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Super Organic Raspberries

by @ 7:36 pm
Filed under: health — Tags: ,

Hiking has a lot of benefits, but if done at the right time, at the right place and with a bit of attention, treasures like this super organic cluster of raspberries can be had for the price of zero.

No rinsing required!

Knee ACL Injury? Meniscus Tear? Stress Fracture? MRI Diagnosis

by @ 9:28 pm
Filed under: health,running-hiking — Tags: , , ,

I have been a runner for a major part of my life. Not champion material, not elite, not even great, just average. My marathon times are in the 4:10-ish area, but I do run consistently and over the decades it has become an inexorable part of my life.

Problem is that running and aging don't coexist very well. Sure you see news articles about octogenarians, nonagenarians, and centenarians running marathons but that's why these folks make the news. They are a rare breed. When is the last time an average 20 year-old made the news for running an average time marathon?

I am certainly not immune to the ravages of aging. There have been back issues, herniated discs, sprained ankles, joint pain, muscle tension and breathing and stamina problems. So far I have been lucky that many of the symptoms have healed or at least improved allowing me to resume running after some period of rest.

The latest challenge was severe knee pain that ended up sidelining me for three months. It all started simple and small enough. A few months ago I started noticing a bit of pain in my right knee after long runs. I have had some knee pain for years arising from knee cap scraping but it has been tolerable. This pain was noticeably different but it would subside after a day and so I continued with my normal running schedule.

Turns out that I should have listened to my body and reduced the level of activity because a few weeks later I was hobbling, almost unable to walk, let alone run. There was considerable pain in the lateral side (the crotch side) of the right knee and it wasn't healing. Pain medication, icing, sports gels, and knee braces weren't helping. I suddenly became sedentary and had to use a stick to walk even a short distance. Even sleeping was difficult as I couldn't fully extend and straighten my right leg without feeling excruciating knee pain.

I searched for my symptoms online and talked with coworkers who might have had sports injuries themselves or had children with sports injuries. The most mentioned diagnoses were ACL injury and meniscus tear. I was able to eliminate ACL injuries or tears rather quickly. As I was explained, an ACL tear would have led to an inability to even stand up. That wasn't quite my issue. I could stand or even walk, albeit with much pain.

A meniscus tear seemed like a much more likely candidate. My symptoms were very similar to those mentioned online and others with meniscus tear experience. There was pain on the side of the knee (lateral side), I couldn't straighten my leg, and the location of the pain was tender to the touch.

And so as I finally visited my orthopedic doctor, I resigned myself to the fact that I had a meniscus tear, possibly requiring surgery. My doctor seemed to be in agreement but of course needed more evidence and so an MRI was ordered.

A couple of weeks later with the MRI results online, I pored over the images comparing them to online images of torn meniscus but my untrained eye couldn't determine if there was a tear or not. Here is one of the images.

A few days later, at the orthopedic office, my doctor, handed me the MRI report, telling me that there was no tear. Say what? The circled area is the meniscus. Lots of white around that area indicating fluid and bone bruising, but as it turned out, no tears. This was in the report conclusion:

MRI findings suggestive of a subchondral nondisplaced fracture centered at the mid aspect of the medial femoral condyle

No discrete meniscal or ligament tear seen

In other words, and as my doctor explained, this was one or more small stress fractures with some amount of fluid surrounding it. His orders were to stay off running for 3 months, take pain killers and ice as necessary.

Over the next few weeks I took short walks, painful at first, and less painful as time passed. As the pain slowly subsided, I took longer walks, discarded the tree branch I was using as a walking stick. Eventually my knee became pain-free.

A couple of weeks ago I finally had my first small jog, and today I had an 8-mile run, slow, gentle, but pain-free.

My grandfather used to say, pain arrives in an instant and takes a long time to leave. This one didn't exactly arrive in an instant but it sure took a long time to leave, dropping me a few lessons during its unwelcome stay. Listen to your body, pain is telling you to slow down or stop. Ignore the pain and you will pay the price. It's ok to pause a habitual activity such as running while recovering. Walking isn't the same but it's a good low impact substitute. And finally, Internet searches and anecdotal accounts are interesting and educational but no substitute for a professional diagnosis.

Citi Bike Miami

by @ 6:07 pm
Filed under: health — Tags:

There's always a first time for everything and for me it was trying out Citi Bike. During a recent stay in downtown Miami, I wanted a fast way to get to Miami Beach and take a dive into the ocean. My options were to run, take a taxi, take public transport, or rent a bike, and I decided to go with the last one.

After so many years, Citi Bike put me back on a bicycle and it turned out to be a great decision. At $6/hr it was pretty inexpensive, faster and less strenuous than running and quite a bit of fun.

These are not top of the line bikes, they have a more industrial feel to them. I can imagine with the all the abuse they take on a daily basis, they must have some level of ruggedness. But most come with the basket/bucket mounted upfront to take along items, such as a towel, for the trip, very useful.

I rented one to the beach and then rented one back and it was such a great experience that I did it again the next day.

Citi Bike Miami

Food on Google

by @ 10:27 am
Filed under: google,health — Tags: ,

I'm not a health nut but I do run regularly and enjoy eating healthy food. I don't know a vegetable or fruit that I don't like, a trait inherited from my late father. Sometimes I like to look up the nutrition info on a banana or broccoli just for fun and now Google has made it easier by producing nutrition results on the first search page.

I use Google for a lot more than just search. It's a great calculator, has references on a variety of topics such as space, chemistry, health, drug facts, geography, and historical names or events. Now Google also comes with quick facts on food, be it broccoli, banana, or just water.








Nice ­čÖé

Miami Marathon 2013

by @ 9:56 am
Filed under: health,running-hiking — Tags: ,

The Miami Marathon was held on Sunday, Jan. 27 and I was happy to be a part of it. I have been travelling to Miami during the same dates for the past several years and always wanted to run in this event. This year I decided to fly in a couple of days early and take part.

I'm not a big fan of races. To me running is a way to relax, unwind and be with my own thoughts. Races are anything but. They're loud, crowded, with rigid start times, course clocks, pre-determined mileages, etc., not exactly relaxing. I don't train for races either. they take too much time and discipline. I just go about my own runs and then just go for the race. Not exactly a winning strategy as I have been unable to break 4 hours, but I have no plans to address that with training.

Some observations on the Miami Marathon:

  • Runners were required to pick up their numbers from the convention center 1 or 2 days prior to the show. I understand that they want people to attend the expo, but that creates a bit of inconvenience for people who must travel to the event.
  • The race started at 6 am with shuttle pickups at 4 am. That's way too early for me but it's probably done to get in front of the heat. Upper 70's was forecast later on the race day.
  • One thing I┬ádidn't┬álike about the event was that the half and full marathoners shared the same course for the entire half. That did create a bit of traffic jam with the 25,000 runners in some areas where the streets were narrower. Other marathons separate full and half marathoners in a mile or two after the start and that helps spread out the crowd making the courses less dense.

Overall the event was well organized with a decent number of aid stations and entertainment zones, and the course was interesting with good crowd support, and a nice finisher medal to top it off. I even got a banana from a woman handing them out from her own property. Thanks, whoever you were, it was at the perfect time. And if one was inclined, the ocean was near enough for a quick post-race dip. Who can beat that in mid-winter?

Belgian twins choose euthanasia

by @ 11:26 am
Filed under: health,religion,social — Tags: ,

Is there a right more precious than the freedom to choose what to do with one's own life? Here's the case of twins who decided to end their lives, rather than face a cruel and torturous life ahead.

Disagree if you want, choose a different path if it happens to you, but keep yourself and your beliefs to yourself.

And if you are the type that actually enjoys seeing people suffer and squirm against their wishes before your imaginary sky friend finally decides they have had enough, psychopathic therapy would be strongly recommended for you.

Herniated Disc - 4 Years on

by @ 11:05 pm
Filed under: health,running-hiking — Tags:

Hard to believe it's been over 4 years since being struck with a herniated disc. As known to most, herniated discs don't heal, but with some luck they shrink and take pressure off the spinal cord. For me, there are the occasional flare ups and annoying tingling down the left leg, but other than those, life has been pretty normal.

I avoid lifting heavy objects, do conditioning exercises every morning, and walk daily. There's plenty of running too every other day, like 12 hilly miles this past weekend. I ran a marathon last year in Hartford, CT with no ill effects on my back and this year I'll be running the New York City marathon.

I guess the point is that a herniated disc doesn't necessarily mean having a disability, at least based on my 4-year track record so far. If you have it, be patient, treat it with care, and with some luck it'll just be an occasional minor inconvenience.

Past herniated disc posts:

MRI, Back Pain, Herniated Disc, and Running - Feb. 2008

Herniated Disc, on Steroid - Feb. 2008

Herniated Disc, Six Months Later - Aug. 2008

Herniated Disc and Half Marathon - Sep. 2008

Arizona Not-Quite Hiking

by @ 5:26 pm
Filed under: health

Last week I was at the Astricon show in Glendale, Arizona (near Phoenix), running the registration system. Not being one to pass up a chance for hiking, I had arranged to stay an extra day to hike the White Tank mountains. There was one problem though, I didn't have transportation to the park.

After some thought I hatched what I thought was a good plan, getting there on a mountain bike. The plan was to pedal about 15 miles from the hotel to the trailhead, hike one of the trails (about 8 miles) and then return on the bike and finally donate the bike to a charity before flying back home.

Getting the bike was the easy part. I bought a relatively cheap one from a nearby Wal-Mart and after making sure that it was road-worthy I had the hotel store it for me until later. By the way, being on a bike brought back some good memories of my childhood and that feeling of freedom one gets on a bike.

On the day of the hike I stocked my backpack with water and food and I was on the road by 7 AM. It was predicted to be a hot day but at that time the desert air was still relatively cool and pleasant. As I biked my way closer to the park, I started to hear the thunderous sounds of fighter jets, apparently from training flights at the nearby Luke Air Force Base. By then I had biked nearly 8 miles and decided to pull over the side of the road for a quick drink of water and some food. That's about the time when my plan unraveled.

As I got ready to jump back on the bike and pedal away, I noticed that the front tire had gone flat. On closer inspection, I saw that the inner tube had slipped out and wrapped tightly around the front brakes. It was a hopeless situation. Even if could untangle the mess, and even if the tube was undamaged, I had no air pump to bring the tire back to life, and I was in the middle of nowhere.

Standing by the side of the road and considering my options, it quickly became apparent that I really had no options. I had to scrub the plan and started the journey back to the hotel on foot, leaving the bike behind.

Sometimes you have to see the good side of an adverse event. While disappointed that I couldn't make the planned trek, I was treated to a decent air show with the fighter jets buzzing overhead, and sometimes flying low in tight formation. And instead of hiking the park, I ended up hiking by the roadside in the desert heat all the way back to the hotel. At least I had enough water.

Plans sometimes fail. I might have mitigated the problem had I brought an air pump along, but no point dwelling on that. The way I see it, I got a good aerial show and still had a decent hike. And if I make it back to this place, I'll be sure to be more prepared, at least for a flat tire.

The hapless bike with the inner tube tangled

looking back at the forlorn bike and the unhiked mountains just beyond


San Gorgonio Wilderness

by @ 10:19 pm
Filed under: health

San Gorgonio Wilderness

I never thought I would find anything likeable about Los Angeles, until last week when I discovered the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Ok, this is really about an hour drive outside Los Angeles, but hard to believe an area so beautiful is near the smog city.

The San Gorgonio Wilderness is situated in the San Bernardino National Forest and it shares its name with Mt. San Gorgonio, rising from the south of the Wilderness and the tallest peak in southern California.

As I was visiting my sister in the area, we decided to hike the South Fork trail, one of the many trails in this wilderness. The trailhead with a large parking lot is already at 6,000 feet or so, but the to reach the summit at 11,500 feet, one must still hike about 9 miles and it's a relentless climb the whole way.

Since we had started the hike late (around noon) we knew that reaching the summit wasn't in the cards, but we managed to hike up about 6 miles before turning around to beat the dusk. According to some info I had read, South Fork is supposed to be the most popular trail from the group. I had dreaded running into big crowds, but surprisingly people were sparse, giving us a peaceful and serene hiking experience, being greeted with one splendid scenery after another.

The only excitement we had was spotting a black bear after we were about 2 miles into the trail. Not accustomed to seeing bears roaming freely, we were startled and decided to quietly retreat. After collecting our nerves we returned and fortunately the bear was nowhere in sight. Apparently we were the only ones who saw this magnificent animal.

As we wrapped up the hike, we vowed to return to this place and possibly the same trail, this time with the intention of reaching Mt. San Gorgonio's summit. Of course that requires a bit of will power to rise early to stretch our available daylight hours. Considering the reward, that shouldn't be an issue.

If you are in the area and want to give the San Gorgonio Wilderness a try, you'd need to obtain an adventure pass and a separate wilderness pass prior to visiting the area. While it's an inconvenience, these permits directly fund preservation projects and they are used to control the flow of the crowds in an area where open space is such a rare and fragile commodity.


Half Marathon 2008

by @ 10:38 pm
Filed under: health,running-hiking

Ran the ┬Ż marathon today and as expected my performance was dismal. I ran the course in 2:14:58, at the pace of 10:18/mile. Last year I finished the race in 2:02:32 and the year prior to that my time was 1:55:52, and the one before that at 1:54:05. Beginning to see a pattern here. But this was my first race with a herniated disc, so I guess I can cut myself some slack here.

The race started at 8:30 AM in a cold rain. I absolutely hate running the rain, but not much can be done about that. Some people had bundled up to face the cold and wetness, others (myself included) were going to brave it with only a t-shirt. My rationale was that extra layers will get heavy in the rain and besides the running will warm me up anyways.

I hadn't taken any painkillers this morning so I was expecting back discomfort. The discomfort was there, some radiating pain and tingling down my left leg, but eventually it subsided enough that I was barely aware of it.

I had decided early on to pace myself in this race, as in, go slow and steady to avoid any potential aggravation of my back. I pretty much stuck to that the whole way through. While I knew this would hurt my finish time, I had no idea about the positive side effect. In the few years that I have run in this ┬Ż marathon, this race was by far the most pleasant and enjoyable of them all. Ironic, considering my fears of back pain flare-ups. The rain was a nuisance, but unlike past races, I finished the course barely tired and in no pain. In fact I could probably continue for another 5 or 6 miles with ease.

I never downshifted to a walk, nor did I stop at any water stations. It was as if I wasn't even in a race. I was paying more attention to my surroundings (beautiful, scenic nature) than to the race itself.

I feel a bit conflicted over my time in this race. I guess I should be disappointed, but I'm really not, and here's why. As recently as a week ago I didn't even think I could handle the course and here I was crossing the finish line. To top that off, it went smooth and steady and it turned out to be the most enjoyable ┬Ż marathon ever. For the first time ever, I actually began entertaining thoughts about running a full marathon.


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