Category Archives: Hiking
It’s been seven months since I had my total left knee replacement. It is a hard grind. But I finally feel like I am going to be able to return to my prior life. This weekend was my first weekend that I had two days of big activities for the legs. On Saturday, I did my second 5k walk since surgery.
Maggie and I headed out for the 8th annual Run for Shelter 5k to benefit victims of domestic violence. I got there early and worried about how things would go. This walk was an out and back. Right in the middle was a steep incline followed by a steep decent. Which meant two ups and two downs. I have only don flat walking so far.
A coworker, who’s wife was running with Maggie, walked with me. And I have to admit that having him there pushed me a little harder. The first uphill pushed me pretty good. But the knee felt great. The first downhill was good too. At that pointI was into the second mile. I could feel I was slower and after the turn around I also could tell I was getting a blister on the ball of my right foot.
Having this surgery has been a real adjustment. Shoes don’t fit the same, my fair is different and I am so out of shape now. So approaching the hill the second time was a bit daunting.
It was already clear to me I had dropped to last place. The organizers were taking down the marker signs. But I kept on and to my delight and satisfaction, my quad was strong enough to support me on the down hill even the second time.
Because the knee replacement I had required that my quadracept muscle be cut, that results in complete loss of use of it. Days after surgery I still could not even flex it. Try as I might, my brain would say move and it would not. It is the single hardest part of my recovery. When your quad is weak, your leg buckles when you go down stairs. Or hills. So this was a real marker that I am well on my way to full strength on my quad.
The other kind of hurt in my ankles, well that is the kind of hurt that tells you to keep working because you are simply carrying too much weight. By this morning my muscles were screaming and my ankles felt a bit better. But I knows I could not simply rest.
Today I had two things on the agenda. The first was a push-up challenge. It is from 22kill. You video yourself doing 22 push-ups for 22 days in order to bring awareness to the fact that 22 veterans a day kill themselves. I can’t do push-ups as I cannot get on the floor and kneel. So I devised a dip station to do 22 dips.
I really liked it and think 22 days of it will make a big difference in my upper body.
After the dips, I was even more sore than the day before. But I still had a 45 minute ride on the recumbent bike. My rides have take. A hit in the last weeks and I needed to stick to the schedule no matter how much my quads and calfs were burning.
I que’ed up The Wrecking Crew on Netflix and started peddling.
I was doing pretty well considering how rough I felt. But the minutes kept ticking off while Inwatched some of the best musicians to ever play in the LA studios. My feet were uncomfortable and my blister from yesterday was screaming.
I fought my inner quitter and just kept going. As I entered the last five minutes, time came to a standstill. And I was also worried I would not hit the 10.2 miles I had hit the last time I had a 45 minute ride.
Finally, the buzzer went off and I was done. As I sat looking at the screen I felt a huge sense of satisfaction. 10.1 miles. Only dropped a tenth of a mile. That was a win. Especially considering how sore I was AND that I had cut 45 seconds off my 5k the day before. It hit me that Inwill be able to do my December hike. I will be able to get back to leg miles so I can go to Spain for my next big adventure.
On March 1, 2016 I had a total knee replacement of the left knee. In the year since my “final straw” injury to it, I had meniscus removed, gel injections, rapidly diminishing ability to walk any distance and a lot of pain. I was not able to do my monthly 5k walks and gained weight. On top of the already too much weight I carry, that was deflating. So I underwent what turned out to be the most difficult surgery recovery I had ever faced.
I awoke in my hospital room and felt good. Drugs will do that for you. I had been told by many other knee warriors to be sure to take all my pain meds. I had a pain pump and every ten minutes the green light would come on and I would hit that button!
After four days in the hospital I was transferred to a rehab hospital where I worked three hours every day to get my leg moving again. My surgeon used the quad splitting technique so my left quad would not fire at all. That was my first job. Trying to pump my quad. Then trying to bend and gain range of motion. Scar tissue builds fast in the joint and you have a painful job ahead with breaking that up and getting your normal movement back.
After 14 days at Health South, I headed home. I was set for out patient rehab three days a week.
I experienced a lot of challenges early on. How to climb steps, how to go down steps. Getting in and out of a car. Standing from a sitting position. I went to a walker a day after surgery. Four weeks in I advanced to a cane. In the interim I had to wear a straight leg brace because falling from the weak quad giving way could be devastating. Especially given my size.
Push up to 100 or so days out. I am waking well and decided to take a little vacation. I lost one of my pups, so my remaining dog and I took off to Sedona AZ for a retreat.
The plan was to take some walks along Oak Creek and see some sights. I would be able to monitor my knee swelling and any pain and get Jack a little more socialized now that he is a solo dog for the first time in his nearly 9 years.
We wine tasted and at at dog friendly places
And we saw great scenery and ancient sites:
But most of all, Cappy Jack and I got to heal a bit from losing our Tashi. He got pampered. And I built some confidence that I will be hiking again. I can begin moving from rehab, to dipping my toe in the water, to my hiking fitness plan as I now move into Camino de Santiago prep mode. No, my recovery is not complete. It will be up to a year to really be done. But I am far enough along to change my mindset and my main focus from acute recovery to getting weight off and becoming fit again!
Back in November 2010 I decided to get off the couch and start moving. I had gotten the bright idea to trek to Mount Everest and wanted to do it for my 50th birthday. After consultation with my brother and sister decided I needed prep time so targeted 2012, or around my 51st birthday. So I began hiking around Las Vegas. Hike No. 1 2010 was a mountain, well hill really, behind my house. So five years, two knee surgeries, a shoulder surgery, trips to Everest and Machu Picchu, 2 years of Plantar Faceitis, death of my father, and both God parents as well as other important people, later I took that trip again. This time knowing that the health of my left knee had parted ways with the rest of my body. But I needed to try that hill again and kick off my regeneration.
So I got me some new boots that I think may help with the residual plantar faceitis I sometimes feel flare up, as well as the great amount of knee pain I get upon exertion, and set out on REI’s #OptOutside day, the day after Thanksgiving. It was around 40 degrees out and nice and sunny. I took off and the first thing that struck me was that in the ensuing five years, it is clear a lot more people walk through here and ride their mountain bikes as a well worn trail existed where there was one before. Additionally, the monsoon rains over the years had changed the terrain in several spots and made the turn up the sluffy area much more difficult than five years ago.
Either that or I am in severe denial and simply lost the best line of a route. The newly established trail ended up going to the right up a lower ridge across teh wash. I intended to go to the higher bluff on the left. So off trail me and my boots n poles headed. I was incredibly slow, but felt that was more my knee than my overall fitness. That was good feedback. But as I started up steep slippery spots my confidence in my stability waned. The boots were very grippy and performed well. I, on the other hand, did not. I found maneuvering on the steep slope more difficult than it should have been with my left leg feeling like it did not want any lateral twisting or leveraging. At all. None. I tarried on thinking I should simply push for the top as I had fie years earlier. But I also thought that it would be a shame to get hurt because I overshot the limitation of the left leg. And there was still the mile or so, much of which was getting down the steep part, left before this would be over. If you don’t know hiking, coming down can be harder than going up. S
o, I turned back. But not before looking at the views, breathing in the cool clean air and letting the sun wash my face in its warm blanket. Yes, even in 40 degree weather, the sun’s warmth cuts through and warms you.
As I finished up and got back to the car, I could not help feeling both disappointment and satisfaction all at the same time. I had got out on a hike! My new boots seemed to be what I was hoping. The air and sun felt wonderful. But I did not go as far as I wanted. I had issues that weight loss will help with and I need to build my general fitness. But just like that day in November of 2010, shod in new boots then and with new trekking poles in my grips, I had got started.
I completed my first month of concerted effort in weight loss and healthy eating with a 16 pound loss, a new gym membership, and a perfect paleo/primal eating habit. It felt very good and though I was happy with the 16 pounds, it came in the first 20 days with ten days of nothing more. So for November, month 2 prior to knee replacement surgery in the spring, I will not step on the scale. I will continue to log everything I eat on MyFitnessPal so that I cannot lie to myself about things. But no scale until December 1, 2015.
I am feeling pretty dang good. No sugar is always a better way for my brain to function and my energy to increase. I have the last two 5k’s of the year scheduled and am hoping to get on the bike as well.
The other night, I was ecstatic to eat…..wait for it…..PIZZA!!!!! I got a recipe for cauliflower pizza crust. It was FANTASTIC! I felt like I was CHEATING it was so good! It only took a few minutes to rice the cauliflower, heat it for ten minutes in the microwave, and add the eggs, cheese and spices. The bake on it was great and it held up structurally. I even heated it the next day for lunch and it still held up and tasted great. So, if you are going grain free like me, this is the bomb! I am also going to make the breadstick version the link above tells about so that I can snack during the football game this weekend. So now my two favorites that I miss on paleo/primal diets are covered: Pasta, where I use zucchini instead, and now pizza crust with the cauliflower. I have made cauli mash and cauli fried rice for a while, but this new crust will enable me to make “tortillas” for tacos and to use as bread for sandwiches as well.
So month two is producing all sorts of results even if I do not know about the number on the scale. I am getting comfortable with the food lexicon I have and not missing the things I thought I would. I get plenty of fiber and lots of good fat as well.
Getting involved in the Camino de Santiago and various communities associated with it has reinforced the fact that we all judge. Even telling others not to judge is….well…..judging. I have read several posts in the last couple of days in which the poster posits an idea, whether snobbishly looking down on others for using taxis or bag service, or whether simply asserting our way as better than the way the poster has done something….it is all judging. After all, if we read something and draw a conclusion in our mind that we know a better way, or that what they poster has said they did is not up to snuff, we have judged them. Of course no good case of judging would be complete if we didn’t make our position regarding things very clear in our own post. I am guilty too. We rest on the idea that God says “Judge not lest ye be judged”. But does that mean we are never supposed to judge? I say resoundingly NO! We make judgments that God would be very happy with every day: whether to be nice or not, whether to help someone, who to vote for, when to speak or not to speak, what to pray for, and on and on. In a Christian world view that holds to a pretty dogmatic stance that there is right and wrong, it is hard to also apply a layer of in between in appropriate areas. If I am walking the Camino and I see people with lavish luggage who appear healthy laughing it up and taking the last bed in the Albergue whilst I am arriving dog tired, blisters on my feet, back pack nearly worn out…I am likely going to make a very uncharitable judgment. It is human nature to want things to be fair. And it seems people who look well healed and refreshed taking the last bed is not fair. We don’t live in a fair world, we live in a fallen world. Sometimes we just have to understand that and make the best of what we can do rather than grumble about the things we cannot change. After all, our grumbling only effects us, not the “offender”. Not to mention the guys with all the luggage and a ride may have gotten gifts or worked extra jobs to buy nice things for a once in a lifetime trip.
I was in Nepal and was in and amongst the hard working Sherpas. Most were farmers who guided and ported and shepra-ed for extra money. They lived a simple life and people back home thought they were poor. They judged them by an American living standard. But they were not poor and it was sort of ethnocentric and condescending to judge them that way. Here in America it is not uncommon for people to work multiple jobs to better their families. We are not unlike them.
I was in Peru and found myself ill-prepared and unable to do the hike I went there for. One of the people on the tour took me aside and said “I knew when I first saw you that you could not do this hike so just bow out so our hike isn’t ruined.” I was appalled. I had taken most of this body all the way to Mount Everest but he judged me by my looks. Furthermore, I would have done nothing to ruin the hike of anyone else. But these are the things we deal with when we choose to interact with others. Some of it is good and some of it is bad. I did bow out and made other plans during the core of the hike. When we all reunited at the top of Machu Picchu, I had been happy and transformed my misfortune into a wonderful trip anyway. He was miserable, grumpy, and glad to be done. He could say he did it. I could not. But it didn’t seem like he experienced it. I wanted to experience it and will one day. None the less he did achieve his objective.
Not all of us approaches things the same way, and that is ok. We can have an opinion about that, but it does not invalidate the other’s approach. Most especially when it is a matter of ones experience in an activity. Some church people are very demonstrative in their appreciation of God. Others more placid. Does either of them experience God less? Different strokes for different folks. To each their own. There is more than one way to skin a cat. Live and let live. And lastly….embrace the differences…..
No time like the present to go ahead and see if the leg can keep up and do a 5k. So out to Lake Las Vegas we went to do a cool evening headlamp walk Calico Racing put on. It is the first 5k since I messed up the cartilage in my knee on June 3, 2015. Since then I had surgery and learned that at some point soon I will need to have the entire knee replaced. I was thinking in a year, but since have modified that to April 2016. There are a few methods to my madness. For one, my insurance year ends June 30, so with the surgery I just had and the knee replacement in one year, it cuts in half my out of pocket expenses for the replacement. That is because I hit my maximum out of pocket in a plan year. Another is it gives me less time to lose the weight I want and so more motivation to get on it now. I think the goal setting for the weight loss is enhanced by the shorter goal period.
So we got to the park for the walk. It was nearing sundown and a pleasent atmoshphere ran through the crowd. I noticed a woman with a race bib sitting in a camp chair and it occured to me that she was very large. Moreso than me. I felt bad that I thought about her that way. I put the information in the far corner of my mind and got in the back of the crowd to walk. And off we went.
The course was a tiny down hill and then up the entire first half. I had my walking stick and the knee felt just big and numb as it has since surgery. I reached up to test my light for when the sun finally dropped below the horizon behind the Vegas strip. Nothing. I had fresh batteries but had blown the bulb. I continued on anyway, not sure if I would turn around or not. Worried that I was looking for any excuse to quit.
As I topped a rather steep little section it was clear my fitness level was immeasurable. I looked back to see if anyone was behind me and saw nothing. I wondered about the woman in the chair.
My fitness app was working away and my walking stick from Hearst Castle was helping me along as I put one foot in front of the other. The sun was sinking and twighlight was upon us. The lights of the strip were beginning to come on off in the distance.
Soon it was completely dark and I had barely hoofed off a mile before the front runners had doubled back and were on their way in, headlamps bouncing like bright white balls in the darkness. I started to worry about the darkness. Right then, a group of three or four people approached lights and all. Just as we met they were shouting out words of encouragement and the woman closest to me grabbed my arm and put a light in it. I said I would find her and return it at the finish. She looked concerned and just said “keep it” as she disappeared into the darkness.
As I thought about her being my trail angel I wondered again about the woman in the chair.
About that time I could see a stationary becon of light ahead and knew it was the turn around station. As I arrived and took a glass of water, guzzling it down, I felt the going would be easier downhill. As I hugged the tight edge of the pavement so the runners from the longer 10k route could pass, it became clear the light I had recieved was a godsend. The edge was uneven and with the knee acting up I am sure I would have fallen at some point. There are good people in this world. She was good to give me that light. Whoever she is, wherever she is, thank you!
I moved much slower down hill, finding that my knee didn’t like it much. I passed the two mile mark and got just back to the top of that steep spot and saw the lady from the chair. Her walking partner had just sat the chair down and she sat down in it huffing and puffing from the work of getting up the steep section. I uttered some encouraging words and told her I hoped to see her at the next 5k. And I meant it!
Back to the tunnel and up the final stretch. My right calf and left hammie began to cramp. I fought off the cramps and plodded on, crossing the finish line with the worst time I had ever had. 25 minute miles.
But it was the start of getting back in shape. I didn’t bail, I didn’t quit, I didn’t give up. Just before I left, I ran into one of the people I had seen at the beginning with the lady in the chair. This was her third 5k in as many months. The first was well over 3 hours with the second being just over three hours. And she has another next month. It was humbling to hear about her dedication. We can all do this. We just have to want it more than we want our current situations.
I trained up to Aguas Caliente where I holed up in a small family owned hotel called Marco Wasi (House of Marco) in the middle of town. Nobody spoke English but all seemed to be ok and up to my room I went. It had been a great day of touring but I was sort of cold from the rain early in the day. I looked forward to my Thursday Night hot shower and some text messages from Seattle to keep me up on the Seahawk v. Packers game. I turned on the water and alas, no matter how long I waited there was nothing hot coming from the spigot. I put on the pajamas, cracked open some hand warmers and threw one in the bed, held the other in my hands to warm up. I could not complain, however because I knew that several miles away from me, on the other side of Machu PIcchu Maggie lie in a tent after a very hard day of hiking down 3009 stone steps in the rain. Steps that wanted to buck her off with every bend of the knee. Steps I was supposed to be enduring with her instead of luxuriating in a hotel room. So I settled in to getting updated scores from Kathlene, Kathy and Sonya and enjoying an old fashioned play by play call of the game courtesy of iMessage and the three of them. Ronald Reagan would have been proud of their exciting delivery of the action!
The next morning I got up bright and early and paced all my things. It was raining and the little girl at the desk walked b]me down to the bus. The steep walks were slick in the rain and I could only imagine what Maggie was enduring coming in on her final leg of the trek. I stopped at the bus and ducked in for a great south American coffee. They served me the steamed milk and the shots of espresso separately so I could pour them in myself. It was a nice time to sit and reflect on teh adventure as a whole. But soon the clock moved and it was time to take the 25 minute ride up the hill to the ruins themselves. IT was a great ride. No harrowing corners but quite safe and really very pleasant.
Once off the bus I simply awaited the arrival of the rest of the team, and most importantly, the arrival of Maggie. I was so concerned to see how she looked, hear how she felt. I had felt so ashamed that I had been cut from the team and had such feelings of having let her down and having deserted her. At the same time, I was so very proud of her for digging in and doing it. AND THERE THEY WERE! Maggie was sitting in the doorway to the restaurant which had not yet opened. She looked tired and wet and ready for some rest. But she smiled and we hugged and if she could make it three and a half more hours, we would be at the buffet eating and drinking and reminiscing. As we walked in to Machu PIcchu in the rain and clouds, it was an ominous eery feeling. We would not be getting all teh classic post card pictures of sunny Machu Picchu. Instead, we would be getting clouds circling around the ruins. Clearing in some spots, getting thicker in others. I am simply going to post seceral of the pictures for you to get the idea:
It was an amazing tour. All sorts of great sights and scenes.
So, as you can see, the grey came in and out around the ruins and it brought you back to a time where you could just feel and imagine the Inca with all his people there to serve him residing here and doing what Inca’s did. Their advanced civilization was amazing. The stone work, all without metal tools, was mind blowing. Carving, hauling, repairing, measuring and all of it with precision. The fact I could step foot on it was an honor as I gazed in awe and in wonderment.
We had done it. Maggie and I had set a goal a year before. While my adventure changed and I did not actually achieve my goal, I was to head home enriched by the things I had seen and the things I had learned from Julio. Maggie did it all. She took each step that the Incas would have taken to get there. She slept under the clouds and she walked through them. Stone step after stone step after stone step. And as we headed to have lunch with the boys before they headed home, I knew what it felt like not to summit, but to have joy for those who did.
It has been a couple days since I could blog so I will catch up on what you have missed. Thursday started with Julio arriving again and heading out toward the Sacred Valley. We went to Moray where there are a series if circles on terraces. The theory is that seeds were tested for flavor on each terrace to determine slight changes.
It began to rain and as we walked down to the bottom it was really slick. Walking up was slicker yet!!! But I got to the top, the rain passed and we headed out to the salt mine.
Now when I think of salt mines i think of deeeeep places in the earth and animals pulling carts of salt up to the surface. But this salt mine derives from a small spring that bubbles out of the side of a hill and people have little pools or sections to add wafer to, let evaporate and then scrape out the salt left behind.
After the mine we had lunch of hamburgers and InkaKola and then it was off to the train where I bid farewell to Julio and headed to Agua Caliente!
So we survived and tomorrow will arrive at the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. This is the second scheduled event for those of you following us and having this great interactive experience from the comfort of your own easy chair. This will represent 5 days of hiking and climbing. Sleeping in tents. Eating out over a fire. No showers. We will accomplish what we have worked so hard on all these months and it will be bittersweet to see the adventure winding down. So lift a glass whilst donning your IncaTrek 2014 shirt if you have one. Get creative. Group shots, individual shots, just photo bomb us and enjoy it with us. We have so enjoyed the preparations, the discussions, the talking with all of you about our adventure and we want to enjoy the day knowing you all enjoyed it with us. We will hear the high winds carry the clink clink of your glasses across the miles into the high Andes and we will thank you all! This, like the last event post, has been pre-launched so we could remind you to get your trek on with us. We will post all we can in real time, depending on the technology available!
POST PICKS AT:
Karen A. Whelan facebook page
WhelantTrek facebook page
or WHELANTREK on instagram
and PLEASE use the hashtag #IncaTrek2014
I slept in fits and starts and finally simply lie there awaiting my wakeup call. I packed for the day and met Julio and off we went for a day of awesome archeological site seeing.
First stop: Pikillaqta. This was an amazing civilization that preceded the Incas. The stonework was grand. The walls of the city extended as far as the eye could see. As many as 8000 people lived there at one time. The Wari as they are called and they were considered warriors. You also could see their method of lashing with leather as restored. There were a couple of crafts people there and I bought sone of their handiwork.
Our next stop was a little town called Oropesa “Capital Nacional de Pan” in which bakers spend the day baking fresh bread to be sold to people and businesses in Cusco. We went into one place where the bread was being baked in open wood fired stoves. As the boys raked out the bread into the apron of a man who was buying it you could not help but be envious of the availability of good, fresh non-preservative filled bread every single day. We got a couple of warm rolls to eat and were they tasty!!
The second archeological site we visited was Tipon. It was magnificent with aqueducts coming down from a main stream at the top of several terraces. We walked the stone steps and grass fields to the source of the water where Julio gave me an excellent Explanation of the Inca philosophy if life at all levels. The Inca were genius with their water engineering and stone work and this site is well worth the time.
It was a great day and now it was time for lunch! We stopped where they serve Chicharones!!! A great snack. Yes, pork rinds. That and roasted corn nuts followed by InkaCola, Cruzquenian beer and a plate loaded with corn, potatoes and ribs!!!! We chatted and ate and toasted Maggie on her conquest of Dead Woman’s Pass. I came away with so much more knowledge of Inca life and culture. I know I have said it before, but Julio is simply a wonderful guide chock full of knowledge just bursting out of him. And, at 11,000 feet I am still working pretty hard with this Inca pension for steps and high places.
We drove back yakking about the US and Peru and passing slow moving trucks. Then I showered and went to toast Maggie for her day of accomplishment, cresting close to 14,000 feet! Tomorrow: more archeological sites and then I train up to Machu Picchu!