Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hockey Day in Canada

It must come as a shock to nobody to hear that your friendly neighbourhood contemplatives do not watch a lot of ordinary TV. Our hours with the box primarily consist of mining our great library of BBC productions, dramatic or comic, or the occasional current film or documentary. This at evening recreation, the hour of playfulness sacred to all sensible convents. Live TV provides the odd rerun - Red Green and the Simpsons, for example - and a bit of the news, the complete weather forecast, and sports maybe or not. The contemplative, like the priest as recommended in canon law, must keep his/her mental edge, and there is too much on the tube that is wonderfully dulling to the brain cells. It's a bit of a razor's edge to walk, as the contemplatives exist to pray for stuff, and some of the stuff has to come in through ordinary news channels, the village pump of modern communication. And then there is the old problem of the right inspiration for the current assignments in research or creativity. You simply never know where the light will shine from next, and you have to remember what Saint Thomas teaches very early on in the Summa about the greater the message from on high, the more likely God will hide it in a very humble place. After all, it was no woman related to Augustus Caesar or Herod that gave birth to the God Man, as we celebrate today.
This primarily my rule of thumb. MT's is similar, but different to the degree that her way of keeping in touch with Church news is the sprightly blog, "Whispers in the Loggia" proceeding from Philadelphia and operated solely by one Rocco Palmo, one of the most independent broadcasters in the world, on or off the Net. Shawn, as Toronto the Good will be relieved to hear, regularly browses collected back issues of the Globe and Mail, and passes on to me items she knows I will be interested in.
Thus, in our household, it was quite predictable that I would not know that Ron MacLean was to be a guest on the final show of the CBC's Royal Canadian Air Farce. So it was doubly interesting to have him show up the night of the day that I returned to the walking and jogging concourse in the civic sports complex that Ron helped make known across the country early in 2007, when he hosted Hockey Day in Canada in our brand spanking new arena. Yep. We had the Stanley Cup and everything, on display in Shawn's new museum.
I had been using the cement track for about half-a-year, a runner and researcher coming in out of the cold and wet and snow of a Kootenay winter, still experimenting with full nasal breathing, trying to analyze various twitches in various joints, and slowly but steadily winning the second Battle of the Bulge without giving up his daily pint or two.
But this mixture of success and continuing puzzlement had to surrender to the realization that my music researches needed my first available hours of concentration. I simply was not getting to the secrets I knew had to be in there, via the numbers, but had not yet uncovered. So, concentrate, and let the jockdom look after itself. Thus, for nine months, the fat began a counter attack, and from all that sitting with my legs stretched flat our under the board that held the rubber keyboard, I developed annoying sensations in my hips, not at all helped by sitting, even on a Swiss ball, in front of this thing, and further assisted by couch roosting at film time, even though I spent quite a bit of that evening hour in the Taylor position, or lazy man's lotus.
Then came the realization that I had acquired a hernia from some aspect of the renos, house or yard, the designated surgeon's orders about weight loss, and the high speed walking programme that in normal men's heels gave me the sore feet and ankles I have previously discussed.
In all these months, I avoided the sports complex, and basically only jogged enough, I would say, to find out what I still had to learn. And all the while I had to deal with the little nagging voices that kept telling me that all my frustrations were age related. What could I expect after seventy?
Hah hah hah.
Yesterday I returned to the complex. Ever since she went to the museum, Shawn has found it practical to take her annual holidays at Christmas. Bishop Corriveau has been saying the daily masses this week, giving the cathedral priests a break, so we have been attending and subsequently going for a stroll before returning home. Yesterday we strolled as far as the Greyhound depot in the mall, to pick up the annual Christmas box from Shawn's brother, still active in the transportation business. Visitors to the 2010 Olympics will find him at the helm of one of their Pacific Stages coaches heading from Vancouver to Whistler. Our route home led naturally by the complex. I handed the box to my companions and walked in. My new running shoe design was on my feet, inside my overshoes.
And what a design it is, with possibly one flaw which I can correct the next time I hit the concourse. It is closed today, for the New Year's holiday, and I'm both relieved for the staff and irked, like a kid, that I can't make the correction right away.
My ordinary size in Feiwue's is a 44. But for my new purpose I picked up a pair of 46's. The extra room accomodates the forward half of a simple felt insole and a full length size 10 Soleeze spring-loaded insole ordered from the Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue. The shoe provides a completely flat sole, with no disturbing heel. The Soleeze provides the excellent cushion that the Feiwue was never meant to have. And the felt half sole lifts the front of the Soleeze to compensate for the half-inch heel rise at the back of the Soleeze that my musculo-skeletal system objected to.
One more thing. Under the heel of the Soleeze I have put a little circle of metal to protect the Feiwue fibres from the hard plastic cylinders encasing the springs. At the moment I use the lid from a small canning jar. This is especially necessary when running on concrete.
In this get up yesterday, three very comfortable miles. Each mile in less than twelve minutes and I was able to jog at least two-thirds of the time with the mouth open, generally, for intake. With nasal breathing both in and out, at the start of the season I achieved only 50/50. Furthermore, at the end of my second mile, nicely warmed up, I did one entire lap - one-eighth of a mile - of jogging.
The actual key to this success, this change of attitude about breathing technique, has taken a fair amount of working out, and once again I can only say that I wished Patanjali and the ancient rishis, or even some modern ones, had analyzed the comination of yoga and athletics. Possibly, now that India is finally entering the Olympics, some of their undoubted intelligence will spill over on to the track and elsewhere in the sports field. (The Canucks, meanwhile, have lost yet another goalie to the groin factor.)
Eventually, however, it began to seem quite simple, following my long-awaited clarity over anatomical structure and function. The code, as I see it for the moment, has mostly to do with the proportion of in-breath to out-breath, as it is by retaining the oxygen in the alveoli at the bottom of the lungs, thus giving sufficient time for carbon dioxide to come into existence and do its work, that the desirable balance is struck. For me at least, on the flat it seems to be fundamentally a two-to-one ratio, which in my case translates into three steps to a breath in and six steps to a breath out, both running and walking. On a climb, this two-to-one drops to something like two in and four out.
And depending on a variety of factors, especially weather, I don't really think it's essential whether the breath is coming or going through the nose or through the mouth, so long as the in-breathing to out-breathing ratio is maintained, and oxygen deprivation is avoided.
There is probably a lot more to be said on this issue, but this is probably enough for now, and a lot of the most significant conclusions won't be available until I've got some longer, faster, runs under my belt down at the complex Ron has already made famous. And I suspect that the Air Farce should keep that Chicken Cannon he was brought in to fire in working order. I still suspect that 09 could be a brutal year for certain invested interests.

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