The Zombie Apocalypse

Next weekend I’m supposed to run an informal, untimed half marathon with B. He’s 11, and we ran this race last summer too. He’s extremely proud of this accomplishment–and rightly so. He’s also earned age-group awards in several 5Ks, and he completed his first triathlon earlier this summer. But I started running in 2011, so he was eight when we entered our first race. We never did the running stroller thing, so take the rest of this post with a grain of salt.

This summer, I’ve run (or biked–which I did last night, thanks to the knee situation) on a trail popular with families, and many times I encountered parents pushing kids in running strollers. I am impressed by this–in the summer heat, or uphill, it’s hard enough to drag myself along at a respectable pace, let alone doing so while pushing another human or two. I think it’s great that parents bring their kids out to the trails–they’re setting a positive example of health and fitness, and they’re sharing time outdoors. Win-win, right?

Not quite. More often than not, the kid(s) in the stroller are glued to Mom or Dad’s phone. The device shrieks game sounds or kids’ movies as they ride along. The kid is in one world, the parent in another.

Running with B isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, but it’s time we spend together. He loves to chat about his Minecraft worlds, Iron Man suit designs, and books he’s reading. Sometimes he grumbles and complains, and he runs ahead to be by himself for a while. But good run or bad, it’s a shared experience–two people not just in the same place at the same time, but slogging along together. Maybe it’s easier for me because he’s older, maybe it’s because he’s an only child and has always been good at entertaining  himself with limited access to digital devices. But I think handing the kid a screen (“sit here and watch this passively”) negates the message parents are trying to send by taking the kid along in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m no technophobe. I got an email account back when AOL (on dialup) charged by the minute. My first cell phone came with something like 50 minutes of talk time a month, and all it did was make phone calls. I’ve had an iPhone since its first generation, and I pink-puffy-heart love unlimited texting. I wrote part of this post on my iPad. In elementary school, B started with a basic Kindle and recently upgraded to the Kindle Fire. He also has his own laptop. He’s allowed unlimited reading time on his Kindle, but one hour a day of game/computer/Wii time. I am competent with all kinds of technology available in my classroom, and I’m often the one asked to troubleshoot tech problems around my corner of campus. So I understand that these devices are completely integrated into our society these days, and in many ways I embrace it. There’s nothing like taking a digital tour around the setting of a book my students are reading, or having answers at my fingertips.

But as a teacher, I also see negative effects of constant digital access. Many of my middle school students can’t focus on reading a short story or an article for  more than 20 or 30 seconds (yes, I’ve timed it). Twenty minutes of independent reading is beyond some of them. They announce, “I don’t read, unless it’s the cheat codes to a video game.” They complain that they’re not allowed to text in class, and they beg administrators to allow them to use their phones at lunch “so that we will be quiet.” Students texting in class became such a problem at a local high school that the principal banned phone use during class time (still allowing them access between classes) and there was an uproar so mighty that it warranted an article in the newspaper. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I don’t see a huge leap between regularly handing a small child a phone to keep him occupied in a stroller and a later inability to pay attention to the analog world of school and life.

So yeah, I’m troubled by this.

When I run alone, I listen to podcasts or music. I’ve learned obscure trivia from Stuff You Should Know, and I’ve laughed out loud to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. I enjoy both of those podcasts–when I’m by myself. But any time I run with someone else–my kid, my spouse, my running buddies–I leave it all behind. We definitely don’t talk 100% of the time, but I think the shared experience is important. Not just parallel experience where we’re doing the same activity within our own bubbles, but actually sharing the experience. I mean, I’ve got some fantastic memories–G’s stories during the Army Ten-Miler. K’s dancing through mile five of the Cleveland half. Getting J across the finish line of our self-proclaimed Achilles Heel 10K. Listening to B describe every Iron Man suit ever designed. Laughing while S and P invent some kind of runners’ diaper. Trying to figure out if A used “fuck” as all eight parts of speech. And the list goes on. For me, running with others isn’t just about completing the distance. It’s about friendship. Is that too touchy-feely, new-age, idealistic of me?

Some of you might think I just don’t understand, that parents want an hour to run in peace, and giving a kid an iPhone in the stroller makes that happen. And some might justify it by saying the kids are playing educational games. Others might say that since I’ve never run with a kid in a stroller, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Yet others dismiss me as a fuddy-duddy English teacher stuck in the last century, staring over her half-glasses while grumbling about “kids today!” Fair enough. But instead of focusing on reasons I’m wrong, try looking at your next run with your child(ren) not as something they have to endure, but as something you can do together. That hour-long run is an hour you and your kids have to observe the world around you, to chat about anything, or about nothing. No educational game can do that. An hour of silent, glassy-eyed staring at a screen can’t do that.

 

We have seen the Zombie Apocalypse, and it is us.

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Knee deep in the hoopla

After hobbling through my runs at the beach last week, I got in to see my sports doctor on Monday. He manipulated my knee this way and that way, and eventually he decided that it’s structurally stable, that it’s probably the IT band after all. He did his thing with the medieval torture tools and the pushing and stretching, then taped it all up. He said that we should know pretty quickly–by the end of next week–if the treatment is working. If I don’t see significant improvement after a few more visits, then it’s time to move on to an MRI.

I asked if I should rest it, or if I could continue with my Tuesday-Thursday training this week. He said I could try it, but only with a bailout plan. I had to promise that if it hurt, even a quarter-mile into the workout, I’d give it up for the day.

Tuesday morning, my knee was black and blue–I’m pretty sure one purpose of the kinesio tape is to hide the bruises. (Kidding Dr. T! Don’t hurt me again!)

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I have my fingers crossed (but not my legs … ow) that this works.

Other than bumping the bruise a couple of times, I didn’t hurt at all. I could climb a flight of stairs without a death grip on the railing, and I could balance on my left leg pain-free. Improvements all around! So Tuesday evening I headed out to meet my training group.

Spoiler alert: I made it half a mile.

At first, I thought maybe I just felt the bruised skin and tissue jiggling around as I ran. But sadly that was a half-mile of wishful thinking, and I knew I had to bail. When everyone else turned left to go to the track, I turned right and headed back. At a walk.

Argh.

The rational part of my brain knows it was the right decision. I’m supposed to run an informal half-marathon with B ten days from now. And in a few weeks I’m running one leg of a relay race–I don’t want to let my teammates down. Never mind the big races I’ve got coming up in October and December. If I can fix this now, I can still meet my goals down the road. But man it was hard to pull that ripcord last night. It felt like my own little walk of shame back to my car.

A thunderstorm had blown through nearby and it was overcast and cool. So I decided on some driving therapy–windows down, sunroof open, music blaring.

But then the ’80s channel mocked me. First song? On the Edge of a Broken Heart by Bon Jovi, which I didn’t remember was a Bon Jovi song originally, but there it was. Next up? Save a Prayer by Duran Duran. And the final insult, ZZ Top’s Legs.

Seriously, Universe? What have I done to deserve this?

So yeah, I’m knee deep in the hoopla. I’d like to say that we’re not gonna take it, but clearly I’m going to have to exercise patience and take it easy in order to get past the danger zone so I can comfortably run run away.

So to facilitate healing, I’ll try to take the advice of a popular ’80s philosopher: Frankie says Relax.

Back to life, back to reality

After Monday’s 7-mile walk and Tuesday’s short run where the sidewalk seawall ends, my knee started to feel a little better each day. IMG_8823Wednesday I repeated the seawall-beach run surrounded by a gorgeous sunset, and Thursday I tried a longer run, from our hotel to the pier (to Rita’s…) and back.

I ran in the evenings–I just don’t have it together enough in the mornings (at least before it gets too hot) and there’s no shade along the seawall. But the drawback to that? The seawall and its sidewalk are not well-lit. Some sections are busier at night (the Historic Pleasure Pier and its nearby restaurants attract a lot of nighttime activity) but others are practically deserted. At our end of the seawall, it’s the latter. And I got a late start on Thursday evening’s run, which took me 2.5 miles from our hotel to the fishing pier. Because I was taking it easy on my knee (and because I took a side trip to Rita’s…) it was dark for much of my return trip. On Monday when I walked more than seven miles, I walked on the seawall side going out, then took the sidewalk on the other side of the street–lit by restaurants and businesses–going back. But this was a tactical error because I had to navigate a zillion driveways and side streets, hoping drivers would see me in the dark. Yes, I wore a light-colored shirt, my shoes are white, and my Road ID has a reflective stripe, but I still needed to be extra vigilant. So Thursday night, I stuck to the seawall both directions–even though it’s a bit darker, I didn’t have to worry about cars.

I took Friday off–it’s my usual rest day, plus B’s camp finished with a completion ceremony that evening. We could have checked him out afterwards, but he decided he wanted to spend one more night in the dorms with his new friends. So we left him there, then had a late dinner, and running afterwards–entirely in the dark–didn’t hold a lot of appeal.

Saturday morning, we got up, picked up the kid, and left the island. I had grand plans to run in the evening, but instead we attended Rogue’s third birthday party. Have you ever had a Nuun-a-rita?

Let’s just say I had plenty of hydration. And I didn’t feel like running when I got home.

But this trip was my last major event of summer vacation. So it’s back to life, back to reality my training schedule now. For reals.

No better, no worse

Tuesday morning we took a dolphin cruise, then I spent most of the afternoon reading on my Kindle by the pool. You know, resting the knee.

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Later in the evening, I decided to try a short run to see if there’s been any improvement. But I didn’t want to retrace my steps from Monday’s walk, so instead I went the other direction along the seawall.

After about half a mile, I ran out of seawall. Literally, there was a barricade, and past it, the wall just stopped. The beach widened and without a protective barrier, the buildings sat further back from the water. But there’s a path that winds down to the sand, so I followed it and ran along the beach for another mile or so.

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I ran most of the way back to the hotel, except when I had to pick my way across the seaweed and the encroaching tide. Once, my shoes sank into the sand a little deeper than I expected, but I jumped back in time to avoid a gloopy shoe disaster.

In the end, I ran 3.1 miles. The knee isn’t really any better, but it’s not worse. However, I’m no longer sure it’s the IT Band. I mean, I think that’s what bothered me at first, but the pain alongside the outside of my knee has dissipated. Now it’s sort of behind the kneecap? That worries me because I had surgery on this knee about 14 years ago to clean up some cracked cartilage. I hope THAT problem isn’t rearing its ugly head again. It doesn’t feel like the same injury, but at this point I really have no idea.

I hope if I stick to short distances (and walk if I need to) over the next few days, I’ll be ok. Then when I get home I’ll see my sports doctor for real treatment.

Walkabout: Galveston Island

I’m not good at taking it easy.

My knee has been bothering me, so Sunday night I took it easy by running only two miles.

Monday we went to Moody Gardens.

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We started in the aquarium pyramid and learned that many of the animals who live here were rescued–one of the seals is blind, and another is missing an eye. A sea turtle’s back legs were paralyzed. Then in the rainforest pyramid, we saw a sloth climbing a tree veeeeerrrrryyyyy slllloooowwwwwlllllyyyyy.

After lunch, we took a ride on Colonel, a paddle wheel boat. It paddled around the bayou for an hour–very relaxing.

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We were at Moody Gardens for about four hours–Dad thinks we walked a couple of miles through exhibits and around the property itself. So when we got back to the hotel, I decided I’d spend the afternoon at the pool.

After dinner, I decided I needed to move. My knee had not really bothered me all day, but still I thought maybe I should take it easy on the running. Especially after we ran across the street and the pain came back! But I felt guilty because I really intended to run every day this week. So what did taking it easy look like?

I walked 7.2 miles.

I started at our hotel and headed north along the seawall. The breeze kept me cool, and at times the tide was low enough that I could walk on the sand. But much of the beach is rocky here–big chunks of granite fill the space between the water and the seawall, presumably as added protection from future storm surges.

The island has bounced back from Hurricane Ike, but occasionally I noticed empty lots or abandoned structures. The Reef apparently used to be a resort of some kind, but except for the sign, it’s just gone.

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The further I walked, the more crowded the beach became. I reached a statue that memorializes those who died in the hurricane, and past that, Fort Crockett, a former military garrison.

On my way back, I stopped at Rita’s for ice custard happiness. Half key lime and half lemonade hit the spot.

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By the time I returned to our hotel, it was completely dark. Dad was thisclose to sending out a search party–walking 7.2 miles took me more than two hours. Not a pace I wish to run, but comfortable under the circumstances. For the last few days I have been doing stretching and strengthening exercises to rehab my leg, and I hope I can return to running in time to explore more of this beautiful island. If not, well, walking will do for now.

Hardheaded

Earlier in the week, B bashed his forehead on the corner of a filing cabinet. It wasn’t a gash that required stitches–it looked like more of a puncture surrounded by a quarter-sized goose egg. But foreheads bleed a lot, so it looked worse than it was. He was kind of freaked out, particularly because he goes to camp in a few days, but I told him that if I were worried, I’d have already taken him to the doctor. Like I did when he sliced open his thumb (which required seven stitches and a tetanus shot) or when he fell and got a concussion (which earned him a CT scan and a limitation on activity). He didn’t have a headache or any other complaints, so I told him he’s lucky he has a hard head.

Like his mom.

This morning I got up to run with Rogue, and since it was “bring a friend” day, I dragged B out of bed and got him to run with me. We’re doing an informal half-marathon in a few weeks and I thought perhaps he should run a few miles between now and then. So we met up with my running buddies and took off for our 90-minute run. It was a beautiful morning–70 degrees! In July!–so I  had high hopes for an enjoyable six or seven miles. Alas, right from the start I had my doubts. See, about two weeks ago, my IT band started bothering me, right where it meets the knee.

But I iced it, taped it, foam rolled the hell out of it, and rested it. I thought I’d rehabbed it successfully, since it didn’t bother me at all during last weekend’s 10K or any of my runs this week. This morning, though, right off the bat my left knee felt tight and painful. I kept going, crossing my fingers that it would loosen up and I could get through my 90-minute run. But it didn’t. B and I ran the first 45 minutes–he regaled me with tales of Minecraft and I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. But after we turned around, I had to take some walk breaks. I ran the last mile back, then took some Vitamin I(buprofen) and sat down with the foam roller. My knee felt better after that, but now I’m at home with an ice pack on it.

I feel kind of cheated. We don’t get 70-degree mornings in July very often, and everyone around me exclaimed how much they enjoyed their runs. Me? Even when I was running it was hardly faster than some people’s walking pace. I had to grit my teeth to get through it. I’m grateful for B and my running buddies who helped me along the way, but wow it hurt. And it puts my run-every-day-in-Galveston goal in jeopardy, too.

So that brings me to the question: Is this a way to be tough and power through the pain! situation, or a you’re a hardheaded, stubborn dumbass for continuing the run when something is clearly wrong one? B says it’s both. 😉

 

Have you continued to run through pain? Was it a wise choice?

Any suggestions for alleviating IT band pain?

 

On the road again

This has been a whirlwind summer.

After school got out, we had a week to relax, then all three of us took off for Florida. Following about two weeks of recovery time (although we spent a few days at the lake) B and I traveled to Virginia for a long weekend We’ve been back a couple of days, but guess what? On Sunday we head out yet again. This time, our destination is Galveston. Much like last summer, B is attending camp so my dad and I are going to drive him down there, then hang out for the week.

Despite my ambitious summer Rogue training (hellooooo Hill of Doom), I have been feeling clunky and slow the last few weeks. I know that the Texas heat is taking its toll, but let’s be honest: despite the fact that I’ve gone running during all of my travels, I’ve offset those runs with restaurant food, decadence, and a lot of ass-sitting. This past Monday alone, I spent 5.5 hours trapped at National Airport while Southwest Airlines tried to figure out how to get us home. Dinner was Diet Coke and popcorn.

Left: our original plane, on which they discovered wing damage after everyone boarded. Right: the new plane brought in from BWI four hours and one thunderstorm later.

So I’ve decided that while I’m in Galveston, I’m going to run every day. I’m missing my Rogue training, so I’ll focus on re-creating the workouts as best I can on my own. Fortunately, our hotel sits across the street from Galveston’s well-maintained concrete seawall that stretches about ten miles from one end of the island to the other. So I’m packing my running gear.

Beach running is iffy but the seawall is nice, albeit concrete.

Beach running is iffy but the seawall is nice.

The last two summers, we’ve driven the 3+ hours to Galveston for the Sand Crab 5K, a great beach race. This year, the race is scheduled for a weekend in which we have other obligations, so we won’t be able to make it. I’m disappointed because I really like this race. But instead of a race weekend in September, I get a whole week here now, and I’m going to take advantage of it by running every day.

Then I can sit by the hotel pool or on the beach with my Kindle guilt-free.