Winter Vacation

Alas, I am almost at the end of my January vacation. If you haven’t noticed, I have used a little of this time to switch the blog back to a self-hosted format. That means the URL will now exclusively be ericksodyssey.com. If you have been accessing the blog through WordPress at ericksodyssey.wordpress.com, that will now redirect to this address. I am still using WordPress, and will still be connected to the WordPress Universe via their Jetpack addon. I’ve changed the aesthetics around here a little also. Hope you like it.

I always take the last week of January off because Denice’s birthday is on the 31st. We have a had a really good week together. We went out to a little place called ‘The Island‘ on her birthday to celebrate. The Island is a neat little place next to the Great Smokey Mountains national park. There are several nice restaurants there. We ate at the Timberwood Grill. Before dinner, we took a quick ride on the Great Smokey Mountain Wheel; a two hundred foot ferris wheel.

I have kind of fallen off the wagon as far as my health and fitness this week. I’ve done almost no running and have been eating terribly. I tend to do this when my daily routine gets disrupted.  I’m not going to dwell on what is done, just try and learn from it, and hopefully do better next time.

I have discovered a new person out there on the Interwebs, her name is Katy Bowman. She is a “biomechanist,” and author of several books in the realm of movement and health. I like a lot of her ideas, the ones I’ve seen so far anyway. Check out her stuff here: https://nutritiousmovement.com/

That’s all I’ve got for now friends.

Almost flooded the laundry room

Every winter, when the temperatures drop into the teens (Fahrenheit), we run into the same problem. The drain pipe for our washing machine freezes. We found this out the hard way years ago. I remember it vividly. It was our first or second winter in the new house, and it was a cold one. I think the temperature was around sixteen degrees that night. I threw in a load of laundry like many times before. A few minutes later I was sitting on the couch and began to hear a strange noise. It was a loud hissing sound. I quickly ran to the laundry room to find water spraying out of the pipe that the washer drains into. I stopped the washer, but not before the floor was flooded. It was a horrendous mess that took most of the day to clean up.

We learned from this very unpleasant experience. Every time the temperature plummets below twenty F. we check the drain before using the washer. It’s a simple test. We use a funnel to pour two or three pictures of hot water down the drain. If it flows through without resistance then we are good to go. If not then we have to wait for the water to melt the ice.

This is all due to a lack of insulation on the pipe, something that we should have fixed a long time ago. This is yet another example of how you always pay more in the end for procrastination.

Anyway, yesterday it was cold, very cold. I believe the temperature got down into the single digits overnight. When I woke up I decided that I would do some laundry. I tested the drain, and to my surprise, it had not frozen over. So, I tossed in a load of laundry and hit the couch. I had an hour or so before Denice was going to wake up and I decided to use the time to watch an episode of Black Mirror. (Holy shit… the new season of Black Mirror is awesome!) A few minutes into the show I hear that same dreaded sound. I quickly tossed the laptop to the side, leaped off of the couch, and ran to the laundry room. Water was rushing across the floor. I slapped the stop button on the washer and stood there in amazement. That’s when I noticed that I had forgotten to put the drain hose back in the pipe! I felt like such a moron.

I’m really glad I didn’t decide to start a load and leave the house. We would have had a real disaster to deal with. I was able to stop the washer before the flooding went biblical. Even still, the mess was huge, and it took so long to clean up that it made us late for a funeral.

The moral of this story is don’t be a lazy turd. If something around the house needs fixing, fix it!

Cold as a witch’s bosom in a cast-iron bra

If you happen to be a witch, please take no offense. I love Witches, Pagans, Wiccans, and pretty much everybody. I know you don’t wear a cast-iron bra.

Now that we have that out of the way, it is freaking cold outside. It’s currently 11 F (-11.6 C), and it’s been below freezing all week. I had intended to run six miles this morning. The searing cold air that I had to suck down my lungs quickly changed my mind. I cut it off at one, and that was quite unpleasant.

Luckily we have just a couple of more days of sub-freezing temperatures to endure, and then things will get back to something a little more tolerable. The forecast says that it will even be in the 60’s for a couple of days next week. I plan on seizing the opportunity to kick the shoes off and get some much needed barefoot time in.

Denice and I were up kind of late last night. She’s sleeping in, so I am sitting here quietly blogging and watching The Punisher on Netflix. If you haven’t seen The Punisher, you should. It is exceptional. Netflix has been hitting some home runs with their original shows. I’ve heard really good things about the new season of Black Mirror too. I’m going to start on it when I get done with The Punisher.

natural-born-heroesLet’s see, what else… Oh, I’ve started a new book. I am reading Christopher McDougall’s book, Natural Born Heros. This book is about the resistance fighters on the island of Crete, during World War 2. These guys did seemingly superhuman feats of strength and endurance to stop the Nazi occupation of their island. McDougall draws on their stories and the stories of others to introduce the reader to what he calls, “The lost art of the Hero.” I’m just a few chapters in, but just like Born to Run, it has the makings of a great adventure story. BTR is the book that really helped me to believe that I am capable of so much more than I had previously thought, and this new book has the exact same vibe.

Another thing that I have started doing this week is attempting to impose some measure of self-control with my social media usage. I have begun to take notice of myself when using Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the like. I exhibit all the classic signs of a person with an addiction, compulsively checking and scrolling and looking for that next dopamine hit. And the amount of time that I waste on these platforms is obscene. I want to be able to use these ‘tools’ without them using me. So, I have decided to limit the amount of time that I spend on them. I have dedicated no more than fifteen minutes a day to check, respond, and post to all my social media feeds. No more mindless scrolling. I have a handful of people that I follow. I have set up my feeds to display only their content. I will still use Reddit to check in on the state of the world, but only the front page of my subs, and popular. I figure that anything worth knowing about will still be on the front page when I check it. So, with that said, if you need to contact me your best bet @erickeVolved on Twitter. I will see it inside of 24 hours. I suggest this course of action for everyone. This compulsive approval seeking weakness if universal in us primates, and it would be prudent to recognize this and take measures to guard ourselves against manipulation.

That’s all for now, my friends. Until next time.

2018 Rising

Hi friends. Well, it’s 2018. We made it. I’m not usually the resolution setting type, but I do resolve, no, will try to blog on a more regular basis. If you’ve frequented this blog then you are probably aware of my issues with following through on things. I can’t make any promises, but I will try.

I am very happy and grateful that Denice is back from Phoenix and doing well. I feel like the road has opened up before us. It’s a new year, and we are both becoming new people. We have some big dreams that we intend on pursuing this new year, but for now, we are working on building a strong foundation.

For me, there are a few things that I was able to maintain some consistency with in 2017. I am going to try really hard to build on these and turn them into habits. The one big thing that has taken root in my life is barefoot running. I have fallen in love with it. I have been struggling as of late due to the winter cold, but I am hanging on. Every time the temperate peaks above 50F/10C, I am out there. I am still running in my minimalist shoes when it’s colder than that, but it is nothing close to the same experience. It’s dull and awkward. Even so, I don’t want to lose what conditioning I’ve obtained, so barefoot or no barefoot, I am going to run.

I have also been pretty consistant with intermittent fasting. I almost don’t think that term is appropriate anymore. Eating once a day is just my normal eating schedule now. I don’t really get hungry during the day. What I would like to improve on however is the quality of what I eat throughout the week. I don’t want to make it any more complicated than it should be, so I am going to try to follow these simple rules: One meal a day, Monday through Friday. Whole foods only, nothing processed. And, absolutely no refined sugar at all.

The other persistent thing in my life has been the Wim Hof Method. I haven’t been as consistent with it as with the others, but it is a regular practice of mine. I got a good three cycles in this morning. The focused breathing exercises of the WHM also double as a meditative practice for me. I feel better when I do it, and I am certainly going to try to make it part of my daily routine.

I think that’s enough for now. Let’s go get this new year going.

Maggie, the Ancient One

Hello friends. We made it to another Saturday. Last week was a rough week. Our oldest dog, Maggie, has been having some issues. She is seventeen years old, which is pretty old for a dog. The past few nights she has been very restless, whining almost all night. Yesterday, about 3’oclock AM, we had to take her to the emergency vet. She had not slept at all and was behaving like she was in pain. The vet looked her over and gave her a relatively clean bill of health. She did say that it is possible that Maggie has dementia. This really sucks, for her and us.

Right now she is calm and sleeping on the couch next to me. She goes through these episodes a few times a week. Sometimes we will find her standing up and staring off into space. There isn’t really much we can do for her. It’s terrible watching a beloved companion deteriorate in old age.

One of the big side effects of Maggie’s up-all-night episodes is that we don’t get a high quality and sufficient quantity of sleep. If you haven’t read the book by Arianna Huffington, entitled, “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time,” get it and read it! It explains the immense importance of sleep. Low quality and/or not enough sleep can drastically impact our performance in all areas, and potentially sets us up for horrifying diseases like Alzheimer’s.

I’m not really sure how to handle the sleep situation. Maggie sleeps in the same room with us, and I don’t think we can change this. She needs to be close to us. So, I may look into getting her a sleep aid, like doggie melatonin, or something.

On another front, I am down three pounds this week. My eating was better last week, and I was able to get in a couple of runs. I expect to be in the low 230’s by next month’s 5K. As long as I can stay on my plan, there shouldn’t be any problems.

We have a lot to do today. I’ve neglected some of my manly duties, like lawn maintenance and cleaning the exterior of the house. Our place is starting to look like a haunted house, just in time for Halloween. Denice is not pleased.

That’s all for now. Until next time.

Barefoot Benefit 5K

I ran the Barefoot Benefit 5K today. It was my first time running in an actual race. I really enjoyed the experience. The race was at Sequoyah Hills Park in Knoxville Tennessee, my hometown. As the name entails, the race was intended to be run barefoot, although that was not a requirement. I was surprised that out of the hundred or so participants, only a small handful were actually running barefoot. Go figure.

The course was entirely grass, held in an open expanse of the park. The Tennessee River flowed silently next to us. The ground was soft from a recent rain. This made it a little more difficult than running on pavent. The soft earth steals a little of your rebound energy with each step. I came fully prepared to run on pavement and was a little surprised when I found out the race was going to be in the grass. As a regular barefoot runner, I can tell you that I would prefer not to run on grass. Sure, it’s soft and easy on your feet, but it conceals potential dangers. You can’t see what’s lurking under it. The grass can hide all sorts of things; broken glass, dog poo, used condoms, AIDs infected needles… just use your imagination.

Aside from the turf, it was a really fun event. It was a beautiful day, and just cloudy enough to make the temperature comfortable. There was a cool breeze blowing during most of the race.

20171015_133748Denice and Sylar were there to cheer me on. Sylar is in training to become Denice’s service/therapy dog. He did great today. He only lost his shit a couple of times when I was passing by. The race was broken down into three laps, so every time I lapped he got a little excited. It felt really good to have them there.

I don’t remember my exact run time. I saw the clock at the finish line, and it was at forty-two minutes and something. Yeah, I’m slow, but for a fat guy, I suppose I’m doing ok.

I have another race coming up in November. This is a ‘conventional’ 5K, on the streets of downtown Knoxville. I will be running it barefoot. After seeing that a small fraction of racers actually raced barefoot at a barefoot event, I am expecting to probably be the only dude out there running shoeless. Should be interesting.

 

Our Journey into the Desert

Hi friends. Denice and I recently returned from a week in Phoenix Arizona. We went there in the hopes of finding help for Denice at the World renowned, Mayo Clinic. Denice sufferers from severe chronic pain from complications from a previous back surgery. We have exhausted the capabilities of the medical institutions here in Tennessee, so we had hoped that Mayo may be able to do something more.

First of all, the area where Mayo is located is beautiful. Their campus is amazing. It is the desert, full of giant cacti, dusty plains, jagged mountains, searing heat, and all sorts of strange plants and animals. We had a little bit of free time in the evenings to go and explore, and what we saw was spectacular.

The Mayo Clinic is a very impressive place. Denice had a team of doctors who all worked together to help find a solution to her chronic pain. We discovered that her back is structurally perfect. All the fusions and hardware look great. That is a relief because we were worried that more discs may have degenerated since the surgery. Of course, that still leaves her in severe pain that exists in the damaged nerves themselves, something that is very difficult to treat.

We returned home at the end of the week. The clinic gave us a couple of good treatment options, one of which Denice is unable to do right now. Basically, the only way forward is through a treatment plan that Mayo offers at their Pain Rehabilitation Clinic. It is a three-week program that teaches pain management techniques, that according to them, should help Denice control her pain without (or at least with less) pain medication. They are confident that the program will greatly improve her quality of life. She has already enrolled and will be starting in November.

The last couple of months of this year are going to be rough for us. I will have to stay home and work during the weeks, so I will only see her for a few days through this whole process. Lucky for us, Denice has a strong support system in her family, in particular, her mother and stepdad, who will be traveling from Colorado to stay with her through this. With their help and the help of her brother, I think we are going to be able to make this happen. Yes, it is going to happen, and we are enthusiastic that it will make a positive difference in her life.

Lazy Saturday

Hi, friends. As you can read from the title, I have done a whole lot of Jack Squat today. I was able to get in a good three and a quarter mile run yesterday. That is officially the furthest distance I have run barefoot to date. My feet and legs did fine. I did get a little soreness in both Achilles and my right ankle, which is why I have decided to take today off.

20170906_185644It has been a mostly uneventful day. Last Wednesday I discovered that there was a huge hornet’s nest on the back eave of our house. There must have been dozens of the frickers in it. It has been a miracle that we haven’t been stung to death. As much as I hate to kill things, these creatures are simply too dangerous to leave be. So, I reluctantly planned my assault. Following General Tzu’s advice of “attacking my enemy’s weakness,” I decided to use poison on them first thing this morning, while they were still near paralyzed by the cooler temperature. The attack was swift and effective. They went down with no resistance.

And that was the most exciting thing to happen today. We do have a Tennessee Vols football game to watch this evening. The folks around these parts take college football very seriously. It is almost a religious experience for a lot of my neighbors and my wife. I enjoy it somewhat, but what I really love is watching Denice get so excited about it. She loves her sports.

Last week I did terrible with my eating. I did manage to keep it to one meal a day, and that at least kept me from gaining weight. Next week I am going to do much better. I have a good eating and exercise plan and have every intention to execute it flawlessly. I really need to get my weight down. There’s a reason why you don’t see a lot of fat runners.

If you would like to help keep me honest with my training, follow me on Twitter. If I’m doing what I’m supposed to, you should see a tweet every day that says I ran at least one mile. If I didn’t, feel free to call my lazy ass out.

Till next time.

Down, but not Out

Last week I had a bit of a setback. I was on my usual after work jog around the park. It was nothing out of the ordinary, just a quick couple of barefoot miles. I finished the run and drove home. When I stepped out of the car I noticed a pain in my left foot. I bent down and pressed on the spot that hurt, and that made it really hurt. As you can imagine, my mind was flooded with the worst “Oh Shit” thoughts it could conjure up.

The next morning, it still hurt, and I made the not so smart decision to go to work anyway. Spending eight hours standing and walking around did not help matters. I was considerably worse by the end of the day. I came home almost limping to the door. I was hoping that after a good nights sleep, it may be better. It wasn’t. At that point, I wasn’t taking any more chances. I called into work and told them I wasn’t coming in.

Later that night I am sitting in the exam room of an orthopedic clinic. The Dr. checked my foot out. I almost jumped out of the chair when she found the spot. A few x-rays later, I had a diagnosis. Peroneal Tendonitis.

The good news was nothing was broken or torn. It was just an inflamed tendon. It was very uncomfortable, but would ultimately heal up.

During my barefoot running journey, I have had a number of what I call, growing pains. When I first started the soles of my feet hurt. As they adapted, that went away. Then the outer edges hurt, and that went away. Then for a while, my calves were very sore. That went away. Later on, my knees were hurting. This worried me, but it also went away. There have been times that I hit a big rock and literally had to limp home. After a day or two of rest, I was fine. This injury really had me concerned though. It just felt different than all the others.

For a few days, I was almost depressed. I was afraid that I may have to give up running, at least temporarily. I have found that I love it. I did feel quite a bit better when I learned that it was just a temporary injury, and I would ultimately make a full recovery.

I think one of the drivers behind the injury may be my recent obsession with improving my speed. I had gotten into the habit of always trying to beat my time from the last run. I think this contributed to me losing focus on my form, and overstriding. This is a no, no. I have decided to not worry about speed at all. For the foreseeable future, I am only going to worry about keeping my form correct. After all, I’m not training for a race or seeking to best anyone. I simply like to run, and that is more than enough for me.

I did get out Friday for a lap around the park, which is one mile. I took it slow and gentle. My foot did great. It feels almost 100%. Even still, I’m not going to push it. I will slowly build back the distance.

Screenshot_20170904-112404During this whole ordeal, I found some new friends. I got some really good advice from the great folks at The Barefoot Runners Society. For those of you who have an interest in barefoot running, or running in general, they have a lot of resources on their website. You can find the forums here. Check them out.

Post Totality

The eclipse. It happened. It was one of the most amazing events I have ever witnessed. Denice and I opted to observe it in our back yard. The traffic was just too bad to get to our friend’s house who had the better view. There was a viewing party at a nearby city park, but we decided it would be less distracting to just stay home. I’m glad we did. The eclipse was wonderful, and one of the coolest things about it was the subtle changes in the sounds around us. It created a kind of calm, and besides the sudden emergence of cicada song, eerie silence.

We watched it from first contact, through totality, and a few minutes after most of the sunlight returned. Totality was very brief. It was an amazing experience, but I was over in mere moments, and it is sad to think that I will most likely not see another in my life time.

For those of you who are privileged enough to get to see a total solar eclipse in the future, I would advise against wasting time, at least during totality, with trying to get pictures of it. Even if they turn out good, there are a thousand other people out there, with better equipment, who will get better stills and video. Take it in with your own senses. Look around you. The change in the environment is tangible. Feel the temperature drop. Listen as things go silent, and then as the nocturnal beings emerge all around you. Technology is great, but if you try to experience something like this though it, you will be disappointed.

And now it is time to get back to everyday life. Thanks, Nature! That was a great show.