What Happened When I Turned 40?

Morning MTB Ride With My Son

Morning MTB Ride With My Son

Turning 40 seemed like no big deal, still have 10 more years to 50 and still have a wife and lot of friends basking in their 30’s. I’m not sure what happened but some hidden switch in my body flipped and things started coming undone when I hit 40, parts suddenly stopped working, the wheels began to wobble and my “check engine” light comes on about once a month. I’m seeing and talking to my doctor more than I talk to my best friends. The latest is I’ve been diagnosed with an inguinal hernia. I’ve been dealing with some sharp abdominal pain on the left side, mainly when running, but it was also painful getting out of bed or trying to do a leg lift. After a couple of weeks it got to the point that I stopped running and went to the doctor. His first thought was a hernia but he couldn’t feel anything substantial so he thought maybe a muscle pull or tear. He ordered an ultrasound. If the ultrasound came back negative that should rule out the hernia. Well the ultrasound revealed a small inguinal hernia where some fat tissue is poking through the abdominal muscle. I stopped running for almost 2 weeks but then he said running probably isn’t causing any additional damage (actually said he was surprised this type and size of the hernia was amounting to so much pain). Next week I am seeing a surgeon and will discuss options. I’ve done some running the past few days and it seems to be feeling better but it’s hard to gauge. When I was 4 years old, I had a groin hernia and had to have it surgically repaired. At 4 years old, staying in the hospital overnight was the ultimate instigator for many weeks of nightmares. The guy in the bed next to mine had his entire head wrapped with white gauze and had only breathing tubes peeking out of two holes where his nose would be. I’m sure he would have rather been in any other place and in a much better situation, but given what it was, he was the perfect stand-in for my version of a mummy. I’m not sure I slept more than a few minutes the first night in the hospital. I’m trying to avoid another hernia surgery.

I’ve been spending more time on the bike the past couple weeks. Last week I think I spent at least 1 hour on the bike for 6 out of the 7 days. Often substituting a 1 hour ride for a 1 hour run. But I miss the simplicity and therapy running provides. And like the hard-headed runner most of us are, I think I can run right through a problem. Hopefully, I’ll get a definitive diagnosis and be back to normal pretty soon. And in the meantime, I’ve enjoyed riding bikes with Dylan and exploring some of the mountain trails in Tahoe with him this past weekend. During the week, if Nicole has a photo shoot in the evening, we’ll ride our bikes downtown. Pretty remarkable to see your own 3 year old son ride his bike more than 3 miles.

This weekend Tahoe Rim 50 Mile race is out of the question. I might be able to drag through it but given my condition right now and lack of almost any good running the past month, it would not be a positive experience for me. I did one of my favorite 11 mile loops in Tahoe on Sunday and then again on Monday. On Monday I felt OK but was still a good 20 seconds slower per mile than my usual time. I’ve come to the realization that I’m trying to run but I’m not running close to my normal range. I’ve reached the point where I’ve taken my hands off the steering wheel and my foot off the gas pedal and will just have to see where the car goes. There’s the good pain you feel, muscles tight, things hurt but you know you are sharpening yourself. And then there’s the bad pain you don’t want to admit you feel, the something-isn’t-right pain. I’m trying to get back to that good pain.

Crossing Alder Creek

Crossing Alder Creek

One of the things I enjoy while on some of my runs is listening to a good audio book. A good book can turn a routine run on the trails into a captivating story where I’m so involved in the book that I might fail to notice 15 minutes just passed. I recently finished listening Chris McCormack’s book “I’m Here To Win: A World Champion’s Advice For Peak Performance” and have to recommend it for my athlete friends. There are a number of nuggets in the book but the insights into Macca’s mind and approach to training and racing are invaluable blocks of data. I’ve often thought how interesting it would be to be inside the mind of one of the top athletes during a race and to hear what they feed their mind. Macca gives us this in his book and takes the reader through his training and inside his thoughts during some of his biggest races.

Again, there are some great lessons in the book, but one that I really enjoyed is having “folders” in your brain that you prepare, or put together, during your training. After a solid training run in some heat, you might store some key pieces of data from the training in your “Running In The Heat” folder so during a race that is hot, you can pull that folder out and recall that you trained exactly for this situation. He really goes into the mind games that he plays, not only with his competition, but also with himself during the darkest moments during a race, the times his body is yelling at him to stop. What’s obvious in the book is that even the top athletes have moments in the race when they want to stop and end the pain, but Macca clearly shows the advantages of staying positive and feeding your mind positive vibes during the race. Instead of fearing those suffering moments, welcome them like an old friend.

Another key piece of advice for endurance racing is that you cannot treat your body like a car in regards to fuel. With a car you can run it almost to empty while racing then fill it back up and the car will perform just fine. A car doesn’t perform at 50% with only 50% of fuel in the tank. But when we let our bodies run almost to empty during a race and then try to fill it back up as the needle starts to reach the E, our performance is going to suffer. We need to try to keep topping off our fuel tank during the race and then as the finish line gets closer, we can slow or stop the fueling process, finishing almost on empty. If you haven’t read it, even if you aren’t a fan of Macca, it’s worth reading.

The other book that I’m actually reading right now, since it is not an audible book, is “Dreaming in Code” by Scott Rosenberg. This is more about the process and madness of developing and delivering software and not a book about coding software. I keep coming across truisms in the book where I find myself saying “Exactly!” I’ve always thought I’ve yet to discover some secret in the software world that other developers have discovered so I could spend more time coding and less time debugging. A part I could easily relate to early in the book is when he talks about a computer pioneer having an epiphany in 1949 (yes in 1949):

In his memoirs, computing pioneer Maurice Wilkes wrote of the moment in 1949 when, hauling punch cards up the stairs to a primitive computer called EDSAC in Cambridge, England, he saw the future: “The realization came over me with full force that a good part of the remainder of my life was going to be spent in finding errors in my own programs.”

I think almost anyone who has written software used by other people can relate to having that realization. Another favorite line in the book which is actually taken from another book “The Mythical Man-Month” by Frederick Brooks:

“The bearing of a child takes nine months,” he wrote, “no matter how many women are assigned.”

Does that sound familiar? Well, Brooks came up with his own law and it should be one that every project manager should remember:

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.

The last thing a developer wants to do is at the 11th hour bring some new resource up to speed and worry about someone else’s code injecting new and unknown bugs into a known commodity. There are so many of these truisms throughout the book, things we know to be true because we have experienced them, yet we keep coding in the hope that we will finally come face-to-face with and fix the sole remaining bug before the final build is packaged, sealed and shipped.

And finally, a quick update on my lost phone. I mentioned in my last post that I had lost my phone, probably dropping it on the side of a mountain in Squaw Valley. Well the next night a little after midnight, I couldn’t sleep and kept berating myself for losing another phone. Suddenly, I shot up and said “Google! Google can tell me where it is!” Of course, why hadn’t I thought about it before? As a user of Google and Google Latitudes, my phone constantly tracks and reports its location. I should be able just to log into my Google Dashboard and see the last place the phone reported its location. And that’s what I did. Presto, there was a complete history of the phone’s whereabouts up until its battery finally gave out. The phone had been sitting at the Western States Finish Line all Saturday afternoon. I emailed the race director and got a reply the next morning that indeed a phone had been turned in. Thank goodness for Big Brother!

Location Latitude's History from Google Dashboard

Location Latitude's History from Google Dashboard

Best of luck to those climbing the mountains at the Tahoe Rim this weekend and those racing through the wine country at the Vineman 70.3. I’m afraid I’ll be taking it easy again this weekend while many friends are out there racing. Remember to keep topping your fuel tank during your race. Like an old friend, embrace the good pain and the suffering.


2 thoughts on “What Happened When I Turned 40?

  1. Good luck with your hernia! I hope that you can avoid surgery! However even if you can’t you’ll get through it and you will be fine. The upside of the injury is riding bike with your three year old! before you know it he’ll be grown and out of the house.

    Great phone story too.

  2. Thanks Tony. Looks like good news on the hernia and I may avoid surgery. Really enjoying the time Dylan and I are able to ride together. Looking forward to some memorable rides in the mountains.

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