Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Of becoming animal, audiobooks, honey, Egoscue and 16 miles

“For too long we’ve closed ourselves to the participatory life of our senses, inured ourselves to the felt intelligence of our muscled flesh and its manifold solidarities. . . Only by welcoming uncertainty from the get-go can we acclimate ourselves to the shattering wonder that enfolds us. This animal body, for all its susceptibility and vertigo, remains the primary instrument of all our knowing, as the capricious earth remains our primary cosmos.”  David Abram, Becoming Animal


This week, I started reading David Abram’s newest book, Becoming Animal. This quote comes from the introduction. I’m sure I will be sharing more as I go along. I love his exploration of knowing through “this animal body”—not just knowing the world, but knowing God through our senses as well. I find it very easy to look at children/babies and animals and trees and plants and all of nature and see God manifest. I feel God in the wind and the rays of the sun. I see God in the moon and the stars. But for me personally, all those things are “out there,” “not me.” And so I am interested to explore with Abram becoming more of the animal that I am, and perhaps in this way discover an avenue to knowing God in a much more real, palpable and lasting way.


I successfully completed my scheduled 16-miler yesterday and I think I found the road that I had gone looking for a few weeks ago. As you can see from the photo, it is a nice sandy road that goes on and on (though I did get to the end of it and found a couple of other roads). This is such a typical scene here in Caprivi—sandy road, scrub and trees lining both sides. As you might imagine, sandy soil is not great for growing many things, so vegetables are not very plentiful here. We have tomatoes, squash/pumpkins of various kinds, sweet potatoes and leafy greens, but the terrain seems to be pretty good for cows and this week again I had the chance to share the road with a herd, though this did not involve a direct confrontation, for which I was quite glad. The other photo is me at about 10-miles, all decked out and sweaty. Like the shirt? I love this shirt—the graphic (hopefully you can read it by enlarging the photo), the material (soft, but still technical, very wicking), the fit. It’s Oiselle and it was shockingly expensive. I never would have bought it except I really liked the graphic and the fit. But I think it may be my absolute favorite shirt.


Since I was running on Sunday morning (rather than Saturday), there weren’t many people about, but three times during the run, I met up with kids. Twice it was smart-aleck boys who just played at running to imitate me, but once it was a group of girls who actually did run with me for 800 meters or so until one of them lost her shoe. I’m happy to encourage them and particularly to model for the girls a grown woman being this physically active and doing something fun. Depending on their income level, their mothers are likely pretty active or extremely active, but it’s all work.


I’m still not able to sync my Garmin, which is quite frustrating, though I did actually get an e-mail from support. They told me to un-pair and re-pair the watch with the computer, which of course I’ve already done several times. . . But I replied, so maybe they’ll get back to me with something more useful. Nonetheless, I did my full schedule this week – 6 mi on Monday, a 6 mi Tempo run Thursday, 5 mi on Friday and then 16 on Sunday. I also did a bit of yoga and did my Egoscue exercises all but one day.


Egoscue exercises? Ah, my lower back has been bothering me. It got quite better when I was sleeping on a very firm mattress, but my mattress now is much softer and so it is hurting again. So I was looking for a more permanent solution. I had a couple of sessions at the Balance Center in Palo Alto when I was in the US, working on my posture and I learned that my pelvis tips under in an abnormal way. It’s disconcerting, however, because when I stand the way I should, I feel like I’m sticking my butt way out. A check in the mirror shows clearly that this is not even remotely the case, but it still feels funny to me. At the Balance Center I got good instruction about how to stand, sit and lay down, but no exercises to help my body get back in balance. The lower back (right side) issue clearly causes tightness in my glutes and piriformis and hamstrings (oy! During my run, my glutes got so tight they started to really ache). A couple of weeks ago, I saw an article about the Egoscue method and checked out a website which led me to Amazon and several books by Pete Egoscue. I downloaded and read one of the books available for the Kindle and it was perfect for me. It was very clear how to analyse my situation and he gives a series of exercises to do, based on your condition. Of course, he says that, at least as long as you are in pain, you should stop running (if you have my condition) and only do his exercises, but that’s not gonna happen with me. However, I’ve decided to commit to doing the exercises for at least 30 days (or 25 out of the next 30 days) and see if they make any difference. If I feel they are helping/I am making progress, I’m happy to continue. It’s interesting because there are 7 exercises in my series (or actually 11, since one exercise is actually 5 exercises) which sounded very doable to me. No problem, I can do those when I get home before I cook dinner, I thought. It felt, in my head, that they would take 20-30 minutes. Ha! Actually they take nearly an hour, I realized after doing them a couple of times. But I’m quite hopeful. Some of the exercises don’t feel like much, but a few of them really reveal my weaknesses (like severe hamstring weakness).


After the run, I was quite wiped, but I could feel myself stiffening up. So, I put on my compression calf sleeves, did some yoga (focusing on lunges, which was good) and later did my Egoscue exercises. The truth is that when I run most of this stuff doesn’t bother me. Yes, on a long run, I get a bit achy in the lower back or glutes these days, but for 6 or 8 miles, I have no problems. Even my Achilles tendon problem (caused by the Merrell shoes) is tight and sore for about 5 minutes or so until it warms up, then I have no trouble at all. This is why I keep running. When I am in the office, I notice that sitting for a long time hurts more than anything. This makes me grateful that I am forced to walk 20 minutes to town to get something to eat at lunchtime (and 20 minute back). I can get very sucked in to whatever I am working on and not even get up to pee for hours on end. Not good for the back, hamstrings, etc.


I had a great new experience yesterday—I listened to an audiobook while I was running. I’ve never done that before and always thought that without the beat of music, the sound would drag me down. But I have been listening to “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath and it has been quite interesting, so I thought I would give it a try. It was great! I wasn’t really fond of the narrator, I wish it was the authors, but the book was very interesting and made the long road go by fairly easily.


And finally, I had bought a couple of Honey Stinger gels before I came over to Namibia. I had tried some of the Honey Stinger chews, which were awesome (though I didn’t try them while running, just as candy). I’ve never been a gel fan, but I liked the honey idea and these are pretty “clean” as fake food goes. I’ve tried Clif Bloks but, though I find them quite palatable, they stick in my mouth more than I like. When I was in the DR Congo, I used to take small mandarin oranges on a run, which work quite nicely, but they don’t have those here. So I thought I’d give these Honey Stingers a try (though I also brought along a banana, in case it was horrible). I have one regular, one with Ginseng and one with Chocolate. I took the Ginseng one. After an hour, I stopped to drink a bit and took half the gel and it was not bad at all. The best part, aside from the flavor (honey basically, though not as sweet as regular honey) was that it was more liquidy than gels usually are. So it went down very smoothly. In fact, I didn’t even need water, though I made sure to drink some because I know that is necessary to get it into the bloodstream. Forty minutes later, I took the rest of the packet. I had no GI distress and I completed the 16 miles with very little walking, so I think that was good. I’ll try the regular and the chocolate and let you all know how that goes. But I think I’m a fan.


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