Monday, February 12, 2018

Medical Monday: Part Two--My Therapist Takes A Knee

   Today was another Medical Monday and, quite frankly, way too long in coming. I'd finally decided to see a physiotherapist for my bum right knee and today was the day we met for the first time.
   I decided to go to the local office of the CBI Health Group for my physio. There are all sorts of good places for physio in London but CBI is literally a three-minute drive from my place and the easier a place is to get to, the more likely it is I will get to it.
   I filled out the usual info forms and then Alison, my physiotherapist, showed up, introduced herself, and took me down to the physio room. 
   After hearing my sad story, watching me both walk and run, and bending the knee every which way possible, she came up with a theory.
   She noticed from my gait that I had a bit of a hip drop. This has caused the IT band to stretch into a position it is not accustomed to and has caused misalignment on that right knee. The tendons, ligaments, and meniscus appear fine so she is reasoning that the knee is not tracking properly and bone is wearing on cartilage.
   Part of today's treatment involved the use of a TENS machine and taping of the knee before I left.
   The TENS machine (and I'm guessing that most of you have had some sort of experience with one) works by attaching electrodes around the area of your body which is in pain and then running electrical current through that area. Basically, it creates a very strong, tingly sensation. 
   The TENS technician applied the electrodes to my knee and then turned the machine on, asking me to let her know when I could feel it. It took awhile but I could finally feel the tingling and told her that she could turn it even higher. Well, she did this and before I could say anything, the whole inside of my right thigh started to spasm! She turned it down quite quickly and got it back to a comfortable level. She then left the room.Now, what I wasn't expecting was that the machine, all on its own, would suddenly make my knee jerk and spasm. I was about to call someone when it stopped. It was fine for awhile and then started up again, causing more spasms. I finally figured out that the machine was simply cycling and giving my knee a wide range of different intensity levels. 
Home with a tape job! Not sure what's
taped to what, but the knee feels good!
   After the TENS, Alison returned and taped the knee. She figured the tape would last a couple of days and I am curious as to whether it will help or not. One thing I can say, though, is that tonight the knee feels great! I was sent home with exercises to do and was also told what and what not to do at the gym.
   So far, so good. It is such a good feeling to finally be doing something constructive with the stupid knee. Hopefully, running soon. Then....sprinting!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Medical Monday

   The day before yesterday was Medical Monday (yes, I enjoy alliteration as much as the next blogger) and I found myself headed off to do bloodwork, get x-rays done of my problematic right knee and then, to top it off, set up an appointment for a physio assessment for that same right knee. Then, after all that was completed, it was off to the gym for a workout!
   I went about all of this with a little bit of glee in my heart. Part of this had something to do with the fact that it was finally a sunny day. Sunshine's been scarce in these parts and to once again experience it was a true mood-elevator. Principally, though, I was happy because I was actually doing something.
There's the bastard. On the left. YOUR left.

   My knee has stopped me dead in the tracks from doing many of the things I'd like to be able to do, training-wise. I have this desire to be training for running sprints and a right knee that will allow me to hike and run through a forest but will not enable me to run full-out is stifling. Even attempting a swift jog a couple of weeks ago gave me grief for several days afterward. So, setting in motion some of the things I need to do to finally deal with this situation was a welcome change to limping around and feeling sorry for myself.
   
It seems as though I may have touched down gently...
Today, my doctor's office called and informed me that the x-rays of the knee were normal. Now, my knee is certainly not "normal" but the fact that the x-rays did not indicate anything structurally wrong was encouraging. The best part about this result, though, is that it kind of rules out arthritis as a major contributor. I was kind of worried about this, I have no qualms in stating. This also allows me to meet my physiotherapist next week and tell her that I'm already this far into the investigation and what the results were.

Is there no end to my dirty
right knee pics??
   Having said all this, today the knee doesn't feel all that bad. This has been the trap I've fallen into ever since I injured it last spring. The knee will give me tons of grief but then gradually start to feel better, at which point I think I'm healing all by myself, so I don't get the medical attention I probably need. This was the cycle I was on all last summer and fall. In fact, the knee did heal enough that I was able to run on the trails and gradually increase the mileage. I enjoyed all that but now I want to run fast and the knee won't let me.
   Today, one of my co-workers (one who actually follows this blog) asked me if I had hooked up with physio yet. I told her I had and where it was and she herself had been a patient there and said they were very good. This was encouraging and I will go there next Medical Monday and let them do their magic!

   

Friday, February 2, 2018

"I Come Bearing Bad Knees"

   I had my semi-yearly physical earlier on this week. My priority at the moment is to figure out exactly what is going with my bum right knee. I hurt it last April and, even though I've managed to do a ton of running and hiking in the interim, there is still a nagging pain that won't go away.
   As it happened, I didn't actually get to see my regular doctor because there was an intern (not the right word) who is currently assigned to my doctor's office. He seemed like a very bright young man, though, and I was happy with the visit. He did the usual check-up things and then we settled in to talking about my knee.
My bum right knee, in a better (albeit dirtier and bloodier) day!

   He went through a range of motion test, pressed it here and there and discovered the 2 or 3 sore spots. After all was said and done, he was of the opinion that arthritis was involved and gave me a Rx for an x-ray and physio. I could have seen a physio when I first got hurt but the knee always seemed to be on the mend and so I never ended going. This time, though, it's physio for sure.
   I am not sure about the arthritis thing. I'm certainly at the age when arthritis enters the conversation but, at the same time, I know my body pretty well and it's not that the knee is constantly sore, it's that the knee feels like it's gonna give out now and then. The x-ray, I guess, should at least be definitive on the whole arthritis thing. After that, we'll go from there. I did ask about the possibility of getting an MRI but this is complicated a little by an almost 65-year-old chunk of metal in my brain. No real desire to have metal fly out of my head and clamp on to an MRI machine!
   The worst part about all of this is that I've temporarily shut down any kind of a workout that affects the knees. I've actually been pretty good about getting to the gym regularly but I've necessarily avoided doing leg work because it just aggravates everything. Kind of pisses me off because I'd just joined Ontario Masters Athletics with a view to running some sprints and, right at the moment, I can't sprint!
   So, likely this coming Monday I'll get in for that x-ray and there happens to be a physio place in the same building so I may stop in there as well. Maybe even get some bloodwork done cuz they do that there, too!
   The joy of it all....

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Bit Of An Update And Something New!

   I haven't posted anything on Ragged Cap Runner now for about the last three weeks.
   Basically, this has been because there's been very little to post about---no running, no hiking. This has been due to a couple of things---Christmas and what seemed like a month-long chest cold. On top of everything else, winter descended with a vengeance and I was not quite prepared for it. 
   At some point, about a week ago, the lungs began to cope a little better and mentally I felt like I was ready to get back into a more athletic existence. Co-incidentally with the arrival of winter, I was given a wonderful opportunity to try out the new snowshoes my son, Ben, had given me for Christmas.
   I've never had the snowshoeing experience before so I decided just to head for the backyard and give it a go, no-one else around to watch me flounder. Although I didn't actually flounder, my inexperience with tightening the bindings properly led to one of the snowshoes falling off and me being unable to get it back on securely. Lesson learned. I then ended up spending a few days before another opportunity to try them again presented itself. 
   I headed to Springbank Park here in London, determined to give them another go. I'd thought long and hard about putting them on properly and finally was out there, snowshoeing about, for the first time. Unfortunately, in the meantime, we had had a bit of a thaw and the deep snow was mostly gone. After the thaw, it had gotten really cold again and so there was all this crunchy shallow snow to walk on. It was still fun, though, and I learned a lot in a short amount of time. Almost fell once or twice because one shoe was on top of the other as I was attempting to take a step but I imagined that this was the kind of thing all first-timers likely experience.
   The other thing I started doing once I felt better was return to the gym. Before Christmas, I had "re-activated" my extremely under-used Goodlife Fit4Less membership and had been  going somewhat regularly. This fell by the wayside for the same reasons the other things did. Feeling better now, though, and I'm right back at it, at least every other day. I'm now at the point where I really look forward to it so today I headed there even though I was just there yesterday! Unheard of!
   
Finally (and this is sort of big news), I've taken the step of joining the Ontario Masters Athletics (OMA). This is a provincial association which runs track and field events in Ontario for athletes who are over the age of thirty and all the way up to people in their nineties!
   Why I've done this is that one of these days I want to sign up for a short sprint, like, say, anywhere from fifty to a hundred meters. I've always wanted to do this (almost desperately) and joining OMA will give me this opportunity. As much as I enjoy distance-running, there is something about running real fast for a short distance that has always appealed to me. With this membership, the chance to do so will be right there. If I decide to take it. This has given me a little more impetus for getting in shape, hence part of the reason for hitting the gym more regularly.
   Now, having said all this, I have a bum knee. I injured it street-running back in April and I've been working on it ever since. I'm able to run through the forest pretty quickly and it feels quite structurally sound but I'm just not sure what might happen if I went full-out. We've had quite the thaw lately and today I stopped back in at Springbank to try and test it out. I was certainly able (after a warm-up) to run at about 75% but was afraid to go any faster. The legwork at the gym has been somewhat irritating it so I've at least momentarily eliminated that part of the training. I have a physical next week and will talk to my doctor about the whole process and see what he suggests.
   In the meantime, there is an OMA mini-meet coming up on Feb. 11 in Toronto which I would really like to enter, as they have a 60 meter sprint division. This would give me a bit of an idea where I'm at, sprint-wise, with all the other guys in their sixties and also tell me just how much more training I still need to do. As long as the knee holds out...

P.S. I wrote this post a couple of days ago and, after that little bit of running I did, things are now not well with my right knee. Positions I was once able to get it into comfortably are now no longer comfortable and entering athletic events any time in the near future is likely not too feasible. This has me understandably frustrated and depressed. However, I know people who are unable to walk and who would be extremely happy to be getting around with a sore knee like mine. I salute those people and know that my little knee problem is really nothing.  BB
   
   

Monday, January 1, 2018

My 2017 Year- In - Review!

   
It's been a long time since I've done one of those "year end reviews" that are so popular this time of year. It never really seemed as though I had anything terribly interesting to tell people about and I don't really set goals for myself so it never was possible to tell people whether I actually achieved them or not. So, this year, once again I wasn't going to bother with the re-cap process.
Medway Valley ESA
   Then I stopped and thought about what kind of a year I'd had. It occurred to me that, for a change, I had done some things I'd never done before and I actually had set some goals throughout the year and then attained them! Because of this, the thought of going back and doing a little rehashing seemed more enjoyable than it usually does. So here I go!
   I spent most of the early part of 2017 getting acquainted with the trail systems right here in London, Ontario. At the end of 2016, my interest in trail-running was piqued and I promised myself I would spend as much time out on the trails as I possibly could, as soon as I could. 
Sifton Bog ESA

   To this end, I made it a goal to visit each of London's seven Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs) and run the trails there. This past winter was a mild one for this area and getting out on the trails was relatively easy and more or less painless. On the weekends and whenever I had a day off I would simply visit the next ESA on my list---I was already quite familiar with the ones at my end of town and had already run them many times. Eventually, it took a little over a month (parts of February and March) to get all seven ESAs properly run. I even ran a couple of them twice.
   
Meadowlily ESA
It was during this time that I also had the opportunity to try out the new Camelbak I'd gotten for Christmas. At the end of 2016, I'd run into hydration issues while out on the trails (I sweat a lot) and I knew that if I was going to spend as much time running the trails as I really wanted, then I would need a more viable form of hydration. The Camelbak worked just fine and I was excitedly looking forward to the Spring and Summer.

Westminster Ponds ESA....can you spot the teddy bear??
   Spring finally came and early in April I decided I would go out for a street run and see just where all this winter trail-running had taken me, in the way of endurance. I started out from my house and ran about four houses down before I heard a pop in my knee and felt the pain. Thank goodness I was that close to home and was able to limp my way back.
   I was actually able to get into my doctor the following day and was diagnosed with a strained or pulled gastrocnemius muscle. This is one of the long muscles which travels up the back of your leg and connects in under your kneecap. He prescribed a couple weeks of rest, a couple of weeks of walking and then a couple of weeks of light running.
Thames Valley Trail
   I did the resting. Then it was time for the walking. Back at the end of 2016, I had heard about something called the Thames Valley Trail. It was a 110
Thames Valley Trail
kilometer trail which started about 30K southwest of London, worked its way up through the city and then on to the town of St. Marys, northeast of London. I had already been intrigued with the idea of hiking the Trail and when the doctor told me that walking would become part of my knee's recovery process, things just seemed to fall into place.

   I then spent slightly over a month hiking all 15 sections of the trail. Several times I was able to hike more than one section at a time so, altogether, this came to nine different outings.
Thames Valley Trail
   It was quite the learning experience! I learned a fair bit about what my 64-year-old body was capable of (and sometimes what it wasn't) and I walked it entirely on my own, which also made it a very contemplative experience. There are many such trails here in Ontario and I now have the yen to hit more of them!
   September came and, after a couple of setbacks with  my knee, I was finally able to try actual running again. I had tweaked my knee a couple of times while out hiking and playing golf and because of
Thames Valley Trail
this it took me this long to actually tentatively run again.

   My plan was to get out the first time and run 1 kilometer. As long as things were okay, the next time out I would run 1K farther and so on, back up to a respectable mileage. Eventually, through September to early December, I worked my way back up to running 9K. 
   At that point, winter and Christmas hit and, if I had any free time that I could have used for running, I spent it shopping, or some other Christmas activity. 
Thames Valley Trail
    Round about this time, however, I started going back to the gym again! I had had a Goodlife membership for about two years and hadn't used it once. Totally ridiculous, obviously, and so I more or less forced myself to get back into it. Having done so, however, I found I rather enjoyed it and am looking forward to getting back to it in the new year.
   So, this is my re-cap of my 2017. When I looked back at it, I realized that I actually had made several goals and then followed through on all of them.
And ME---at the END of the
Thames Valley Trail!

   I had a goal of running all of London's ESAs and I had done that. I had a goal of hiking the Thames Valley Trail and I had done that. I had a goal of getting back to decent mileage during trail runs and I had done that. I had a goal of getting back into the gym and, lo and behold, I had done that as well!
   I am now wondering what 2018 will bring. For sure, I want to explore more hiking trails in Ontario and I have to admit that the Bruce Trail is high on my list. Part of me even wants to hike somewhere with a tent strapped to my back so I can spend the night and then keep on hiking in the morning. I definitely want to run more, and longer, trails. There are some snowshoeing experiences that await. There are more trips to the gym in my future and, at some point, I really need to get out and play some ball hockey with the younger guys.
   So I guess all of the above are my goals for 2018 and, having stated them here, I will now be able to go back around this time next year and tell you all how many of them I was able to attain. In the meantime, I hope that 2018 brings only happiness and self-fulfillment to you all! 
   Cheers!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

What I Sometimes Think About When I Run

 
   I generally will only attempt a blog post when I have a run I want to share. This means I've gone through occasional long stretches when there isn't anything to blog about as well as the occasional stretch where there do seem to be things I think someone else out there might be interested in hearing.
   Today, I don't have a run I'd like to go on and on about. I would like to talk about something I think about pretty well every time I get out there, however.
   
2013---running through the forest begins!
I'm a heavy guy who runs. I'm not the only heavy runner I've encountered on the internet or in magazines but I'm one of the heaviest runners I've seen in these parts of Ontario---and I see a lot of runners, London is kind of a hot bed for runners, so even when you don't want to see any (like if you're injured, for example) you still see them.

   I suspect the odd runner I encounter who has noticed my weight has then looked at me with some sympathy, mild interest, or possible disdain. I suppose it's also possible that some of them see me and silently congratulate me for just getting out there. I also have the feeling that the occasional runner simply does not see me, in any way.
   Any and all of this is fine with me, I'm not out there trying to impress anyone but here's the thought that runs through my head----not many people could do what I'm doing. 
   To explain, not many runners I see out there could move 230 pounds through a forest as fast as I can. I see lots of slender men and women out there running who are very likely anywhere from 50 to 100 pounds lighter than I am. I then imagine them being given a fifty to a hundred pound rock to carry with them and then seeing just how far, or fast, they can carry it. I don't see them making much of a go of it for very long or very far.
   I don't run fast with my 230 pounds but I run further and further all the time and, because that's the only thing I'm really trying to do, I don't see the need to do it quickly. 
   But I can run fast. As a matter of fact, if one of those slender runners and I were to stop somewhere in the forest and pick a tree about a hundred meters away in order to race to it, I strongly suspect I would win. Now, if that tree were two hundred meters away, I strongly suspect I would lose (or come in second, as I would choose to describe it!) 
Me, in the middle, buddying up with Jessica Zelinka
and friends at SprintFit last summer. As much as I
enjoy the forest, it was nice to be on a track,
running sort of fast for a change!
   I'm not sure but I suspect my body type is more like that of a sprinter, rather than a distance runner. It is, however, likely dissatisfying to write a blog post about the 13 second run I did on the weekend! There is a mystique to long-distance trail runs that I seem to have bought into and I guess that's why I do them. I also have the feeling that the type of training I would need to do as a sprinter would not be nearly as fun as running through forests, past streams and deer and mountains.
   Like most people, I have body image issues. Part of me would love to be lean and svelte, to look the same as the other runners out there, the ones that are passing me effortlessly. As I relentlessly move my 230 pounds through the trees and up the hillsides, however, I tell myself a couple of different things--- one is none of them could do this and the other is I am amazing!

   

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Upping The Mileage And Some Good News!

   Yesterday, in an effort to get my mileage up one more notch, I borrowed my wife's car (so that my wonderful stepsons would have the opportunity to put snow tires on my car) and headed off to Kains Woods once again.
   It was a couple of degrees Celsius when I left the house, so I layered up nicely before I walked out the door. I did this in spite of the fact that I knew much warmer temps were in the offing in the afternoon but I am kind of a wuss when it comes to my upper body being cold---I have a hard time forcing myself out the door on a run day if I know I'm going to be cold for the first twenty minutes or so. Better to start off warm, then yank off a layer or two.
   
On the paved walkway, running
around the collection pond.
I entered at the end of the trail where the first kilometer or so is paved walkway. This is kind of annoying as I was wearing Salomon trail shoes and their large lugs are not conducive to running on pavement so I tried as much as possible to run on the grass borders. Eventually I arrived at the true trail portion and things were much better. My right knee initially was giving me some minor grief but this went away after about half a K.

   It did warm up and by about halfway through my run I was way overdressed. I was running into people running in shorts and t-shirts and congratulating them on their choices!
   The goal yesterday was to run 8K. My plan was to run 4 and a half K and then turn around and head back. One of the problems with the trails in my area is that none of them are any much longer than 5K, so this always necessitates me doubling back to get in the mileage. No big deal, though, and I managed to reach my goal with few issues.
    Kains was a busy place yesterday, lots of hikers and more than the usual amount of runners as well. And lots of dogs! Dogs are supposed to be on a leash at all times but most of the ones I ran into weren't. They were all well-behaved but, at the same time, I don't know that until they demonstrate it. Until they demonstrate it, I have to stop dead in my tracks when I encounter them. I also wonder what would happen if a well-behaved dog suddenly spotted a deer or a skunk off in the distance...oh well. Now that I come to think of it, the only time I've actually ever been harmed by a dog while out running was a beagle (on a leash, on a sidewalk) that unexpectedly leapt up on me as I was passing and tore a hole in my brand-new running shirt, breaking my skin with a paw. So maybe it's safer in the forest!
    After the run, my right knee was more tender than usual. I don't actually experience pain in it while I'm running but the aftermath is swelling and the accompanying tightness. This usually disappears after a couple of days but is problematic enough that I might actually try and see the doc about it. Something tells me it might need to be drained....
Through the trees, on the other side
of the river, you can see the golf
course belonging to the London
Hunt and Country Club (careful how
you say that) Could hear the skeet
shooters as I ran!

   Good news! In my blog post last week I briefly mentioned that I had quickly gained a huge amount of weight recently. I signed off with a throwaway comment that perhaps I should start going to the gym. Well...I did! I finally got up the drive to head over to the Goodlife in the nearby Superstore and use my Fit For Less membership. I've had this membership literally for two years and have never used it! Stupid or what?! It took  me awhile to remember how to use some of the machines but eventually I got into the swing of it. The best part, though, is that the ice has finally been broken! I'm off again today!