KingMidget's Ramblings

Pull up a chair. Let's talk.

Running Out

I tried running when I was in college. It didn’t last very long because of shin splints. Of course, that I was trying to run in my K-Swiss, which were designed to play tennis, not for running, may have been part of the problem. But after a few weeks or months of painful shin splints with every run, I gave it up.

Fast forward 20 years and I tried it again. Off and on, I had tried cycling, but that takes more time and more equipment and … just more. When I started running again, my goal was to simply be able to run, or jog, for 30 minutes. Around the same time, my brother-in-laws company was sponsoring a sprint triathlon and my family formed two teams to participate in it. On my team, my wife took on the swimming, my brother-in-law took the ride, and I ran a 5k to finish it off. My sister ran the 5k on our other team. By the time we started running, my team was several minutes behind. While I made up almost all of the time, I didn’t quite get there.

What I did do along the way was crack the nut of running. I didn’t get shin splints anymore, but I did have a wall that I had to climb over. The early stage of a run is, on some level the hardest. At least for somebody like me. It does not come naturally for me. So, in the opening couple of miles, my breath is ragged, various parts of my body hurt and cramp. It generally takes two or three miles for me to find a breathing rhythm and for those initial aches to fade.

When I first started running, I kept having to take a walk break at about 15 minutes. I thought it ridiculous that I couldn’t push through that point and keep running. But for several months, I could not. Then one day I just decided that no matter how I felt, I would keep going. No matter what. And I survived. Not only that, I learned I could keep running through that wall and on the other side of it was the most incredible part of any run I went on in the years ahead.

For the next five or six or seven miles, I could run in rhythm with little pain or discomfort. If my run got into double figure mileage, things might crop up now and then, but I cracked the nut.

Over the next few years I ran a lot. In my neighborhood and in organized runs throughout the community. 5ks. 10ks. And four half marathons. My first half marathon came with it a personal goal of breaking 2 hours. I finished in 2 hours and 32 seconds. The last three miles were difficult as I learned afterwards because of a weak sartorius muscle in my right leg. It was fine for most runs, even longer runs, but every once in awhile, once I topped ten miles, it would rebel. It did that day and prevented me from reaching my goal.

Each half marathon after got worse.

But I kept running, because I could and it is the easiest, most convenient form of exercise there is. As long as your body can handle it. You can run anywhere as long as you have your running shoes.

For a handful of years, things were good. Until they weren’t anymore. For my first three half marathons, I trained on my own. For my last one, I signed up for a training program run by a guy I went to high school with. He owns the company that puts on most of the organized runs in the community. At one time, he was one of the best distance runners in America. He is a running evangelist.

At the same time I started the training program, I was also playing indoor soccer for the first time in my life. Also, for the first time in my life I was taking stretching seriously, including stretches for my groin. And … I tore a groin muscle while playing soccer. I stopped playing soccer, but kept running because it didn’t seem to bother me while running.

A couple of months went by. My groin muscle seemed OK. I played soccer again. I tore the muscle again.

I kept running because it didn’t seem to be a problem. Well, except maybe towards the end of longer runs, but I thought I was OK.

That October I ran my final half marathon. I was not OK. My torn groin muscle let its presence be known at about the 7 mile mark. For the next 6 miles I gutted it out, running and walking and walking and running. I describe it as essentially having to drag my right leg with me as I completed the last 6 miles. I finished in 2 hours and 15 minutes, which pretty much amazes me given what I went through during the second half of the run.

I didn’t run anymore the rest of the month and into November. And then I did a stupid thing. I played soccer again. And tore the groin muscle again.

And only then did I finally see a doctor.

I tried physical therapy for almost a year and occasionally went for a run. Just a short run and I couldn’t do it because of that muscle.

Then I didn’t do anything for another year — no physical therapy, no running, nothing. And then I tried to run again. It wasn’t that bad, but I had lost the ability or motivation to run as much as I had before. So, I ran in fits and starts, taking long breaks, then running steadily for a few weeks before taking another break. I wasn’t running for distance. Just trying to run three or four miles several times a week.

And I also stopped tracking my time and distance and other stats. I thought that if I let go of those things, I might be a better runner. But I wasn’t, I’m an internally competitive person. When I engage in physical activity of any kind, I want to beat myself. To always “improve.” Without those stats, I couldn’t motivate myself to run regularly.

About a year ago, I decided to get a running app for my phone. Maybe having the stats would motivate me to run more and get in better shape. Maybe I could crack the nut again and see if things had improved through my years of relative inactivity with that ol’ groin muscle. (Yeah, I know, probably not.)

The app worked to an extent. I have run more in the last year than I did in any of the previous three or four. But for every month where I ran 60 miles, there was a month or two when I only ran 30 or 40. And I am no longer as comfortable running in the dark evenings in my neighborhood as I once was. I joined a gym a few months ago and discovered that the treadmill is now deadly.

Back when I was running a lot, I would go to the gym during the lunch hour and crank out really good 30-40 minute runs. It helped me do some speedwork and just put in miles to get stronger and faster.

This time around … it has been the complete opposite. I simply am unable to run on the treadmill. And so my running is suffering.

And I have now got to the point where I may just give up running.  A few months ago, a friend and I decided to try to run together every weekend. He lives right by the river, so we can run along the trail there. We have a out and back route that is about 5.5 miles. We talk about trying to extend our run as we go on. We ran 6 miles once. And the last couple of runs have been incredibly difficult for me. A couple of months ago, I was running the 5.5 mile trek and doing pretty good. Running at what is a good pace for me now. Not needing a walking break. Last weekend though — I needed to walk after 1.5 miles. And again later in the run. Runs I have done at home in recent weeks have been barely better.

Today, I ran the Sacramento Beer Week 5k. My only goal was to not have to take a walk break during the run. If I can’t run 3.1 miles …

So I achieved that goal, but each  mile was slower than the last. I know I shouldn’t care about my time, but see above about my internal competition. And it’s more than that, I just don’t feel like I have anything at all when I run. No power, no motivation. No ooomph.

Today may have been my last run. I’m running out. I’ve started to switch to the exercise bike at the gym. I’m thinking of going for a bike ride along the river tomorrow to see how it goes. Maybe I’ll start taking spinning classes again.

Getting old sucks.

Not having the time to stay fit sucks.

Not having the energy to stay fit sucks.

But I have not yet given up.  😉



A Song For Today

I have no doubt I’ve posted this before, but somebody mentioned the song on Twitter and … it just hits me every time I hear it.

On Iran

So … three years ago, Barack Obama, along with several European countries, signed an agreement with Iran in which they agreed to forsake their nuclear weapons program for ten or fifteen years in exchange for lifting economic sanctions and freezing Iranian assets.

Three years later, there has never been a shred of evidence produced that shows that Iran has violated this agreement.

Oh sure, I know. Netanyahu claims Israel has obtained 7 gazillion documents that show Iran lied about its nuclear weapons program for years.

Yes, this is true. But everybody already knew that. And more importantly, all of those documents are historical. As I understand it, all of that treasure trove of intelligence is from 2015 and earlier. None of it relates to what Iran has actually done since signing the agreement.

What is clear from the White House’s announcement is that this is actually about other things than whether Iran was complying with the agreement. It is about terrorism, it is about Syria, it is about Israel, it is about everything else Iran does that “we” consider to be bad for American interests.

Iran does many, many things around the world that are dangerous and destabilizing. There is no way to avoid that. (Odd thing though — so do we.)

It’s a shame. We may have found a way to ensure that Iran didn’t develop nuclear weapons for years. Trump in all of his infinite wisdom has destroyed that and now we enter unknown territory as Iran decides how to respond.

Trump thrives on chaos and destabilization. The world is a far too fragile place for that to work, either in the short term or the long term.

Life and Death Situations

I was talking with a friend earlier this week about the difficulties we will face in the months and years ahead as our parents age. She is in the process of looking for an assisted living arrangement for her mom.

I have a friend who is a year or two older than me, making her around 55.  About five years ago, she was diagnosed with a form of early onset, aggressive dementia. She remained at home until this past summer, when her wife put her in a memory care facility. She was only there for a few months before she was transferred to a facility that provided a higher level of care, and based on what I have heard in the last couple of months, her condition has deteriorated significantly.

And then there is the story of Alfie Evans, the two-year-old British toddler who suffered from a disease that essentially wiped out all of his brain tissue. I think I’m with Kevin Drum on this, if I was one of the judge’s who had to decide Alfie’s case, I would have granted his parents’ request to move him to a hospital at the Vatican instead of ordering his life support be removed.

If Alfie was my son, I wouldn’t hesitate to pull him off of life support based on the overwhelming weight of medical evidence. But he’s not my son and I don’t have to make that decision, nor should I, or any doctor, government bureaucrat, or judge be allowed to make that decision for the families of those destroyed by diseases like this.

The way I look at it is that it’s a lot like the decision of whether a woman can choose to have an abortion or not. If government can’t intervene in that decision, then it should not be allowed to intervene in decisions like this, where there is family who are more than competent to make the decision, and particularly where the continued care will be privately funded. The day we let government make these types of decisions instead of the families on behalf of their loved ones is the day we lose just a little bit more of our humanity and our freedom to choose. In life or death situations, the choice should be the individual’s. It should never be the government’s.


When Fear Began

Juan Corona

Dorothea Puente

The Unabomber

The Vampire of Sacramento (who I remember being called The Birdman because he enjoyed biting the heads off of birds)

Charles Ng (and Leonard Lake)

The East Area Rapist

I have a feeling the list could be longer than this, but these individuals represent a fundamental part of my experience growing up and spending almost my entire life in Sacramento, California. A couple of them are a bit removed from Sacramento — Juan Corona’s killing spree took place in a rural area north of Sacramento. Charles Ng and Leonard Lake’s spree took place in a rural area south east of Sacramento. But their stories resonated with anybody living in the area.

Corona seems to be the first, I’m not sure who was the last — maybe The Unabomber. But for a period of about 20 years, Sacramento seemed to be the epicenter of these kinds of people. Capitol Park in Sacramento was even the location where a follower of Charles Manson tried to assassinate Gerald Ford.

I look at the list and wonder what is it about this area that has produced these madmen and madwomen. I also wonder if this isn’t abnormal. That other areas had the same types of crazy in the 1970s and 1980s. But I don’t know. It seems hard to believe  because that would be a whole lot of crazy.

In my college years I became fascinated with serial killers and true crime literature. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer led me to books about the Zodiac Killer and Ted Bundy and the Zebra Killer and books by Anne Rule. Meanwhile my community was living the real story of similar individuals. There is something about the darkness and the evil of serial killers that fascinates me, while terrifying me as well.

In 1976, I was twelve years old. I lived in College Greens, a neighborhood in the eastern part of the city of Sacramento. That was the year that the East Area Rapist began his two year reign of terror in my neighborhood and surrounding communities. It wasn’t just that he raped women — as horrible as that is — but, well, I really can’t adequately describe all of the things that he did. Read this article if you really want the details. He was evil personified.

After a couple of years in Sacramento, the East Area Rapist moved on … to the Bay Area and eventually Southern California. And he started killing people.

For forty years, the East Area Rapist remained on the loose.

I remember vaguely those years. I remember a feeling of fear. We got deadbolts on our doors then. Many in the communities of east Sacramento bought guns. I read an article today in which a woman who lived in the area at the time suggested that it was the East Area Rapist who ended the concept of kids running freely in the neighborhoods and being allowed to just be home by dinner time. That this was when parents became too fearful to let their kids be kids. I’m not sure she’s wrong about that.

The East Area Rapist began with attacks on women who lived alone. He moved on to women who were married and whose spouses were at home. He would tie the men up and place plates on their backs and tell the victims that if the man moved he would kill them both. The article I’ve linked to in this post includes other details about how he terrorized his victims. He was not just a rapist, as bad as that is. He was not just a murderer, as bad as that is. He was … the personification of evil.

Today, local law enforcement officials announced that they have arrested Joseph James Deangelo, a 72-year-old man living in Citrus Heights, a neighborhood very close to if not a part of where he committed his initial crimes way back then. They have charged him with crimes related to the East Area Rapist and the murders he is ultimately linked to.

I talked to my brother about the news today. He told me something I have no memory of. A friend of his lived across the street from our neighborhood elementary school — which means he lived less than a mile from our home. At some point, back then, this friend and his dad came home late one night to find somebody trying to break into their home. They chased him off but not before the perpetrator turned and fired a gun at them, wounding my brother’s friend in the stomach. Later on, the police concluded that they had confronted and chased off the East Area Rapist. Breaking into their home and less than a mile from ours.

I read another comment today about the East Area Rapist and why this is so difficult for his victims and for those who lived through the fear back then. Until now, we have never had a face. We have never known. Just being able to identify the man behind these horrible crimes provides some sense of closure. There will be justice. We can move on.

I don’t know.

Our family was not victimized by the East Area Rapist, but in a sense we were. The fear he generated may very well have been the beginning of the end of innocence. The moment when fear began to control and limit our experiences in the world. When we stopped trusting in the safety of our neighborhood and our community.

It is truly a shame that madmen and madwomen have led us to this result. Fear rules us in so many ways.

I am incredibly grateful that they found the man who did this. I am glad that he will not die having escaped any responsibility for his crimes. I hope he suffers tremendously in the rest of his days. I oppose the death penalty. I generally don’t believe in the value of revenge or causing pain to others.

But, in this case, I don’t care. Joseph James Deangelo can burn forever as far as I’m concerned.


%d bloggers like this: