Sunday, June 22, 2014

A New Challenge–Updated 5 Nov 2017: 820-mile Arizona Trail

This is Part II of my posts about training for the Arizona Trail. Read Part I.
I have begun training to hike the Arizona National Scenic Trail. See updates in Bold Red below.
The Arizona Trail is an 800+ mile recreation trail from Mexico to Utah.
My challenge is to get my body fit and ready – all body parts must work.  This is a big challenge, since I have been mainly just sitting on a kayak for the past five years. 
Right: 2009, Left: 2014
1) Ball of left foot – RESOLVED:  callus was causing pinching and blister.  Thought it was a bone spur but and seems to have gone away with increased walking on the treadmill.  Good, since I need to be able to walk 15 miles or more on most days.
2) Left Buttocks - ON GOING Issue: gluteal maximus muscle sprain, or hamstring pull????   Physical Therapist says it is micro-tears in the ligament attaching the hamstring muscle to the butt bone.  I am working on resolving this by working the surrounding muscles more. Was told not to sit lopsided to get the pressure off the left side, but to keep my pelvis level and only tip it forward or backward to relieve the pressure.  May also try one of those butt donuts.  Have had x-ray, but of course that won’t show the soft tissues, and have not yet reviewed them with doctor.  Maybe NOT too Bad – as it doesn’t seem to bother me walking on the treadmill.  Still a concern.
3) Back Issues - RESOLVED:  I began training on 3/4/14 and on 3/11/14,  I ended up in the Emergency Room due to severe back pain.  My pain was so bad they gave me a shot in my spin and rushed me off to the MRI.  Images showed I had four severely budging disc in my back. Physical Therapy began me on core work and no longer have low back pain. Part of the problem could also have been that my bowels were impacted.  I didn’t realize this could happen and didn’t make a connection that such a thing could affect your back/spine. Between managing both of those things, the core muscles and the gut, problem is gone.  Spine doctor has released me from his care and says surgery is not needed. 
4) Food intake: The gut issues made me realize I had to pay more attention to what I was eating.  My new primary care doctor, Dr. Matthew Talarico, Templeton, CA, suggested I get off meat and cheese as they are “inflammatories” and get the book “Superfood Smoothies” by Julie Morris.   My goal is to get fit, any weight loss is just icing on the cake (pun intended), besides I have already lost about 60 pounds.  Eating the right foods is key to getting fit.  This is not something I can change overnight.. it is a lifestyle change.
5 Nov 2017 - visited Dr. Talarico again and am doing a series of Medicare approved preventative screening tests. Will stay in this area to follow-up on all this.
I will be hiking for over two months in the wilderness, and can’t do smoothies out there anyway.  My plan is to change slowly, use up foods I have on hand, and to slowly buy the ingredients with long shelf life that are mentioned in the book.  After the hike is completed, I hope to ease into near 100% “smoothie” lifestyle, though I don’t ever expect to hit it 100%.  Probably after the hike, later in 2015, I will buy a second refrigerator for the van, and will keep one as a freezer, allowing me to keep frozen fruits and vegetables on hand for smoothies.  Excellent, but a long term plan.  Short term, do my very best to make all my foods nutrient rich.
5) Right shoulder – ONGOING but improving:  I have had two surgeries on my right shoulder.  a) Rotator Cuff repair and b) cutting part of the clavicle off, that my bones were getting stuck on and popping across (I’ll look up the name later).  Doctor gave me Novocain and cortisone injections in the shoulder. June 30, I return to see if Physical Therapy and Massage Therapy is improving the pain and Range of Motion – and I believe it is.  May have an MRI at that time. Still concerned as this could be bad if I am hundreds of miles away from civilization and my right arm won’t move, or lift, or tolerate a 40 pound backpack.  Must resolve this issue.
Update 5 Nov 2017- tests on my right shoulder show it is shot.  Surgeon in WA recommended a Reverse Shoulder Replacement.  I am seeking a second opinion from a CA doctor recommended to me by Dr. Talarico.  I am tempted to try a section of the AZ Trail hike before the surgery and see how it goes.
This is not my xray, but this is what a Reverse Shoulder Replacement looks like.  Ick.
6) Left knee: Status Unchanged.  In November 2005, I had a total knee replacement.  The day after surgery, I fell out of the hospital bed, and broke the prosthesis loose from the bone.  There is something in the left knee not right.  If a sit on a low toilet or low stool, there is a painful crunching and popping on the outside of the left knee.  I don’t know what that is, but I am going to have to address it soon.  Will make an appointment to discuss this with Dr. Sima as soon as possible.  Bad – I have to make sure it is not something that could fowl up walking 820 miles.
7) Medications:  My goal is to get off all prescription meds before hitting the trail.  I will of course carry some “as needed” meds as first aid.  Currently, I have two meds to wean myself off of (under doctor supervision).  Tried to get off Prilosec for the second time and lasted 3 days before I had to begin taking it again.  So, still two to go. I have reduced Ibuprofen 50%.   I will be listing my medicine kit as I prepare my gear.  Great – considering the side effects of many pharmaceuticals today.
Update: Effective March 2017 I have been off ALL medications. 
8) Skin – progress continues:  The gym I joined has tanning rooms.  So, I decided I should try it one day. WELL, guess what folks… the tanning is changing my skin and it is smoothing out and changing and feels very nice, like silk.  Little bumps are going away.  I am no longer WHITE as a ghost but tan  for once in my life and my skin is now darker than my hair.  I feel this will help me for the time I am out in full sun all day long on the hike. Great, the point is, I didn’t realize that tanning could have a positive effect on my health, but it has.
9) Lungs/COPD – CONTROLLED:  Back in 2007 or so I was diagnosed with COPD.  I carry no COPD meds and consider it a non-issue now.  Just have to be careful to get away from any airborne allergens, so I don’t have a flare-up. I tried a couple days in Fresno, June 20-21, and air quality was too poor to stay, and my throat began to burn.  Great change and a non-issue today.

Update: In March 2017 a small carcinoid tumor was found at the entrance to my right lung.  I had been saying for months, maybe years, there was something wrong.  A CAT scan was done and radiologist reported my lungs were clear, but I had gotten a copy of the scan on a Disc and studied it myself.  When the doctor reviewed the radiology report with me and say my lungs were clear, I informed him that was wrong and I showed him myself on his computer where the tumor was and told him he had to remove it.  He did.  It seems to be totally gone in a followup scan in September.  We have to OWN our own health.  The medical profession would have let me walk out of that office in March... undiagnosed and untreated.  My health and life had taken a 180 degree turn since then.

10) Psychology of solo hiking – I am certain there are things to consider, but I won’t address them at this time, because I don’t think it is possible to anticipate what they might be.
That’s it.  Those are the changes in my physical issues.  Three months ago it took me 1 hr. to walk on the treadmill for 1/4 mile.  Yesterday I did 1.4 miles in 30 minutes, without any discomfort, but still can not reach my training heart rate(THR) of 124-137.  I can only get up to 120… so I am pushing this next week to get to THR and hold it for 20 minutes 3 times a week.  The more I push myself, the healthier I become so long as I make sure my body has the proper fuel and plenty of water.
Live life to the fullest… that can only happen if your body is the best you can make it.
June 21, 2014 – my great niece, Charlie looking at that photo of me in 2002 in the red shirt… and she was shocked at the changes.  It’s all good folks.
I will keep this format for future posts, to record changes and discoveries between now and the beginning of the hike.  My goal again, is to get as fit as possible before the hike begins.  When the hike ends, I expect to be the most fit I have been in my life… at age 71.
Adding swimming to the mix this week, now that my shoulder is improving. Update 5 Nov 2017: Swimming is kinda out for now... the shoulder hurts too bad.
Never give up.

Who is Swankie?

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Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.