Aches and pains


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I have always had aches and pains throughout my body. Perhaps it’s only one ache and/or pain that travels around in my body. Occasionally, I feel pain and/or ache in two different parts of my body. I have felt them since I was little. And I never take aspirin or pain killers for them. Enduring the pain makes me tougher. Or at least it makes me feel tougher.

Last year, after I increased my mileage, I felt a constant sharp twinge in my lower abdomen right above the crease of my right leg where my lower abdomen and leg meet. I felt the pain every morning while I awoke and when I attempted to get myself out of bed. The pain was excruciating. I felt it for about a month. I had felt this pain eight years before along with extreme back pain that made it a challenge to get out of bed. At that time, I felt as if I would die soon, but I didn’t go to the doctor. However, I could still go running because the pain would subside after about the first mile. I always feel that whatever is ailing me can’t be too serious if I can still go running.

This time, I only had the abdominal pain by itself, and the pain would subside once I was running. I would only feel the pain during the day when I thought about it. And when I laughed. Yes, it only hurt when I laughed. However, I decided to go to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t something serious since I felt the pain for about a month. I was sure I was dying of something! Well, the doctor examined me and told me he couldn’t find anything seriously wrong with me. It was most likely just a muscle strain, and that I shouldn’t worry about. Easy for him to say!

As I said before, I have always felt aches and pains my entire life. I have grown accustomed to them, and I rarely go to the doctor for them. Luckily, I haven’t seriously injured myself by running so much.  Something always hurts me when I run. And whatever hurts me usually hurts me for a year or two and then something else hurts me for a year or two. I’m not so sure these pains have anything to do with running or any other physical activity. They come and they go. I have learned to accept them.

No pain, no gain. Mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

DDR

Blogging


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Blogging is my way of getting my say in a world that doesn’t seem to listen to me. Since I was little, I’ve always had a difficult time to get people to listen to me. Perhaps, I was never assertive enough. I know I was always shy and I was so very self-conscious of my English–and Spanish when I was in México. So, when I spoke, and very softly, no one ever noticed or people would speak right over me. I became accustomed to not participating in conversations, but I did become a very good listener.

I started blogging because I enjoy writing, whether or not anyone actually reads what I write. The writing is the most important part for me. Occasionally, people have told me that they had read my blog and I was pleasantly surprised to hear this. However, not many people have read my blog the entire time it’s been in existence.

I can write about whatever I want. And even change topics in the middle of a post. I’ve been blogging for about nine years now, including a few lapses in posting. I believe that writing a blog is very therapeutic because it allows me to vent and jump from topic to topic according to what I’m feeling. Some blog posts were easier to write than others, but once I start a post, I finish it. Amazingly, the shorter posts take longer to write; the long posts just flow out all by themselves.

Today, this post is dragging along. It must be the weather. Cloudy and rainy with the temperature in the forties. I’m hoping the rain will stop and the temperature rises a little so I can run in shorts and a t-shirt. But I will run today. In fact, I’m going out the door now.

DDR

Is it the shoes?


Is it the shoes? Yes, I really believe the shoes are the most important piece of equipment for a runner. All the other accessories are just optional. I don’t need all that fancy running clothing. Sure, they’re nice, but any old t-shirt and a pair of cutoff shorts will do. Socks are essential, but any decent pair will prevent me from blistering. I don’t really need a high-tech watch or music on the run. All I really need is a very good pair a real running shoes. And, no, I do not plan on ever running barefoot, except on the beach. I have never seen a barefoot runner in the winter running through the snow and ice. That’s difficult enough with good running shoes, especially running downhill on an icy road.

Over the years, some of my running friends have gotten injured due to not having proper running shoes. If you do any kind of  distance running, you really need to have a very good pair of running shoes in order to increase your running comfort and prevent injuries. One runner I knew, wouldn’t spend the money on a name-brand pair of running shoes and would instead buy the generic shoes that were on sale. Not only did the shoes not last very long, but he also kept getting injured. I kept telling him that all his aches and pains were due to his lack of real running shoes. Of course, he didn’t listen to me. Another runner I knew, had real running shoes, but he kept them too long. After about a year, I told him he should replace them, but he had spent a lot of money on them and he said they still looked new, which they did. I tried to explain to him that the support was no longer there because the shoe materials break down with use and time. Yes, he took care of his shoes and they looked new; unbelievably, the soles showed little wear even after a year of training for and running 10Ks. When his right knee started aching, I told him he needed new shoes. But he insisted his shoes were still “like new”. Well, after a few more months, he could barely run and even walking was painful because of his right knee. He went to the doctor and ended up getting arthroscopic surgery on his knee. Now, I’m no doctor, but I’m sure it was because of the shoes.

I have mentioned the importance of getting new shoes, but most runners won’t listen to me. Of course, I follow my own advice on running shoes. I have tried many brands of running shoes and I have enjoyed most of them, but after all these years of running, I have settled on Asics running shoes. You have to shop around and find a brand that’s good for you and you’re running style. Whenever, I start to feel pain during running in my knees or hips, I break out a new pair of shoes and the pain goes away. So far, I haven’t needed any surgery due to running. I have sprained both ankles while running, but that had nothing to do with the running shoes. When I first met my wife Beata, she was surprised when I switched to a new pair of running shoes. She thought I was wasting money by buying new shoes when my old shoes still looked new. I explained my reasoning to her, but I don’t think I truly convinced her.

Even as I write this, I have three pairs of brand-new Asics Kayano 19 in closet just waiting for me to take them out on a run.

Hills


This picture doesn’t truly capture the grade of this hill in Glen Ellyn.

Illinois is a rather flat state. When I ran races in California, the race entry form would describe the race course as either flat or hilly. And by hilly that usually meant some steep incline. I once ran a seven-mile race that was uphill for the first half of the course. When I returned to Chicago and started running races here, some race courses were described as hilly. In California, these types of hills are called “flat” by some race directors and “gently rolling hills” by others.

When I started running cross country in Donaldson, Indiana, we never ran any hills because the terrain is relatively flat there, too. Occasionally, there were some slight inclines, but there were no real hills per se. In Chicago, there are no hills either. When I ran with the Marquette Park Track Club, coach Jack Bolton would have us doing “hill work” by running up the sled hill in Marquette Park or running to the “Nabisco Hill” near the Nabisco cookie factory. They weren’t real hills, but that was the best way to train for the “hilly” races in Illinois.

In México City, they have mountains, not hills. I once went running with my cousin through the mountains. We ran for about an hour, but I was surprised that I could keep up with him. I think he was trying to run me into the ground.  Afterwards, he told me that since I was from Chicago, he didn’t think I could handle the hills or the altitude, México City having the elevation of 8000 feet.

So now that I’m running in “flat” Illinois again, I found some “hills” in Glen Ellyn that for my area of Illinois are “hilly”. Of course, I’m not as young as I was when I ran in California or México, nor am I in top form physically anymore. However, I’ve been running these hills for the last year or so trying to get back in shape. I think back to some of the hilly California races I ran and these hills I’m running now don’t seem so steep now.

A few weeks ago, I was running up this Glen Ellyn hill, seen in the picture above, and struggling to keep running at the same pace. This hill on Prospect Avenue goes up for about a half mile. I’ve seen other runners stop running and start walking up this hill. I always continue running up the hill. It’s funny how I only remember running uphill, but not running downhill. Anyway, I’m running up this hill, when suddenly I hear footsteps behind me. I could tell it was another runner by the pace of the footsteps. A female runner passes me up and I say, “Good morning” to her. I make it a point to greet all runners I meet in order to share in the camaraderie of running. She runs a few steps past me and turns back to look at me. She tells me in a firm voice, “Attack the hill!” So, I attack the hill and pull up alongside her. I’m pushing myself harder than I would have had I been all alone. I’m struggling to keep up with her, but I actually feel good that she came along and pushed me to run faster. Her running form is smooth, but she’s huffing and puffing with each step up that hill. I, on the other hand, am not huffing and puffing, but you could tell from my form that I’m struggling to get up that hill. When we get to the top of the hill, we part ways and I shout out to her, “Thanks for the motivation!”

I guess I enjoy the challenge of running up hills.

DDR

Happy Mother’s Day!


My mother Carmen and I, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, 1956.

Happy Mother’s Day to every mothers everywhere! Yesterday and today!

Yesterday, no , today is Mother’s Day in the U.S., but yesterday was Mother’s Day in México because Mother’s Day is always celebrated on May 10th in México. I was born on May 9th, so my mother would usually tell me how she had hoped I would have been born on Mexican Mother’s Day, May 10th. When I was a boy, she usually told me this either on my birthday or on May 10th, or more often than not, on both days. She also told me how she was hoping for a girl during her entire pregnancy. I would have been Debbie, but I turned out to be a boy.

Unfortunately, my mother is no longer around for us to spend the day with her. She always wanted to have grandchildren from me, but my children weren’t born until long after she passed away. So my oldest son only knew his maternal grandmother until he was almost two years old because she, unfortunately, passed away from ovarian cancer, but he never met his paternal grandmother, my mother. And my twins never met either grandmother at all. I feel that my sons were deprived of some wonderful experiences by not having had grandmothers in their childhood.

The happiest days of my childhood were the days when my parents were still married and my grandmother and tía Matilde were living with us in Chicago. My mother was always so happy having her mother in the house. Everyone needs a mother. And to have a mother and grandmother in your life is to be doubly blessed!

Happy Mother’s Day!

DDR

Running


Running is as vital to me as breathing. I have been running in one form or another for as long as I can remember. Growing up, we didn’t have computers or video games, so most of the games we played involved running. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the fastest, but I wasn’t exactly the slowest, either. And my endurance was mediocre compared to the other boys in the neighborhood.

I didn’t begin running per se until my freshman year at Divine Heart Seminary when I joined the cross-country team. I wasn’t disciplined enough to train properly, but I finished every race. I don’t believe I was ever last. My first race was the Marshall County Meet in Indiana. I had never run in an organized race before, so I had no idea about how fast to run or how to pace myself. So, I ran ahead of the entire pack, and everyone was cheering me on. However, I soon faded and lost contact with the lead pack. I hated the pain and felt like quitting. I also felt embarrassed that when I returned to the spectators’ view, I was no longer in the lead, but toward the end with the last runners. I don’t remember my finishing time, but somehow, I was awarded a ribbon.

When I transferred to another high school, they didn’t have a cross country team. As much as I disliked the pain, I sometimes felt from running, I missed running cross country. I didn’t really run much the rest of my high school years, but I did do a lot of walking instead of taking the bus around Chicago.

When I turned nineteen, I was working in a peanut butter factory as a manual laborer and suddenly I felt a strong urge to begin running again. I wanted to be in shape, and I associated being able to run long distances as the equivalent of being in shape. I still feel that way. So, I started running again.

I remembered the shin splints I had when I first started running cross country as I felt them when I started running again at age nineteen. I suddenly remembered how hard and painful running can be. Yet this somehow encouraged me to keep running. To keep running against myself. I needed to overcome the shin splints, the side stitches I felt on every run, and the feeling of quitting and doing something that was as painful. But I kept running. Running gave me great satisfaction! And a great sense of accomplishment! I felt good about myself that I had run, despite the soreness I felt afterwards. Gradually, there was less pain and soreness as I continued running regularly and felt more pleasure during the run and afterwards, too. Now, decades later, I’m still running, thankful I never quit! 

Coffee, blog, run


Food and Coding at NorthEnd Coffee shop, Banani, Dhaka by Kausar Alam is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

Well, the semester has finally ended, and I have the entire summer off. I would like to laze around the house and relax all summer. I will relax, but I have also set some goals for myself. I will begin each day with coffee, a blog post, and a morning run.

I’m very self-disciplined when I need to be and when I want to be. I have decided to be very self-disciplined once again. I will wake up to a morning cup of coffee to get me started. For me, coffee is a stimulant, not a crutch. The aroma and that first sip get my creative juices flowing. Coffee also prepares my body for my morning run because it’s a diuretic. I’ll spare you the details. Of course, I must be incredibly careful not to drink too much or I’ll have to make an unscheduled pit stop and it’s not always easy finding a restroom while on the run. Especially in the morning when most public places are closed.

The blog post should be easy to write since the first thing I do after I prepare my coffee is turn on the computer. I just have to ensure that I don’t check my email or Facebook first. These distractions can wait until after I write my blog post while I drink my coffee. As I sit alone by my computer with my coffee mug writing my blog post right now, I feel great satisfaction because I’m doing something I enjoy so much. Well, not the drinking coffee part, but the writing and using my computer. Computers have really made it easier for me to write. But that’s a post for another day.

After the coffee and the blog comes the run. Running is the one constant throughout my life. Running takes up only a small portion of my day, but my entire day must revolve around the run if I want to get a good run in. In the 1980s I use to run a lot of miles because I wanted to improve my race times so I could get a running scholarship, but that never materialized. Mainly because I developed allergies and/or I over-trained and burned out too soon. But I kept running anyway. I always managed to run three to six miles several days per week. The last couple of years, I consistently ran four and a half miles at least four times per week.

Then, something took over my running. I’m not sure what it was. For a few years, I tried to increase my mileage, but I was unsuccessful. I would always develop new aches and pains that prevented me from running more than four and a half miles. Then, my son Alex started running track. I went to every track meet possible. When I saw the track meets last year, I felt inspired to run again. Suddenly, I started running more miles. Not necessarily faster, but certainly more miles. In fact, with each track meet that I saw, I was inspired by not only by my son, who turned out to be an exceptionally good 400-meter runner, but also by the other runners who struggled just to finish with determination. Slowly, I increased my mileage until I reached nine miles or so.

Well, I’ve completed the coffee and the blog part of my daily morning routine. Now it’s off to my run!

DDR

Fitbit


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My wife bought me a Fitbit for my birthday. I’m not even sure what to call it other than Fitbit. This device measures all the steps that I take throughout the day. So whether I’m running or walking, it’s counting my steps and converting them to distance traveled in miles. Please don’t ask me to explain how Fitbit works because I have no idea. But I like the idea of having another computer gadget!

I believe my wife bought me this Fitbit in order to encourage me to stay fit. Well, I don’t exactly need much inspiration to run. Running is my favorite form of exercise because it’s so simple. All I have to do is put on my running clothes, step out the door, and run. I stopped stretching long ago because it complicated the simplicity of running.

I love running and I adjust my daily schedule to accommodate my running. However, this Fitbit thingamajig has reminded me that I have a blog. And that I used to blog regularly. I set up Fitbit to post my results on Twitter and WordPress, which in turn posts to Facebook. So, I was reminded about my blog.

Fitbit has inspired me to start blogging again. The running not so much, since I enjoy running no matter what, all year round. For the last two years, I have told myself that I will blog again, but I always find excuses for deferring my sitting down at the computer and blogging. This time I’m determined!

Let’s see how long I continue blogging!