Friday, July 30, 2010

Comfort Zone

Two Sundays ago I accomplished something I've never done before.
I ran 5 miles continuously for the first time, either in competition or in training.

I arrived at registration just 5 minutes or so before the race started, enough time to get registered and pay the fee. Since my goal was to finish the distance without walking, I queued up at the back of the pack and set off at a comfortable pace. My rule of thumb was not to run so hard that I couldn't talk, which I figured to be maybe a 12 minute-per-mile pace, practically speed walking for me.

Throughout the course I chatted up a number of friendly runners, including a fellow in his 50's or 60's with the same goal as me, several first-time racers, even a mother pushing her two sons in a jogging stroller!

There were two young ladies who started off next to me, then pulled ahead. Any time there was a hill, however, I'd catch up at my steady pace and pass them. Then when the course flattened out or went downhill, they'd pass me up. It became a tortoise-vs-hare kind of situation, and made for quite an entertaining race.

When we hit the last mile on main street, where the course was straight and flat, I spotted the two women walking again. I hollered at them to get running, or they'd be "in serious danger of making me look good!" They promptly picked up their feet to run, finishing perhaps 30 seconds ahead of me.

At the finish line, I was excited to see that I came in under an hour; my pace was 11:23 per mile, very satisfactory. I was nowhere near the fastest people, but I completed the course and didn't finish last, accomplishing what I'd set out to do.

Meanwhile my Karate training has been lagging; I missed two weeks from a sprained ankle, another week from pulled quads, and last week a busy schedule only gave me opportunity to attend one sparring class and a kickboxing cardio class.

On Wednesday of this week, we were doing a series of back-to-back slow kicks, and my balance felt so far off I may as well been drunk. I totally attribute it to a lack of training and losing my conditioning in the process.

Tomorrow I am volunteering to hold pads for Danny Long-Legs at his test for Black Belt in the morning. Danny holds a 2nd degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do from many decades ago, and is being certified in my school's system as a 1st Degree Black Belt. I'm very proud of him and his hard work ethic, and honored by his invitation.

My hope is watching Danny and 6 other students getting their Black Belts will inspire me to get out of my comfort zone and get serious about training again.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Running from the Storm

I'm officially done with Tornado kicks for a long time. 2 weeks ago I sprained my left ankle from a bad landing after--wait for it--a Tornado Kick.

I took it as a warning shot across my bow, it could well have taken my left knee out as easily as it sprained my ankle. I'm just not ready for them yet.

Saw my PT today, and I need a lot of plyometric work to really satisfy him. Back to hopping exercises! Did fine on straight single and multiple hops (one-footed), but adding any amount of zig-zag and I just about fell down. Doing some really high retro step-ups as a warm up didn't help, as it somewhat fatigued my legs right off the bat.

I see him again in 6 weeks, hopefully the last visit for a long time.

My running endurance has increased quite a lot this year, and I plan to run in my city's 5-mile race on Sunday. My goal: to complete all 5 miles without walking!

Monday night I plan to return to sparring. I will do warm-ups, work drills, and work with partners on a strictly upper-body basis: no kicks. It'll be a challenge for me, but also for anyone working with me--but it should result in getting some great hand work in. When I do start kicking again, I hope to have mad upper-body skills that aren't typically emphasized among point fighters!

Meanwhile I still plan to make 40-somethings cry as I steal their dreams in open hand forms and weapons at every tournament I can...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Graduation, Part III

Yesterday was the day I never expected, never wanted, and hope to never experience ever again.


It's been an exceptionally long 6 months of rehab, for the 3rd time.

As I'm old hat at the whole physical-rehab-for-ACL-reconstruction thing, I had no questions for Dr. K, so we spent time chatting about our iPhones and favorite apps.

I have two iPhone / iPod Touch apps that have proven invaluable in my PT and ongoing goal-setting endeavors.

Round Timer - This app is the classic training ring timer. You can set up any number of rounds, with a countdown timer, and separate recurring timers for warning and rest times. For interval training, this thing is tops--and much less expensive as an iPhone app than purchasing the real thing, typically upwards of $200!

For each round, you can set up a warning time and rest time. So a 2 minute round with 10 second warning would sound a tone at 1:50, indicating there were 10 seconds left in the round. Rest time is a period between rounds, handy for actually catching your breath--or in the case of sparring class, switching partners.

As a bonus, you can play songs from your music library while the timer is running, and it will automatically mute the music to sound a tone. This allows you to crank music for your workout, and not miss your intervals!

Tallies - Just like it says, this app helps you keep tally counts of anything. In my case, I have some Summer goals - like 1000 push-ups, 150 reps of my forms, 45 minutes of aerobic activity each week, and 1500 slow-count kicks. Completely customizable, and really cheap, putting my goals on my phone keeps me on-track.

What software or mobile device apps do YOU find helpful on a daily basis???

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I'm back to Karate, recently cleared for non-contact kicks, and assigned these brilliantly complex plyometric exercises--jump forward on one foot, but turn 90 degrees right or left and land on the same foot in a squat to absorb impact. Yikes!

Running has been great, recently did the full 4-mile course I ran last summer without stopping.

Lately it seems time is slipping away from me. Just when I'm getting back into the groove of working out, there's a string of commitments that have me over-booked and exhausted! Fortunately, though, I'm taking a few days off to travel with family and friends to Door County.

I'm looking forward to slowing time down and smelling some roses among the lighthouses and other attractions!

As for sparring, I'll be taking a very cautious approach to re-entry. My PT is incredibly insightful, and commented that right now I'm doing a great job of maintaining proper body position with regards to the knee(s), but that it's still a very conscious effort.

He recognized the common link between my ACL tears is poor positioning; the true challenge is to evolve that sense of proper position into an unconscious effort. This is most important when sparring, since it involves so much spontaneous movement and reflexive action.

So after I see him at the end of this month, I expect to re-enter sparring classes. However, the plan is to limit the risk early on, concentrating on controlled drills and hand work and skipping the open point sparring for now.

Out of a healthy sense of superstition, I also plan to take November and December off from any sparring activity, picking things up in January to prepare for next April's tournament at the end of the season.

Until then, I plan to make grown men cry by walking away with the gold in all the weapon and open-hand forms that I can.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

14 Daze

Hiya, dedicated reader!

Tomorrow marks the beginning of week #14 since ACL surgery #3 on January 11th.

While I've been back to running for a while, I've taken the past week off due to a nasty head cold. However, I think with the warming weather and a little help from an antihistamine or two, I should be back on the path tomorrow.

I've been assigned plyometric exercises in the form of assisted hops, square hops, and hopping up and down steps on both feet. Adding to that, more strengthening exercises in the form of my favorite slow-count kicks, as well as carefully executed forms / kata.

I see my PT in 2 more weeks. Assuming all goes well, he and I both expect I'll be returning to Karate with similar restrictions as I've had in the past--no hard snapping kicks, no turning kicks, no jumping kicks--until I'm at 24 weeks the end of June.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

On The Road Again

It's been a long Winter, and Spring can't come soon enough.

Physically things are coming along just great. I saw my PT today, and we did a bunch of testing comparing the involved leg against the good leg.

Involved. Funny term, involved. I've been involved with Karate for 3 years, my body's been involved with training, my time involved with playing music, being a decent husband, and raising a child, but I never considered just my knee involved with anything. Huh.

Testing consisted of a number of squat-and-reach exercises, such as standing on one foot while touching the floor as far out as possible at a 45° angle each way from the foot without falling. Another test was one-legged squats as low as possible.

Numbers look good, my operative knee is 85-90% as compared to the good knee. That means I can start a re-entry to running following protocol; basically it's walking with short periods of running, working up to progressively longer running periods without walking breaks.

Not that I've ever been much of a runner, but it's at least a change in routine, and one that will get me doing something moderately resembling recreational activity outside. Honestly, I miss the solitude that running early in the morning brings, and I look forward to it.

So, yeah, just over 7 weeks post-op and I'm running. Cool.

Emotionally things are a struggle this time. First time was a novelty, second time was routine at worst, but the third time is really weighing heavy on my mind. There are times when the depression and worry is tangible, like a yoke around my neck that I just can't remove.

There's an annoying, nagging voice in my head that won't stop wondering if I'm some kind of natural klutz. Another one argues that no, it's strictly a case of freak accidents--hardly predictable, not likely preventable except to quit Karate.

And then the people who hear about 'the third time,' and keep saying I need to find a safer hobby.

A hobby.

A hobby??? This is not a hobby, it's part of my way of life!

It's as much a hobby to me as someone going back to school to get a Masters or Doctorate is just a hobby.

Thanks for reading, and pardon my ranting and raving.

It's been a long Winter, and Spring can't come soon enough.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bracing for reality

***I'm posting some arthroscopic pics near the end of this post, fair warning for queasy readers.

This time around has had an interesting start.

By the second day after surgery, the knee was bearing weight unusually well when compared to my first two ACL reconstructions. Thursday I got stitches out and did a round of physical therapy. Quads are firing well, straight leg raises are strong, about 70 degrees of flexion and a degree or two of hyper-extension. The slight hyper-extension is a most pleasant surprise, usually that doesn't come along until much later in the game.

I was approved to go without an immobilizer brace during passive activity, such as working at my desk or around home. I'm supposed to continue wearing it as a matter of security until this week's session when my gait will be re-evaluated.

Tomorrow I return to the real world, going back to work for the first time in 2 weeks. We have overlapping responsibilities in my department, so I have all confidence that my partners have provided due diligence in my absence. Hopefully I won't be drowning in backlogged work to do!

Truth be told, I've done just about everything I can around the house, got a few 'administrative' things out of the way after many long delays. I'm ready to get back into a routine, although it won't include Karate for somewhere around 14-16 weeks.

I plan to continue my bench-time tradition of watching sparring classes on Monday nights to help keep me connected with my fellow students, and help satisfy my craving for Fight Night. It helps to keep me focused on what I need to do, and the encouragement from my friends on a regular basis is truly a balm for the soul.

I have made the very difficult decision to stop sparring for a long time. Sparring is part of the curriculum, but for folks over 35 they will adjust requirements for black belt as necessary. I don't plan to give up sparring forever, but 3 major injuries requiring surgical work and 2 other injuries have cost me well over a year of time.

By many accounts I would be screening for black belt later this year, but reality says it'll be some time in 2011 at the soonest. I'm tired of the annual re-set of my training and want to remove the one activity most responsible for my injuries.

There are no guarantees in life, but I need to start stacking the odds more in my favor if I want to continue with Karate for the foreseeable future. I'm damned good at open hand and weapons forms, time to focus on those strengths. I'm not any more afraid of sparring than before, but I am concerned that my reflexes are telling me to move in ways that are dangerous.

1st time: I was falling backwards, torn ACL from trying to stop a fall.
Lesson: Just fall.

2nd time: I was landing from a powerful tornado kick, torn ACL from a planted foot on landing.
Lesson: Don't go overboard on fancy kicks when you're tired.

3rd time: I was ducking under a punch way too far, torn ACL from trying to explode upwards.
Lesson: Don't go overboard on moves you haven't drilled on.

I don't want any more of these lessons.

As promised, here's 2 pics:

This one is of the floater found while inspecting the meniscus. Looks like a tiny bit of meniscus that had torn loose, not a big deal.

Here's the ACL. It starts at the top left looking great, the rest is simply a shredded pile of silvery ligament spaghetti.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Been There, Done That, Got The T-Shirt.

Hello, dear reader. It's been a while.

As I mentioned briefly on New Year's Eve, I re-tore the ACL in my right knee December 28th during sparring class. This is the knee that started all this business almost exactly 2 years ago.

I ducked under an opponents punch way too deep, with my right leg forward, and tried to explode upwards with a back fist while most of my body mass was still moving from right-to-left. I made it about 3/4ths of the way up, then my right knee bent sideways and I went down.

Last Monday, January 11th, I had an ACL revision done on the knee. The procedure is much the same as ACL reconstruction, except with a lot more prep work and bigger hardware. The prior ACL is removed and loose tissue cleaned up, and the old fixative screws are taken out. (I have my old screws as a token now.)

As with the prior 2 reconstructions, I opted for a femoral nerve block with a spinal block so I could observe the procedure. Good news is that the meniscus continues to be well anchored, with no signs of damage save for a tiny floater they caught doing laps in the saline on camera.

Again, like in December 2008, the spinal wore off a bit prematurely and I had major cramps in my lower back due to the position I was in on the table. Also, I began to feel the pins and needles in my right leg as the spinal wore off, and the tourniquet was removed. Yes, I could have opted for some sedation or pain killer, but I weighed the cost of $100 a pop against my short term discomfort--we have new insurance that would have me paying more out-of-pocket now--and I decided to save a buck or two.

Because the bone tunnel necessarily has to be enlarged, the replacement tendon and hardware are also larger. The original upper fixative screw was installed into the end of the femur 'from below,' essentially within the knee joint. This time, the screw was installed into the end of the femur from above, which meant my quads took a beating from being retracted while this somewhat gruesome business was conducted. I saw that bit from the arthroscope and realized that it's gonna sting like the dickens when the blocks wear off...

On a funny side note, Dr. K had some difficulty tightening this upper screw, losing his grip at one point and nearly knocking over some monitors and IV poles in the operating room! I suggested perhaps an impact wrench might not be a bad idea, but he replied that using motorized assistance tightening screws could result in over-torquing.

Once Dr. K was done and the other surgeons could take over closing things up, I reminded him of my request for a t-shirt from the clinic; I figure a guy is due something for his trouble after 3 operations! He not only made good on the promise, netting me a nice long sleeved Under Armor shirt with embroidered logo, he even put it in a gift bag with a birthday card and delivered it personally while I was in stage 1 recovery.

The card reads "Each year the wishes just get bigger and better!" with a note: That's 3 years in a row! Enough already! (Just kidding.)

So the first 36 hours post-op sucked as usual, peaking on Tuesday night when I had a major charlie horse in my thigh that felt like a dagger was stuck there! Fortunately a bit of Tylenol with Codeine took care of that and I could sleep peacefully. Since Wednesday I've taken nothing but Ibuprofen, a good thing and par for the course.

First PT session was Thursday. My prior PT clinic has closed its doors due to the recession, so I opted to do PT at the clinic where the surgery took place. There I met Ben, who will be my main PT this time around. I was encouraged by being able to toddle around the house with just a cane already, a very positive early milestone that the knee can bear weight well already.

Surprisingly my quads were firing quite well, and I could do straight leg lifts without too much difficulty. I even have a bit of hyper extension, already nearly equal to my good knee. Flexion is only at about 60 degrees while on my back, maybe 70-75 hanging over the edge with assistance from the good leg. The biggest stopper right now is the local knot of swelling to the outside of the quad, the result of insult to the tissue from installing the fixative screw.

Last night I was wide awake at 3am with a mild fever coming on. So on top of the typical post-operative pain, I had body aches as well, and lay awake for probably a good 2 hours trying to find a comfortable position. I should also mention, it's the first night back in my regular bed upstairs, and not on the totally comfy couch downstairs, so re-adjusting to sleeping on the mattress probably contributed to lower back cramps. Meh.

Well, tonight I'll be hanging out with Mrs. Shaft while G-Shaft goes to a schoolmate's birthday party for a few hours. We plan on tossing back a few Amaretto-Sour's while watching a movie and enjoying a new recipe for cold Thai peanut noodles.

More tomorrow, possibly pictures, and what the future holds for Paul "Hack Shaft" Pederson.