Revisiting the Process (and Accepting Failure Along the Way)

Not very good at the running thing these days

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That picture has a lot of things behind it.

The good? Pretty sure that’s the farthest I’ve gone since my knee went full a-hole about a year ago. So that’s progress.

The bad? Today was the last day I could get in a 5K race in January, and I clearly wasn’t ready to cover 3.1 miles. I’m going to ignore the fact that I went from no running to a 5K in about a month 5 years ago and ran a 31-minute 5K.

So the Super Awesome Year of the 5K sequel is already off the rails. And that’s ok.

Right now I need to trust the process. As much as I want to stubbornly force my knee to behave or fully blow up, I know that might not be the best tactic. So I’m trusting the process to ease my way up to 5K mode.

I’m a big believer in process (see posts 1, 2, and 3 about process). It’s when I tried to do too much too soon (thereby violating the process) that things went off the rails.

But what is the process?

I’m glad I asked. Well, the process is a slow rising up in time that leads to mileage, but mileage is not the goal.

To help me cover more time, I’m doing a 1-minute run, 2-minute walk cycle.


But it saves my knee and my lungs. And those two a-holes are always plotting against me.

I’m keeping that rotation until I can do it for 30 minutes. Today I hit 24 minutes, which is the first time I went past 20. This is a slow process, but it’s still a process.

After I hit 30, I’m going to start lowering the walk cycles until I hit a 1:1 rotation. And then I’m going to start raising the running cycles and keeping the 1-minute walk cycle. And the whole time, I won’t go past 30 minutes. That’s when the trouble tends to start.

It’s a process.

But it can yield some awesomeness. If I start eventually hitting 30 minutes nonstop again (which I’ve done literally once), then I’ve basically got a 5K in my workout. And if I go crazy, running a 10K in 30 minutes is technically possible. Insane but possible.

For now, we’re at 24 minutes on a 1:2 cycle. It’s a process.


Running Reboot: Revenge of the Knee

In the next 12 months, I will either be almost done with the Super Awesome Year of the 5K 2.0 or I’ll have a gnarly scar on my knee.


Not that kind of scar.

This decision came about for a few reasons. 1) My weight is creeping up. Me not being able to run isn’t helping. That’s my best cardio option. 2) I’m back to doing almost everything I was before the knee blew up on me. 3) The ortho person I saw here was hesitant to cut off part of my knee cap given what the issue is. He actually listed big scar as one of the down sides like I gave two craps about that.

But if he’s hesitant to cut me open, then I might as well be too (even though I’ve basically been delaying surgery since March).

So we’re rebooting the Super Awesome Year of the 5K.

Some ground rules before we get rolling:

  1. Same as before, one a month. It’s not about doing 12 5Ks. It’s about staying consistent with running.
  2. Keep up the physical therapy-oriented activities of lifting and yoga. Part of the reason for the weight creep was the lifting and the ensuing spike in appetite, but I need to keep my legs strong.
  3. Cap my runs at 4 miles. 10Ks seem to be beyond the limit of my knee, and that’s ok, but if I can cover 3-4 miles on a regular basis, I can live with that.

That last one is a bit of a bummer considering this was supposed to be the Super Awesome Year of the 10K, but maybe my knee isn’t built for 10Ks. I was looking forward to seeing what I could do; my knee was not.

But this is all ok if I can regain my level of activity. So the journey started this week. I got my running shoes on for the first time in Oklahoma and got ready for a run/walk rotation to easy myself back into things.

Some notes:

  • They use Woodway treadmills where I’m at, and I’ve missed these bad boys. Treadmills are evil. Woodway treadmills are slightly less evil. I can’t remember which university I was at (I think UF) that had them, but I knew they were magical then. Just not as jarring to use.
  • Less jarring means less pain, but there was still some pain. It was within my regaining form threshold, so it’s nothing to note. Certainly better than I was when I was doing PT, so either things are better or the treadmill really is making a difference.
  • My cardio is crap. I knew this, but it’s a different thing to feel it.

But that was day 1. And now I live in Oklahoma where winters are winter. I’m going to miss Mississippi when I’m freezing my ass off in January. At least I’ll be running (or my knee will have fallen off and I’ll get that stupid surgery)


Adventures in Physical Therapy

On Friday, I completed my last day of physical therapy. I’m not magically cured, and I probably won’t be in running shape for a long time (if ever without surgery), but I’m getting around just fine, so we’ll call a win a win.

Let’s start with the basics: Physical therapy is where you go when you don’t want to or can’t have surgery. It’s also the place you go after surgery. All of this so you can get better.

This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve done PT before. I had a chest injury three and a half years ago, and I finally decided to do something about my back last year.

I’ve played this game before, but each round has its own quirks, so I wanted to dive in a bit.

What stayed the same?

The biggest thing is the focus on getting to muscles you’re not used to getting. When I was dealing with the chest injury, I was trying to pull my shoulders back, so there were a lot of pulling exercises that got behind my shoulder blade in a way I wasn’t used to (I actually got nauseous the first day). And that trend continued. This time I was hitting my glutes and hips in weird ways (more on the actual exercises later).

Next, there was the assumption I’d do the exercises on my own. That lasted a full week here. The problem was (kind of) yoga (ok, the problem was me being lazy). The idea is they’re little exercises you can do on your own, and long-term, that’s what you’ll have to do.

And finally, I got a new band.


The first time I did PT, I got a yellow band. I was SO psyched they gave me a free thing (never mind I was paying for said free thing). Eventually, I got blue and black. This time, I didn’t get a band in the beginning. I was actually let down, but I already had three at home. But on the last day, they saved me and gave me a red one. Now I just need green.

I wonder if these colors are universal?

What changed?

The big difference was the clinic itself. Before, I’d done PT on campus. The first PT group I was with had a regular clinic off campus I went to once, but they were across the street from my office on campus in a smaller setup once a week, so that was a no brainer. This is the first time I’d been in a clinic. It was interesting. There was equipment everywhere (awesome) and people too (not awesome, especially when you’re doing stupid human tricks).

The people make up the next point. In a bigger clinic, there’s a bigger staff. Even when I’m only working with one person, there are 4-5 other PTs going, usually a similar number of PTAs. We’re in a bigger room but not that much bigger. There are also the staffers who handle the clerical work. I was used to the first place where there was a PT and a PT student. That’s it. Having so many people around meant you weren’t going to lack for access to people, but it also meant there was always someone who could see if you messed up (Exhibit A: on the penultimate day, I almost ate it trying to get an exercise band off my legs. And that’s how a conversation with a PT I’ve never talked to got started). I actually worked with two PTs and two PTAs. Never knew who I would see day to day.

Frequency of visits was the other big adjustment. I went three times a week for six weeks. I was used to weekly appointments. That was a much bigger time commitment, especially when I was having to drive 15 minutes (and more when they upped the intensity and I had to start going home to shower). The plus was I was basically forced into three workouts a week. There are worse things than exercising three times a week (plus 1-2 more when I was able to get into the yoga studio).

The last difference was the exercises themselves. But let’s give that a full section.

So what were you doing?

I was doing all the things.

The one consistent thing was a warmup. It started with an exercise bike, which actually hurt my left knee the first couple of times. Then they moved me to an elliptical. I hate ellipticals (and irony dictates that was one of the main final recommendations for me to do on my own).

This was sufficient to get me warm and make me a little self-conscious about returning to work without showering. Just not self-conscious enough.

Then the real work began. The real work changed a lot.

At first, it was just weird little exercises. One where I was bending my knee like was taking a step down. This progressed to standing on an actual step. And then a slightly bigger step.

Another that was an extremely abbreviate pistol squat. As I got that down, they had me dipping lower. It doesn’t sound like much, but 25 half squats on one leg get tiring.

One where I bent forward with one leg on the ground and one rising up like I was picking up a golf ball (or a screwy-looking warrior III from yoga). The weird part is they had me progress to an easier version of this for the longest time where I didn’t reach down as far. And then they added weight the last day. That fried my hammies.

I hated it the first day, but after that my favorite activity was the BOSU ball.

The first day was the wobbles. The wobbles make you feel like you’re about to be pitched off. I never got pitched off by a horse, but I was in danger of being pitched off by a piece of plastic. After that, I was a champ. The wobbles went away, and I could own that junk.

And then they had me balance on one foot. This wasn’t as bad as the first day, but when they stick you on the round side and say stand on one foot, you don’t necessarily think, “This will end well.”

The last week, I moved to using the leg press and a machine that was like an assisted jumping machine. Google tells me it was a shuttle machine. Basically, you lie down and then jump. It’s weird.

And then the core stuff. I hate the core stuff.

The core stuff was just 5-second planks for 20 rounds and then a side plank variation that consisted of me moving my leg forward and backward. That sound you heard was my glute/hip area experiencing post-traumatic stress. Eventually core got upped to doing side plank raise (or dying mermaid, as the PTA called it). That was brutal. Then another one that was a plank where I just touched alternating shoulders with alternating hands.

And finally, there was running. The last 4 weeks involved some running. Remember how I wouldn’t shower? That stopped the second they put me on the treadmill. One day, I was sweating so bad, I had to ask for a towel. I got a towel every day after that. And water.

Ultimately, I was in PT so I could run. My day-to-day life was returning to normal, but I want to be able to run (bet you never thought I’d say that with this blog title).

This is when the knee pain started to return. I wasn’t used to running, and my body couldn’t take it at first.

It wasn’t just my knee. My feet and ankles were also unappreciative of the endeavor. The first day was in cross-trainers. That was the last day for the cross-trainers. I moved to running shoes after that. Slowly (oh so slowly), the running got better and knee pain dissipated but didn’t fully go away. The way I put it to the PT was if I was running a race, I’d keep going, but if I was just on a run, I would stop. This never really got upped in the four weeks; I just got mildly better about the little they gave me.

They also gave me an extended warmup routine that will make me look like a goober if I ever do it in public.

But what about yoga and PT?

I’m glad you (didn’t actually) ask. Yoga will make you look like a champ at PT.

For real, do yoga, and then go to PT. They have you do planks and weird little exercises. If you know both, then you know I’m talking about both. The best was the BOSU ball. Aside from the first-day wobbles, I could keep pretty still, enough so to get attention from people working there who weren’t actually working with me.

That will be the extent I brag about being a PT champ.

All in all

I’d call it a 65-70% win. I’m not running yet and probably won’t for quite a while, but I got a lot of good exercises I can do on my own, and my range of motion and flexibility got a lot better over the period of PT.

Hopefully I can maintain where I’m at and maybe make a little progress as I move out of state, but you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Let’s Talk About Recovery

As I slowly return to the world of the normal, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to maintenance. I try to do a lot for maintenance. Take away my knee, and I’m trying to do even more.

Why do we do recovery? 1) It feels good. 2) It (might) help. I say might because some of these aren’t necessarily proven to work so much as make you feel better, which then might help. The science of recovery is weird.

This episode of The Runner’s World Show actually delves into a business in Chicago (The Edge Athlete Lounge) that focuses on recovery. It’s like a regular gym, but they add in a heavy emphasis on recovery at $125 a month lowest cost (we won’t go into how this inherently caters to the wealthy who already have more access to recovery sources than middle-to-low-income folks).

But me? I can’t afford that. Ok, I might be able to afford that, but I’m not paying and I don’t live in Chicago.

I have to make other arrangements.

So I foam roll – This takes an astonishingly short amount of time, it’s the only thing that lets me function the day after a hard workout, and I just don’t do it often enough. But when I do? Oof. It’s magic.

I stretch – This may be the most consistent thing I keep getting recommended. In a bygone age, I could stand on 45-pound bumper plates and touch the ground. Now, I can barely touch my toes, and that’s an improvement. Between my back, knee, and chest, I’m supposed to stretch out pretty everything from head to toe. I need to start getting compulsive about stretching. As it is, my muscles, especially my legs, are loaded springs.

I yoga (uncomfortable stretching plus some strength) – This doesn’t have the same magic for recovery as a foam roller, but it’s the most important thing I do to remain functional long-term. You can only imagine the betrayal I felt when not only was my knee keeping me away from yoga but there’s a chance that yoga did me in. I couldn’t stay away. For my day-to-day life, this is the best thing I can do, so even if I’m limited, I’m going to find a way.

And I sleep – This one’s my favorite. I like my 8 hours at night. I’d like 9 even better. I like my naps. I like to eat breakfast, and then go right back to sleep for another hour or so. I like to curl up in my blankets in the winter in a quilted cocoon. I like to throw an exercise mat on the ground and get my afternoon nap. And why do I like sleep? Because my body craves it. That’s when I recover. No stress, no activity. Just sleep. Just rest. And you know what? I think I’ll sleep again tonight. I’ll probably sleep again tomorrow. Something to look forward to.

What do you do for recovery?

Injury Update & Return to Yoga

When we last left our hero, he had found indications of bipartite patella or kneecap fracture and was anxiously awaiting the results of his MRI.

Setting: Mississippi in the late teens. Our protagonist is sitting on his couch in a knee brace and typing on a computer. The air conditioner is running because of course it is. Light indie music plays in the background.


The MRI came back with no real bad issues. There was some fluid, but nothing was out of place beyond what the X-Rays’ already showed. The recommendation was surgery (both options didn’t sound pleasant, even for surgery). I of course chickened out and asked to try physical therapy first. Low risk but low probability of success. But no knife. Doc OK’d it, so I got sent to their PT staff to get a knee brace and then set up my PT appointment in my own town.

Here’s the thing about the knee brace: He didn’t tell me why I needed it when I was pretty much ok moving around. I ended up asking the PT and didn’t get that clear of an answer. Basically it sounds like if I’m walking around on uneven ground (i.e., hiking) I should wear it. I’m not hiking.

But I have the knee brace, and I had my first PT appointment today. It was fun. Got some normal stretches and then a couple of weird exercises, and then they zapped my leg for 15 minutes. I got to do some light reading. All good.

Then I got to the realness: Could I start doing yoga again? The doc was hesitant. He wanted me to ease into it. I wanted no such thing. I did a round of the warm-up for Ashtanga and survived. That was the hard part, so I thought asking couldn’t hurt.

And the PT gave me the ok.

As long as I didn’t do anything stupid, I was allowed to do it. Benefit outweighed the risk to him. Awesome dude. Also awesome that he was OK with me not wearing the knee brace as a default since I was already on the mend.

And how long did I wait to go to yoga? Almost 10 hours.

I’ve been going half insane the past few weeks. I couldn’t even do planks in the early stage because me knee was hurting that much.

I went to my Ashtanga class prepared to behave and make accommodations. It wasn’t easy, and because I couldn’t really do anything while my knee was hurting, even my upper body was not really in the game. There were some minor twinges, and my yoga teacher watched me like a hawk to make sure I was OK, but everything was all good. I had to sit out a couple of things, but I was able to do something most of the time.

And tomorrow’s going to be rough. Ashtanga is Sanskrit for “this is gonna hurt” (it’s a stupid joke I’ve been making for over a year, but I still love it; related, I made the joke originally in this post from the first time I did the class. It usually shows up on the first page of the Google search when you look for thank you note for yoga teacher. It’s kept a steady flow of traffic to the blog from people sincerely looking to write their yoga teacher a thank you note while I was being snarkily sincere about appreciating an all-over soreness from the workout. I should add a postscript apologizing to the people looking for real advice).

I also have to contend with the weird leg exercises that got muscles I objectively knew were there but rarely feel activated. That’s going to cause some odd soreness, but it’s finally looking up for our hero.

Q and His Treacherous Knee

Or Q and His Knee Jerk Reaction

Or Q and Why Does My Knee Hurt?

This was my weekend a week ago:

Nothing like unexplained knee pain to liven up the weekend #thuglife #thisis30

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And this was me less than a week ago:

There’s a theme here. I’m a week and half into unexplained knee pain. I know what’s happening (tendonitis), but I don’t know why (unless we accept that my knee is an a-hole argument).

I spent a week on steroids and that seemed to help, but then I tweaked it on day 5 of steroids, and three days later, I’m back in the kind of pain I was in before starting the steroids.

With a couple of other things, I’m now two and half weeks removed from my last run, which was just a light jaunt to shake out the post-10K creaks.

My goal was a 10K every other month, and it’s already in jeopardy, and not the cool Ken Jennings kind.

If I go after the race I’m targeting, I’m looking at basically 5 weeks to go from 0 to 10K.

That’s probably not going to happen.

This is going to be an interesting year.



Recapping the Super Awesome Month of Meditation

That is a wrap on the super awesome month of #meditation. #superawesomeyearofme

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I’d say the month of meditation flew by, but all the month’s fly by at this point.

I’d also say I learned lessons along the way, but I almost think the point of meditation is to not learn lessons. I think it might simply be that the point is to be there, no more, no less.

Today in yoga, which at its core is meditation, I went into a different matra than usual.

When I’m engaging in mindfulness meditation, first choice is to focus on my breath. Simply notice it.

My second choice is to narrate. In. Out. Helps keep me focused.

My third choice is gentle reminders that I’m right here and to let things mentally pass, and I’ll attend to them later.

That’s all well and good, but in yoga, the people in the room cause me problems. I don’t do well in crowds, generally, and this was one of those days.

I had to escape without being able to actually escape. I found a new mantra.

Warning, this is a little bit weird/depressing/scary/nihilistic.

I was repeating variations of this isn’t real. Mostly this isn’t real. But I had some they’re not real, I’m not real, I’m not here thrown in.

Of course, I know this is real (to the extent that anyone can actually know they’re real and here; there’s some computer simulation believers out there, so you can always wrap your head around that if you’d like). But it helped. People lead to me thinking about interactions with people, which isn’t helpful when you’re trying to jump back to chaturanga. Pretending they weren’t real if I had to be around them helped. They were no longer people to me, which kind of helped.

And so it goes.

Turning to the future, I’m trying to get my mileage up. I’ve just recently acquired a shin issue that I’m hoping doesn’t turn into shin splints, but I’m not optimistic. I’m trying to up my calcium intake to help if the bone’s taking damage, and I’m going to avoid running until the ache is gone. Not a good sign, but not a real problem yet.

If it’s just a few days of delay, then I’m still on track for getting in another 5K before the year closes out and (possibly) chasing a new goal for the upcoming year: run six 10Ks.


I’m tired thinking about that already.

The plan to prep for the 10Ks immediately follows the end of my Zombies, Run! 5K app cycle. The full app has a 10K prep process, so I’ll just hop back into that (and get caught up on those shenanigans in Abel). Much like the year of the 5K and my foray into a 10K this year, the goal is to finish without completely embarrassing myself, so I don’t expect to run a full 10K. I do expect to try.

That effort will probably result in alternating months, starting in February, to give me time to get up to speed and then time to recover between races. Getting a 5K every month was rough enough, so 10Ks in the southern heat doesn’t bode well.

But we try.

Whenever I think of these goals I set, I can’t help but think how arbitrary they must sound to other people. But at the same time, life is people arbitrarily attaching meaning to things. People getting emotionally attached to inanimate objects, so I can set weird goals every year (plus, I’m completely over dietary goals; I think I might have caused more problems than I solved this year).