Friday, October 7, 2016

Another long absence, but it's due to a lack of anything interesting to say

Things are going pretty well these days.  I mean, life isn't without challenges, and after a cancer diagnosis like I got at this time last year, things will never be exactly the same.  But, right this minute, I can't complain.

I was doing some PT to help with swelling and pain after my last surgery.  Early on, I seemed to find some benefit, but as time wore on, the sessions seemed to hurt more and provide less benefit.  The therapist was doing lots of dry needling in scar tissue, and I was finding myself taking pain medication just to get through PT.  In my last session, she hit something with a needle that had me almost jump off the table.  So, we weren't really making much progress, and my primary reason for being there was to fix the muscle imbalance caused by the removal of most of my right psoas major muscle in March.  My sprinting, deadlifts and back squats are all going well right now, and all 3 require hip extension that activates the psoas.  So, I'm going to call it a success and move on.

Another reason that I'm stopping the PT is that I need time for some other medical help.  After 2 cancers for me (3 surgeries, 4 inpatient chemo sessions) and 1 cancer for my wife (2 surgeries, a 3rd unrelated surgery, and a month of radiation), I am a mess at times, at least from an emotional perspective.  I'm mad at times.  I'm sad at times.  I'm dealing with pain on a daily basis that will likely never go away.  The local teaching hospital has therapists within their cancer center.  These are people who only work with cancer patients and their families.  So, after thinking this over for a while, and talking with my wife, we decided it might be a good idea for me to talk to a professional about all of what I've been through, and what may still lie ahead.  Unlike a certain orange presidential candidate, I'm willing to admit that I need help, and I refuse to consider myself weak for needing that help.  So, I'm taking the step.  My first session this week was challenging.  A lot came to head - a lot that I didn't even realize I was simply holding in and holding onto, and just one hour had me feeling better.  I go back next week.

I still have another CT scan before ski season starts, but unless the cancer is back next month, I'm planning to teach skiing all winter this year.  The timing was a bit tough from an equipment perspective, but I took the risk and bought new skis and bindings this week.  The skis I wanted, the Nordica Enforcer 93s, have gotten such great press that I knew if I waited until after my scan, they would be sold out at the professional pricing level.  So, I bought them now.  Even in a worst case scenario, I should be able to sell them unused to a fellow ski instructor here in VT.

Unlike last year at this time, when I was recovering from a big time abdominal surgery, I am in a much better place this year and I was able to take my annual September fly fishing trip.  If anyone cares about that, the link to my fishing blog is in the sidebar.

Work is busy, but our company continues to just hold on.  I'm not a business development person, but the closest we are to a new contract right now is work that I've been doing with a company in Philadelphia.  This all started when they wanted to sell me some development tools, but over time, their company goals changed, and we are really better suited to collaborate on projects.  So, we are trying to introduce each other to our current customers and find ways to work together.  If we don't have a new contract or two pretty soon, it's easy to imagine us not making it more than 6 more months, at best.  Hopefully, it won't come to that, but we will see.

And, training continues to go OK.  I have pretty much officially regained the weight I lost last year while sick, even the part I didn't want to come back.  But, as I mentioned before, my workouts are going well, so I'm OK with things as they are.

I have gotten back to 375 pounds for the deadlift, vs. a best of 440 before I got sick.  My back squat is up to 295 (for a double) and I'm sure I'll do a single at 315 this coming Monday.  My Tuesday night aerobic capacity class is going well, and I'm really enjoying the days we do sprint work rather than baseline cardio work.

If I pull off my goal of 45 miles at the Ghost Train ultra in 2 weeks, this class will have been a major reason why.  My longest training day is only 8.5 miles or so, and I'm planning to walk 45 miles over a 30 hour period.  I even bought new running shoes - Altra Provisions.  I had never used Altra shoes before, but I know they are very popular in the ultra world right now, and so far, I love them.

See - not much of note.  I'm working, working out, fishing, thinking about skiing, dealing with the side effects of cancer, and just trying to get by.  If I was a praying man, I would also be praying that we don't end up with an orange jackass for President, but I'm going to have to trust the voters to do the right thing there.  I have to admit, and this is somewhat maudlin, that I've been wondering if this will be my last time voting for POTUS.  I will be in NYC on election day (second time in a row), so I need to vote early.  We have too many important state and local races to even consider sitting this one out.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


I had my last cancer treatment in early March.  But, it was a surgery called a laparotomy, which entails a large incision in the abdomen and open (non-laparoscopic) surgery.  While still in the hospital, I was already up and walking a lot.  After my discharge from the hospital, I had to stay in NYC for a few days and I walked a lot on those days.

I got home and started walking on the treadmill while my wife did CrossFit.  Within a month of surgery, I added some rowing, and two weeks after that, I slowly started getting back into CrossFit classes.

Even now, due to pain from scar tissue, some movements are still difficult - burpees, box jumps, rope jumping and running, plus kipping on a bar.  But, I'm using some compression clothing to help with this, seeing a physical therapist, and using pain meds as needed to control the pain.

I've now been training, uninterrupted, since late April - almost 5 months.  And things are finally starting to come around.

Last Friday, I finished off a deadlift workout with a single rep of 375.  That's my heaviest deadlift in over 2 years.  My lifetime PR of 440 was done 3 years ago.

Last night, I did a back squat at 295 - my heaviest back squat in 23 months.  I think I might have been capable of doing 305 or 315.  My lifetime PR of 375 was over 3 years ago.

I then ran a mile in 8:39.  Not too fast, but my fastest in years.

I'm finally seeing some real progress and seeing my strength getting close to where it was.

I still have some things to get better at, but I'm encouraged by the progress.

On the downside, I haven't been doing any Olympic lifting.  Well, a little bit, but more for volume than strength.  We normally do Oly lifts on Tuesday, and I've been doing an Aerobic Capacity class that day instead.

Also, we've been doing back squats on Mondays and front squats on Fridays, but I'm opting to deadlift most Fridays.  So, my front squat is lagging my back squat.

And, don't even ask about my bench press or strict press right now.

But, as long as I can train like I'm training now, all of these things will improve.  It feels good to be on this side of the recovery and seeing real improvements from my training.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Too Busy to Post, and That's a Good Thing

I last posted in late May.  I've been swamped since then, but to be honest, it's good stuff.

In May and into early June, I pretty much fished every second I wasn't at the gym or at work.  And, I was at the gym a lot.

We had my daughter's high school graduation in May.  Then, we took off to Lake Tahoe for a week of vacation.  Vacation was spent with friends in a house they had rented at Lake Tahoe.  We got in a couple days of fly fishing, a lot of mini golf, some disc golf, lots of hiking and walking, and a lot of great meals, plus some visits with friends who live in CA.  At the end of the trip, we spent a day in San Francisco and saw a baseball game (the hated Giants won 8-7 over the Phillies, but it was a good game), and then we visited Amoeba Records - a store my son has always wanted to see.

As soon as we got home from CA, my wife and I showered, packed some clothes and headed to New York for my CT scan at Sloan Kettering.  The scan was completely clean - my first clean scan since I first heard the word liposarcoma.

By mid-July, fishing was getting very tough due to a mild drought and very warm summer.  It's been a few weeks now since I have fished, although I'm going to go way north to fix that problem this weekend.

I had a huge project at work.  I had re-negotiated our primary IT contract with the company that provides our servers for us.  This allowed me to consolidate some servers, add some security features, and make our systems more secure at a lower price than we were paying before.  But, it took almost 6 weeks to plan and execute the cut-over to the new hardware and some new software versions.

About the time we finished that project, my wife and I had our 30th wedding anniversary.  We had a really nice lunch in Boston the weekend before our anniversary, and we saw Bryan Ferry while we were there.  The weekend after our anniversary, I cooked a nice dinner with my wife's family, and we opened some nice wines, including two Bordeaux from our wedding year, one of which was the amazing Mouton Rothschild.  That wine is still too young at age 30, so I'm hoping to open our other bottle for our 40th anniversary.  I'm already planning a bottle of 1986 Chateau Margaux for our 50th.

And now, the house is in chaos as my daughter is preparing to head off to Syracuse next week to start her freshman year of college

In the interim, we are just trying to enjoy life.  I have my next CT scan in November, and if that one is clear, I will be clear for all of ski season.  My wife and I are training a lot - in the gym and walking and (some) running on the weekends, plus a little bike riding for me.

So, we are busy doing the things we love, living life, trying not to think about cancer too much, and just appreciating being able to do these things.  Life has been good.

We are still on the waiting list for the Ghost Train ultra in October.  My wife and I have modest goals for that race - 45 miles over 36 hours for me, and probably 30 miles for my wife.  We both intend to walk the entire time.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Long time - no update

I am simply swamped.  I haven't had time to write an update here in weeks.

I'm working out like crazy.  My workouts at the gym are getting better.  My deadlifts, bench presses and squats are all improving rapidly.  I'm still far from my lifetime bests, but I'm back in the 70% range.  Hopefully, this improvement will continue.  I've been at CrossFit 3-4 days per week, walking or running on most days I'm not at CrossFit, and even on my rest days, I'm often spending hours fly fishing.

I'm doing more running and walking than I've done for years.  I am even on the waitlist for an ultra in NH in October.  It's a 36 hour long race, and my goal is modest - 45 miles over the 36 hours.  I simply hope to walk (run a little maybe) 30 miles on the first day, get some food, a shower, and some sleep and then walk 15 more the next morning.

I've been losing sleep to the hockey playoffs, which doesn't help me in terms of time management.  Being a fan of a west coast team who is finally going to the Stanley Cup finals has been draining.  I can't tell you how many games I've managed to miss because I fell asleep on the couch watching them.  If Pittsburgh wins their game 7, I may have a shot to go to a game in Pittsburgh next week.  No matter which team wins, the finals will mostly be in the eastern time zone, so I might be able to stay awake to see a few games.

On the down side, I still seem to be slightly anemic.  I have to get my chemo port flushed next week (they do it every 6-8 weeks to make sure clots aren't developing in the port where it enters your vein.  I'm going to have the lab draw blood for a CBC next week, to see if the anemia has resolved at all.  And, I'm still dealing with pain.  I see the doctor about that tomorrow, but I'm guessing the answer is going to be to "deal with it".  I'm not sure there is a better answer after three major abdominal surgeries in the past 30 months.  I'm guessing there is just going to be pain at times.  Regretfully, every workout, especially running, leaves me in some level of pain.  It hasn't stopped me from working out, but it takes some of the fun out of the training, knowing I'll be hurting after it's over.

Life is also crazy with my daughter.  She is winding down her senior year of high school.  Last night was her final lacrosse game in high school, and the end of her high school athletic career.  She had her best season ever, although the team didn't do great.  They got doubled up by an arch rival last night, which left her pretty unhappy.

Tonight, we get to see her completed senior project.  There are a few awards events to go to.  Graduation is in just over 3 weeks, and she's mostly done with classes and tests, but the events for the seniors are coming in waves.

But, I'm excited for her to get to this point, and I know she's excited about heading off to Syracuse in the fall.

And soon, we get to go on our first family vacation in years.  We'll be off to Lake Tahoe for a week.  I'll get to fish in the Sierra Nevada, we will hike a lot, and I'm guessing there will be plenty of mini golf.  Plus, we will get to see some friends that we haven't seen in years.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

More training stuff

I ended up skipping CrossFit last Monday night.  After being very active all weekend and the week before, I was tired.  I walked for just over an hour while my wife did the CrossFit class.

On Tuesday, I felt a lot better, but for strength work, I opted for the squats I'd missed on Monday instead of Olympic lifting.  I did sets of 2 reps from 95 pounds to 155 pounds, and then singles from 165 to 225.  That last lift was my heaviest back squat since last May and it didn't feel too bad.  I could have gone higher if I hadn't done so many reps by then.  My lifetime max is 375, and I'm guessing I could do 245-255 right now.  After the squats, I did a scaled version of the "Hero WOD" DT:


Five rounds for time of:
155 pound Deadlift, 12 reps
155 pound Hang power clean, 9 reps
155 pound Push jerk, 6 reps

I used only 73 pounds.  My time and barbell weight were nearly identical to the last time I did this workout.

On Wednesday, we started off with push presses and I started at 75 pounds and increased until 120 pounds.  My best here is 188, so I was far from that number.  After that, we did a variety of things - ring rows, dumbbell floor presses, sit-ups, box jump-overs (I did step-overs), and wall balls.

By Thursday, my wife was exhausted, and I'd worked out at some level for 10 straight days, so we took a rest day.

On Friday, we started with deadlifts.  I did 5x5 at 235 pounds - more than I expected I could do.  I'm sure I could pull 315 for a single rep right now, but I was happy with this weight for 5x5.  Then, some superman holds, rope jumping, goblet squats and sit-ups.  The sit-ups were my first since surgery and they were a bit uncomfortable.

On Saturday, I had an early walk to breakfast with my wife and a friend.  Then, a 4 mile walk with the dog later in the day.  And finally, fishing in the evening.  I registered 18,000 steps on my FitBit, but nothing was super-strenuous.

On Sunday, it was raining and chilly, but I really needed to do something.  So, I put on my running shoes and went for a very slow 4 mile run.  It had been close to 2 years since I'd run that far, and I was really slow, but felt OK.  My HR was really high for the slow pace, but I felt pretty good out there.

Yesterday, we did a new class at CrossFit aimed at mobility and aerobic training, rather than the anaerobic work we do so often.  We were supposed to keep our heart rates at or below 180 minus age for a combination of running, agility movements, and walking with kettlebells overhead.  I had to really go slow on the runs to keep my heart rate anywhere close to the goal.  To be honest, the workout wasn't too tough, and I wish I'd had time to do some strength work afterward.  But, with an hour commute home after CrossFit, I simply can't stay in the gym until 8:00 at night.

Tonight, I'll do squats rather than Olympic lifting, just like last Tuesday.

I'm still dealing with some pain and general discomfort from the surgery, but it gets better all the time.  I think I'm at the point where I'm now willing to train at my limits, rather than forcing myself to go easy.  The main problem is that my limits aren't that good right now.  I've got a lot of work to do to get back to where I was 14-18 months ago, before I started to get noticeably sick.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Seven straight training days - and still going

I mentioned last week that I'd done CrossFit on Monday and Tuesday, leaving me really sore.  My wife was sore as well, so we walked Wednesday evening.  That was my second walk for the day.

On Thursday, I returned to CrossFit, although my wife walked again that day.  Her back was a little bit sore from some Oly lifting earlier in the week.  I got to choose my own movements on Thursday, and I did rowing, box step ups, farmers carries and bench presses.

Friday night, we had limited time (dinner with my wife's parents), but we walked for 70 minutes before dinner, in between rainstorms.

My plans for the weekend were a bit ambitious - bike ride, fishing, walking the dog and skiing.  But, I pulled it off.  Saturday morning, we went to Montpelier and I got my mountain bike back from the shop, where it had been getting a tune-up.  I got home and rode for about an hour - nothing too tough.

Later that day, I got out for a couple hours of fishing.  I had a few strikes, but I didn't manage to hook anything.

Sunday morning, we went for a 75 minute walk with our younger dog.  And, about noon, we headed to Sugarbush.  It has been my goal since before my surgery to ski at least one more time this season.  Luckily, despite the crappy snow year, the mountain was still open when I decided (with my doctor's approval) that I could give it a shot.  I told my wife that I wanted to do maybe half a dozen runs - just enough to call it a skiing day, without overdoing it.

We warmed up on Spring Fling, a blue trail.  I felt pretty good there.  Then, we went to Downspout, another blue trail that was in good shape.  From there, we headed to the summit and skied a black diamond run - Organ Grinder - twice.  The top was a bit challenging, but it wasn't too bad.  After the second run down Grinder, we headed for the base and caught a different lift up to Stein's.  Luckily for her, my wife opted for an easier trail down.  It was a good choice because the top of Stein's was big bumps - not very soft - separated by nasty chopped up ice.  We had three of us there - one PSIA level 3 instructor and 2 Level 2 instructors.  I think we have close to 60 years of experience between us, and we needed to rest and regroup a couple times on the way down.  It was challenging, but not really dangerous in any way.

After one more run on Spring Fling, my wife and I called it a day and headed to the boot room to change.  My two friends, meanwhile, decided that the bottom of Stein's was so much fun that they would brave the top again for one final run.

After they were done with that run, we all met for a few beers.  The mountain might still be open next weekend, but I probably won't ski.  I have some plans with friends and I'll probably fish, but my ski season is probably over.  I'm very glad I got that final day in for this year though.

Tonight, it's back to CrossFit.  My goal this week is 4 classes, after 3 last week.  Hopefully, I can do the classes without getting so sore this week.  We start tonight with more front squats and lunges, and those two lifts put the hurt on me last week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Back to CrossFit and Paying the Price

I'm so sore I can barely walk.  No, let's be honest, I can barely move.  But, believe it or not, it's a good thing.  Over the weekend, I was moving a lot.  My daughter and I walked around the Syracuse campus a fair amount on Friday.  She accepted her admission that day, which puts that whole selection process behind us.  I think everyone is glad that it's over.  Anyway, we also spent 5 hours in the car on both Thursday and Friday, which is never a good thing.

On Saturday, I walked 4 miles with my wife and one of our dogs.  The other dog has gotten so old and her hips so weak that she is fine not going on walks these days.  But, the younger dog needs to drop a few pounds, so he gets to go along every time.

Sunday, I fished most of the day, and my FitBit recorded over 10,000 steps, but it wasn't really exercise of any sort.  On Monday though, I returned to doing CrossFit workouts.

I'm scaling the workouts.  A lot.  Even though I went into this latest surgery in better shape than my surgery last September, I've still lost a lot.  After the surgery in September, I resumed CrossFit 7 weeks after surgery.  This time, I started CF only 5.5 weeks after surgery.  It's not a huge difference, and I know I'm in better shape than when I re-started in November, but my strength is poor right now.  I'm also still slightly anemic.  I talked to my doctor about the hemoglobin levels last week, and she wasn't concerned at all.  But, despite very good blood work overall, I'm still not quite right.  And, the pain in my abdomen reminds me that I'm not fully healed.  The "typical" minimum recovery from major abdominal surgery is 6 weeks, so I'm certainly pushing the envelope a bit.

Monday, the workout started with front squats.  Just before I started feeling sick a year ago, I'd set a new front squat PR at 305#.  We had done a focused training cycle on front squats at the gym, and this was a big PR for me.  On Monday, I did 8 sets of 3 reps at 63#.  Yep, that's it.  And, it was plenty.  Then, some lunges with an empty 33# barbell on my back.  After that, I did 30-20-10 of air squats, with a 400 meter run after each set of squats.  It took me just over 10 minutes and I was surprised that running (really a slow jog for now) felt OK.  Not great, but better than expected.

Last night, we started with Olympic lifting.  Again, I kept things light.  I did 10x2 power snatches at 53#.  Then, 10x2 clean and jerks (power clean, push jerk) at 73#.  Both of those numbers are about 40% of my one rep max, but those one rep max values were set in December of 2014, before liposarcoma became part of my life.  After the Oly lifts, I did as many reps as possible in 10 minutes of 10 ball slams and 10 ring rows.  I did 6 rounds plus 11 reps.

Which brings us to today.  As I said, I can barely move.  My wife is sore as well.  I think we will skip CF tonight and just go for a walk.  Tomorrow night, we can choose our own movements at CF, so we will be able to pick things that don't hurt too much.

So, I've been out traveling with my daughter.  Out fishing with a friend.  Going for walks with my wife and dog.  Things are returning to normal in many ways.  I even hope to ski this coming weekend - one last day on the slopes for the season.  But, in the back of my mind, I feel some level of desperation.  I'm going on vacation in mid-June.  The whole family is going to Lake Tahoe for a week right after my daughter's high school graduation.  But, the day after we get back, I'll be going to NYC for my first post-op CT scan.  The odds are good that the scan will be clean, but there are no guarantees.

So, the desperation I feel is the need to get myself back into shape quickly.  If I need more treatment, I want to be strong going in.  If I don't need more treatment, I want to be in good shape to enjoy the summer anyway.  I feel like I've just lost so much fitness in the past year, and even over the last 2.5 years, if I include my prostate cancer surgery.  But, I can only regain strength and fitness at a fixed rate.  I'm old enough that I know I'll get hurt if I push too hard.  I hope I'm experienced enough to not do that.  So, I need to find that fine line, to regain fitness as fast as possible, while not getting hurt.

And, I'd like to go a day now and then without worrying about cancer and the risk for recurrences in the future.  But, I'm guessing that's just not going to happen.  Maybe ever.  But, that doesn't mean it will rule my life.  As long as I'm clear of cancer, I'm going to dictate how I live my life, not the doctors.