09:29 01/07/2012 Sunday morning...
10 minutes run. Half asleep still. Alarm clock whining on through my dreams. Rolled out of bed, not enough sleep. Sunshine. Warm sunshine warming me as I run like a lizard waking up... 10 minutes. A bit late so felt I had no time for more. Slight twinge in left knee. Left leg doesn't bounce like the right, and when I consciously try to let it bounce as deeply as the right (by watching the trees and telegraph lines bounce in my field of vision) then the left knee twinges slightly.
Ermmm... Oh yeah, I saw a photo on Facebook last night of a friend in running gear with a so, so proud look on her face and wearing her runner's number and finisher's medal from the 4.2 km 'minimarathon' race in the 2012 Midnight Sun Marathon event in beautiful Tromsų. This was the friend I stayed with - couch-surfed with - exactly a year ago when I ran the same race. My excuse for going to Tromsų was to run that race (I booked for the 10km race but wasn't fit enough so dropped down to the 'minimarathon' fun run) but really my aim was to spend some time up in Northern Norway. Beautiful area. Great people too. I wish I was there now. (I'm pining for the fjords!) Sleeping is kind of hard with no darkness though. It took a while to get my head around the concept that it can be night-time in full daylight. So what is it then, 'nightlight'? No, it's daylight, so how can it be night in daylight? Not a conceptual problem my poor little brain had had do deal with before. Perhaps it's easier when you see the seasons change gradually.
Oh but time is pressing. Gotta go and do some ridiculous video project dressed as Rupert Murdoch. I have no idea what it's about.
23:56 04/07/2012 Wednesday night...
I've been away for a couple of days and I managed to hurt my right knee. Not sure what happened but I woke up in a tent, was kneeling for a while, then got up and the knee kind of 'clunked' painfully. Since then it did the same thing a couple times, ...until I got the message to be very careful not to fully bend it!
At no point did it feel weak or painful when walking or running so I think it is something to do with folding the leg under me and sitting on my heels.
Now it is OK. It's stiff and feels a little inflamed, but it's not painful and hasn't 'clunked' in the last 24 hours. Argh, I don't know what happened but I don't like it and it worries me! Anyway I just went for a run but was too nervous to run far in case I would be doing damage to the knee. No pain, no obvious problem but I just ran to the end of the road and back.
02:02 06/07/2012 Thursday night...
7 minutes. Another token run. I met a cat, a bat and a hedgehog. I hassled the hedgehog a bit - nudged it gently with my foot to see if it would curl into a ball. It didn't, but it kind of hunkered down, so I knelt down beside it, feeling a bit apologetic for my intrusive curiosity. It was making clicking or grunting noises. I made similar noises with it for a while, looking at it's cute paws and nose. It must have decided I wasn't so much of a threat as it soon got up and walked off.
00:10 10/07/2012 Monday night...
24 minutes. A good, energetic run. I decided to risk the knee and run anyway, and there seems to be no problem. I was still nervous and tried consciously to hold the knee together. I did this by keeping a more 'active' posture.
It was too dark to run in the fields so I ran through the empty streets, but I hit on the brilliant idea - well, I'd done it before but not in this way exactly - of keeping my legs active by running half on the kerb and half on the road. But not one step on each like a person with odd-length legs but like this: kerb, road - kerb-kerb, road-road, - kerb-kerb-kerb, road-road-road, ...and so on for as high a number of steps on each surface as I could until I either ran out of kerb because of a passing a junction, or I lost count or lost balance. This pattern meant that I was often crossing my feet: stepping to the left to land with my right foot up on the kerb for example. I have to say this worked very well. It was fun, and fully occupied my brain as well as my body, and I found myself naturally running in an active and energetic way. No mindless, bone-crunching jogging. I recommend it. I managed to get up to about twelve or fifteen before my concentration would wander and I'd have to start again.
I guess it's simply playing. If you're playing then you're conscious, and if you're conscious then your muscles are kind of 'ready to react'. I'm not putting it into words well tonight but I'm sure it's good. It's when movements become automatic, highly repetitive and unconscious that injuries can occur, whether that's at work in front of a computer, or in a gym or cycling or driving a car or cutting people's hair or sitting at a desk in school... Play is important.
Whew! What a relief! What a relief that I don't appear to be crippled just yet! I was really worried about that right knee. It's still far from good, but it does only seem to be an issue when I bend it fully with weight on it (squatting or kneeling). That is something I do a lot though. I'm a plumber so I inevitably work a lot on my knees. I always wear knee pads but that doesn't help with the long periods of sitting on my heels to work. I mean, it's normal for plumbers to work like that. (There is even a medical condition known as 'plumber's knee'.) I have callouses on the front of my ankles from sitting like that. And then just lately - the last few months - I've noticed it being uncomfortable to sit like that. It has seemed that since I put on a bit of weight my legs are too bulky and when I sit like that it feels like I'm exerting a leverage which is opening up the knee joint a bit. It has felt like that but I had no idea it would eventually result in this kind of partial 'dislocation' or 'misalignment'. In any case I really can't afford this kind of injury and I feel I really must prioritise losing weight, even if it means going hungry for a while. Every kilo I lose is going to make it that much quicker to heal this injury and that much less likely it will recur.
Oh, and by the way, on my left leg I managed - on the same camp site where I injured my right knee - to pick up an insect bite which by Saturday had become obviously infected. (I feel like a real wreck this week. And yes, I know, I've missed several of my daily runs.)
So on Saturday night after work I took my infected leg to see the out-of-hours medical people at a local hospital. (I didn't mention the injured right knee joint. One thing at a time. And anyway I'd be more likely to see a sports physiotherapist or osteopath than a medical doctor about that.)
They dressed the wound, frowned, muttered amongst themselves and decided to give me an 8-day course of high-strength antibiotics. Seriously, they were very friendly and efficient there but I'm glad I didn't wait until Monday morning when my normal surgery was open again. Glad I started those antibiotics as soon as possible. The inflamation has already gone down so they seem to be working. A few years ago I did have a bout of cellulitis in my right leg, which wasn't funny. Wouldn't want to risk that again so hurrah for Alexander Fleming and his amazing antibiotics.
06:26 11/07/2012 Wednesday morning...
A token run to the end of the road and back. Felt OK but I don't want to risk the injured right knee. Knee feels fine (well perhaps a tiny, tiny twinge of soreness if I think about it) but I won't do a proper run today. Tomorrow maybe.
09:36 12/07/2012 Thursday morning...
60 minutes run in the sunshine, out in the fields. Nice. I walked for some of it on the way back. Didn't realise how long it was and found my hip muscles (flexors? - the ones that lift your leg up) were getting a bit sore.
The fields were muddy and furrowed so I was hardly able to get into a regular stride - no two steps were the same length. Great. I was contemplating the nature of obstacles. I'm not sure humans are meant to live without obstacles. By that I mean we evolved as a species in an environment full of obstacles. I think there's a cost to living in an envirnment too different from the one we evolved in. I think in an 'un-natural' environment our instincts can become our enemies. If we evolved, for example, having to chase and search for our food, and having to eat as much as we can when we are fortunate enough to find some, then having a supermarket full of ready-prepared goodies 5 minutes away becomes a potential problem, not to mention the well-stocked fridge downstairs. We also still retain our hunting and chasing and searching instincts which we satisfy in other ways. Shopping, basically, is hunting-and-gathering. Perhaps it is significant that men like hunting for the best, high value items that could easily 'get away', like second-hand cars and so on, while women like browsing in shops, picking brightly-coloured items hanging from metal trees. A gross gender generalisation of course, but the two instincts are there, alive and well. Hunting and gathering.
00:02 14/07/2012 Friday night...
Token run. To the end of the road and back. I was prepared to run a fair distance but as soon as I started jogging I felt kind of queasy and didn't feel like running, so I stopped. I've had a mild headache the last 24 hours or so. Not continuous. I have a feeling it is a reaction to eating hazelnuts. Maybe they were bad, or maybe hazelnuts don't agree with me these days. I've never had a problem with them in the past, although almonds can be tricky if I eat too many.
I'm still worried about my right knee. It is better, but I still daren't bend it completely and it does click now. I'll take it to the doctor next week. It would do no harm to start some of the thigh-strengthening exercises I was shown by a physiotherapist for a similar problem a few years back. It probably seems as if my body has been falling apart since I started running - and it seems like that to me sometimes - but of course I am focussed on the difficulties and problems I have to overcome, rather than the good aspects, but there are good aspects. My general mood has improved along with my general fitness level. Oh, and those nosebleeds, that my doctor was saying could probably only be cured with cauterisation, they have stopped, and I'm sure the running is responsible for that.
12:31 18/07/2012 Wednesday...
(Non-running blog entry)
Becoming a subject.
It's possible to prove that there is no free will and everything one does is fully caused by events which are not subject to one's will.
Nature or Nurture? My actions are determined by the way my physiology and character respond to my environment. My physiology and character are determined in turn by either my genetic inheritance (no choice over that) or my upbringing (no choice over that) or the environment I grew up in (no choice over that.) Have I left anything out? Basically I don't choose who I am. And who I am, together with outside influences, fully determines who I decide to become.
Or if that is too cerebral for you then observe internally. What causes your actions? You have to notice for yourself, but I suggest it will typically be a desire (or other drive) triggered by an environmental cue. We do not choose our desires. If you don't like cheese then, well of course that preference might change over time, but in any given situation you can't choose to like something you don't like, so if you don't like cheese then you don't like cheese. We also do not choose our thoughts. An idea comes to mind involuntarily. I think the idea that we have conscious control over internal, mental events stems from the fact that we have control over our external actions. An external, physical action is the 'architype' of an action, so we imagine that internal 'actions' are similar. We imagine that, just as we can run, jump, throw and push freely, we can also think, desire, love, and hate freely. Just because the word 'hate' is linguistically a transitive verb like 'throw' and 'kill', doesn't unfortunately mean that there is in fact any free agent freely doing anything when hatred is going on.
My own subjective experience is that although almost all of my life seems to be conditioned and determined, there do seem to be moments where I have a little space in which to turn and choose which direction to move in next. That might be an illusion but it does feel that way. The choices I make in those rare moments seem to determine the course of the following period of my life. The trick is to recognise those moments of freedom and make good use of them, ...and not to worry too much about the other 99% of life where it seems I am just 'being thrown'.
For me, 'making good use' of those moments includes the making of commitments, and preferably voicing those commitments to others so that there will be consequences if they are not followed through. Perhaps those 'moments of freedom' are more acurately, 'moments of clarity' where I can see what should be done. Then by use of real, external actions (like booking a place in a marathon race or handing in my notice at work) I can set events in motion which will carry me in the chosen direction even after the window of clarity has closed again. My experience is that merely thinking positive thoughts in those moments of clarity has almost no long-term effect.
22:56 18/07/2012 Wednesday night...
A token run, but a run nonetheless. Didn't feel like it at all. Hungry, tired, headachy. Put kit on and went outside. In fact it was quite nice out in the wind but seriously, I'm exhausted after working today. Also I didn't take time to drink so I'm also a bit dehydrated, which is probably why I have a slight headache. Need food and sleep.
04:12 20/07/2012 Thursday night...
A really token run. Five paces and I'd just eaten, but it was either that or nothing. I've been skiving. Haven't had a proper run for nearly a week.
23:10 20/07/2012 Friday night...
No run. I had a thought today, while I was working - a thought I had had many times of course. The thought was about the essential nature of dance. Dance is essential because it isn't important. It's not trivial; it just isn't important. By that I mean that it's a kind of play. The fact that it's a kind of play means that the movements it entails are not mechanical or unconscious in the way that habitual movements tend to be. The awareness in the movements has a definite physiological effect (in terms of increased blood flow for example) and I would say that playful movements have a 'lighter' quality and are less likely to cause injury.
Because playful or 'dance' movements are not important, there is no reason to continue them beyond the point of enjoyment, therefore it seems likely that there is less chance of injury caused by overuse or overtiredness or frustration or inattention. If I'm honest, when I have injured myself or had accidents it has invariably been because I have not been paying attention for some reason. Often that has been because I was bored or feeling too lazy to do something the proper way and took a short-cut which didn't pay off.
Today I was noticing that I was reacting to my sense that I 'should have completed a job in less time' by rushing to finish. I happened to be on my own in the customer's house; the customer knows me well and knows I do a good job; I was charging a fixed price for this job rather than charging by the hour so how long it took was irrelevant, ...and yet, I was still 'rushing'. On Wednesday I rushed to finish a job and ended up with a headache because I forgot to drink any water. But today the absurdity was apparent. It was apparent that I was causing myself stress by my own expectations of what other people might expect might be a reasonable time to complete a certain job in.
I don't feel I'm being very clear here, but today I thought about the value of moving freely without an agenda. I call this 'dance' but I don't care much about the words. Going out in running gear also doesn't have to be 'work'. In fact, I am so constitutionally resistant to doing things that I don't enjoy that if I think I'm going out to run as a kind of 'work' or 'training' then I just won't do it. I often 'beat myself up' for being 'lazy', but perhaps there is also something very worthwhile in this refusal to do dull stuff. It does have a downside but perhaps it's also a useful kind of self-protection.
20:44 22/07/2012 Sunday...
An hour's run - down past the church, on through the woods beside the river, along the canal and then back through the wheat fields back to the church. I ran all the way there and ran most of the way back with walking breaks as I was quite tired.
It's a relief. I've been skiving over the past week. It's funny how the mind machinery ticks. Today I was procrastinating and procrastinating, but also delaying eating anything because I intended to go out running. Then finally at 7:30pm I went out. The funny thing is that I remember thinking, "Oh, I'm bored of running now." and then I realised that I haven't been running for the last eight days! How can I be bored of something I'm not doing? Maybe I was bored of not running. And coming back I find myself smiling. Is that from happiness? Probably not, but a meaningless smile for no reason will do as a substitute for now.
Bath time. Still quite warm out there even at 8pm. Pleasantly sweaty.
I've been thinking, it would maybe be easier to have a set time to run every day - at least for a while. Perhaps early morning, at least on weekdays. Otherwise it seems so difficult to find the right time. It is the most peaceful time of day. At least, the most peaceful time when I can see where I'm putting my feet. OK, I was working a lot last week and got quite tired, and that's partly why I didn't manage to get out to run, but it would be a relief to get out in the mornings even if I'm working hard. I do get physically tired at work but it's using different muscles from running so it might be quite relaxing. I kind of agree with my laziness to some extent though. After a day getting tired and stressed from working in awkward positions for long periods, it might be a little dangerous to go out running. The risk of injury might be higher than if I go out early after a good sleep.
07:28 23/07/2012 Monday morning...
A ten minute run. Feeling quite tired but I want to establish an early morning running habit.
06:07 26/07/2012 Thursday morning...
Fifteen minutes, but most of that was spent standing and watching the antics of squirrels and pigeons on the overhead power lines.
22:48 28/07/2012 Saturday night...
10 minutes. I felt quite energetic but after a few minutes running I began to feel unconfortable in the belly and didn't want to continue jogging up and down. It's been a few hours since I ate last so I'm not sure why I should feel like that. Ah well, that's fine...
...but I am getting a bit concerned at my lack of consistency about this running project. I'm supposed to be going running every day but I seem to have become quite relaxed about not bothering. It's true that I've been working hard and not had much spare energy, but I think it's important to 'keep the appointment with myself' anyway. I don't know quite what to do to convince myself to go out every day. I had thought, that maybe it's time to start going to training sessions at Kidlington Running Club again.
The truth is I've not been feeling so great recently. Not been feeling so inspired...
One thing I was thinking today: I had done some weeding in a herb bed, which had become rather overgrown. I did the whole bed apart from about six inches right at the end by the wall. I got that far and, well, it was time for a break so I went indoors. I got into doing something else indoors (watching the Olympic opening ceremony on BBC i-player in fact, which was quite impressive) and before I knew it, it had got dark. I went outside to retrieve the tools I had left in the herb bed and saw this perfectly weeded bed with a tiny bit left undone at the end. I thought, "This is a metaphor for my life." I seem to leave a little bit of each project undone. That little bit never seems important at the time but I have a feeling that it's a kind of barrier. By that I mean that the little bit of undone stuff 'insulates' me from the scary world of completeness. It's emptiness. When something is completely completed there is then a kind of 'nothingness' which can feel a bit uncomfortable. Like an awkward silence in a conversation.
I relate this 'emptiness' to meditation of course. Emptiness. Shunyata. The Tao. Rigpa. And Bob Dylan. "...he woke up; the room was bare/ he couldn't see her anywhere/ he told himself he didn't care/ threw the window open wide/ felt that emptiness inside/ to which he just could not relate/ brought on by a simple twist of Fate." I think emptiness shows up in all kinds of ways, and is a rather mundane thing. It shows up in boredom and awkward silences just as clearly as in moments of trancendental 'spiritual' bliss. How it appears depends a lot on the context, and on an individual's own relationship with emptiness. Some people are quite happy being on their own and doing nothing, whereas some others can feel panicked by a lack of anything to do - a lack of something to fill their time.
My own experience is that it comes and goes. In some periods of my life I've felt very comfortable with emptiness (and have felt positively nourished by contact with it) and in other periods of my life - including the present - I've felt a need for constant distraction. But in these periods of distraction I still know, deep down, that I'd be happier if could overcome my reluctance and get back into a good relationship with emptiness. It's something that never goes away so keeping it 'at arm's length' is always quite an effort, and an effort which I know is ultimately futile.
I don't want to make any huge statements because it is after all the most mundane thing, but I also think that when you die you come face to face with it anyway (because you can no longer keep up the constant effort to distract yourself) and depending on what kind of relationship you have with emptiness, death is experienced as either 'hell' or 'heaven'. Well, OK, I guess that is a fairly large statement to make after all, so perhaps I should also say that I think this 'emptiness' is more fundamentally who I am than any of the other stuff that fills it up. So another way of making that uncomfortably huge statement about death - and perhaps a way that is less easily misunderstood - is to say that when you die, the actual experience of that is not of yourself dying but of everything else disappearing, so what you are left with is yourself and nothing else. Your face is right up to the mirror and there is no possiblity of escape and no possibility of distraction. So whether that is experienced as an absolutely intolerable situation ('hell') or as finally coming home to the one you love ('heaven') depends on whether or not you like yourself. Yes, I think that's a better way to put it. So that's why it makes sense to make some kind of effort to get on well with yourself.
The way I see it, there are two sides to that project of getting to like yourself better. On the one hand it makes sense to do what you think is right and to not do what you think is wrong (because you then will have more 'self-respect') and on the other hand, it makes sense to take time to listen to yourself - to get to know yourself - and to develop a greater understanding and 'self-tolerance' in that way.
I kind of regret getting into this subject because I know it can press people's 'buttons'. Also because it can sound pompous or preachy. But then again, this blog is just for myself so I don't really care much what other people think. For myself I feel it's good to remember the importance of 'relating to emptiness' (and if I get too abstract then 'relating to myself' is just as good a way of putting it) but relating to myself does, for sure, entail developing a greater tolerance for that nothingness that appears when something has been completed. For myself I sense, that very often, the reason I don't complete things is because I am reluctant to face myself without distraction. And all this does, after all, relate to the fact that I've been feeling 'bored' by this running project. And to the fact that I've not been feeling so inspired lately in general.
23:58 29/07/2012 Sunday night...
In order to counter the growing apathy and boredom I've been feeling around this running project I have decided to embark on an actual training programme, with goals and everything. Not sure exactly how I'm going to go about that yet. I'll go out and run now to consider it...
00:30 30/07/2012 ...Well, no conclusion yet on the training front. Half an hour of a suburban night-time circuit, the second half of which was spent in my kerb-hopping-step-counting exercise. I got up to 15 this time. It's a good exercise as it involves a little bit of sideways jumping and a lot of concentration. I notice my right knee is a tiny, tiny bit painful at times. It feels a little bit weak. I notice that more when climbing the stairs than when running though. I think I may take it to an osteopath, or even to a doctor.
As for a training schedule, well it seems I am more inclined to push myself and run energetically in the evening than in the morning, so perhaps for those evening runs when I have the time and energy, I can extend the distance of my circuit by one street each time, and try to increase the number of step-counting-kerb-hops I manage each time. So next time I'll go via the High Street and the fire station and try to count up to at least 16 before falling off the kerb or losing count. And I'll try to speed up each time so I'll see if I can keep the circuit to half an hour despite the gradually increasing distance. it's more important to enjoy it and to just keep going, but just for fun those are the three goals: to increase the distance by one sreet each time, to increase the step-kerb-count by 1 each time and to keep the time spent on the circuit constant at 30 minutes.
As for morning runs, it is better to go out into the fields and woods if I can. If I have run hard the night before then it makes sense to take it easy if I'm running the next morning, but in any case it is worth keeping in mind that the benefits of aerobic exercise start to kick in after about 15 or 20 minutes of running, irrespective of the speed I run in that period, so if I can continue at least jogging for that length of time or longer then that's good, although the main thing is just to get out there every day.
So, that was Sunday night. Monday night I should rest, so I'll go for a gentle jog Monday morning. Tuesday morning I can skip and Tuesday night another energetic run. Wednesday morning gentle, Thursday night energetic. Friday morning gentle and Saturday afternoon or early evening perhaps a long run in the fields and woods. If I keep to that weekly schedule then I can substitute the Tuesday and Thursday night energetic runs with training sessions at Kidlington Running Club.
I have to say that although there is something to be said for keeping it gentle and not putting myself off running by pushing too hard when I don't feel like it, it also feels very good to 'blow the cobwebs out' by running hard when I do feel like it. In fact, I think that's the end of Mr Nice Guy now and I've had enough of mollycoddling myself.
11:33 30/07/2012 Monday morning...
Half an hour of the gentlest jogging, down over the river and just over the next brook beyond the sheep field. Early days, but I like my new training regime!
21:58 31/07/2012 Tuesday night...
A token run. 10 paces. I had a session with an osteopath this morning and it has wiped me out. I was feeling fine before I went and now my knee feels sore and I feel like sleeping. I slept most of the day, got up to go shopping and to eat some food, and now I feel sleepy again. Just exhausted. Also a bit depressed. Not depressed, but just so tired I feel kind of desperate - as if I'll never feel like being energetic again. So much for my plan to run energetically tonight!
It seems this current right knee problem is connected to a cartilage problem I had in the same knee in 2006. It seems probable that cartilage damage there is now causing an excess of fluid - a swelling, known as 'housemaid's knee' or 'plumber's knee' - which is manifesting on the back of the knee, and which caused a partial dislocation of the knee joint when I was sitting on my heels. That in turn has stretched some ligaments, which now need to be given time to shorten again to their proper length.
I was actually taking glucosamine after the knee issue six years ago. I took it regularly for a year or two. Then I stopped, ...I guess I stopped because the knee was better, because the tablets were not cheap and because I was never sure anyway what it was that improved the knee catilage, if anything (other than time.)
I'm guessing - and I've had this thought many times before - that stock made from chicken bones must be good for joints too as when you make the stock the cartilage all dissolves away into the water. Cartilage must contain the nutrients needed for repairing cartilage, right? But am I going to make stock from bones every day? No. We live in the fast food era so I'd better take the tablets. (Whatever happened to the everlasting soup pot that you threw each day's leftovers and bones into and just kept drawing soupy goodness from?)
But now I've had it with everything and I'm going to sleep.