In Maine’s Sunday Telegram.
Surprised my self on the third week anniversary of my surgery. I walked with Frank again today to the summit of Battie and back.
Our conversation was absorbing. I shared with Frank some if the stories that moved me recently. Like the story of the Ojibuay, and their migration from the Eastern North American seaside to the Great Lakes via the St. Laurence River. Lake Superior is significant to the tribe because the Ojibway believe their ancestors migrated there from the east coast of No. America and it was their final stopping place after 500 years of migration following the dream of the prophet of a shaman to move or be destroyed.
Teachings about Ojibway history are passed down orally. Birch bark scrolls were used to write down things using pictographic writing (a mneumonic or memory device using pictures and symbols rather than a phonetic writing system). They were initially guided by an otter.
I’ve recently spoken to two of my friends who have bemoaned the fact that they can’t exercise every day like they used to, and that they feel the need for a rest day in between sessions. I agree.
Here’s encouraging news that suggests we might be doing the right thing in backing off.
It’s happening again.
I am headed into an unplanned surgery this coming Friday to repair a hernia. Bummer. I will be on a much reduced program of healing for as long as 6 weeks. I have a plane ticket already purchased for a flight from Maine to El Paso on April 16, when I cobble together rides to reach the Mexico border at Chihuahua , then turn around and start a 3,000 backpacking walk to Canada, over the Continental Divide Trail.
How did I get into this situation? I even had a physical at the beginning of December when I asked to be checked for a hernia on my left side. My physician did the deed, I coughed, and she told me that I did not have a hernia.
I’m sort of an expert in this questionable skills area, as I have already experienced three hernias on my right side. I told her that I had been feeling fatigue in my lower abdomen for some time- not pain, but an awareness that that part of my body begins to ache when I hike all day.
Thankfully, she was not defensive, and suggested that I contact a surgeon to get a second opinion. Enter Dr. Paine. He was booked solid for many weeks, so I requested to be put on the wait list for a call. This past week, I was home working at my desk when that call came in at 10:20 AM for an 11:00 opening. It took Dr. Paine all of 1 second to tell me I had a hernia. When I explained about my hiking plans, he assisted the secretaries in bumping people around to fit me in for the surgery this week. Good man.
I have several physical concerns that are a part of my life. Granted, I’m healthy, with no known diseases that require prescription medication. I do have a chronic Vitamin D deficiency that has not improved after three years of various D3 treatments, including 50,000 unit capsules. Other than that, I’m the picture of vigor.
However, not all is rosy. I’m wearing out!
Here’s a graphic representation of what’s going on (as of today):
1- Repair chronic shoulder impingement syndrome, including trim of collarbone- date @ 1986
2-Surgery to remove arthritis and repair suspected torn rotator cuff ( 2006)- cuff was fine, “You have the shoulder of a man in his 80’s” Complete shoulder replacement predicted to be necessary between 2011- 2014.
3-Three right side hernias ( same location)- 1966, 1972, 1982. OK now.
4-Hernia repair scheduled for 2/15/13 ( Friday!).
5-Bone on bone situation in wrist, w/ chronic pain in 2001. Surgery recommended to cut and remove section of my forearm bone, and install metal plate with screws holding it in to alter wrist function, trim arthritis from wrist. Declined.
6-Right knee- traditional surgery to remove torn meniscus- 2 large open incisions. No further issues. 1980’s?
7-Left knee- arthroscopic surgery to remove torn meniscus – good repair- 1994
8- Chronic inflammation of 2nd metatarsal in foot-> nerve damage- surgery suggested going in through the top of the foot- Declined. Orthotics prescribed and used. The damage was due to a biomechanical gait problem which I have worked to correct after two years.
So I plan to ask my doctor to give me highly specific directions of how far I can walk, when I can increase mileage, and what I can lift in the 6 weeks it will take me to heal. I have agreed to have my wife, Marcia, come in with me and hear what he tells me. I have NO interest in blowing this recovery. Even if I require the full 6 weeks to heal, I will have three weeks to fully train for the hike. In the past I have healed much sooner than expected, but I’m older now. Dr. Paine told me that I should be able to start backpacking in mid- April, and I plan to be a good patient and be in flight on April 16, and in decent shape. I’ve looked at the elevation profiles for the first week and it’s fairly flat, which should help.
Single digit temperatures, a bare porch, and a blizzard on the way? Better get active.
I moved a half cord of firewood yesterday afternoon before the next “possible snow storm of the century” hit coastal Maine. Big hype?
My tractor’s trailer failed me after the trailer’s tire slipped off the rim as I was driving a full load of wood up the hill to my enclosed porch. I had a couple of hours before dark, so I went to plan B, which was push, lift, turn, and restack with the help of the trusty wheelbarrow. I managed to move 18 barrow loads of dry hardwood until there was no more wood to reclaim before it would have been buried under lots of white crystalline water.
Was it worth it? YUP!
#1- We may lose power here, with the possibility of very strong winds during the storm. The heat from our wood stoves are not dependent on electricity. There is also NO COMPARISON to the comfort of a stoked and glowing a wood stove to the meager blasts from the duct work of a hot air furnace.
#2- I did a quick bit of research this morning. Our furnace is fueled by propane. One half cord of dry hardwood is the equivalent of 80 gallons of propane. Since my last charge for a gallon was $3.00, that half cord on my porch is worth $240. Much of that load was free, as I harvested the trees here on on our property. But even if I paid the current cost of $200 a cord for split and delivered hardwood, which I do some years, I still would have saved $140.
#3- Core workout accomplished.
Since posting the my first Continental Divide Trail entry last week, the outdoor conditions here in midcoast Maine have dramatically, but not unexpectedly, ramped up. In the past week, we’ve experienced unseasonably low temperatures and 18 “ of snowfall.
It’s made for challenging training conditions.
There are hikers who believe that the only preparation for hiking is- well, to hike. On the other hand, some folks actually “plan” to show up for a thru-hike out of shape. They start really slow, generally grunting through less than 10 miles a day, and allow themselves to shed weight and build up mileage so that they’re in decent shape by week 4 to 6. I don’t want to be in pain and suffering when I’m just starting out, so I train. I don’t escape the discomfort and strife, but spread it out over a longer period of weeks, rather than add additional stressors at the of start of a long hike.
This week, I’ve re-read Andrew Skurka’s recommendations on training for a long hike. <—Recommended reading.
I’ve also revisited Ray Jardine’s Trail Life, specifically Ray’s excellent chapter on physical conditioning.
My ultimate goal is to follow Ray’s recommendation to work up to walking on rugged terrain for 12 or more miles with thirty-five pounds on my back. I have a setup with a 50 pound barbell plate that I strap to an old Trailwise pack from the 60’s that I’ve put into rotation before. The Camden Hill State Park is a superb terrain to do backpack. I can see the top of those Hills from my kitchen window.
At his point of my life I train every other day. I find I need to rest in between, – ok, maybe I do walk two or three miles in between.
This week the training has been snowshoeing and mountain biking on the snow. Both are difficult. For a glimpse of my most training episode on Thursday night- check out this blog entry.
One aspect of training that is not often spoken about is training for mental toughness. My wife believes I have a “Polish suffering gene”, and the following article from 2008 National Geographic Magazine gives strong evidence that she might be correct.
On my next entry I plan to introduce companies and individuals that have agreed to help me out with gear and supplies.
Sometimes good things just happen.
About the Paleo thing- I had not needed to go to the gym lately. I’ve been riding, walking a lot, and lifting and hauling lots of firewood and logs the past month. My woodshed roof collapsed a couple of months ago so I had to extract and restack two cords of wood. Lifting, hauling, pushing and carrying is part of a Paleo exercise program.
A few months ago Central Maine Power noticed some wild cherry trees that were threatening their overhead power lines on the property line between my neighbor Bill and I, so they cut them down, and Bill told me to take them for firewood.
I saved out a 6 foot log for my friend Dave, who will carve a paddle for his new cedar and canvas canoe out of it. The rest I cut into stove-length pieces that I hauled up and stacked for processing. Some of the pieces were almost 2 feet in diameter.
So, I got out the splitting maul and started at it yesterday, lifting and rolling and whacking away. At one point, Bill drove by on his John Deere Gator and asked me if I wanted to borrow his wood splitter. Both my shoulders have been acting up recently, so I said yes.
Less than 5 minutes later, he was up with the Gator again, with the Supersplit in tow.
In less than an hour, I had split up all that wood, and kept at it, filling up a half-dozen plastic buckets with dry kindling.
Bill came back again, this time dropping off more local harvest: a rump steak and a pound of venison sausage, and a pound of garlic heads that I’ll plant in the garden for next year’s crop. He shot the deer in the field below our houses and reasoned that it was probably fed from my own vegetable garden.
Tomorrow I’ll continue this ancient exchange by dropping off a few bars from my latest batch of pemmican.
The Benefits of Middle-Age Fitness – NYTimes.com. <-click here for full NYT article.
My wife sometimes teases me about my walks, hikes, paleo wheelbarrow workouts, jumping sessions, visits to the gym, and even an occasional run ( OK, just once in the past 10 years).
I quip back with, ” You never know when you have to be ready!”
Ready for what?
How about next week’s planned hike up to the summit of Katahdin, which will be #16 for me, if the weather is right, and if I make it.
Or the grueling ascent last night of some 800 vertical feet in a mile to get to the top of the mountain bike trails on Ragged Mountain? The Bubbas are going to be there and I have a new strategy worked up- starting the climb 15 minutes early, so that I may make it up there around the same time as those young guys.
I got an email invite last night to head up to the top of Bald Mountain this afternoon. I’m going.
So do read this article. It’s encouraging.
But, am dismayed that when the article refers to middle-agers, they mention folks in their 40′s and 50′s.
So what am I ? Or you ?
You never know how things might work out.
Yesterday, I volunteered to work a water station, placed just past the 4th of the 9 mile Ragged Mountain Runaround, a first year trail running race organized by Steve Wagoner, taking place at the Camden Snow Bowl. My friend Trevor Mills was also with me, handing out water and encouragement.
The day was as humid as you can get- 100%. I have rode the exact course many times, on a mountain bike, but have never actually hiked it. We had radio communication and were updated as to runner progress. We knew when the last runner had started to head down from the top of the mountain toward us, with three miles to get to us, on a long downhill.
She was the 31st runner to pass us at our post, roughly half way done. We would see all of these runners again after they completed the 3+ mile-long Five Brooks Trail, and loop through this intersection a second time, as they headed down the mountain to the finish line.
We had a long wait, maybe a one hour wait. The mosquitoes were active today.
I got the idea to leave Trevor to hand out water, catch up with back of the pack, and serve as a “sweep”, to help out any injured or exhausted runners as they labored back to the finish line. At first I hiked fast, but then realized that I’d have to run a bit if I were to reach anyone before they made it back to the water station.
The problem is that I am not a runner- I haven’t run for at least 20 years, with knees that have both had the cartilage removed way back when. I knew the trail, and basically loped along in jogging mode, shuffling quickly over wet roots, rocks and ledges when necessary. The sections of softer forest floor were comforting. I was soon completely drenched in sweat, but got into it, and was surprised at just how quickly I moved, realizing that I was actually sometimes faster over some sections than when riding a bicycle over the same terrain.
I caught the last runner just after Massey Falls, when I hung back enough to stay out of the guy’s sight line. The last runner that passed us had obviously passed him.
I made it back to Trevor and the water station after 3.5 miles where I had a long drink.
Cool! I had fun, and I understand these trail running folks better now.
The Olympics are on TV again. Looking at all those hard bodies gets Americans back out into the sweat pants and exercising again, but for a brief time, when most of us quit.
Today’s New York Times Health section backs up treatment of high blood pressure, one of the primary risk factors for heart disease and stroke, with just three 10 minute walking sessions a day.
There is now a small but compelling body of science suggesting that short, cumulative exercise sessions are remarkably beneficial. A study published last year in PLoS One, for instance, found that in children and teenagers, repeated bouts of running or other physical activity lasting as little as five minutes at a time reduced the youngsters’ risks of poor cholesterol profiles, wide waistlines and above-average blood pressure readings as much as longer exercise sessions did.
I’ve been reading The First 20 Minutes, by Gretchen Reynolds, which treads this same territory. It’s refreshing to know that you don’t need to knock yourself out to stay fit. Reynold’s theory is that 80 % of the positive effects of exercise occur within the first 20 minutes of working out, with incremental gains resulting from hammering into the extended time put into working out.
There has to be some reasonable way to avoid falling into the category where 80% of us American seniors are on prescription medications, with an average of $85- $100 a month out-of-pocket expenses, even after health insurance. The majority of medications prescribed are for cholesterol and diabetes, which are well known to be lifestyle-choice results of poor health habits.
Makes sense to me.
Stand tall, walk and walk often.