Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Good P.T. and Run Today

I had a pretty good physical therapy session for my left shoulder this morning! You may remember I posted a few weeks back about how poor I felt the quality of my physical therapy was. Well, after discussing it, my therapist has agreed to cut back to only once a week visits with daily exercises at home. He has also stepped back and is allowing the sports trainer to work with me instead of doing it himself. This is a much more effective strategy for me. It is not what my surgeon ordered. He wants me at P.T. 3-4 times a week, so I imagine I have been reported as a non-compliant patient. I am gaining strength and mobility like crazy now that I am not wasting all my time being babied at the physical therapy center, so I wear the label proudly.

Today there was a small woman at PT who was probably about eighty. She is being treated for lower back pain. The PT joked with her that if she did what he asked, she'd be ready for the Olympics in no time. She replied that she was already ready. She went on to describe a life of participating in and coaching basketball, softball, equestrian, and swimming. She had been to the Senior Games at the national level many times. "So tell me what to do and I'll do it. I'm an athlete." She demanded respect from the young therapists and she got it. This was her first session there and she wasted no time setting things straight. It made me wonder what had taken me so long to take charge of my therapy!

After PT I drove the short distance to the Route 35 parking area in Standish for access to the Sebago to the Sea Trail . This area between Otter Pond and Sebago Lake is about 5 miles, mostly dirt. There are numerous options for more double track, snowmobile trails, and single track in this stretch. It all depends on how adventurous you are feeling and how much you mind getting lost. (If that's not your thing, just stick to the trails on the map, which you can find on the above link.)

The temperature was right around 50 with a heavy over cast and an occasional drizzle. In other words, it was great running weather! I ran out to the lake on the main trail, working in my three miles of tempo. The point where the trail comes out to the lake is a beautiful secluded beach. I swam there a few times in the summer. It is very close to the Portland Water District boundary, but not within it so swimming is allowed. I skipped the swim today. I did some exploring on the way back and ended up with about a twelve mile run.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fall Running Fun and Unsolicited Health Advice

Running at this time of year can be challenging. Many runners have been racing frequently through the past 6 or 7 months and are just feeling tired and burnt out. Many are nursing injuries from months of intense training. Add cold weather, slippery trails, short daylight hours, hunters in the woods, and holiday and family obligations, and we can begin to see why so many of us have trouble keeping our weekly mileage up in the Fall.

I haven't raced since April. I have just had an entire month of very easy running followed by another month of gradual build up back to normal mileage following shoulder surgery. I'm still not working due to mobility and strength restrictions my surgeon has imposed on me. So here I am at a time of year when I am normally emotionally and physically worn out on running, feeling excited and energetic and raring to go! I am still not convinced I need to return to racing to fully enjoy my running and get the most out of it, but that might come. Either way, it's all good.

I have been spending a lot of time on the local Ossipee River trails, both in running shoes and on snow shoes. I have also been out exploring a new-to-me network of trails in Parsonsfield. This is the kind of running that originally lured me away from road racing and into the woods. Put me out on the trail alone (or with my dog) with a vague idea about where I am going and I find myself smiling and happy and at peace.


I am going to have to work hard over the Winter to regain my upper body strength. I will start as soon as I am physically able. Now for a bit of unsolicited health advice. (It's my Blog and I can write what I want). Upper body and core strength is extremely important for peri-menopausal women, especially for runners as we tend to be of lighter build. Bone density loss and muscle mass loss are natural effects of hormonal changes that occur in women in their mid forties and beyond. Being of a light build to begin with intensifies these effects. These changes can lead to osteoporosis and arthritis. I know, every pound adds so many seconds to your 5K time and muscle adds pounds, but good health is so much more important than age group wins! There are a few skinny fifty-ish running women I know who are already showing postural changes. I have seen running photos posted on Facebook that are down right alarming. I would advise all light framed women runners in their forties and beyond to ask about bone density testing at their annual physicals and to regularly participate in strength workouts.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Parsonsfield Woods

We got some great mountain biking in over the weekend. Saturday we rode the FOMBA trails for about two and a half hours. This took some leg work and I was pooped by the end of the day. Sunday we rode easy on the ATV trails in Parsonsfield to give Scout some exercise and some practice running with the bikes. He was a little excitable and unpredictable for the first few minutes, but he settled down and did great.

There are nice single track mountain bike trails in the Parsonsfield area very close to where we live. But things are a little complicated there. The land, the Leavitt Plantation , is conservation land, open to public recreational use. Before this became public, a local man started building mountain bike trails (with land owners permission) and running a business offering guided mountain bike rides. When the land became open for public use, things got a little weird. The man still doesn't want anyone using his trails unless they pay him for guided rides. I understand this, he has been making a living with this business for several years and doesn't want to start giving it away for free! But at the same time, if I'm out running and exploring on land open for public use and I happen to stumble upon some nice single track, I'm not able to resist. I think mountain biking on the trails would give me more pause, but foot travel seems okay. Still, I feel sneaky running there. Jeepers, I don't want to get involved in some political battle over trail rights!

Anyway, today I dressed up in my crazy blazy orange and ran for two and a half hours of double and single track trails. It's not easy to keep a low profile when you are glowing orange, but I hoped I wouldn't run into the trail builder. At first I wasn't feeling completely comfortable with the woods full of hunters and the possessive trail builder on the loose, but pretty soon I got lost in my own thoughts and started enjoying myself. I never saw or heard a soul. There are so many tote roads, single track trails, and ATV trails out there that I ran out of time before I ran out of trail. I hope to go back tomorrow to explore further.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Physical Therapy Rant

Physical therapy is currently a big part of my life, and it is pure torture. Not in the sense that I am made to work incredibly hard with copious amounts of sweat and tears involved, but in the sense that it is the most boring and non-productive part of my day. I had been to this particular physical therapy center in the past and had a therapist who was creative and dynamic. He kept things interesting and challenging. All the clients in the gym were kept working hard and there was constant interaction between the Physical Therapists/PT assistants and the clients. The staff were all athletic and fit. I left there each day, feeling that I had made progress.

So when I had to chose some place to go for rehabilitation of my shoulder, I chose the same place. But times have changed there. The old staff has moved on and there is now a staff of young men in their twenties. Like their predecessors, they are also athletes...but of the arm chair variety. They talk (to each other) about professional sports teams, high school sports, statistics, coaches, sports products, and the TV sports schedule. They do this while hunched over their lap tops documenting on their client's progress. I understand electronic documentation. I'm a health care professional myself and have to spend a lot of time documenting on my lap top. Yet, I am able to do this in a manner that shows my patients that they are the center of my attention while I am with them. Documentation can be caught up on between patients.

How well has my therapist gotten to know me over the past month and a half? Well, he knows I mountain bike, since that was the cause of my injury. He doesn't know that I run or hike or work out with weights or cross country ski. This is important stuff to know if you are trying to help a person return to their baseline level of activity. He knows I am almost fifty (gasp) and he treats me like an old woman. He'll say (or send his assistant over to say), "bicep curls with two pound weights, 3 sets of 10." I have progressed to 10 pound weights at home and was easily doing thirty pound weights before the injury, but he won't listen to me about that. He'll say something like, "we all lose muscle mass as we age." Granted, almost all of their patients these days are elderly, mostly hip and knee replacements it appears, and most of them seem content to sit around waiting for their next exercise to be prescribed. It is the most sedentary, desolate, morgue-like "gym" I have ever been in! This is supposed to be a sports physical therapy center, and it used to be one! What the heck happened?

Yesterday I spoke up on my way out. I spoke loud enough that the row of boyish heads bent over laptops all looked up briefly. I said, "this is a big waste of my time. You people are not doing anything to help me. I can do all this at home by myself." This emboldened an elderly man lying on an exam table to speak up, "and I've been laying here with this ice pack on my knee for almost an hour!" I was hoping others would join in the protest and the gym would finally see some excitement. But the others kept shuffling around with their walkers or pulling on their resistance bands or squeezing their tennis balls between their knees. They didn't even seem to take notice. Most of them were probably sleeping through their therapy.

One of the staff responded. It wasn't my therapist, it was the young guy who strolls around picking up dirty towels and rounding up escaped exercise balls. He said, "You'll be able to do more as you get stronger. It will get better." He didn't sound very convincing. Nobody has checked my strength since the first visit, so how are they ever going to know when I "get stronger"? Heads bent back down to laptops. Nobody made a move to relieve the old guy of his ice pack.

So why do I continue to go? Because my surgeon insists that I complete 10 weeks of physical therapy before I can return to work. Maybe I should switch to a different PT center. My insurance is restrictive about where I can go, but there are other options. I hate to switch horses mid-stream, but it might be necessary. I will definitely give my input about the center to their parent company. I don't like to criticize any one's work in this day of job insecurity, but insurance, medicare, and patient's money is being spent in abundance on inferior services, and this isn't acceptable. Worse, my time is being wasted!

Enough of this, I have a physical therapy appointment to get to. I think I'll bring along a book today.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bradbury Mountain Biking

Bradbury mountain biking was a lot of fun yesterday! It was the first time I have ridden my bike on single track trail since my rotator cuff repair surgery. I still have almost no strength in my left arm and limited range of motion, which is normal for 7 weeks post op. I can't lift or pull at all.I wasn't sure how I'd do on the rocky, rooty Bradbury trails, but I was willing to give it a try. I brought along my running shoes, just in case I found the riding to be too difficult.

I was nervous and overly cautious for the first few miles. It isn't much fun riding without confidence and feeling fearful! But after those few warm up miles I began to figure out what I could and couldn't do, and began to find ways to maneuver the bike over small obstacles without pulling up with my left arm (basically by crashing and bulling my way through). We stayed away from the few areas which would require me to do big "step ups", like the technical portion of Bat Cave. Most of the other trails were very ridable for me, with a few places where I stepped off the bike rather than try something I might not have the arm strength to pull off. Within a half hour after starting, I had a huge smile on my face and was loving it! Boy, have I missed riding single track on the mountain bike with Kevin!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Back in the Saddle and Running the Green Hills Preserve

I got back on the mountain bike this past weekend! It has taken this long just to get to this point where I can lift my left arm high enough to keep it on the handlebars comfortably. We started out by cautiously cruising the streets of Kezar Falls on Saturday. Then on Sunday we took the bikes and Scout out on the ATV trails in Parsonsfield. This isn't the same as riding single track, but the ATV trails are wide enough for me to go around obstacles instead of over. My shoulder still can't lift the front wheel or tolerate jolting, so technical riding is out of the question for now. Even so, I was thrilled to be back on the bike in the woods. What a beautiful and happy day that was!

Monday I wanted to do a long trail run. Lately, I have been sticking to the trails near the Ossipee River for hunting season. This is a relatively narrow strip of land that abuts school property for a good portion of it. Hunting is illegal within 500 feet of a school, which leaves an even narrower strip for anyone wishing to hunt there. So hunters just don't go in there. I can run about 6 miles of single track and snowmobile trails in there, but for anything longer I have to start repeating trails. I wanted to go somewhere where I could travel!

With three accidental hunting shootings in three days here in Maine, I thought New Hampshire might be a better choice for my long run. I looked in my old battered White Mountain Guide to see what the authors might have to say regarding traveling through the woods during deer season. They advise that "hunters tend to avoid areas where it would be difficult to haul a deer out of." My own philosophy has always been that "hunters tend to avoid areas where it would be difficult to haul themselves into." With those thoughts in mind, I decided on the Green Hills Preserve of North Conway.

I started from the Chatham end of Hurricane Mountain Road and entered the single track at the high point of the road. I ran toward Pudding Pond, climbing all the peaks except Cranmore, which I forgot. This run took me up Hurricane Mountain Road from both ends, once at the start of my run and again at the end. I don't know what the grade of this road is, I would guess it's something between plenty and excessive. It's about 2 1/2 miles to the highest point from either end. I was out for about 4 and a half hours, and the only somewhat level running was in the Pudding Pond area. It was a very enjoyable run on a beautiful sunny warm day. I only saw three solo hikers and one mountain biker throughout the run, not a single hunter.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Stone Mountain

Saturday, Kevin and I hiked up Stone Mountain, elevation 1620 feet. Over the years I have hiked and run over and around neighboring Burnt Meadow Mountain countless times and was always curious about the interesting peaks to the South. The first time Kevin hiked up Burnt Meadow Mt with me a few years ago, he spotted the beginnings of a new trail and pointed it out to me saying, "That's going to take us over to those other peaks when it's done." Now thanks to the work of the Friends of the Burnt Meadow Mountains and the Maine AMC, Stone Mountain is easily accessable to anyone with a little leg and lung power. It is a steep hike in places with interesting terrain along the way. There is a wonderful view from just over the summit.

The Friends of the Burnt Meadow Mountains will soon have its own web site. They have big plans as seen in this article in the Conway Daily Sun . Kevin and I are very excited about having a network of new trails nearby. We would gladly volunteer our time and efforts to help with this project.