Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Good and the Bad

It's been a good week of training. I got 4 of my 9 runs in on trails, plus some of the other 5 runs were on trails some of the time. Tuesday was my big workout of the week. I decided, or more accurately my body decided and I just learned to listen, that I would only plan one important workout for each week. I generally plan a second workout of lower intensity or abbreviated in some way. If I'm not feeling it, I don't do a second workout. I do try to get in something longish one day a week, long for me being anything 15 miles and over in one run. This was my adjustment to getting older and my body not recovering as quickly. It has worked pretty well for the last couple of years.

So back to Tuesday, I did 10 x mile with 1 minute recovery. I hadn't done that many mile repeats since the fall of '09. I did the first 9 in 5.58 and the 10th in 5.57. (In '09, it was 1-9 in 5.56 and 10th in 5.55.) I was very encouraged by the workout to say the least. It was a good sign my fitness is coming back from my layoff. Plus, I wasn't too fatigued in the following days, just a little dullness in the legs.

Saturday, Cory and I went back out to Longbottom to do a 17 mile loop up the mountain, across the Blue Ridge Parkway, and back down. It has about 2600' of climbing, so not too tough a run. It passed quickly for both of us and had a little comedy. Cory had just recently run 15 with me out there which was his longest run. At the vehicle I recommend he carry a small bottle, plus I gave him some food to carry. He decided against the bottle since there was one creek to get water at. He also decided on just the Clif Bloks, so just 100 calories for the 2 and 1/2 hours. I said it was doable, but if he got hungry or thirsty, I may not share. It's a little of every man for himself. The final set up is that it was warm at the bottom, 50s. As we neared the top, the temp had definitely dropped more than was predicting for the top of the mountain. Add the strong winds and the wind chill was right at 30 degrees. (I checked when I got home.) I had gone gloveless and singlet, but thankfully with arm warmers. My hands are very sensitive to cold and were turning various shade of red and white by halfway across the 7 mile along the BRP. Cory ended up carrying my bottle so I could keep my hands pulled up in the arm warmers. Of course he teased me a little about the whole thing. My hard, "every man for himself" side at the bottom had turning into the beggar in the cold. I told him he was my hero for the day. It only sort of evened out as he finished off the bottle on the way down when he started to bonk a little. At the bottom again, it was warm and Cory finished the run shirtless. Cory is going to be a tough trail racer if he decides racing is worth his time at some point. It was a fun day on the mountain even with the severe weather change.

I hadn't planned on it but I went back out to that area again today. I ran up the mountain on the Mountain to Sea trail through Stone Mountain State Park just a little east of Longbottom. It is 2600' of climbing as well. (The Highgear watch I have is awesome.) I was prepared for the weather difference today. I was rolling pretty good too, which I wasn't really trying to do. (Average HR: 142) It was the fastest that I've ever run that trail. I've been getting in some good time in the mountains this month. Hopefully it'll be good for my strength and fitness, but I don't care too much. It has been good for my spirit. I'm looking forward to some racing. I have Uwharrie 20 Mile on Feb. 4, probably the Ugly Mudder in PA on Feb. 26, and the big one, Nueces 50 Mile on Mar. 3. Nueces is the USA 50 Mile Trail Championship and I'm hoping to get my 8th top 3 at a Championship. Of course, 1st would be favorite top 3 position. My 7 top 3 placings are all 3rd.

I almost forgot to write about the bad, maybe that's good. I had a x-ray on Wednesday and the ulna in my left arm is not healing. So 2 more months of not using my left arm. That will take me to 5 months. So now I start a bone stimulator. The atrophy in that arm is becoming very noticeable, kind of comical and sad. If God's yoke is well-fitted, it's not always comfortable.

Quotes out of context:
Alison, "I've already licked myself."
Jason, "Not all goats' beards grow evenly."
Cory, a 23 year old, "I've seen everything."
The original is still the best. Andrew Hinde, "I don't know why dead cows have to go so fast."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I'll Take a Yoke, Please

Matthew 11:28-30:

Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

This passage had come up in a book we are reading and discussing in my Sunday school class. I wanted to take a more in depth look at the passage, mainly digging into the original greek. Then also just looking up information on yoking oxen. (Side note, I stayed at the Oxen Yoke in N. Conway the first year that I ran Mt. Washington.) I found some interesting points for myself and felt like sharing. So let me say first, I'm no theologian. But then nobody probably thought that. Below is just what I found in looking at the definitions of the original greek and just what struck me about this passage. In addition, my last blog was largely a preface for this one. My blog is just me sharing my view of the world. It's a mix of all that is me. I'm a little concerned what some may think of this posting saying, “I've read some of your blog, you're not exactly religious or saintly.” You'd be right in that assessment I think. I claim neither “religiousness” or “sainthood.” I claim that God might like me and I find him intriguing. I'd say we hang out.(Mark 2:15-17) So I think I've said enough on that and on with my thoughts on the passage.

In the greek, “labor” meant work until worn out or exhausted and “heavy laden” meant overloaded or causing someone to literally be weighed down(1). The noun related to this word means a burden, or freight, which must be carried by the individual. I find it interesting that Jesus invites people who are exhausted from laboring and overloaded or weighed down to come toss on a yoke. A yoke is of course a large wooden bar used to link to animals, generally oxen, to pull a plow or trailer. So Jesus was basically saying, if you're exhausted and need a rest, come pull a plow with me? Well kind of.

I had heard sometime when I was young about how oxen are yoked together and trained. Of course now there is the internet, so I looked up yoke and training oxen. Here is some information I found. Two oxen yoked together can pull more than double the combined weight two single oxen could pull.(2) Also one method to train oxen is to put an ox that knows how to pull and work with one that doesn't.(3) The trained ox will teach the untrained ox. All common knowledge to most anyone during Jesus' time. Jesus wasn't offering to make the difficulty of life, or the work the life requires, magically disappear. He offered for us to stop straining on our own and get in his yoke to pull together. Jesus offered to teach us how to do the difficult and hard, “learn from me.” Jesus further described himself as meek and humble. The greek word for meek means a blend of gentleness and strength. It carried the idea of demonstrating power without undue harshness or gentleness without compromising.(1) The “rest” has a meaning of rest that comes after completing a task.(1) It is not a promise of unearned ease, but that of reward from doing the work, accomplishment. I kind of like that. Back to the information I found online, oxen work better when they are compatible; similar size, strength, and temperament.(3) If they're not, it is especially uncomfortable for the trained ox. On a personal note, I'm glad Jesus was meek and humble enough to be yoked with a wild, undersize, and unruly ox as myself.

Finally in the last verse, the word “for” is better translated because.(1) We find rest for our soul in being yoke to God, “because his burden is easy and light.” The greek word for easy more directly means useful or well-fitted. God's yoke is well-fitted. So back once more to my internet findings. Several papers talked about how important it was to fit a yoke correctly. That meant that a yoke really should be customized for specific oxen for the best fit. Otherwise the oxen would pull inefficiently or get sores and bruises. Jesus basically said his yoke will fit properly so the load is light. Again with the greek, the word for light carried a figurative meaning of easily managed or unburdensome.(1)

This study was on my mind as I ran out in the mountains at Longbottom on Sunday. I believe running is one of the things God has made me to do. I hope to get in his yoke and learn. I'm sure I am tough to be yoked to, but God invited so I assume he is up for the challenge. Plus I could use a better yoke than the one I've been using.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Called Unto the Mountain

Flat Rock Ridge - 3 Miles Up

I was summoned to the mountain today. I hadn't really planned on going out there today, nor really planned anything too specific for my run. Something between 8 and 18 miles, which Alison thought was quite a range. Any mountain run is at least 20-30 minutes away. But Flat Rock Ridge Trail was calling to me. This trail, and the others it links to, is about 28.5 miles away in the middle of nowhere and therefore more than a 30 minute drive. I listened to Mumford and Sons on the drive and by the time I got there, I was bursting from my cage. The air was damp and clouds hung on the mountainside in layers as I ascended through them. I was where I belonged. A changing combination of dirt, leaves, rocks, roots, logs, grass, and ice under foot, all often off camber. Trail runner is probably one of the better descriptors of me. Add in mountain and harsh and you are really starting to have me pegged.

I could probably stop there, but most may not understand what I am saying. I'd consider myself an odd mixture of homo sapien. I don't see it as either positive or negative, it just is. To expand, I once thought I was road runner. I was a runner. I ran quite a few road races. Most of my training was on the road. A road has rather straight lines. When there are curves, they are generally smooth arcs. A hard, stable surface is the norm. Conformity, predictability are the standard. My friends are already thinking that's not him. Nothing against road running, it's just not for me if I have a different choice. Of course sometimes things necessitate road running, but even then I'll sneak of the edge at almost every chance. Deep inside or on the surface, I'm a trail runner, mountainous and harsh.

But aren't trails more forgiving to us? I'd like to think so. I believe trails are gentler on the body. Though, I also believe trails make us stronger. Steep climbs and descents leave legs weary. I like it that way. Weary legs one day will be stronger for a future day. Treacherous footing works our entire bodies and mind. One must always be paying attention on a challenging trail. I like switchbacks, up or down. But I do appreciate a trail straight up or straight down a steep grade, harsh. A good mountain trail can look much different depending on your projection up or down. Those switchbacks can turn into never ending upward turns one after another. Or a punishing acceleration/deceleration recitation on a downward plunge. Eighteen percent grades don't look kind in either direction to most, though I'd beg to differ. A hard, strenuous trail to some is a challenging playground to another.

I think a good mountain trail describes me as a person quite well. I'm not for everyone. I'm not easily definable with clear lines, nor smooth arcs. I think of myself as meek, forgiving, though some would say harsh. I'd say harsh, but in a good way. I'll call it blunt, direct. Don't ask for an answer you may not want, cause I may give it. A good trail does that to me. If I complement or praise, I meant it and it was deserved, earned. I don't throw many things about freely, though hopefully grace like a rain shower. I'm probably full of treacherous footing of pointy thoughts, slippery slopes, hard realities. I contain many a switchback, which may look completely different depend on the direction and speed you come at me. As a trail is not always neatly ordered, I am a mixture of grades and footing, unpredictable. I've come to like these qualities about myself, but like them or not, they are what I am. I am a “good” and “bad” Christian all in the same switchback. I could no more pretend that I'm a road runner than a straight and narrow Christian. Maybe I'm a trail Christian. My path is crooked, more like a good mountain trail. Maybe that's why the mountain was beckoning me today.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Building Milage with Friends

Not too much going on the last couple of weeks. I've been working my milage back up and trying to work my weight back down. I've gotten in 63 and 71 miles the first two weeks of the year. That was a quick build up from my time off, but I was ready to get running again. Since starting back running my weekly milage was 13, 40, 40, 63, 71. The highlight of the last couple of weeks, and really the whole winter, has been running with friends. Alison and I went out to Asheville this weekend to hang out with Mark and Anne Lundblad. We drove down to the Foothills Trail along the NC/SC border for a long run. We got in 34 miles with about 6300' of climbing in 5 hours and 40 minutes. That was my longest run since July. I was fatigued at the end, but enjoyed running somewhere new and running with Mark. I wish we lived closer and could train more together.

I have also gotten in several runs with Cory who continues to be a "bad influence on me." Telling me all his crazy college stories and then encouraging my foolishness. "The bad influence" comment has kind of become a running joke. Our runs become like not running at all or more like running without any effort or trying. We just meet up and the next thing I know a hour or two have passed, as well as 6, 8, or 15 miles. I've observed that the friendship around running is one of the things I enjoy most about the sport, especially within the trail running community.

I'll leave you with a Cory comment during a recent trail run on which I had another nose bleed. Cory said, "I'm rather envious that I don't have a nose bleed so I could shove some mountain laurel leaves up my nose. Seriously."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Long Story of a Broken Arm

My broken arm is my first major incident, well sort of. I did roll off a couch when I was six months old and fractured my skull. Mom said the swelling on the side of my head was half the size of my head. I had a few other accidents growing up, but not much that required a trip to the ER or a doctors visit. I was electrocuted once and not by the electric fence. The power line to the barn had fallen and I stepped on it one evening rounding up cows. I was barefoot as I spent most of my childhood that way. I got a jolt and fell flat on the ground, screaming incoherently. My mom came to see what was wrong and was thrown 20-30 feet. She started screaming for my father, who picked me up, asking what was wrong with me. They did call the family doctor, but no ER or other visit. I just had some legs cramps off and on for a few months. I also got run over by a tractor once. I fell off and the tire ran over my foot and lower leg, but they were just bruised a little. Fortunately, my dad got stopped before he ran over me with the hay baler or I'd been filled with holes. I had lots of cuts, overall minor accidents to me. There a scar on a big toe that I sometimes get asked if I had surgery on. No, I chopped it with an axe. I think we put kerosene on that cut. I cut my thumb basically to the bone once, but didn't even tell my parents until it was mostly healed. I just bandaged it myself and kept going. The worst cut was to my right leg from falling off a corn planter we were cleaning. It has left a 14 inch scar that is 1/4 inch wide for about 4 inches. Mom still regrets not taking my to the doctor for that since it left such a big scar. I did get stitches when I bit completely through my upper lip in 8th grade.

My freshman year in high school, I had what was my worst and most painful accident until 2006. I wrecked a dirt bike going about 40-45 mph. I hit a ditch and got launched head first over the handlebars. I landed head first and then flipped wildly about 100 feet. I'm sure that did nothing to help my future back issues. I rolled a car over once, but it was a very gentle roll over. I fixed that car and kept driving it. I've hit a car head on once which moved my drivers tire into my floorboard space. That car was not fixed. In December 2006 I was hit by a pickup truck while cycling on the road. The truck was going about 50-55 and said they never saw me. It took a hour and a half to fill my face with stitches, but no broke bones. Alison asked how many stitches there were and the plastic surgeon just said, "You don't count when there's that many stitches." I looked gruesome for a while, but even surprised the surgeon in how well I healed.

So about the broken arm, I was building a shed here at the farm. I was using a log for the beam to set the rafters on. I was using two bobcat loaders to place the log on top of the 13 foot high post. The log was about 65 feet long and weighed a ton or more. I had the log braced on a post at one end and had lifted the other end with a bobcat. I was somewhere in the middle using another bobcat to get the log on top of the other post. I was standing in bobcat bucket and had used a pry bar to get the log on top of the post. I had it up and was getting ready to come down. The next few moments seemed to happen all too quickly. I noticed the log rolling off the post and thought that shouldn't be moving, this is bad. A rope had broken at the other bobcat loader. In a fraction of a second the log had fallen. I don't know where, how, or why my arm was under the log, but it was. The log dropped on my arm with edge of the bobcat bucket under it. My very first thought was "I can't believe that didn't break my arm." Then I looked at my arm and it was quite obviously broken, though I hadn't noticed the hole in backside of my arm. The immediate next thought was regret. Regret that I'd broke my arm. Fortunately, I quickly thought the same thing I think when I run, next step. I'd had a flood of thoughts in those 1 to 2 seconds.

I grabbed my left hand with my right, took two jumps to get off the bobcat loader, and told my nephew to turn the bobcat off. I told him that I needed to go to the ER, my arm is broken. As we walked to the house, the arm started to hurt. Scott, my nephew, said later that I just said, "There comes the pain." He ran to the house to get Alison. I walked in and noticed the blood dripping. I looked at the hole and told Alison to get a towel. It was kind of funny that I was giving various instruction of get me water, get me a change of clothes, shoes, and other directions. It was a 50 minutes drive to the hospital I wanted to got to (I don't like my local hospitals for anything major).

That is probably the major details of breaking my arm. The worst part is just regret or disgust with myself for screwing up this badly. The best part was feeling real pain. Nothing that had happened to me before even compared to the pain my arm produced. A week after my arm was broken, the pain was similar to anything before, including the cycling accident. I have a fascination with pain, how we deal with it, how others perceive pain. The ER folks said I had a very high pain tolerance. They said most people with that type of injury would scream uncontrollably. One guy said I should try comedy with the jokes I was making. Seemed like every nurse or staff person was coming by to look. I'd here the ER attendant tell others it was fine to come by as I was okay with it. Not to confuse anyone, I was requesting pain medication when they give me some. They said they needed to wait until a doctor could examine the arm more. It was 2 hours before I got anything and looking back I wish I hadn't been given anything. I was given Dilaudid which screwed me up to the point of not being able to give my name, age, or other information. I didn't like that, I didn't like being out of control of my mind.

After surgery, I took half doses of the pain medication for the first 24 hours, then didn't take any more. I'm just strange as I don't like taking stuff especially if it just decreases feeling, not increases healing. My break was a comminuted fracture with bone loss in the ulna. I looked that up later and a comminuted fracture is a higher pain producing accident. I guess all that is to say it hurt a lot. At the hospital, I thought a lot about a deer that I shot and skinned a couple of years back. It had completely broken a rear leg at some point and the bone had healed back kind of overlapping, leaving a big knot at the spot. I couldn't help but think that that deer never got any pain medication. I'm just strange in some ways. So for anyone who doesn't know me, don't be impressed with my pain management. No one would be impressed with the deer. I'm just sharing my experience and fascination with pain. I had thought some about how much more pain one could experience. Though someone who had experienced a worse accident than mine said that there comes a limit to the amount of pain sensation the body can produce. I did like finding that I could stay calm in a severe situation and handle the pain. I think that if you're really honest with yourself, you know how you'll respond. I was nice to really be how I thought I'd be.

I just think it is good to feel. Whether that feeling is pain or joy or something otherwise. So now I guess my real trial is to deal with my disappointment with myself. I keep flashing back to that first moment of looking at my arm on the bobcat. It's not seeing my arm that troubles me, but that gut wrenching feeling of failure. Alison has commented that I'm not invincible. So I'll have to follow my own philosophy, feel this mental pain and move on with it. Maybe at some point I'll get back to acting like I'm invincible.