The Cursed Shield of Moral Hazard (-3 AC)

“Moral hazard. Is that the phrase I’m looking for?”

The clickity-clackiting of Iris’ keyboard stops briefly. “Depends. What’s the context?” she asks with a sense of dread. She knows me well.

“Right. Here it is: the moral hazard of wearing shoes when mowing the lawn…”

“Josh.”

“… is that since we feel safer, we’ll be less cautious.”

“You’re not going to mow the lawn without shoes, are you?”

“If we’re less cautious, we’re actually less safe wearing shoes, especially considering how little protection shoes offer in a spinning-blade-of-death-gone-wrong scenario.”

“Josh.”

“I mean, really, defending the protectiveness of shoes is kind of like defending the protectiveness of the armor worn by She-Ra.”

“I really don’t want you mowing the lawn barefoot.”

“Or Red Sonja. So the only reason to wear shoes when mowing the lawn is that in the event something awful happens the awfulness won’t be blamed on bare feet. That’s not reason enough for me. In fact, I think I’m going to strive for a life free of moral hazard. If that’s the phrase I’m looking for. Is it?”

“Sigh. Yes.”

(Regular readers may remember that mowing the lawn is not generally my duty in this household, that the wife is the one who gets to play with heavy machinery while I toil away in the kitchen. Ever since she broke her finger in that fistfight with a chipmunk, opportunities for me to contribute to the family have increased.)

“Really? I just assumed I was wrong.”

“You are wrong – about thinking I’m going to let you mow barefoot. Would you at least wear sandals? That would make me feel safer.”

“EXACTLY! You’d feel like shoes would make me safer without them actually being safer. Shoes are like a Cursed Shield of Moral Hazard (-3 AC). We’d be better off without shoes if being barefoot puts us in a more fearful, ergo cautious, forthwith reality-based frame of mind.”

“Forthwith? Seriously?”

“Off to the shed I go, with sober mind and foot. I shall be a candle in this demon haunted world.”

“I hope you’re going to credit Carl Sagan for that line.”

“What do you mean?”

“This whole conversation has a very bloggy feel to it. You’ve got that glaze over your eyes that you get when you’re writing a post in your head instead of listening to me.”

“Of course I’m listening to you. Hey, will you take a picture of my grass-stained feet for the blog?”

Hat-tip to Bob Neinast.

The Opposite of GOOD

“You know what’s the opposite of GOOD?” asked Kelly in the darkness, around mile 82 of the Umstead 100. I was busy tangling myself up in the headlamp. It was originally strapped over my hat, but the brim cast a shadow. It wasn’t a big deal, but I wanted things to be better for the runner who had the fortune of having me as her pacer. So I tried and failed to turn my cap backwards while keeping the light attached and pointing onward; off of my head, light pointing every which way but the direction we were going, I had instead plunged us into the pitch.

“Um, well, BAD, I guess. Or EVIL,” I answered, blinding myself in my struggle with both the light and the effort of trying to come up with a clever answer. The most impressive thing about Kelly is not her athleticism, which is certainly impressive, but her unbreakable focus and clarity. Sharp as a tack the entire 100. My brain was already fizzling.

“Nope. It’s a saying in medical school. The opposite of GOOD is BETTER.”

“Huh?” I finally got the hat turned around, but the lamp pressed the hat strap into my forehead uncomfortably. I took off the entire contraption and started over, this time blinding Kelly. “Hey, did I tell you the joke about the Bell Ringer?”

Since she goes to medical school, she has to deal with incoherent patients all the time. They have classes on the subject, from what I understand. Once the light was affixed back to the GOOD position, we continued on the journey. BETTER had stopped our forward progress. GOOD lit the way perfectly fine. GOOD is to BETTER what GO is to STOP. Opposites.

I like that lesson, and I’m not sure my corny jokes were an even trade. In how many other aspects of our lives has BETTER been the opposite of GOOD?

This is how supplements, shoes, stretches, exercises, power bracelets, ointments, tonics, and the like are sold. I’m not saying none of these things have any uses (well, except for power bracelets. C’mon, people, use your heads!). I just wonder if by trying to eat and exercise and run and recover and heal BETTER, we’re doing the opposite of GOOD. Take my Achilles, for instance.

I could do stretches, but I know a reputable doctor who insists they only aggravate Achilles damage. Still others would say not if you do the right stretches. I could apply KT tape, but the evidence for that is entirely anecdotal. I could get massage, but again I have doubts. Those are all things that supposedly are BETTER than GOOD. What’s GOOD? Look for the common denominator. For injuries, that’s rest. So I will rest.

My diet is the same: the common denominator of pretty much every diet plan is don’t stuff yourself, don’t starve yourself, and eat your veggies.

My training is the same: the common denominator of pretty much every training plan is run a bunch, sometimes fast, recover (I’m still working on the portions of each, obviously).

I’m not going to futz because it’s like a pimple. Or a scab, or a mosquito bite. We futz with those things because of a strong impulse to make it BETTER, only to make it INFECTED. The grim reality of it all is that most of the time, the best thing to do is tough it out and be patient.

Now, I’m not all Mr. Killjoy Sciencepants with everything. I maintain beliefs for which there’s no evidence. Like, for instance, that your average prehistory man would thrash us moderns in pretty much every athletic event. Why? Because he wasn’t bogged down by BETTER. He didn’t have optimal training and nutrition. He just lived a life where he was under a lot of pressure just to be GOOD enough to survive. He ran when he had to and when it was fun to. Maybe instead of trying to mimic their eating and exercising habits (our knowledge of which is incomplete at best), we should mimic their simplicity and stop futzing. If you feel good, run. If you hurt, rest.

Forget BETTER, just try to be GOOD. Then you’ll get better.

Thanks, Kelly.

I Hear You Loud and Clear, Achilles

In the last few slow runs I have experienced something odd. Odd, as in pain in the achilles/ankle/calf. The right one. After about a mile, WHACK! Shooting pain that makes me limp to a walk. “That’s odd,” I would think. The pain would go away in a few steps, then I’d finish my run feeling fine. I don’t feel pain any other time. Odd.

It’s not inflamed, it’s not sore to the touch or pinch. My movement isn’t restricted. In fact, running fast is pain free. Just running slow, after about a mile, then it goes away. Don’t you think that’s odd?

I twisted my right ankle a bunch this year so far, what with all the trail running. I also experimented a bit with my form, not letting my heels touch the ground. That went from feeling interesting to painful really fast. More recently I had been thinking about the possibility of heel-landing gently, and tried it for a few steps. Let’s just say I’ve lost interest on testing the issue.

On top of all the miles I’ve been putting in, I just finished my ten fitness sessions with Thad. Most of it was core stuff, but there was a good amount of leg work. Nothing hurt, but what I’m thinking my achilles is telling me is that I need a break. Or as Jeff of Logic of Long Distance puts it, I need to take my foot off the accelerator so I can shift gears. Do read the link if you care about things like being a good runner, etc. In fact, most of his writing should be of interest to such hobbyists.

This means no Owl’s Roost Rumble, but I’ll be there to volunteer. Sunny is not happy about missing her morning runs, which by the way might also have contributed to the ankle/tendon/calf experience what with all the leash-yanking towards stray cats, but she’ll have to cope.

I can’t afford to deal with an injury of the achilles magnitude, which is not to suggest that could I afford it I would be happy as punch to give the ol’ achilles rupture a whirl, so I’m going to play it very safe and take at least two weeks off. I feel fine now aside from a little stiffness in both my ankles, which means I’m probably going to feel fine in a week when I’ll be craving a run. This is going to be an interesting test of willpower. Fun!

I’d love to know what that pain is, though. Probably a hodgepodge of a bunch of things, like early tendonosis, a dash of unhealed minor ankle sprain (self-diagnosed in hindsight), and a heaping teaspoon of inadequate recovery for a man my age. If it’s nothing, the two weeks off won’t do any harm other than missing out on some good running weather. If it’s a pre or minor injury, then the two weeks in running exile will be just what’s needed. If it’s a serious injury, well, we’ll find out in two weeks, won’t we?

What’s that you say about seeing a doctor? Ha ha ha ha ha, you’re funny. I’m not going to a doctor until I can order what I want from a menu with prices.

The extra time should result in more blog posts. Clear your schedules accordingly.