Monday, October 24, 2016


My group of retired teachers stood to leave our spring get-together at Mitzi’s. Mitzi sat, planted in a chair, leg propped. Awaiting knee replacement surgery, she grimaced in pain, but called out gamely, “We’ll have our usual teacher’s retreat at my cabin but I’ll sit. You guys do all the work.” In 2008, my family’s Green Valley Lake cabin burned to the ground but teachers continued August gatherings, crowding into Mitzi’s cabin. 

Next day Mitzi emailed,  “SORRY!!! Mountain trip’s off. Can’t manage stairs up to the cabin.”
Exiting my Saturday class, I fell into step with a lady who complimented me on a recent column, then said, “I won’t be here next week, having a knee replacement.
Running too fast to keep up with speedy Evie, a guy on a bike, pedaled up, “I’ve been watching you,” he said, “You’re limping. Are you thinking about a knee replacement?” He told me his doctor’s name.

Yowzers, is “knee replacement” the new appendectomy?

I count half dozen friends who’ve done one, or two, and no, none are runners.

Should I join the crowd?

Yep, it’s a “crowd.”’s Courtney Humphries, 2012, “Do you really need a knee replacement?” says “…knee replacement surgeries are skyrocketing…attributed to many factors: growing rates of obesity, an active population of baby boomers now facing osteoarthritis, and the continuing improvement of artificial joints.” 

Dorothy Feltz-Gray at writes that, “People younger than 65 are the fastest-growing age group opting for total knee replacement. Overall demand for the procedure is rising as well, with numbers expected to increase.” 

Both authors caution us to think long and hard before signing-up. How to decide? Here are just three considerations.

Gretchen Reynolds of NY Times well.blogs, 11/13/14, in “Think Twice Before Choosing Knee Replacement, cautions the youngsters, 45-65 for whom knee replacement surgery “soared by 205% between 2000 and 2012.” Among 65 and older, the increase was only 95 percent, yet, surgical replacements were better suited for the older group because implanted materials wear out after a couple of decades—possibly necessitating a second surgery for the 45-65’ers

Furthermore, older people who had “really bad knees,”  benefited substantially from knee replacement surgery, gaining 20 points on a scale of improved knee function, while those with slight arthritis reported more pain and physical impairment, gaining only 2 points.

What is meant by really bad knees? Reynolds quotes, Dr. Daniel Riddle, Virginia Commonwealth professor and study author who says, “If you do not have bone-on-bone arthritis, in which all of the cushioning cartilage in the knee is gone, think about consulting a physical therapist about exercise programs that could strengthen the joint, reducing pain and disability, losing weight helps, too,” Riddle says.

By “no cartilage” in Riddle’s definition I may qualify. In 2007, an orthopedist glanced at my knee X-rays, and said, “You have no cartilage in your knees.” “End of running,” I thought. “Reading my mind, the doctor, said, “Lots of runners have no cartilage, keep running.” I went on to complete six marathons. 

So, “bone on bone” doesn't necessarily mean “really bad knees.” The deciding factor is daily serious pain. I don’t have knee pain unless I run too fast. No knee problem at my new slow rate: 12 to14-minute-miles. At the gym, I’ve given up weight machines which pain my knees, in favor of exercises learned at former physical therapy sessions. In short, I’ve altered lifestyle. 

Globe’s Humphries offers the concept of “decision aid” to patients considering knee replacement. She quotes James Jacobsen who, like me is in early 70’s and had a “bone on bone” X-ray. His doctor recommended replacement, but handed him a pro/con video and brochure. He studied the materials: “I know right now that I’m not going to have a knee replaced until it’s absolutely necessary. If I didn’t have the [video and  brochure]  I wouldn’t [have known] how to make a decision.”

I’m not considering knee replacement. With lifestyle changes, my knee does not hurt with daily activities. 

Mitzi, waiting in line for hers, says, “Dr. X did my left knee. I can’t wait for the right. If it goes like the last one, I’ll be pain-free for next year’s cocktails at the cabin.”

Monday, October 10, 2016


Want to feel euphoric?

Run your guts out.

Work hard, (NEVER to the point of injury.)

Complete a challenging work-out.

Today I completed the Long Beach Half Marathon. However, for the first time in my running life I ran:

—without proper preparation due to a 17 day vacation and grandma duties

—ten days after being in serious pain due to sitting in a car for vacation-sightseeing, as well as a 15-hour return plane ride.

I sent in my $120.00 to Long Beach Marathon because I wanted a reunion with the “Saturday Runners,” a group I used to race with, completing full marathons in New York, Chicago, Portland. I’ve almost dropped out of the group due to family demands, but I’m not willing to lose contact altogether. 

Catherine, a social worker and Caroline a scientist, are the indisputable leaders. Catherine soft and wise and Caroline, tough, and exacting. 

A knock on the door at 5:20 a.m. got me out before I gobbled my favorite pre-race food--a peanut butter sandwich. But when Caroline says, “Lets go!” we move—fast!

The dark Sunday morning yielded a nearly empty 405, so we sailed into strategic marathon parking, close to the start. 

Runners routinely use extra pre-race time to head for the port-a-potties. Happily, we were early enough to make two visits. Sadly, the potties were already out of toilet paper. I remembered too late how another runner packs a roll of toilet paper for every race. 

So without the benefit of peanut butter or toilet paper, I said bye to friends whom I was sure were faster than I, and lined up for the start. 

I like to race alone, an usual state for me. I’m gregarious. Not in races. I do not want to chat, worry about friends, or high five spectators. 

My wave of runners moved up to the starting line. The horn sounded. I started my run to the mantra, “This is easy,” and it was.  My watch read 10:45 pace. 

My race rules were:

—No reading signs or shirts. (takes energy)

—No looking at other runners. (I surge ahead when I spot a senior female. Without prep, so recently injured, I did not think I could afford a surge.) I place first in races, but gave up the idea today.

—Keep visor low and eyes down. ( Not in top shape, I don't lift my feet high enough off the ground to avoid ruts in road or sidewalk. I fall DOWN.)

For weeks before the race, I put myself to sleep visualizing each step--a clear fast race. “I’m in my dream,” I told myself, running my race at a comfortable pace. 

I popped a Shot Blok (gummy electrolytes and caffeine) into my mouth and decided to pop another every second mile. Mile 2: water, shot block, and back on the course. Repeat at Mile 4.

My strategy worked until I dropped my Shot Bloks at Mile 8. So, I fished a chocolate bar out of my fanny pack. Still running without pain, I felt continuous energy but noticed my pace slowed to 11-minute-mile. By then, I left my early mantra and adopted the strategy of rhythmic counting steps between lane lines in the road. “One-two” steps on blacktop between lines and “one” on the line. 

Momentarily sneaking a look at a a senior female, I broke my rule. Left her behind. Spotted another walking and took satisfaction, running past her. However I felt I was running at my old pace—nine minute miles. I secretly hoped to regain my 2-hour-half marathon time. 

Then the 2:20 pacers holding their prominent signs breezed past me. I did not keep up with them. 

In most of life, I am reflexively self-critical but not racing. I raced my race, keeping a steady pace, never sinking into the dreaded “used up feeling.”  “I’m doin’ it,” I told myself.

At Mile 11, I began the countdown. Shoving chocolate into my mouth, remaining spry, passing runners who bonked. 

A hot morning, I had dumped cups of water over my head and when a guy on the course gave out baggies of ice, I emptied the cubes down my shirt. 

So, all wet, I came though Mile 12 and 13. Thrilled to see "The Finish," I crossed the line as my name was announced. 

Yeah, I was glad to stop, but also elated—thirteen miles under my belt and still standing. 

Found Caroline and Catherine in the complimentary beer garden sitting with our group. My stomach wouldn’t allow me to drink beer but I celebrated. I hugged the fastidious Caroline, who recoiled. “You’re WET,” she said, “Get away from me!” Gentle Catherine was more charitable, “Get in line to get us some beer,” she told me. 

My official pace was 11:14 mile. My finish time, slowest ever by almost half hour, was 2:27:19. I got an age-group first place. No speedy 70-year-old overtook me.

Later, I read that the average female pace for the half-marathon was 12:45 and that includes everyone decades younger than I. 

I could grieve over my slowing but at nearly 73, I’m a minute and a half faster than the average lady. 


None of the statistics or first place mattered upon completing the race. My happiness had to do with achievement. Smart runners advised me not to run, unprepared and recently injured. I wanted to join old friends for a good race and finish strong. 


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ten minutes ago, I paid $129.00 to run the Long Beach Half Marathon this Sunday, Oct 9, 2016. 

Crawling off the plane after 15 hours in the air just 12 days ago, I asked my husband, “Do you think I’ll ever be able to move again?

My back buckled, behind burned, knees knotted, quads quavered. Run? HA! I could neither sit nor walk without wailing.

I rolled with the Rumble Roller, splashed in the pool and jacuzzi, stretched, had my first-ever chiropractor visit. So, I’m back to abnormal, just a gimpy knee or two. 

Is it smart to run a race so soon after regaining a thin layer of fitness? No.

Have I been running in preparation for the race. No, nothing for weeks—been out of the country.

Did I get off the plane and do at least one thirteen as I’d planned, NO!

However in the last week, I’ve been back on the road, cutting work-outs in half. Today did six miles of hills, blistering 14-minute miles. At that pace I’ll do a 3-hour half marathon. I’m used to finishing under 2 hours or more recently, two hours plus 5 minutes.

So, lets see what happens.

NOTE: I committed to running this race months ago to support my friend’s niece who planned to run her first half marathon…she since decided not to do it. 
Now I’m running to support her aunt, I guess. 
Her aunt, my friend Catherine who will finish ahead, assures me she will be in the race’s beer garden waiting for me to cross the finish line. Our speedy friend Caroline will be there, too. HOPE not too long.

Hey, they have to drive me home. 

Wish me luck.     

Monday, September 26, 2016


Do you want health articles like I wrote for the Daily Pilot?

Can do.


Back from a 15 hour plane trip. OUCH! While my husband flew business class, I was determined to use my “miles” earned from my charge card which gave me an economy ticket. 

Did fine on the trip there but returning, I enflamed every tendon, nerve and muscle tissue from my back to my knees. 

Everything seized up so completely by the end of the flight that I unfolded my body from that cramped seat as the plane was in the last stage of taxi-ing in and exited my compartment. Determined to get out of the plane ahead of the people who were going to open the overhead compartments and fumble around with their carrry-ons, I hobbled right up to the bulkhead where the stewardess, yelled at me, “Get back to your seat!”

I did not behave myself, and held my ground. Plane hadn’t stopped yet. Stewardess was provoked but I forged ahead, desperate to be among the first to blow out of that plane.

My insurrection worked pretty well, I rendezvoused with my husband up in front business class compartment and we made it out the door rapidly. But all the achievement of breaking out was colored by the amount of pain in my legs and back. Hobbled, I limped to luggage. 

I’m unaccustomed to feeling the agony of movement. Upper legs burned, back signaled torment, calves throbbed. I refused the moving sidewalk, attempting to walk and loosen up my crushed sitting muscles…Nothing worked. I dreaded boarding the shuttle bus home.

Tried running on Friday morning, but could not lift my left leg off the road. I walked for an hour and a half. 

Desperate, I reached for the acetaminophen. Took with food but my stomach hurt. Took two doses of 2 pills.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get better,” I told my husband. Then I couldn’t sleep that night. YIKES, I’m exhausted and hurt!


Now it’s Sunday night. Every day I rolled and rolled every body part on the Rumble Roller—(the roller that looks like a tractor tire.) 

Hating hot water, I got in the jacuzzi at the gym. Actually my husband practically pushed me in. Then I got out of the jacuzzi, picked up a kick board and got in the ice water of the gym’s pool. I said some bad words at the shock of the cold but managed to spend 5 minutes kicking the pool’s length, then 5 minutes back in the jacuzzi. Repeated 3 times for two days. 

Kept on rolling and stretching. I lay down on the bed and Paul took his two powerful torturous hands and pushed on some pressure points to the accompaniment of my squeals. 

I’m almost “back to abnormal” as I always say. Going hiking with my relentlessly speedy hiking group tomorrow. Hope I can keep up.


Hiked fine! However we did not do our usual 9 miles due to heat. HERE’S THE CHALLENGE—writing, eating, and tomorrow’s art class are all accomplished sitting. MY BODY HATES SITTING.

Sunday, September 4, 2016


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Today’s stop-start

Met Ken at Junior High dirt track at 6:00 a.m. Walked a few revolutions with him, but then he left for home, and I faced the daunting task of accumulating 8 miles of speed-work. My whole being reverts to absolute resistance when he departs, and I look down to set my Garmin to “start” for the 8-mile speed-work,.

Dreadful! I’m at zero miles and I won’t leave the track until I’ve completed the whole grueling 8 miles. 
I could give up and go home. I want to give up and go home to EAT.

During the past few years my pace has sunk from relaxed 10:30 minute miles to 11:30’s to 12 and now to13-minute miles in weekly road work-outs. 

The only way I can pull off the six 91/2-minute-miles in a 10K race as I did in March is to DO SPEED-WORK. Under race-pressure, my body remembers how to zip along, learned and practiced during this speed-work drill.

So, I started out, barely moving, pushing myself against resisting muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments to a pitiful 14-minute-mile on the straight-away. Picking up speed on the next revolution, I spotted a creamy golden dog, ambling toward me, wearing a lab/golden black-lipped smile. Hodi!

My friend, Kim  and her much loved pooch joined me, just home from a trip. Her grandkids’ magical introduction to the family farm near Ashland, Oregon. Her grandkids, all preschoolers and all cousins chased chickens, picked apples and splashed in a real pond. These kids are growing up in suburban Southern California where ponds are as rare as chicken coops. They were captivated and the adults gratified to continue a yearly generational pilgrimage to the family fun farm.

Kim, Hodi and I mostly walked around the track for about 4 miles until they had to return home.
Back to my solo work-out at the track, I faced the same 4-miles of speed-work I started out to conquer. 

I always complete 8 miles at the track. 
4 miles of intervals where I go fast on the straightaway and slow on the turns.
Then I time myself for a mile, 3/4 mile, 1/2 mile and finally 1/4 mile.

Soon Kim will return to work and I won’t see her in the a.m., so when she joins me, I skip the longer distances. and do only the interval-speed-work. Pressing myself to “surprise my cardio” with bursts of speed is more essential to my fitness than the longer segments.

Again, I started round the track.  “I should  be well warmed up by now!” I whined to myself as I struggled up to a blistering 14-minute-mile pace. I kept up my crazy turns around in circles, checking my Garmin until I hit an 8-minute pace on the straightaway. Found an ice-cream stick in the dirt and I scratched my progress in the sand. 

Go! Go! Go! I told myself, working my arms. I marked 6:45 next to the 8:00. 

I concentrated on leg turnover. Felt strong, pictured myself running in a race with competitors at my heels—6:30.

I looked ahead at ruts on the track—a leaf, a stone and told myself to “reel it in,”—reached 6:25. 

And finally when my watch read almost eight miles and I knew I’d be leaving the track, I worked my arms, visualized rapid leg turnover and forced a rhythm of the fastest footfalls I could muster: 6:15.

I marked the 6:15 in the sand and left the track to walk home. One more time, I completed a workout I dreaded. There’s a satisfaction in that.