Saturday, July 7, 2012

Slowing Down for a Bit

A year ago this time I was running my last 20-miler as I prepared to take part in the 2011 San Francisco Marathon. Now I see the ads for this year's event and I know I'm not even close to being ready. I missed my long run today as I have missed all of the short runs, too, over the last couple of months. 

It's not choice, or heat, or lack of motivation. It's pretty nasty back pain that's taken me from health I take for granted to health I wish I had. Sleeping and sitting are just fine, but walking or standing--let alone running, cycling, or kicking a soccer ball--are out of the question. Actually, it's not really back pain any more, but radiating leg pain that's the most intense.

Either the combination of physical therapy and steroids is going to work soon or it will be a quick surgery to correct a lower-back herniated disc. I'm anxious to reach that conclusion so I can get back to a life of activity, but I certainly have come to respect the challenges that people face as they age or become physically limited in other ways.

One thing that I have learned to become is more economical. I think more about what I'm going to do before I get up because I know I have a limited amount of time before the pain kicks in. I also appreciate the things more that are in range of easy reach. Conversely, the things that are not so easy to get to become less important to me. In the end, this kind of thinking might not be too bad a thing because it's resulting in some simplification in my life.

My love and affection for my Uncle Mike have increased, too, because he deals with pain like this, and far worse, constantly, yet he lives a dynamic, abundant, and kind life, a model not unlike the one my father set.

One conclusion, many handicapped parking spaces meet regulations, but don't necessarily make things easier. I got a temporary pass to use until this is over, but I have noticed the ramps aren't near the spaces and the spaces aren't necessarily near the doors. There's rarely a place to sit when you need it, and waiting for slow elevators is way tougher than I had ever realized it might be. I can work at my desk just fine, but I try to time my four-flight descent after work so I can avoid a "local" trip downstairs that stops on each floor. I'm not kidding. Yesterday, the power went out in my office and I had to walk the four flights. I made it with no problem, but I couldn't help wonder how anyone who was truly handicapped could get out of that building. 

I'm not complaining, though, because in my heart I understand that this is just a temporary setback that I will recover from. There is positive to come out of this in that I know I will have had a good reminder about appreciating what we can do with ourselves and our time. 

I'm glad to say that even with this inconvenience I can look back at my life and say that I have used my physical ability as well as possible for the most part. I've been able to finish a few marathons, climb a mountain or two, cycle lots of miles, and coach hundreds of young people in soccer. I think I will be able to do most of that again soon, and I will love it even more when I do.

I'm slowing down for a bit, but I'm not giving up.


  1. Hey Chas,
    Having worked through a hamstring rupture last spring (and 6 months of PT and handicapped parking - which is a chuckle when you have a license plate that reads "IXRSIZ") I am pulling for you. But I am also absolutely convinced that it is these times that teach us just what we should never take for granted. Press on, gently. And mind your doctor's orders.

  2. Chas, Sorry to hear of your troubles.While my back problem doesn't cause me much pain, the lack of flexibility keeps me from doing a lot of stuff. When you say that you realize that things are not important, I understand what you mean! Hopefully the therapy will help you, but don't put off the surgery if it doesn't. I know some people who have had their backs fixed and they are very satisfied with the results. I know it's tough for someone who is as active as you to slow down,but you'll get through it.
    Good luck!

  3. Oh Dear, Chas, I really feel for you. I'd been struggling with a major slow-down in my workout for a few months, and had no idea what was going on. As you remember, I've struggled with weight management all of my life and had found micro-management of diet and exercise the way to stay on top of it. When it came to a near stop of my everyday workout due to shortness of breath etc., I panicked. To not be able to work out and do everyday activities was terrifying me. Within a very short time frame, we found me to have a heart block, Mobitz Type 2 that was corrected by a pacemaker. Geez! I'm way too young to be dealing with that! I'm very grateful to have had the care to work through it, and am now on the other side and almost back to my daily workout and activities. Scary, yes. It's a bump of reality, as I still think of myself as that 19 year old who sees 50+ as way off.It's also a only a bump in the road. Best wishes to you as you work through this.