11.3 Miles to Alviso and Back

Back when I was first starting on my weight loss regimen, Lucie and I bought bicycles with our tax return, so I could get some low-impact exercise.  This was back when I was having trouble walking for any long amount of time, so going to the Campbell Community Center track was (back then, at least) out of the question, so we figured getting out and riding bikes would be a good start.

As it turns out, the only bike that would take my weight was a cruiser-style bike, with the old-style coaster (I.e., back-pedal activated) brakes.  I hadn't used that style of bicycle brakes since I was in grade school, and while the saying that you can't forget how to ride a bike might be true, the same doesn't go for stopping e bike once you're moving.  After a couple of embarrassing events where I cruised well past my intended stopping point -- including at Vasona Park where I tried to prop myself on a concrete curb, and ended up missing the curb, falling over, and spraining my wrist trying to break my fall -- I sort of put the bike away on our balcony and concentrated on walking.

Since the completion of the Guadalupe River Trail through downtown San Jose, winding along the Guadalupe River all the way up into Alviso, earlier this year -- the trail itself has been around for a long time, but was just recently paved its entire length -- we've been thinking about riding it.  But, not on that bike; because it doesn't like me.  Much like Hawai'i, I believe the bike kind of wants to kill me.

We end up using the last of our tax return money to buy a replacement bike, a 21-speed hybrid bike with a more upright sitting position so it's easier on my back.  It's more comfortable, faster, and a LOT lighter than my cruiser, though it doesn't have the spiffy flame paint job.  Ah well; can't have everything.  It has the hand brakes I'm used to, so I'm able to stop where I want to, which is probably better than aesthetics anyway.

We put the bikes on the back of Meg and drive up to my work.  It's located right next to an entrance onto the Guadalupe Trail, it has secure parking, and we can take city streets there, so no worries about bikes flying off the back of our car at freeway speeds.

The trail itself is beautiful... Raised above the Guadalupe River, fully paved and 6 feet wide, underpasses at all of the major streets; it really is a joy to ride.  The pollen can get a little brutal since you're out in the middle of nature, and if its a windy day you can struggle to move more than a few feet per minute; but you can see ducks and Canada geese in the river, and lush foliage, and the new Niners stadium being built near the Great America theme park... and if you follow the trail all the way up into Alviso, you end up not two blocks away from Maria Elena's Restaurant, home of some of the tastiest guacamole we've had in a long time.  Stopping there and enjoying a light lunch on the patio (where you can keep an eye on your bicycles) is a very pleasant way to rest up before the ride back.

We had ridden this trail a few times before, but had never gotten all the way to the end -- we were just starting out and hadnt built up the stamina yet; this was the first time we'd managed to make it all the way, and so we treated ourselves to a light lunch (plus the guacamole) before heading back home.  All in all, the round trip was a little over 11 and a quarter miles, which surprised us a bit... it didn't seem like that far, but just a nice leisurely ride alongside a calm riverbed where geese were swimming, trees (and clouds of pollen) swayed in the breeze, birds flew overhead and squirrels scampered below, and we had a nice big trophy waiting for us halfway through, in the form of some tasty, tasty guacamole.

Mmmm, guacamole.


3.2 Miles on a Sunday in Santa Clara

So 2 years ago, I couldn't walk around the block without having to stop at least 3 or 4 times to rest because of back and knee pain, and because I was so incredibly out of shape. ITBS on my left leg, plantar fasciitis in my right foot, bone-on-bone arthritis in both knees, transitional joint at my L5 vertebra, and of course morbid obesity. Increasing pain caused me to exercise less, which increased my weight gain, which in turn added to my pain. Pretty bad cycle, that.

I've been working on it for a while now, and have made some good progress. My back and knees are giving me a lot fewer problems lately, so much that I was able to stop taking one of my pain meds; I've been working with our personal trainer (along with Lucie) and have greatly increased my stamina; I've dropped a lot of weight and am walking much faster than I used to... I've still got a ways to go, to be sure, but I've made some good progress.

Last year, I not only managed to walk 2 miles at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure walk in Fresno, but the following weekend Lucie and I walked the 5K walk at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event in San Jose. It was done at a very easy pace, from the Shark Tank to San Jose State University and back, with many stops along the way for traffic lights; it took almost three hours to complete, and by the end of the walk I was limping because I'd cracked one of my toenails... but I was able to complete it. It was kind of a little thing, but it made me happy.

Since then, Lucie has really been working on her walking / jogging (she calls it "wogging") duration. She completed a Couch to 5K training app on her iPhone, and is currently working on a 5K to 10K variant. I'm very proud of her.

My knees, however, won't allow me to jog, so when we go to the Campbell Community Center I have to walk while Lucie gets her wog on. I do have fun walking while listening to my "Zombies, Run!" app, but I need to have the zombie chase option disabled because I can't run for any extended amount of time. In a real zombie apocalypse, I'd be undead chow in no time.

And I *can* walk for long distances, but just not very quickly. Or I can walk relatively quickly, but not for long distances -- I've gotten blisters on the bottoms of my feet on more than one occasion trying to do so.

But I'm working on it.

I made a personal promise after the Boston Marathon bombing attack that I would start participating in as many 5K events as I could. We signed up for the Guadalupe River Run last month, but were unable to participate (though I did get my racing bib.)

And this past weekend, Lucie and I took part in the Mission City 5K, at the California's Great America theme park. It started in the park itself, meandered through the various sections of the park, then outside the park and around the perimeter of the parking lot, then back inside the park to the finish line. Lucie could have wogged it and finished the route much more quickly than she did, but she slowed her pace greatly and walked it with me, and we finished the 3.2-mile course in just under an hour. My right foot is hurting a little bit today, but no blisters to speak of and my knee seemed to handle it okay.

Because it was presented as a "family fun run", all participants in the race received completion medals for either the 1-mile distance or the full 5K. Lucie and I received the medals as well.

And it's kind of funny... these are the same sort of things that 6-year old children get when they play in soccer tournaments, where everyone gets "Participant" trophies. From a competitive point of view, these things are pretty much meaningless, and I can see that.

But speaking as someone who in 24 months has gone from practically couchridden to being able to walk at a brisk pace for over three miles; who still has a cane behind the driver's seat of his car because he's scared that his left knee or his right foot or his back or any number of other physical deficiencies might crop up again; who has lost 100 pounds and three shirt sizes and who is still trying desperately to lose more; who has just completed his first 5K since Boston and who is trying to do his very small, insignificant-to-practically-everyone-but-himself part to show solidarity with the runners and residents of Boston and that they have the support and admiration of the common man; and who is trying like hell to live a longer and healthier life with his wife and family whom he loves... this medal means a whole hell of a lot.

And I'm pretty damn proud of it.