Train Trip

We're heading to Albany to attend a conference for a few days and traveling by train.
It's exciting. Neither of us have done this before...traveling by train and not having our car with us. It's an interesting dynamic.


Rio 2016 and Olympic Memories

Notes on early memories of the Olympics

The Olympic Games in Rio 2016 bring out a lot of memories (as do all the Olympic games). My attachment to the Olympics goes back at least four decades. Perhaps like you, the images of athletes in various sports drew me to the Olympics in the first place. Unlike other sports, the Olympics has a little something of everything. The all-around competition on the World Stage is bigger than the Super Bowl or World Series as far as I'm concerned.

Those athletic images are blazed into memory and are pushed to the fore every time the Olympic Anthem is played.

That Olympic Anthem still strikes a cord with me and stirs emotion with the same vigor as Gonna Fly Now and the Star Spangled Banner.

Watching the opening ceremony is still cause for celebration - I love seeing the athletes march in to the Olympic venue, the uniforms, the flags of all nations proudly displayed.

And waiting to see the major attraction of the opening ceremony - the lighting of the Olympic Caldron. The torch having been carried in by a relay team, some past athlete ascends the stairs and ignites the flame as most memorably done by Muhammad Ali in Atlanta 1996).

It is the notion that spirit and competition is alive...that I am alive...we are alive...and able to do things...capable of doing things...regardless of our current state.

Looking back to the days of three-network television, I remember Wild World of Sports. In the days of get-up-turn-the-dial T.V. Wide World of Sports had it all; running, jumping, cycling, racing,  boxing, mountains, skiing, swimming, and more. It was one stop shopping without changing the channel. Wide World of Sports introduced me to the Olympics (and mountain climbing) and Lake Placid.

Indeed, spanning the globe to bring you a constant variety of sports.

The voice of Jim MMcKay saying "the human drama of athletic competition" and the iconic phrase "...the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat..."


New season of The Walking Dead started early

And the first episode is entitled Poke`mon Go

I learned a lot during my twenty-minute walk through a local mall at 8:30 last evening. There were the usual happenings for that time of day, retail employees taking out the trash and prepping stores to close while lingering shoppers made their way to exits or enjoyed that last few sips of whatever they were drinking from the white paper cup.

But there was something else.

Other beings who I can only describe as "roamers" - like the nickname given to zombies on some past episode of The Walking Dead - were scattered throughout the mall as well. They were doing various, random things; standing still while facing a wall, looking blankly down while standing at the edge of a water fountain pond, or simply shuffling slowly along.

It was my son who first noticed them.

He said something about starting a count and quickly began counting "1...2...3...4...". Within a minute or two he had counted to "12". In our twenty or so minutes in the mall he counted "32".

He was counting people playing Poke`mon Go, an augmented reality game that has people hunting critters that aren't there, in places nobody else can see...with a cell phone. As my son explained the game, I started people watching. The definition of Schizophrenia came to mind and the term itself began to flash in upper-case through my minds eye.

What bothered me about this was not the number of people playing the game itself but the expressionless, emotionless faces. While a few giggles or smiles could be seen in the screen glow, the majority of these folks (all ages, by the way) seemed to have vacated their personality.

I had a quick flashback to the past weekend as I picked my girls up from volleyball camp at a local college, prior to any knowledge of Poke`mon Go, mind you. Four individual college students, one on a skateboard, one on a bike, and two walking, stopped in their tracks for no apparent reason. There they stood, frozen, staring at their phones-as if they'd all received the same message (or command) at the same time. I expected to hear Rod Serling begin a narration explaining the situation and informing me that I'd "entered the Twilight Zone."

According to Wikipedia: 
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal social behavior and failure to understand what is real. Common symptoms include false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking, hearing voices, reduced social engagement and emotional expression, and a lack of motivation.  

We've become accustomed to fixation on our mobile devices and seeing people reading text, email or whatever while walking around. But Poke`mon Go seems different to me.

Proponents of the game claim that there is a positive impact on physical and mental health. Some sources go to extremes by stating that Poke`mon Go cures social anxiety and depression while others proclaim that this game will ward off diabetes and metabolic syndrome as it causes people to be active. And people seem to be buying into these claims without the smallest of scientific evidence.

Even Forbes is expounding the benefits.

A recent Forbes on-line article proclaims "Five ways Pokemon Go is Actually Good For You" -

I'm skeptical - but let's review:

According to Forbes, Poke`mon Go has the following benefits:

  1.  Lots of walking. My observation: yes people were in fact walking. The pace of the walking seemed to be just enough to break inertia at rest. So, yes, there is walking but not even close the pace you'd need to increase heart rate or gain any fitness benefit.
  2. You get some fresh air and sunlight. My observation: well, maybe. Every person I saw in this random, non-scientific observation was inside the player told me "this is nothing, wait till lunch time" meaning there will be a lot more people playing inside the mall. 
  3. It's Educational...according to Forbes "To catch Poke`mon, you use Poke`balls, which you can get when you visit Poke`stops. And Poke`stops just happen to include many landmarks and historical markers, including those hidden ones in your own neighborhood." My observation: somebody is smoking crack. Really? This game will not only cure your depression, anxiety, but get you fit and healthy while educating in history? I can't take this point seriously. 
  4. It brings people together-litteraly in real life. My observation: It brings people together just like a collection of driverless bumper cars. Like the random groups of roamers (zombies) from The Walking Dead, these people seemed to just float around-totally disconnected from their environment. 
  5. It offers mental breaks without getting too far off track. My observation: Is anyone reading the
    STTNG "The Game"
    news? There have been numerous reports of car accidents caused by playing this game while driving and it is certainly as deadly as texting while driving. I'm reminded of the Star Trek TNG episode "The Game" that causes the Enterprise crew to lapse into some augmented reality 
    mind-control state as a result of mental break gaming. 
I freely admit that my years of study in domestic preparedness sometimes causes me to wear my tinfoil hat too tight, but Poke`mon Go frightens me. This game is taking the attachment to our connectedness to a new level and subtly introducing augmented reality to the masses. I'm not sure I want my reality augmented. The data collection concerns (based on what we know as of this writing) are growing as is the potential for abuse. There have been a couple of cases where players have entered remote areas while playing and been assaulted.

As fiction becomes reality, I'm concerned about the next installment, at what comes next after we've accepted augmented reality as our own reality. We seem to readily accept a game-app to tell us where to go, what to look at, and don't care who is doing the programming or collecting the data. We're willing to wait for the next message, or command, to come in.

There is a threat here. And like John Nada (Roddy Piper's character in John Carpenters 1988 film, They Live) I'm wondering if I'm the only one who sees it.


Running in the snow? Don't forget these

Hat, gloves, layers...check. But what about sunglasses?

As year-round outdoor athletes we do well at dressing for the weather conditions. We're experts at getting moisture wicking socks, Buffs and tech clothing in the summer. In winter, we're pros at layering...base layer, mid-layer, outerwear and all that. And we're pretty good at year-round use of reflective material and headlamps.

But we often forget about our eyes.

UV Protection

Jyl with UV rated sunglasses. Simple, durable
Cold is not the only enemy we face when training in winter conditions. According to the World Health Organization, snow reflects as much as 85% of ultraviolet radiation. Compared to the measly 15% UV reflection from beach sand, snowy conditions are a formidable foe waging war on our eyes.

Solution: Remember your sunglasses!

Sunglasses should be an integral part of every outdoor athletes gear. They are vital in snowy and windy conditions even if there isn't much sun. Quality sunglasses help protect the eyes from direct trauma (dust/debris) and indirect damage from UV exposure.

The American Academy of Optometry suggest wearing sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection to guard against "strong exposure to snow reflection".  Snow reflection can lead to a condition known as photokeritits, commonly known as snow blindness - a sunburn of the eyes. Symptoms can include blurry vision, swelling, and watery eyes.

The Mayo Clinic states "UV protection matters". They also recommend choosing blue-blocking lenses to combat snow glare.

Jyl with a sporty look 
Another reason to protect your eyes with a quality pair of sunglasses is energy conservation.

Energy Conservation

Sunglasses for energy conservation? Yes.

Squinting against sun glare activates numerous facial muscles. The corrugator muscle allows you to furrow the skin between your eyebrows while the Orbicularis Oculi group participate in squinting.

Along  with many other muscles of the face, when activated, causes our face to tighten up - exactly what you don't want, especially when running!

Tightening of the face can progress to tightening of the shoulders, neck and upper back. Your run form can deteriorate quickly when these areas are not relaxed. Running tight also causes you to use more energy, leading to faster fatigue.

Keeping your eyes protected from UVA/UVB is important to keeping them healthy and keeping you active while maintaining good form.
Tifosi Podium. My pick. 

Pick your pair.

How do you pick sunglasses? Most quality sunglasses on the market meet the UVA/UVB guidelines. Many come with a variety of lens options with differing degrees of scratch and damage protection.

I train using different sunglasses. I'll wear a very durable, shatter resistant pair of glasses when biking. While running I appreciate a more sporty look as I don't need as much durability (I don't tend to fall as much when running compared to biking).  Most quality brands (like the Tifosi Podium pictured above) come with a interchangeable combination of lenses. Most specialty run/bike shops will have only quality sunglasses on hand. 

Your story

If you have a gear-related topic you'd like to share, feel free to email me.


Finally hit the combination

For the first time since July 2015 I have some relief from lower leg pain. The question is, will it continue?

It hot enough to be any desert and the asphalt road is shimmering with radiant heat. I can see the water station just ahead. I know it is there, its not a mirage. I remove my sun glasses and wipe the caked sand-salt combination from my head, my bandana dripping like the humid air we're all running in.

And pop. Stumble. Pain.

One misstep while approaching the water station at mile 8 of the Shoreline Half Marathon (July 2015) and my left hamstring is a knotted mess that has me limping (staggering, really). Hopes of a personal best (defined as under two hours) drift off and are replaced by hopes of finishing.

I did finish those last four-miles on that humid 88 degree day. The real problems started after crossing the finish line.

My left leg hasn't been the same since. The hamstring resolved after a week but the lower leg and knee pain persisted bad enough to keep me awake many nights and keep my training to a minimum. Although I've been able to complete two more half marathons since the injury, the times have not been what I should be doing. I've had some ups and downs but haven't been able to get back to the level of training I need to because of the pain.

That is until the other day...

I was doing some research for a client with a patellar tracking issue and referenced several taping methods. While looking over the use of compression for deep soft tissue injury (for a separate client) I had a crazy idea...combine the two...tape the joint between the original site of injury and compress the soft tissue below at the site of cramping and fasciculation. Since I've had some success with compression pants in the recent past, it made sense to try. My local specialty running store had a sale on compression sleeves, too!

Modified McConnell and KT technique
Using a modified McConnell taping technique along with a portion of the KT tape version of the technique seemed to help. (My apologies to both the inventors of the McConnell and KT folks for modifying/combining the techniques).

Here are the results:
Within the first 24 hours lower leg pain was reduced by 75% (note that I never had knee pain). Adding compression on a rotation basis for several hours during the day slowed the lower leg cramps and improved sleep as well. After one week the muscle cramping is nearly nonexistent. Lower leg pain remains intermittent but I feel as if I could run...soon.

Lesson learned:
Injured? Stop running, stupid. I've been dealing with this for nearly six-months. I should have backed off completely and did some research in July rather than the standard rest/ice/NSAID.


I've been a bad blogger...but good otherwise.

More than a month has flown by since the last LRW post. I'm feeling disheartened. My sights were set to make LRW as popular as one of my prior blogs (Mitigation Journal) and use it as a tool to interact with a larger community. I also planned to integrate one of my recurring main personal goals into this project. That is to write every day. To write every day either on this site or other writing works already in progress. There has been so much to discuss and share but seemingly little time to write about it.

That happens when you live an active life.

Lets think of this column as a reboot.

You see, this is not about writing alone. As the name, Living. Running. Writing. is about all of the things that make us go. Writing just happens to be the expressive media that I enjoy and share with others. I enjoy writing just as much as running but nearly as much as I enjoy time with my family.

And theres the conflict.

While I have been a bad blogger, I've been a good husband and father and a good coach.

I've had the opportunity to see my kids do some really good things athletically and artistically. I've been there to coach my track team and glow in the strides they've made. I've been able to focus on training some fantastic adults, too. I just haven't had the opportunity to sit down and write about it.

I'm going to make more of an effort to do that.

I've come to realize that this column has a readership; a following that wants to hear what I have to say. I appreciate that.

More to follow...soon.


The Run I Almost Didn't Do

I almost didn't run last night. I had lots of old excuses and a few new ones.
It's too dark.
It's too cold.
It's too late.
It's too close to the next race.
It's too....something to run.

We've all had these or similar excuses and we all, hopefully, find a way to get past them.

I was all set to give in to those excuses last night. The temperatures were the coldest of the season and I was sure my couch and T.V. remote would be a good defense against the zero degree windchill.

After all, who goes out running in these extreme conditions?

That was the question, the thought that changed my direction last night.

Who goes out running in these extreme conditions? That question reminded me of a conversation from earlier this year when a friend said to me "I saw this guy running the other day and wondered who runs in these conditions?...and it was you!

That was back in July. The temperature was in the 90's and the humidity was high.

And so, last night, remembering that conversation and being inspired by the athletes I get to work with, I ignored the excuses.

The thought that regardless of the weather, this workout is the best thing you can do for yourself and the best use of your time.

Do it now.

The couch and remote will be there when you're done.

What's the best thing you can do for yourself today? What's the best use of your time now?

Who runs when the weather is too extreme?

You do.