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Sunday, February 27, 2011

On Ice

Snow was predicted for the Bay Area over the weekend, but in typical form, the arctic blast that was to facilitate the freeze was a bit too boisterous and blew the moist air inland to the Sierras leaving us with nothing but heavy frost and frozen puddles.

Saturday morning sparkled.

Though I begrudged the drive to a business seminar, I didn't miss the splendor of the frosty bay area hills along Highway 4. I also didn't miss the slick spot just under Cummings Skyway immediately over the crest of the pass, where seepage from the recent deluge had turned a 100' section of highway into a skating rink.

3 vehicles ahead of me were strewn like toys across the median and shoulder. No less than 2 sets of flashing lights per vehicle were keeping company and more were coming up the highway behind me. When forced by the 2 cars ahead of me to brake at the worst possible moment, my pulse soared through the stratosphere, and I consequently gained solidarity with my truck's anti-lock brakes.

I covered the orange tree again Saturday night, and as predicted, all was crisp and ghost like as the stars faded on Sunday morning. My first run in 3 weeks on a left knee plagued by pre-patellar busitis was going to be a cold one. A pair of thermal Pearl Izumi tights, my most recent and welcome addition to an ever expanding wardrobe of performance attire, proved to be worth the money. Saturated, the hillsides, yards, and even pavement cracks oozed thin glaciers rendering treacherous their meandering path across my own.
Tentatively I increased and decreased the pace, testing my knee, and made it to the 3 mile loop turn around all too soon. That was no good - I pushed on to the Contra Costa County Courthouse for the full 5 mile loop.

All things considered, the run was a success. The only subsequent pain was predictable, and acceptable. I have no idea exactly what I've lost in 3 weeks of limping and essentially not bending my left knee. But my lungs were on track for the 8 minute mile pace, and with the exception of a compliment of tight tendons, ligaments, and muscles around the recovering knee, all the other mechanisms for running were in tune.

But I wasn't done with the ice. For the next few hours I worried my left knee with ice packs, stretches, rest, then more ice and a continuation of the same.

Still to be determined is just how long the ice will be a part of the routine. My hope and prayer is that the warmth of spring will not only drive away the winter chill, but also melt the affliction of this knee.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Snow on Mt. D - 2009

The snow has returned to Mt. Diablo.
I have no pictures to show, because I can't get close enough.

"Why am I not up on that mountain?" was the nagging thought in my head as I gazed south eastward across the valley at the frosted slopes of the centerpiece of the East Bay. I longed to be up on the side of that mountain - any side - just not down here with my leg stanchioned within the confines of a black aluminum and nylon prison.

My latest visit to the doctor about my knee rewarded me with a consultation between Jodi the PA, Dr. Weiss the Sports Doctor, and the orthopedic surgeon who's name I forget. In short they told me not to bend my knee for a week and ordered a knee immobilizer to enforce the directive. I joked with a friend that my knee had been incarcerated, and the brace could only be removed in a week with a key kept in the Orthopedic wing of Kaiser Permanente. The "cure" to Pre-patellar Bursitis seems to be a medical nebulous eliciting contrary opinions from medical practitioners even within the same hospital. Surgery or no surgery, ice or heat, impact injury or overuse injury, anti-inflammatory or no anti-inflammatory, lifestyle changing or not: all of these variations have grounds for debate and find few willing to be dogmatic.

So where does it leave me - other than hobbling like Long John Silver over to the recliner to debate whether I should ice or heat my knee? I don't know. My questions to the doctors was, "So, basically, it's trial and error. If something tends to make it better then I continue doing it; if worse, then avoid it. Once I'm back to normal the same rules apply." Nods all around. Is it any wonder that many of us stand dubious of the sagacity attributed to practitioners in the medical profession?

Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't return to medieval lancing and leaches. My point would be better taken as caution against assuming that for each malady and variation thereof there also exists a precise medical remedy.

The surgeon recommended that I consider running and cycling shorter distances (Lifestyle Change) and see if I can control future inflammation in that manner. After he had left the examination room, the sports doctor, whom I felt understood my psyche far better than any of the others, lowered his voice as if fearing to be overheard through the closed door. "I don't necessarily agree with the surgeon," he said. Dr. Weiss then described a scenario where I do what I enjoy for the next 30 years and end up with arthritis - or whatever - when I'm 60. Possible. He went on to describe another scenario where I back off, abandon my passion, and take up quilting or needle point. I then end up with arthritis - or whatever - when I'm 70.

What am I to do?
Nothing in life is guaranteed. Live life to the fullest. Discretion is the better part of valor.
You pick the cliche - but again, there is no precise remedy to the academic/emotional malady I face.

As a follower of Christ Jesus, I recognize the sovereignty of God - nebulous though that also may be - and by faith (because after all, what else is there considering the fact that we can't be everywhere to know everything) accept the fact that the sovereign, good, and omnipotent God is capable of taking a presumably ill course of events and making them, in retrospect, a mere stairway to a far greater good.

I recognize and acknowledge this divine capacity. This should give peace. And it does - at those times I'm actively acknowledging the same.

But the understanding of that concept is like perceiving sunlight, between drifting clouds,
shimmering on the ripples of a pond. At times the wind dies down, and clouds drift apart leaving a spectacular brilliance reflecting, because of the nature and geometry of reflection, in the eyes of a person standing in just the right place. Other times the wind picks up and the ripples spread the sunlight like a vast prism casting the reflected rays in a more subdued, but no less spectacular, pattern against any who may be close enough to observe. But inevitably the clouds scud by and by no fault of the sun (or is it possible, inversely as a direct result of the nature of that vital and requisite flame?) obscure all brilliance.

Some times I stand at the side of that pond absorbing both the direct and indirect light of the sun. I move and take up a different position in response to the intensity of that light and in a breeze find myself dazzled by a less potent but no less impressive understanding of the nature of the source. But then I make no move at all and yet the spectacle fades as a cloud moves by seeming to change even the nature of my pastoral surroundings.

And I recognize that in spite of surroundings (those I can control: I could drain the pond or move my position, and those I cannot: the clouds that float over my head), a life-giving Force exists that I must recognize my dependence on and submit my passions to.

And my knee is still swollen.
I can follow doctor's orders. I can run today and hope for the best. I can decide to take up quilting, sell the bikes, and stash the Reeboks...

...I can be content with not knowing which of those is right and simply choose to move forward, making moment by moment decisions based on knowledge and good judgment, with alacrity, and in anticipation of my Sovereign's greater good.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Odds & Ends

Bec here to fill in while hubby takes his hiatus from all things active while the knee heals. Here is my conquering hero sporting the latest fashion in knee braces.

I will spare you the up-close shot of his lovely colored knee. The good news is that the docs don't seem to think that cycling or running need to end permanently, but I'll let Scott give you all of the gory details when he wishes.

Soooo. . . to entertain his faithful readers (our mothers, that is), I am including some randomness. Look closely now, and keep in mind that this is from an instruction booklet for a hair straightener I recently purchased. . . .

Yes, folks, that says "Never use while sleeping." While I am an advocate of multitasking, I must admit that I am not the world's greatest multitask-er. However, the thought of straightening my hair while I watch those cute, little sheepies jump over the fence appeals to me. In fact, doing a great number of things while I sleep appeals to me. Shall I start a list? Eating, reading, washing the dishes, grading, dusting. . .you name it! Oh, the things I could get done while I sleep! If only. . . .*sigh* The real question, though, is what kind of idi. . . er, umm. . .*ahem* person caused the author to have to include this warning against the use of a heated appliance while sleeping? Interesting, eh?

Okay, now for the real entertainment--the small, noisy one and her latest exploit. . .

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pendulum Swing.

The dad pushing a little dark skinned beauty on the swing next to Gianna wondered why we came to Walnut Creek for the kids to play at the park. We had been chatting and I mentioned we live in Martinez. I told him my wife wanted to ride her bike on the canal trails and this was a good place for her to start from; where also I could hang out and watch the kids. He nodded, accepting that answer as completely logical and kept pushing.

Ah the irony. There I stood trying to track Ella's laps around the park on her bike, and keep a squealing giggling pendulum in motion, while my wife pedaled alone through Walnut Creek.

It's my knee again. I followed up my Mt. Diablo Almost Marathon on Saturday with a 5 mile hike through the emerald green hills in Briones on Monday. Wanting to "loosen up" some stiff muscles, and anticipating an easy hike, I brought Gianna in the jogging stroller. I did loosen up, but it didn't end up being easy. Tuesday I felt great - except for a twinge of pain in the left knee.

By Wednesday the pain was predominant, and Friday morning at 8:01 I called Kaiser Orthopedics to see if there were any openings. Around 2:00 pm the doctor and I were chatting about the infection in the bursa wreaking havoc on my swollen burgundy colored left knee. Antibiotics 4 times a day, ice, and no running for at least a week till I met her again. "Go to the Emergency Room if you come down with a fever." Stink.

The antibiotics go down with food, so that's OK.

I'm not fond of the ice, because that means I have to sit still at least 3-4 times a day.

But not running or cycling for a whole week? - Not as hard as I thought. 3 days into my abstinence I'm certain I could run if I had to, but frankly have no desire. Walking is a chore. Cycling is out of the question. Yet absence does make the legs grow twitchy - or something like that.

So Saturday I watched my wife ride away on her bike while I sat on the park curb with an ice pack on my knee. When she returned I was spooning banana chunks into a 14 month old and chatting politely with the other domestics. Textbook role reversal.

At church last night a fellow deacon asked me - "so what are you learning from this?" (Referring to my halting gate, and segmented transitions from sitting to standing) "I'm not sure that I want to learn anything from it," was the gist of my reply.
But he knows me better than that.

"I want to learn that I can be content in all things, and that in spite of pain, loss and disappointment I can still face life with alacrity and maintain joy. I want to learn to live like God is enough for me."

Apathy vs Alacrity.

And somewhere in the middle is me.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tough Mudder


The website pretty much says it all.
We have a team created - "MudSharks" - and have approx. 6 or 7 members going.
Anyone interested can join, and the more there are on your team the better. Let me know if you're interested and I'll get you the link to join our team.

Bec can't make it this year, but she said "maybe some year." I'm not making that up...

God put us together for a reason. She's the best woman a man could want - and yes, for more reasons than just that : )

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mt. Diablo Marathon - Almost

Me and Vince (Who's camera is responsible for all of these pictures.)

It took all week to plan for this insanity.

Matt took receipt of my bike on Friday night and it spent the night in the back of his Tundra. Also part of his cargo were my trail running shoes, helmet and gloves, 2 water bottles, 2 oranges, a banana, Power Bars, and a quart size bag of mixed nuts and dried fruit.

My conveyance to the start of a Mt. Diablo summit hike, was my white and orange Reeboks. 5:15 am I hit the road on the run and 13.4 miles and exactly 1 hour 45 minutes later I jogged up to the culdesac of Regency Dr. in Clayton. 7:00 am, I crested the last hill, as Pastor and Vince drove up. Sarah was already there, and Matt showed up 5 minutes late.

Matt brought me coffee and a protein type shake, both of which were gone in less than 5 minutes.
I changed shoes, reloaded my CamelBack with a new supply of PowerBars and the nut / fruit mix and we hit the trail at a trot. There had been some uncertainty as to whether we would summit the mountain, or just take the Falls Trail loop. So we did both.

Sarah was interested most in the Falls Trail, so whether in a show of chivalry or just a chance to add some miles, we took the loop with her until it intersected the Middle Trail and our route to the top.

Sarah, Me, Pastor, and Matt

Parting ways, Sarah jogged back down to her car, while the 4 men headed uphill.
10:04am, I climbed over the rail into the summit parking lot. (We rarely take the trail the whole distance to the top, choosing rather to cut straight up the last 900 vertical feet in a 1/2 mile death march.) This was approximately mile 18 for me with an accumulated elevation gain of well over 4000 feet.

Wow, he looks awful!

An obligatory walk through the Nature Center and a brief sit down out of the 40 mph gusts was heaven - while waiting for Pastor and Matt to reach the top. As soon as they climbed into the parking lot, Vince and I bid them good day and began the jog back down. Ouch. I had to walk / trot the majority of the steep 1/2 mile drop off the top. Unlike my typical haphazard rocksliding, I was acutely aware of my fatigued legs and sore feet, and took my time through the sharp rocks and drops.

Once off the top it was a full run to the bottom, but alone, since Vince was nowhere to be found. Cramps came and went as my legs transitioned muscle groups once more. Vince made it down in the best time I've seen yet - less than an hour. I met him back at the trucks 7 minutes adrift.

There the bike waited to take me on the final leg of my journey down the valley back to my house. The 2 oranges vaporized. I managed to stuff the running shoes and balance of the paraphernalia into the CamelBack and started turning the pedals. An hour later I was emptying cabinets at home in search of carbohydrates and protein.

My total miles for the day were approx. 23 on foot (18 running, and 5 hike/jog up the mountain) and 13.5 on the bike. Total time was 7 hours.

I am actually beginning to think I will be ready for my Marathon in April.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Just Another Great Ride

As recorded herein, I've been running a lot lately. For some reason it's easier on my left knee than is cycling right now. My sore knee after Wednesday's ride reminds me of this fact.

Wednesday I came home early to get a ride in while the sun was shining. I chose the road bike, bib shorts, Santa Cruz Mts Challenge jersey, sleeveless windbreaker, and arm warmers. Before I had even finished inflating the tires the arm warmers were already stashed in my jersey pocket.

Some days are meant for riding and this was one of them. I was soon asking myself why it had been so long since I had been out for a ride. Sliding the arm warmers back on at the end of the ride I remembered why.

The northern California February afternoon sun was already steeply angling shadows across the road, but the air was tenuously clinging to the mid day warmth and before long produced a few trickles of sweat below my windbreaker.

I pushed up the first series of hills getting through my side of town, and was pleasantly surprised at my performance. Attacking the final rise to look over Alhambra Valley the reason came to me in that pleasant and warm way that good things that should have been obvious do. I've been running. My lungs were taking this exertion in stride - so as to say. All of the heart pounding lung burning work I've been doing in running shoes has made a difference.

Having been off the bike for a while, I mediated between my mutually exclusive aggressive and conservative personas, and decided to favor conservatim over aggression. This would be a tempo ride rather than a test. I started the Crocket loop still feeling remarkably strong. The whole of the ride was far under capacity yet I still managed to finish in an hour - not much slower than my best.

The real joy came while climbing McEwen Rd. I overtook another cyclist with a slick kit, and sweet full carbon bike about 1/4 of the way up. I saw him as I turned right up the hill, though didn't rush to overtake him. We chatted briefly, and then I beat him to the top by half a minute. I sat up rolling down the other side, and let him catch me at the bottom where we both made the left turn back toward town.

This was exactly what I had hoped, and we were soon swapping turns on the front and pushing 30 miles an hour for the long gentle descent of Franklin Canyon. My fun soon turned to determination, as I decided to push for a sprint finish.

Coming into the last mile I was pulling and was fading so he came around for a turn on the front. I sat in for a while resting just off the left side of his wheel, but soon came back around again not wanting to be accused of taking advantage. With only 3 corners left I saw him off my left elbow as if he would come around me, and still seated, I added pressure to the pedals and ducked my head a little lower. He stayed back. Rounding the last corner and looking up toward the top of the road I jammed the balance of my powder and shot down the barrel and came off my saddle. I touched the fuse and went straight up the center of the road forgetting that this stretch was strewn with potholes and crumbling asphalt. There was not help for it - I had committed. I went right through barely feeling them, partly from some deft hops and nudges, and partly because I was flying.

He sat off my left elbow and no dark thing from the Abyss could have driven me faster toward the top of that hill. He had sucked my draft up the hill and adroitly stayed up with me. I'll never know if he could have beat me to the top without the draft or not, but he did kindly allow me to crest first. He came up beside and tapped me on the back laughing. We both rolled over the hump to Alhambra Valley Road where he turned to the right, and I to the left. Briefly shouted salutes were the end of our adventure.

I was reminded why I love this sport. The people. The wind. The speed. The ability to invest your whole being into a few moments of pure excitement and roll to a stop and smile at the end.