down my right arm. It took a few hours, but eventually things improved. I had something like this happen once or twice and never had them repeat. However, by the fifth or sixth day, the pain would last for four or five hours, excruciating, exhausting and demoralizing. Working out was not happening. I finally got into a Chiropractor and was diagnosed with ‘military neck‘. Basically, my neck was straight rather than the normal mild arch.

After a few weeks, of therapy (I won’t bore you with details) I felt improved and decided, I would be running in spite of my Chiropractor’s warnings of how jarring it can be to the spine. The morning came for me to run again and I was floored with a virus. Congestion, headaches, body aches, the whole nine yards. Suffice it to say, I slept little because I couldn’t breathe. When I did sleep, it was sitting up. This lasted for more than two weeks. I knew I should have powered through and at least done some common core or strength training routines, but I was sapped and further demoralized.

By the time I finally recovered from the virus, it was eight weeks after the 10K. FAR longer than I should have been away from running. And at my age, the body reverts back to zero a lot faster than when I was younger.

So, where did I go wrong? Well, one voice said, “take it easy, go slow, go short”, another voice said “as long as you take it easy, go as long as you want”.  You can probably guess which voice I listened to. I ended up jogging about 2.9 miles, but it felt wonderful. It was along a canal before the Florida sun got above the trees. I could see some fish action in the water as I went by and enjoyed saying hello to all the dog walkers and morning people. The park looked pristine with the sprinkle of early morning dew all over everything.

Today, after being sedentary at work, my ITBs are tight like piano wire and my glutes are sore.

What could I have done differently? Done a pre-run workout to loosen my ITBS and strengthen my butt and core. Cut my distance in half.

I do regret it, but it was worth it.

Why I am not buying a GPS Fitness Watch…… yet

I have been extremely torn to leap at the latest and greatest gps smart watch for my runs. I have a Fitbit Charge HR2 and normally run with my cell phone. The dream of losing the added weight of my phone was a nice idea.

As I think about my normal runs, at least training runs,  sometimes I want access to the normal pace, distance and elapsed time for run information. I don’t want to look away from the course and stare at a display either on my phone or a watch, so I do like audio prompts.

In fact that led to a nasty fall for someone I was pacing in a 10K trail run recently. They looked at their watch display and the many roots on the trail knocked them down. Not only did they fall but buttons got mashed and their display changed so they couldn’t check their pace or distance. Any more button mashing while running could have caused them to lose their gps track and more time to sort it out.

I also appreciate having some music or podcast available to kick off when I need motivation or distraction during the run, especially the long runs. The only way to control that without pulling out my cell phone is via bluetooth headset controls. But you can’t switch between apps like that.

One feature that I greatly appreciate about the Fitbit fitness tacking is its use of audio cues on a regular basis. This is a function available on many phone apps, but no gps smart watch that I am aware of in a price range I want. A serious strike against fitness trackers and smart watches.

In the instance of the fallen runner I was able to call out our pace and distance as I received audio cues.

To alleviate the carrying of the phone either in my hand or strapped to my arm, I have an inexpensive running vest to tuck it into for my long runs. Then I try to refrain from touching it at all, opting to use headset controls. But then that means I’m stuck with audio from whichever app is cued to play at the time I set out on my run. If Stitcher is cued with podcasts, I won’t get driving motivational rock when the need arises to get that extra spark.

The last point I have is in the interest of safety. I will likely continue to carry my cell phone for emergency or the “come pick me up” calls I may need to make on a long training runs.

So a gps smart watch? Not  yet for me.

One other option would be for weather resistant sport Android smart headphones. A set that could understand audio commands just like a Google Home. If I find something promising, I’ll share my thoughts.

1000 Days Alcohol Free

As of April 2nd 2019, it’s official.

1000 (1K) days free of alcohol.

How do I feel? Fantastic. Not in a “throw a party” way. But in a thoughtful, reflective, appreciative way. I’ve rambled about the positive sides of not including alcohol in my life. But now I’ve seen it and lived it for a good while. And the more I look at, the more I realize how trans-formative it’s been.

As I look back, I realize how much more of my life I’ve reclaimed to be productive.

In my pre-1K history, I would go through several ‘sick’ episodes a year, about every month an ‘illness’ or ‘gut’ problem would last two or three days. The kind of thing that would put me out of sorts, ruin a weekend and hold me back from feeling or performing my best. During my 1K days, I can only think of two brief episodes in the past year where I’ve had any episode. And by ‘brief’ I mean two days or less.

The further domino affect to this new found health, is that my overall normal wellness and vitality became much better. Probably because my body was able to self correct. I picked up running again. In spring of 2018, I finished one year of one 5k race a month. Now the new project is a one year progression from a 5k (already completed), a 10K, a half marathon (both already committed) with a target of a marathon in spring of 2020.

Even better is my mood. I am much more calm with others. I am also a lot less likely to bottle things up. In the past I had used bottles of alcohol to bottle up feelings of frustration and anger. Now I am much more capable of having a meaningful conversation with others without it devolving into a match of anger, insults or victimization.

Instead of planning around the evening pour, I’m going bowling or installing a kitchen back splash or working on some other ‘project du jeur’ that interests me and fills my life and relationships with meaning.

Instead of planning around the morning recovery, I now plan the morning run route or the supporting exercises. How far will I go? What’s my target pace? Will I see fish jump in the channel as I run by? Which muscle groups do I need to strengthen?

I’m also better able to be there with friends and family instead of struggling to get out the door and socialize. Which is so much easier when you are not fighting through the fog of hangover’s, dehydration, headaches and frequent maladies when drinking.

Do I occasionally consider a beer? Sure, for less than a minute. I enjoy the memory of drinking, but turn aside when I realize the downside before really completing the thought. That might happen once every couple months or so.

I’m happier without and grateful for the past 1000 days. IWNDWYT.

Evie Launcher changes

If you’re an Android user, you might be aware of the ability to use different ‘launchers’. A launcher is the user interface that manages your screens look and icons you use and a ton of other features allowing you to organize the way you view and start your apps.

In a previous post, I shared my logic behind switching to Evie launcher.

However, recent changes had me a bit concerned. They added a news feed very similar to Google Now (which I came to dislike, a lot).

My first reaction was here we go again. Then I long pressed on the home screen, opened the settings and found that it can be disabled. I switched it off and ‘voila’, no more news feed.

I also found the setting that hides the search bar. Interesting idea if you’re concerned with screen real estate. I used the search function often enough that unhiding would be a pain.

Kudos to the Evie developers for designing things better than Google. Bravo!

‘In the Scheme of Things’

Applying ‘in the scheme of things’ can help improve many facets of your life.

“In the scheme of things”. I mentally re-use this phrase repeatedly. Whether it’s determining what widget to buy, what option to choose with financial investments or what recommendations I provide to my employer, or whether taking a drink is worth it.

‘In the scheme of things’ (ITSOT) speaks to ensuring that we view things with a larger perspective in mind than what’s immediately in front of us.

I see lots of conundrums that I relate to the exercise of thinking through ‘In the scheme of things’.

For instance, when shopping, if you see eggs that are ten cents cheaper at a grocery store you don’t normally go too, that’s 30 minutes out of your way, does it make sense to spend the time, money and gas for the bragging rights of saving that ten cents? That’s a very narrow question with a lot more variables involved. Some people insist on achieving those bragging rights, even though the ultimate cost savings would be nullified.

By the very nature of the phrase, we step back to view a larger picture, making some value statements that are relevant to us, and base a decision on those values.

That doesn’t mean emotions don’t come into the equation, but value statements should check knee jerk emotional reactions.

Recently I was in the midst of selling my current house and written communication passed from the buyer side suggested that we knew about a problem that we intentionally didn’t disclose. At least, that’s the way it was expressed. My initial reaction was of course, emotional.

Then I had to ask myself ‘In the scheme of things’. Did I care their opinion? Did I care what they thought or felt? Did I want to run the risk of poisoning the sale and risk thousands of dollars and lots of anxiety? In the Scheme of things, no. I didn’t want to create the worst case scenario because of wounded pride because I read something as an implication, correctly or not. I checked myself, used ITSOT,  replied with facts, ignored emotion and moved on.

I also had to remind myself that ITSOT there were lots of middlemen in these communications (our agent, the inspector, the buyers agent, and then the buyers) and every hand off could have caused some distortion in the message. By using ITSOT, I was able to remember what was more important to us at the time.

But, let’s put this in context with alcohol. My wife and I have had this conversation multiple times over my 721 days and her exceeding two full years  alcohol free.

‘In the scheme of things’:

  1. We no longer spend hours recovering from a night before and all that entails.
  2. We no longer wake up wondering what stupid thing we may have said or done.
  3. We no longer spend thousands a year on alcohol.
  4. We think without the fog of alcohol either depressing or stunting us.
  5. We’ve both dealt with emotional stuff from our individual pasts.
  6. We’re more up front emotionally with each other, our family and friends.
  7. We, as a couple, communicate more often and more clearly with each other.
  8. We have a more purpose filled life in a mutual direction related to our life goals.
  9. Both of us have had significant career improvements as a result.
  10. Our collective health is significantly improved.

All that being said, ‘in the scheme of things’ I’m very thankful that we, as a couple made this change and that we have been there for each other on this continuous improvement journey.

The Heart is Willing … or maybe not?

It’s been a while since my last post. Suffice it to say non-blog related things have been stealing my attention. The latest being the most impacting.

I was in a Kiwanis meeting May 4th, when I began to feel ‘not right’. I became light headed and felt like I couldn’t catch my breath.

I politely excused myself, took some deep breaths, thought I had it under control and rejoined the meeting.

It was no more than five minutes and I excused myself again, this time I took my things with me.

The light headed feeling persisted. I kept trying to clear my head with deep breathing, but kept getting weaker. I checked my Fitbit and my heart rate was around 100, which didn’t make sense considering my level of inactivity. We have good conversations, but not that exciting.

I was lucky enough that the meeting was in conference room at a Mansfield Methodist Hospital and I walked myself down to the Emergency Room. By the time I got to the service counter, I was struggling for breath, I was near fainting, and my legs were about to go. I was able to give them my name and they were catching me with a wheel chair.

In minutes, they wheeled me to a room, got me on a bed, attached a number of leads all over (chest, abdomen and legs) and put an oxygen feed under my nose. While I was half fainting, I became strangely emotional, like I was about to cry and I said so. Just the weirdest thing. I normally handle stressful situations calmly.

I was struggling to tell them medical history while it felt like the right side of my head was becoming extra tingly, like I was losing circulation on that side of my head. I was scared. I thought it was my end.

They hooked up an IV, ran saline and monitored my heart. My BP was 180 over 110 and my heart rate was easily 100 or more. I was having a hard time, but they let me keep my cell phone and I called my wife. She insisted on coming to the ER.

I texted members of Kiwanis to let them know. A small cadre of them were allowed to hang out with me while I went through whatever this was.

And I texted my kids that I love them, but I didn’t let them know more than that. If this was the end, it was important. But I didn’t want them doing anything rash, like jumping on planes when there was nothing they could do.

My biggest fear was that they would rush me into surgery and crack my chest open.

The rest was a blur of emotions and trying to make light of a situation with humor. That’s my coping mechanism. My wife arrived and I know she could see the uncertainty in my eyes. We shared hopes for the future and I professed my feelings again.

Then there were several hours of imaging, evaluation, ekg’s that eventually led to a conversation with a very good ER doctor. You know the kind you hope for that will take the time to converse rather than do a brain dump and leave you confused.

He explained that the lower left chamber of my heart had been beating uncontrollably and after consulting with a specialist, they put me on a script to keep my heart from running out of control.

When they were sure my heart was under control, they released me and I drove myself home.

Thinking about this, in the back of my mind, I’m reminded of the ‘holiday heart’ and wondered, did my drinking cause me permanent and irreversible damage?

I’m not sure I’ll ever know for sure, but… it makes one think.