Monday, May 30, 2011

The Falls Church Memorial Day 3K Fun Run.

My second race of the year is in the books. My city has a Memorial Day 3K Fun Run which I run every year.

It's flat, and fast for reasons which I'll disclose later. I walked to the race's starting point, about a mile from my house, and settled into the back half of the pack because I wasn't intending to run very fast out of deference to my umbilical hernia repair operation five days earlier.

I couldn't even break into a trot for the first five minutes of the race due to the congestion caused by thousands of participants and dozens of running strollers crowding onto the two-lane roadway which comprised the first half-mile of the course. The hundreds of walkers and many walking stroller pushers who had lined up in the first half of the pack made it impossible to penetrate into the race course for several blocks.

The roadway broadened after the first turn and sideways darting movement from curb to curb finally made running possible. I moved very slowly and settled into a slow plod.

Ten minutes into the race I was running unencumbered and I jogged along, focusing on my body. I could feel a dull pain where the incision on my stomach was but so long as I ran very slowly and didn't get too out of breath, I felt fine except for the tenderness and some general fatigue.

It was hot though, with the temperature in in the eighties and the humidity high. As sweat started to soak my shirt, I could see the finish line a couple of blocks away.

My watch had just rolled past 19 minutes but I resisted the urge to pick up my pace and dash to it. Although I wanted to break twenty, I didn't want to hurt myself.

My watch read 20:36 when I passed the finish clock of this self-timed fun run. The race clock, however, read 19:47.

I decided to record the sub-twenty time in my personal race ledger, as that was the "official" time. I felt good about completing this twenty minute jog, and used the run to show myself that I shall shortly be back to running after last week's surgery.

Now for the reasons why this 3K race is so fast. I have always known that the course is about a tenth of a mile short, but now I also think that the race clock isn't even turned on until about a minute into the race.

A race with a course that is flat, short and which has favorable time mismanagement. How sweet is that?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Trevor's OK

On this day before Memorial Day, the priest of my congregation mentioned in her sermon that we should consider the homeless around us as many of them are veterans who have come home to difficult circumstances, whether it is because of PTS Disorder or suffering from Agent Orange exposure or being wrongly discharged from the Army due to a mental illness designation after suffering from Traumatic Brain Disorder due to a close-by powerful IED explosion. You see them everywhere in our warlike society if you look, often on street corners begging for dollars.

At church today I gave thanks for the successful passage out of six hours of spinal surgery on Monday by a former running buddy of mine, the strength I found to deal with two hours of successful stomach surgery on Wednesday, the sacrifices of my father and three uncles who all answered the call in WW2, the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan last fall of a former running acquaintance and the sacrifices of all those nameless service members who keep us safe. I thought of Trevor, about whom I have posted before, on his traffic corner wearing his sign, "Combat Veteran, Always Faithful."

I parked nearby and walked up upon him after church, noting that he was watching me closely as I approached. He knows me and calls me "Lawyer."

After giving him five dollar coins, I spent about twenty minutes with him on his street corner as he spoke animatedly. He is a powerful man who has a habit of emphasizing his points by flicking out backhand taps to your body.

I was gratified to listen to him explain that he has reduced his prescribed narcotic pain medication intake from his service-related disability from over a hundred a month to about thirty. "You know I also take mood medication," he added, which apparently in conjunction with his powerful pain medication gives him unpredictable emotional swings.

Keeping my hands discretely in front of my four-day old surgery incision in position to ward off any inadvertent taps to my stomach, I discussed his health, rehabilitation and future with him. Rolling Thunder is in town per usual this Memorial Day weekend, and he apparently took his buddies from the 82d Airborne Division out on the town last night.

Then he tired of chatting with me and chased me away by saying he had to "make some money" from passing motorists on his street corner before the day was done. In fact, beyond my five dollars, he had collected only a single dollar in all the time I was speaking with him.

We shook hands repeatedly as I took my leave from him. I wish him continued wellness, this representative of America's huge and faceless homeless population.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Everthing's A-OK.

My umbilical hernia repair went well and I am on the mend. I have been walking every day since the surgery, and I still think I could have walked home after it.

I don't know whether they merely stitched the hole in my abdomen or inserted a mesh. There is an incision below my belly button that looks like the grin on a smiley face.

I talk to the doctor in two weeks and hopefully he will clear me for a rapid return to running. In the meantime, I've been grabbing plenty of bed rest which means reading.

I read Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. What a fabulous little book, so rich with fascinating dialogue.

It had a passage in it depicting David Balfour being washed overboard in a raging sea that reminded me of my involuntary swim down the rapids in the Dolores River in Utah a year ago.

I went down, and drank my fill, and then came up and got a blink of the moon, and then down again. They say a man sinks the third time for good. I cannot be made like other folk, then; for I would not like to write how often I went down, or how often I came up again. All the while I was being hurled along, and beaten upon and choked, and then swallowed whole; and the thing was so distracting to my wits, that I was neither sorry nor afraid. ... And then all of a sudden I was in quiet water and began to come to myself.

That's pretty much how it went for me, too.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Oh Yeah

Well, I'm going to miss this latest version (the fourth iteration) of the bucket trip due to recent stomach surgery. That leaves my college roommate Jimmy, Barry (I listen to him closely when he talks), Guy (who arrived at age 60 somehow without ever having held a job) and Todd (whom I respect immensely) as the only ones who will have attended all four.

Todd nearly died of natural causes a few years ago, and has the surgery scars to show for it. He is a poster boy for the life-sustaining value of calling 911, and I ran a few miles with him before the first bucket trip while he told me the heroic actions he undertook to save his own life (his wife was away) when things turned bad for him.

I'm having some troubles with my own family, as my three adult children have nothing to do with me and two of my five siblings have demanded that I never mention them in my blog. This hurts as I don't believe in any form of censorship and in the age of google, such a demand seems senseless to me.

Maybe it is my fault. All those things I denied during my oppressive divorce litigation, perhaps they would seem right to an observer given the attitudes my siblings have expressed towards me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Good News

I am happy to report that my running buddy of days past had successful spinal surgery yesterday to restore normal functions in his perambulation that have been disrupted for the past couple of years by two degenerated disks, a condition which was only diagnosed a few weeks ago by a neurosurgeon. See my post two postings ago.

After years of doctors having no answers to my friend's debilitating, life-changing ailments and pain, he was referred to a neurosurgeon by a physical trainer. Neurosurgery ensued mere weeks later, with hopefully fully effective results.

He's already home, although he's in a lot of pain. They cut open the back of his neck, in effect, and snaked implements down his throat as they worked.

It sounds awful, but he's already been walking about a little, carefully, and he reports that his leg pains are gone. Maybe it's only a result of the pain medication, but he is very upbeat. (Right: My past running buddy & friend is looking forward to a full recovery after serious spinal surgery.)

He's already graciously wishing me success in my much-more-minor surgery scheduled tomorrow. We're both ready to get to the recovery!

Sunday, May 22, 2011


As I await surgery later this week, which recovery from will knock my return to running back to near its starting point in January, I am taking my current conditioning, as it were, up to the very day of surgery. I had just arrived at running four days a week, four miles each time, four forty-minute outings.

Thursday I ran four miles on the Mall at noon, plodding along alone, greedily partaking of the full length of every red-light I came to on the cross streets. That completed last week's four workouts.

Friday I threw in a "long" run of five miles, barely breaking an hour on a long loop around my greater neighborhood that I always used to complete in under forty-five minutes before. It was my longest run since October 2009.

Yesterday and today I ran my four-mile "hills" route in my home town, running it in reverse on Saturday and the regular way this morning. Today I ran all the outside stairs at the school on the hill, which made my time over two minutes longer today than yesterday.

Tomorrow at noon I'll run four miles on the Mall with a workmate, and then all that will be left is to walk the mile from my house to the medical center two days later at noon on Wednesday. Weeks from now, after recovery, I'll start all over again.

I won't lie to you, I'm bummed. I'm also terribly worried about my former running buddy's serious neck surgery tomorrow (see my previous post), but I have hopes that he and I will be doing slow 3-mile geriatric runs together down the W&OD Trail in the August heat.

Friday, May 20, 2011

True Love

I am stunned by the outpouring of love expressed to me as a result of my last post about my upcoming surgery. Thank you all, especially you-who-you-know-who-you-are.

Good folks from my workplace, and my old running friends, have reached out to me. I only wish that my own children had been taught some love for others when they were impressionable minors by those responsible for the way they are now. You know who you are.

I shouldn't complain about my outpatient surgery, which is next Wednesday afternoon. Below is a message of love I received from an old running buddy of mine. Back in 2007 we ran Riley's Rumble together, a local legendary hilly half marathon in July that separates runners from pretenders, he in 1:49 and me in 1:51. The race was notable that year because a deer ran over a runner.

Hi Peter,

This Monday morning, the 23rd, I will be having spinal surgery at Georgetown. The neurologist figured out that the source of my injuries (resulting from all the [ultra-running] falls I've had) is a severe degeneration of the C5 and C6 disk/vertebrae (I still don’t understand the jargon). This is causing undue compression on my spinal cord with loss of balance being the greatest symptom. Communication to and from the brain/limbs gets scrambled. It also triggers some sort of “Pain syndrome” that caused old injuries to burn like fire.

He is going to rebuild the bone structures from donated cadaver bone then tie it all together with metal plates and screws. I will be home then counting down the days until I can walk and start basic core work. I weighed in last week at 220. A PR and about 45lbs > than my marathon weight.

I’ll keep you updated my dear friend,

[Running Buddy & Friend].

God be with you my friend, and I'll see you soon and often as you recover.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

All the Love Money Can Buy

I went to my doctor for the first time in over a year, saying I needed drugs. She said my symptoms, fatigue, chest congestion and a runny nose, were just allergies.

I insisted that I had an enervating summer cold. "It's interfering with my comeback to running," I said.

So she prescribed five days of antibiotics. "And also, as long as I'm here . . . ," I continued, and showed her a tender part on my stomach that I have been ignoring for months.

She gave me an appointment to see the surgeon the next morning. That doctor scheduled surgery for me next week, saying that although the condition wasn't serious, if an incarceration occurred that developed into a strangulation, that would be serious indeed.

"Just a two-hour outpatient procedure," he said, smiling reassuringly. "We'll give you a local anaesthetic and a relaxant, and after a couple of hours in the recovery room, you'll be ready to go home."

"Of course someone will have to pick you up afterwards. You won't be able to drive because of the medication."

I live alone. Everyone I know works, and I can't ask any of them to take hours off from work just to drive me home ten blocks.

"I only live a mile away so I'll walk home," I told the doctor. His smile vanished.

"No you won't walk home after the operation, or drive home yourself, or get into a taxi. Someone we can turn responsibility for you over to will come to pick you up or I'll cancel the surgery."

I do have family members in the area. Three sons, all in their twenties now, for whom I paid tens of thousands of dollars in child support after the divorce while they ignored court-ordered visitation.

Furthermore, each child upon his eighteenth birthday came into a trust fund, set up by my Mother before she died to be used for their benefit and worth almost a hundred thousand dollars. I have also provided for full payment of each child's college tuition and fees.

None of these lads has communicated with me in years. Their Mother, a local first grade teacher, refuses to provide me with their addresses, or give me any news at all about them.

My adult children aren't an option for me in my moment of need. Maybe I can hire the neighborhood kid who dropped out of college to come pick me up after the operation and drop me off in front of my house.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Marathon Charity Corporation

My Couch to 5K Training Program is over. In January, after a year of inactivity due to injury, I joined a 5K program for beginning runners put on by the Marathon Charity Corporation in Arlington.

It was kind of boring, actually. We met outside a locked Mall every Saturday morning and ran/walked 4 miles around the same huge block that girdled the commercial establishment, each complete passage constituting a mile. By the time we finished our four laps, the Mall was open and we'd go inside for coffee.

After a couple of weeks of pure walking, our walk/run ratio started at four minutes walking followed by one minute running. Sixteen weeks later we finished up at one minute walking followed by four minutes of running. It was sort of like a NASCAR race, except that we were always run/walking turn-right whereas race-car drivers are always zoom/braking turn-left.

Midweek we were supposed to run/walk the same routine two or three other times. I always just jogged the damned distance three other times each week on the Mall with a coworker at a 10:10 pace.

The coach, an RRCA-certified trainer (as am I) who is also a five-hour marathoner, ascertained that I was in fact an experienced runner who was fast (relatively speaking). After awhile, I fell into running on Saturdays with Nick, the most fit and competitive of the inveterate group of seven athletes who kept showing up, and we'd leave everyone else behind and try to lap them. We never could, a mile is too much to make up in only four miles, especially when you walk part of the distance (everyone pretty much walks at the same pace so you make no headway then).

In March, I ran my target 5K race in Falls Church (the route went by my back door twice) in twenty-nine minutes and change (about a 9:25 pace). Finishing under thirty minutes was a huge relief since I used to break twenty-three regularly in 5K races. Everyone else ran/walked their target 5K race in April on a hilly course in Fairfax, with Nick and a few others bringing it home in forty-one minutes and the coach and the rest finishing in about forty-eight minutes. (Right: Me with my coach, John, in the vest, after my 5K race.)

About that time, the stress of the faster pace in the race and doing sixteen miles a week caused my lingering injury to flare up again and I went back to my specialist to insist that we had to try a more aggressive treatment than merely taking time off and wearing a brace. This led to a cortisone shot in my ankle (an instantaneous cure) with the promise of surgery to come if/when the pain comes back.

So after a few weeks of severely reduced running following the shot, now I'm back to running four miles four times each week. My ankle doesn't hurt anymore, but I can't say that things don't feel "suspicious" down there. Meanwhile, I'm trying to improve my conditioning/motivation. I cannot believe that I used to run training runs at an 8:30 pace, and although I love being back to running, it's hard to get out the door these days. I'm also trying to shed the ton of extra weight I put on during my year-plus of inactivity. I'm a third of the way there.

Thanks for getting me back in the game, MCC.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Polly's Run

I recently found out that the last grandparent of my children died last year. My children haven't communicated with me in years due to PAS, and their Mother has repeatedly refused to give me their addresses or any news at all about them.

She was 82. I first met her in 1975, the same year I met my children's Mother, who was engaged at the time, and started living with her.

We got divorced in 2002. My three sons were "involved in [the] divorce up to their armpits" by one parent, an adult who did not act in the best interests of these minors.

I remember my divorce attorney at the time telling me a truism: You want to know what your wife will be like in twenty years? Go talk to your Mother-In-Law.

I went for a plodding 4-mile hill run in my town yesterday as part of my laborious return to running after a long layoff due to injury, jogging past the school on the hill where I went to kindergarten and then traversing the same hill via Highland Avenue. Ascending its steepest part from yet another direction, I put Polly squarely in my mind as I toiled up Mt. Daniel Drive.

My lungs burning, sweat rolling into my eyes, my breathing tortured, I made my peace with her memory during that painful quarter-mile. I am sorry for my children that the last of that generation of blood-relatives has departed, and I hope they are well.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A year ago...

It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play

A year ago today, I found myself in a cold and lonely water-filled place. Trapped underwater beneath an overturned boat wrapped around a rock in a rapids, I instantly knew I was in the last minute of my life.

Well, I didn't die, Providence granted me a continuation of life. What have I done with my life since then?

  • I won the first trial I ever conducted, my second trial in twenty years.

  • I took a car trip to the Mississippi River, seeing a professional baseball game in a different stadium each day and visiting the Federal Courthouse in St. Louis where the first Dred Scott trials were conducted, the Flood Memorial in Johnstown and the Flight 93 memorial under construction in Shanksville.

  • I read a couple of very good books, Collapse by Jared Diamond and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and re-read a couple of excellent books, The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger and Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger.

  • I started jogging again after a layoff of a year and a half due to injury, after consenting to a cortisone shot in my ankle.

  • I celebrated Thanksgiving with my sister's family in Columbus, speaking with my brother for the first time in several years thanks to her, and Christmas with my cousin's family in Newport News.

  • I celebrated the graduation from college of my middle child, a fact I surmised when the statements for his tuition and fees for which I had provided full payment stopped coming, since I haven't heard from Johnny since 2006.

  • I stopped actively attempting to reach out to my three children who were estranged from me as minors due to PAS upon the passage of the twenty-second birthday of my youngest child, since I haven't heard from Danny since 2007.

  • I mourned the passing of my uncle, the last of the generation represented by my parents, members of the Greatest Generation.

  • I started attending church services on most Sundays, working on forgiveness and a better understanding of why fairness does not exist in the world.
I have to step it up.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Where were you when...

Shortly after lunch on Friday, November 22, 1963, I was a seventh grader sitting in study hall when Miss Annapole, Principal of JHS 51, New York City, came on the intercom and announced in an angry, accusatory tone that President Kennedy had been shot, killed, and we would be having auditorium in 15 minutes. After a further harangue about the murder in the auditorium from Miss Annapole (I remember she was shrieking into the mike so much it went on permanent shrill buzz) we were discharged out the doors and sent home, shocked and bewildered.

On Tuesday morning, January 28, 1986, I had awakened from a fitful four hour slumber after returning home from a graveyard shift as a Colorado State Patrolman and I was wondering through the Target store shopping aimlessly in Boulder when my attention was drawn to the active TV sets in the electronics department. They all showed continuous re-runs of the 73-second ill-fated Challenger space shuttle flight which culminated in its fiery destruction in sub orbit with its devestating loss of everyone aboard (I'll always remember the Houston Control announcer saying dryly as the pieces of rocket scattered to smithereens in a huge trail of smoke, "Obviously a major malfunction.").

On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, I was on a Metro platform going to work when the PA system came on and the announcer informed us that the Pentagon station was closed due to the "terrorist attack" there. My imagination conjured up an image of some zealots boiling out of the station there and assaulting the Pentagon building with some AK-47s. When I arrived at work in downtown DC a few minutes later pandemonium was reigning in the hallways of my workplace as people were running around looking for "shelter" within the building and reports were coming in that more planes were on their way to bomb us and car bombs were going off in the street. Welcome to the world that Osama bin Laden introduced us unsuspecting Americans to on that day.

Late on Sunday evening, May 2, 2011, I was checking my email account on the netbook which was open on my chest as I lay in bed. Automatic news alerts in the account informed me that Osama bin Laden had been "killed" and that President Obama was addressing the nation in a few minutes. I went downstairs to watch his speech wherein he announced the death of this mass-murderer, the result of a completely successful American special operations raid in Pakistan, ordered by the president. When President Obama stated that following a firefight, Osama bin Laden had been shot in the head and killed, I knew right away that this was a euphemism for the fact that the bloodstained polygamous zealot had been summarily executed.