I have used this blog for the occasional update for recent running or travel stories, but I haven’t had much new stuff I felt made a story worthy of a blog post for a while. Although I have had a few posts catching up on old trips as I get by backlog of pictures processed, there hasn’t been much in the running department worthy of a blog post while recovering from last year’s medical issues. So, perhaps it is time for an update.
8 months ago I wrote about a couple of couple of half-marathons I walked as part of my recovery while severely weakened from last year’s issues. Sustaining a running pace then was still outside my physical capability. At that time I had reached the point where walking several miles on relatively flat land was OK, but hills got me out of breath quickly. So I began including hills in my walks. People kept asking me about my goal race, but my only goal was to regain the strength to be able to do some good hikes in the national parks later in the year without having to be concerned about getting back to my car if I ventured several miles. Work was draining much of my reduced energy at that time, and also with the excessive heat of the central Texas summer I was not getting out to exercise as often as I should.
In one of the early hilly hikes I tried out the 6-mile roundtrip Stairway to Hell trail that all my trail running friends had been talking about for hill work. I encountered people doing hill repeats on the stairs. I probably should not have tried that hike on a day that hit 100 degrees heat since it is far more climbing than I have done to that point. Even though I started early in the morning, it still took me half a day and I felt seriously beat-up at the end.
In the summer, my employer announced plans to phase out their Austin site, so I wrapped up my work within a month and took an early exit. Although I had some avenues I could pursue employment, I decided this was a good time to take a sabbatical to focus on recovery before jumping into the next job. Last year, I almost did not get to live to retirement, so I decided to take a little bit of retirement early since any new job probably would not have much vacation. In the first 6 months of this sabbatical I spent 50% time outside Austin, with trips split into 2-week segments within the US so that I would not get too tired and be available for my regular doctor visits.
My first trip after work ended was 2 weeks mostly camping to the Waterton-Glacier National parks on the Montana-Canada border. I averaged hiking 8-10 miles most days. This park is one of the most beautiful places and I left plenty of unexplored trails for future trips.
The more that I got out and hiked, the more I was able to do. The cool fresh mountain air was so much better for me than the Texas summer heat . After only a month of this increased activity, my doctor noted visible improvement in my muscle tone as my strength was returning. Measurements also showed improvement in my lung capacity throughout the year, although that has not yet returned to normal.
I also spent some time visiting various parks in the Pacific Northwest, Palo Duro Canyon, Big Bend area and southeast Utah and a few weeks with family in Tennessee which allowed me to see real fall colors for the first time in a while (which we don’t get so much in Texas).
While I occasionally made an attempt at running or jogging during this time, that activity had not been comfortable or enjoyable. I was still getting out of breath easily. But if I don’t push into activity I won’t regain that ability. In the Got Guts 5K in September, I felt like I was somewhat running half of it, but it still took me 50 minutes as my “running” speed was still slower than many people fast-walk and I couldn’t pretend to run the uphills. I also tried to run but mostly walked the 20k in the Palo Duro Trail Race.
It was not until the 5-mile Thanksgiving Turkey Trot that I almost felt like a runner again. I don’t know that I can call what I did running. My “running” speed was still slower than many people were walking, but I felt like I jogged the majority of the race except for a few of the hills and waterstops. I averaged just slower than 12 minute miles. This may sound slow to other runners, but it is a huge improvement from the beginning of the year. That was the first event where my “running” felt good. Perhaps by next year I might be able to do some real running.
Here are a few of the pictures I've taken this year:
Kiawanda Rock, Oregon
Bridge at Victoria Falls in Glacier National Park
Cape Kiawanda State Park, Oregon
Blue Ridge Parkway (near Grandfather Mountain, NC)
Two Medicine Lake, Glacier National Park
Sunset at White Sands National Monument
Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park
Bighorn Sheep, Glacier National Park