Friday, May 23, 2008

Longest Way Round

These days at least it seems impossible to go from A to B in a straight line. But this must be for a good reason. I had every intention of spelling out - or, more accurately, counting out - the next mini-scale, or note pattern, which is three, four, five.
What? you say. We've already had three.
Yes, but only as the top note of the first pattern, one, two, three. Now it's task is to be the bottom or first note in three, four, five. But more of that in a moment.
Yesterday morning I walked up to the hospital and got the shock of my life. The nurse was assigned to take my blood pressure and otherwise ask me questions and give me instructions about how to prepare for my hernia operation in June. Somewhere in the past three years of renos to house and yard I popped the stomach wall at the bottom of my tummy. This time on the right side, whereas back in 82, before I took up jogging, I did it on the left, but not on my own property. On that occasion I was on Little Theatre duty, carrying with another actor or the director a heavy little cast iron heater down three flights of stairs. The heater was to be part of the set at "Monkswell Manor", the location for Agatha Christie's "Mousetrap". I was Major Matthews, that is, the Scotland Yard man, in disguise. Ripping good fun, especially as I was directed by a former student, part of my last grade seven class, which I had run through Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar".
There is, by the way, living in Nelson a man whose grandfather built St. Martin's, the theatre where the Mousetrap had its record London run. You see what sort of town this is, and why its detractors wind up looking silly.
The shock came as I read the number on the bottom side of the pair of figures. 107, I think it was. The nurse was as surprised as I was, so after all the paper work, she fired up the apparatus again. Twenty minutes at least had gone by, and this time it read 116. Even more worrisome, and I was told to call my GP for an appointment out of which I would get a prescription for something that would lower the figure. I said I would, and I did, as soon as I got home - it's only a four block ramble from the hospital to our house, and actually the tenants just previous to us were three or four nurses, for reason of the location. My GP's receptionist quite cheerfully told me not to worry, as often a mere visit to the hospital could cause the stress that would drive the figures higher than they would be otherwise. But she did schedule an appointment, for exactly a week hence.
I didn't know anything about hypertension because I've never had to see a doctor about it. So when the nurse told me what to do I also knew I would bring up the subject to MT.
She immediately dove into her extensive library, which pretty well dominates the east wall in her little cell, and came up with "Your Body's Many Cries For Water", by F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., my present choice for the Nobel Prize in Medicine. She found the relevant chapter, 6, said a few pertinent words, and left me to read. She is still rebuilding part of the garden and anyway had already spent quite a lot of time trying to get me to listen up to Dr. B.
I've had the sense of one day sitting down to digest him page by page, simply because of earlier instruction from her, plus some interesting proof of the unique purposes of water I'd realized on my own, but I hadn't yet got around to it. But now the alarming surprise made me utterly co-operative. I read until I not only got to first base, but also knew I was finally in the right ball park. I also immediately drank two full 16-ounce beer jugs full of water. And a little later, a third one.
I had asked the nurse if my weekend assault on the big spruce stump had anything to do with this news on my blood pressure. She said probably not, and for the moment, I accepted her opinion. She was a very nice young lady and in every other respect, competent. She may, in the long run, be right about the stump and my six hours in two days with a 12-pound sledge and some really effective splitting wedges. But I doubt it, although not because she was personally at fault. From how thorough she was I suspect that if she didn't graduate at the top of the class, she was close to it. She simply graduated from the current schooling, which still has much to learn about how the body heals itself if it is only co-operated with intelligently.
But I'll give you the facts, the evidence, the documentation as I understand it.
As I said, I took up jogging in 82, trotted an average of 15 miles a week until 98 - this in addition to two daily walks - and read whatever literature seemed useful. The West Point Fitness book, Sheehan, Spino, Fixx and a woman author very good on jog/walking. Then in 2000, John Douillard and the radical principals of ayurveda. I've even sketched some novel on the basis of some of this last information and of course kept researching myself, with a constant supply of help from the big personal trainer in the sky, although some of it took me a long time to understand.
Is Dr. B the last major expert I have needed to find before any attempt at the 140 miles? My journals tell me I was thinking precisely of this loop in 1983.
You see, after the most recent battle with Bruce the Spruce, in his truncated situation, I kept having a sore lower back from Sunday to Thursday. No amount of pelvic tilt walking took it away, nor my recently discovered ability to cross my right leg over my left when I'm sitting in my chair. I've sat the other way since I was a kid. It's an excellent stretch, the lotus for Westerners, but only if you do it both ways. Doing it one way has left me with a chronic stiff, short, right hamstring plus all the tightness you could ask for in the glutes and any other right side muscles affected by such negligence.
But yesterday at ten a.m. I downed my three jugs, took another litre outside and went back to rendering Bruce. Another three hours, and great progress. MT's brother comes by with his truck tomorrow to take away the very burnable wood so far. I kept knocking back the jugs of Adam's Ale all day, added a pint of Heineken at supper time. (Had to check the spelling, and also to drain the last four ounces out of one of those neat little 5l kegs. Technology, when it's on the right track, is great stuff.)
You see, as we learned from Ayurveda, I am largely a Pitta in my physiology's attitude toward work and sports, but I have a Vata cooling system, which lets me work or run in the heat because I sweat like a racehorse in August at Santa Anita.
When I went back to making running the priority in 2006 I was aware of all this and always drank lots of water when I ran. One of the reasons, of course, why I was so successful in losing weight.
But I don't think I applied this science all that well to the stump operation, so by Thursday, even though I had rested and walked, my lower back was still sore, and my blood pressure was high.
Enter the evidence of the scales.
We bought the battery driven variety months ago, as I knew I would eventually start to write about my fitness results and therefore needed to be accurate. The scale is dead on, to the half-pound, and also has this nice little feature of flashing the lower figure you are aiming at before it settles on the truth. Very encouraging. Three weeks or a month ago it flashed 171, then settled for 171.5.
On this Monday morning past, it registered 173.5 Ouch, but of course I have been well coached on water retention, on how the body automatically stores water at the least sign of stress, an actual injury or otherwise, like running or using a heavy weight for a few hours.
This morning, the day following the three-hour assault and all that water, I weighed myself at the usual time, 5:45, on my way to feed the cat and make the coffee.
Later, as we headed out for a Baker Street breakfast and shopping, I realized that my back had loosened up. I mentioned this to the resident expert. The kidneys, she said instantly, must be finally getting their share of the water supply.
And wouldn't you know it? For an entire week I'd been remembering high school chemistry class, and our rugby coach, Mr Chapman, repeatedly telling us that water was the universal solvent. I've never really understood him until now.

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