She’s Got a Ticket, I Think She Gonna Use It

Yesterday’s visit to Brian, the Magical Physical Therapist, confirmed what Dr. Cheng already told me: The pain isn’t tied to any new pathology, nor is there any worsening of the old pathology. The disc is thin and damaged, but it is not herniated. The bulges in the discs above it have not ruptured. Pain be what it is, I’ve been cleared to run the half, as long as I go slow and take care of myself. Brian is a believer in ChiRunning and has, in the past, filmed me run laps around the Kaiser building, giving me the same feedback they provide: Lean from the ankles, pick up feet behind you, place feet under you, look forward, be relaxed, swing your elbows, etc etc.

So, I’m gearing myself to at least trying for the Kaiser Half on Sunday. The tricky bit is that I haven’t run for two weeks because of the back. But I know that I can do it; what I lack in speed and conditioning I have in mental grit and experience, and my sense of pacing, developed in marathon swimming, is pretty great. I think I’ll do fine. And if I DNF on account of the back, no shame in that.

In more depressing news, a combination of aches, pains and nausea assailed me at the pool yesterday. I did 1300y before the chlorine fumes were too much for me to take and I had to leave. Here’s hoping today’s workout will be more, ahem, robust. After this half, I’ll start putting together the big training arc for the entire season, taking into account the Tampa relay, Kingdom Swim, Tampa, and (hopefully) Swim the Suck. Gotta wake up obscenely early on Feb 1 to register!

“But you’re so healthy!”

Dana Vollmer competing in the 100 fly at the 2012 Olympics.
Photo courtesy SF Gate.

Tomorrow morning I’m heading out to Kaiser to get checked (and, hopefully, okayed) for my Catalina crossing in August. The medical certificate we are supposed to complete includes a question about “joints and limbs”, with two lines to provide an answer. The channel association allows people with missing limbs cross, but says nothing about folks with shoulder and back issues. I assume I’ll be cleared to swim and all will be well.

While the MRI showed no new pathology and the old hernia is almost healed, I still have to be very cautious about how I sit, move, roll, and pick things up. It’s been fairly frustrating to feel limited and in pain when everyone around me assumes that, because I’m an endurance athlete, I’m “so healthy.” Health, as it turns out, is a multidimensional thing. Some of it is about fitness and endurance, but some of it is about other important components of well-being. Marathon swimming (and, I imagine, marathon everything) is a funny occupation: It’s not what I do for a living, but I end up putting so much time into it that it sometimes feels as if I do. We all spend as much time in the water as professional pool swimmers, and so, it’s been interesting to see how narratives of health and illness play out in their blogs and thoughts.

In that respect, Dana Vollmer’s new blog is really interesting to follow. What I find pretty fabulous about it is that she is willing to ask difficult questions challenging the “health” stereotype and seeking holistic wellbeing for herself, in and out of the pool. Reflecting on her recent shoulder injury and rehab prospects, she asks,

I have to wonder, if I put my body first, training in ways that are healthy and give my body the chance to work like it was designed to work, doesn’t it seem logical that better race performance would follow?

And she follows that with this great bit:

It’s incredible how strong I can feel in the pool but at the same time how weak I can feel in my everyday life. When I thought about putting my body through what I’d done in the past I was ready to walk away from the sport all together. Mentally and physically I couldn’t handle feeling weak and injured while at the same time promoting health and wellness. I am troubled by watching young kids being taught the same techniques in the pool that I feel may have led to my body’s general health deterioration. I am also disturbed watching children piling long duration onto un-natural movements, pounding their bodies in unhealthy ways. I see my own diligence and dedication in these kids, who are simply trying to get faster in the sport of competitive swimming. I have to believe that we can be just as fast, and faster, in the pool without doing long-term damage to joints, skeletal structure, and overall health.

In another post, she talks about the price that excessive training has exacted, and the difficulties in breaking down soft scar tissue that has accumulated over years of injury.

I had the advantage of training in possibly the most health-conscious high performance program in swimming, but I got to the point in my career where the accumulation of injuries and physical breakdown was making swimming a high-risk activity. I was starting to feel like a broken-down NFL veteran, not an athlete from a sport that should, logically, be one of the safest and healthiest on the planet.

I’m with you, Dana. Swimming is low-impact, and as such, much easier on the legs than running; but it involves repetitive shoulder motion that is an invitation for injury. Sure, it feels great to work out, but if it’s difficult to walk and pick stuff up, that’s not a resounding affirmation of swimming’s contribution to quality of life. When my doctor, a spine specialist, said that it would be “good for me” to swim, I’m pretty sure he meant playing in the water for half an hour 3 times a week, not putting in the yardage necessary for a successful channel crossing.

We have to find ways to train smarter, not harder. We’re already doing that more than in previous generations; when I read about Penny Dean’s training regime for her Catalina crossings, they make me cringe. Granted, Penny Dean is an amazing athlete who broke the speed record for the Catalina channel, whereas I am just a lowly fish, slow and groovy; but the journey of suffering, the despondency, the dependence on the coach for pretty much everything, the grueling daily schedule between the pool and the open water (sometimes putting in three or four workouts a day alternating between the two!), is simply not sustainable for a 39-year-old professional, and I doubt it’s sustainable for teenagers as well. Lost of these athletic narratives have the heroes/heroines alternate between triumph and injury, rinse and repeat. I don’t want to arrive at middle age with my health behind me and having collected multiple handicaps and impediments along the way.

Today in Aquatic Park

I had every intention of going to the pool for 3000y or so, but it was a beautiful day and we had a packed afternoon and evening plan. I decided to go to the Bay and see what’s what.

I haven’t swum in the Bay since posting about it a couple of months ago. It would probably have done me good in the Sea of Galilee, but I was lazy and the 80-degree pool was easier. But I suspect that Catalina will require a more methodical approach, so I’m determined to gradually increase my tolerance to cold water. Need to do some reading on acclimation.

Today, for example, the water was 51.9 degrees. “Think 52,” said one of the swimmers, helpfully. I chatted with some kind souls in the locker room, then hopped into the water.

Shite, it was cold. I managed two turns around the buoys, which is 2/3 of a mile, which is pretty much nothing in the grand scheme of things. The tide was ebbing, and so heading out of the club was easier than coming back. My face took its sweet time freezing, which made the first five minutes or so rather unpleasant. Then, things improved and were lots of fun for about 15-20 mins. And then, my hands started clawing.

I’m going to gradually increase distances as much as I can, and I’ll try to make it out there once a week, if only for a short swim. Lots of good people in the sauna and in the little backyard whom I would like to know better. I feel the same way I do every time I join a new outfit that I really like: Still on the outside, looking in, wanting to belong. We’ll see how it goes.

The Path to Speed: Stroke-Specific and Big-Picture Factors

 The video above depicts me swimming the Sea of Galilee at around Hour Six, when I was already fairly tired and cold. Beyond the entertainment value provided by the soundtrack (that’s my dad on the boat, trying to figure out how to shoot his first-ever iPhone video!), it’s a worthwhile artifact. I’m somewhat bummed about my loss of speed and am watching this thing in an effort to figure out what’s wrong with me. As I watch this, and keeping in mind some comments from Total Immersion and MSF friends who saw the video, I am following two trains of thought:

Stroke-Specific Stuff

1. My hand is going in the water flat, rather than through a mail slot, which creates drag and a certain amount of bubbles.

2. That looks like a very wimpy catch. My hip-driven stroke seems to not be there, and since I’m *only* working with my arms, I’m not getting much water or making much progress. And the high (for me) SPL is not doing the shoulder any favors.

3. I am not going to give myself grief for not kicking, or for doing a 2bk which sometimes becomes a rather lame 6bk (oh, looky, I just did.) I wonder: What would my swimming look like if, instead of being rigid about kicking and declare “I don’t kick”, I actually did all the kick sets at masters and improved my kick? If nothing else, it’d be a good workout.

Big Picture Stuff

1. At this point in the swim I’m already fairly cold and demoralized. Maybe my stroke looked better earlier in the day.

2. The cautiousness that follows painful injury, such as the disc and shoulder mishaps, is probably also making my stroke more gingerly, which isn’t doing me a lot of favors.

3. I suspect the gradual weight gain, while not a big deal in the context of distance, is not doing me any favors with the speed. I’m not sure to what extent the extra pounds are isolating me from the cold (there’s new research that suggests that acclimation, rather than weight gain, is the way to go anyway) and I was fairly buoyant before the weight gain. That said, I don’t have it in me, what with book revisions and training and lots of other Grownup Stuff going on, to embark upon a big Let’s Eat Salad operation. That form of self denial no longer appeals to me and I don’t want to spend energy that way. So, I’m here with the body I have, and I suppose the way to change my body composition might pass through a place I intensely dislike: The weight room. (cue music from Psycho.)

4. Which brings me to the next point: Cross training. I need to figure out, ASAP, what sort of cross-training helps my swimming, refreshes my spirit, and is doable. I know running on a permanent basis is probably not brilliant because of the back, but I remember lots of moves from my Pilates instruction days, as well as a ton of great exercises I was taught by the one and only Karsten Gryziec. It might not be a bad idea to actually *do* the exercises, rather than nod when I’m shown how to do them and then promptly forget about them. If you want to win the lottery, in other words, you have to buy a ticket.
5. It’s been a while since I’ve had a knowledgeable coach’s attention face to face, with an underwater camera and time devoted to my technique and tips and all that jazz. I suspect that, by being known around the pool as That Chick Who Swims Really Long Distances, I’m discouraging people from offering advice, because She Just Swam a Whole Sea and Probably Doesn’t Need Advice. The truth of the matter is that I *do* need advice, and am not at all proud about receiving it, so I should go about procuring it!

A new friend very graciously offered to video me underwater so we can see what is really going on, and I plan to take him up on it in a week or so (this week I’m going in for 3k princess workouts right after work, because all evenings are devoted to Noir City.) If any of you gracious readers has some wisdom to offer about this, I’ll be delighted; I really hope to become faster in the off-season, because the faster you are, the less time you spend in cold water. Jayne Williams has a great line in her book Shape Up with the Slow Fat Triathlete: The reason we respect the slowest person and applaud them profusely in an endurance race, is because it’s an *endurance* race, and that’s the person who has endured the most! My speed doesn’t embarrass me–I’m doing fabulous, fun projects in beautiful bodies of water, and in race settings I get a nice applause from everyone who’s already on shore, showered, napped and well-fed–but it’s a wonderful thing to improve continuously, and it’s time to take speed and stroke matters into my hands in a more serious way. Bring on the tempo trainer and the underwater video.

The Way Masters Practice Should Be

I’m so glad I stopped by the pool tonight. Got a pleasant 3200y in, swimming two masters practices back to back.

I often feel intimidated at USF Masters because everyone are such wonderful swimmers; I dread to spoil the quality of their workouts. There’s always at least one lane with slow-enough workouts for me, but folks in the lane are often faster than the allotted times and I hate to keep everyone back. But tonight there were lovely, cheerful folks in the lane, and we all laughed and gave each other stroke tips and talked about racing. I think I talked at least one person to try and swim Alcatraz next season! We swam 14×75, 8×50 kick (much of it fly!), 8×25 IM, and then I swam an extra 500y. Oh, and: Our coach taught us how to do butterfly kicks on our backs. It feels clumsy but fun.

Right after the medium-fast workout, there’s a slow-medium workout run by another coach, and since he knows I usually stay from the previous workout, he usually tailors some yardage for me. I threw in another 12×100 descending. I’m still much slower than I was eight months ago; my best 100 tonight was 1:39 to April’s 1:28. I hope I become faster the more descending sets I do.

Deviance, Social Control, and Swimming: Diana Nyad and the Birth of the MSF Global Rules

 My paper about regulation and social control in the marathon swimming community is progressing apace. My four big insights from the last two days follow Durkheim’s idea of the latent functions of social control, as presented in The Division of Labor in Society and The Rules of Sociological Method, as well as by Martin Killias‘ theories of legitimation crisis and power concentration.

1. The suspected deviance was an opportunity for the community to experience and strengthen solidarity.

I’m in the process of coding the MSF Forum responses to threads on Nyad’s fifth attempt. One thing I’m noticing is the way the threads gradually lose their acerbic tone and become more matter-of-factly, which could be a factor of forum members realizing that the conversation is a watershed moment for the sport (pun not intended). But at least initially, the tone of the threads was jocular and mocking. There are many posts that received a large number of “likes”, and the “likes” were mostly attached to posts disparaging the swim than to posts supporting it, though gradually an opposition to the jocular tone yielded a counterreaction in the form of a “cheering section” item. The message in the disparaging posts is a very strong “she’s not one of us”. Nyad’s past reputation for non-authenticity and unsportsmanlike behavior is repeatedly mentioned, and she is unfavorably compared to other Cuba-to-Florida swimmers like Penny Palfrey and Chloe McCardel, considered well-respected “insiders” in the community. At a later phase, there is a posthumous collective embrace of Walter Poenisch, whose swim was also assisted (fins!), both as a form of highlighting Nyad’s unsportsmanlike behavior and to send the message that the community values tradition, record-keeping, and respect for the achievement of past generations of athletes. There’s also a sense of almost retributory glee: Nyad, who once disparaged and doubted another swimmer, now finds herself disparaged and doubted as well.

2. Social control gained importance and became a priority because of the legitimacy crisis.

One thing I’m finding out reading marathon swimming historiographies and memoirs is that, during the “golden age” of marathoning competitions, between the ’60s and ’70s, there seemed to be a strong prevalent notion of the rules, accompanied by a “no big deal” attitude toward them. Penny Dean, when retelling her Golden Gate swim in 1965, says matter-of-factly that she was cold, touched the boat, and was promptly DQ’d. Her discussion of the rules in her manual is mostly in the competition context (where they arguably matter more) and she basically concludes as follows: (1) There are rules about not kicking and hitting other swimmers. (2) They are not enforced and people do whatever they want. (3) Since there’s no enforcement, you have to learn how to deal with it. (4) Let me teach you some retaliation techniques. That pretty much sums up any discussion of integrity and rule compliance in the sport in her manual.

I’m now parsing through Lynne Cox’s manual, Steven Munatones’ book, and Conrad Wennerberg’s historiography. The latter, interestingly, includes some incredible photographic footage of mythological Middle Eastern distance swimmer Abdul Latif Abou Heif from the 50s and 60s (in Egypt and Syria, these marathon swimmers are national heroes, per the book Zeitoun), showing him coming out of Lake Michigan, supported by family and friends with his legs still in the water. In other words, at that point everyone understands that Heif, otherwise known as the Crocodile of the Nile, has completed his amazing feat, and no one feels the need to be obsessed with the niceties of clearing the water. (Check out the fabulous YouTube video on top for snapshots from Abou Heif’s illustrious and incredible career!)

While English and Catalina Channel regulations always included lots of detail about the swim itself, unregulated channels did not necessitate that until the Diana Nyad issue brought things to a head: Regulation-wise, as Evan Morrison defined it, there was a “loophole”, and media-wise, the chasm between insiders and outsiders in the sport threatened the purism that provides people with integrity and self definition. Which is why the focus on rules now might seem to many to be too punctilious and perhaps unnecessary. The suspected transgression provided the community with a golden opportunity to clarify the rules.

3. Conversations about social control were an opportunity to clarify the norms based on importance.

Another thing I’m noticing in my analysis of forum posts is the gradual shift in conversation topic. Earlier posts tackle, for the most part, the technological innovations involved in the swim and the media coverage. As the swim was progressing, the conversation turned to the more serious issues of authenticity and integrity.

These priorities are reflected in the final regulatory framework. What I see in the MSF rules is the authorization to use a variety of devices, classified based on their contribution/assistance to speed or buoyancy, as long as they are authentically reported. Touching the boat or getting on it is, however, a categorical no-no. So, not only did the suspected deviance draw attention to the need to clarify the rules, it also provided an opportunity to prioritize them.

4. Some of the proposed rules provoked genuine conversations about their justification, arbitrariness, and future usefulness. 

Following the publication of the MSF rules, important conversations started occurring in other threads in the forum. For example, the categorical prohibition of wristwatches did not sit well with many. The ensuing conversation brought up interesting themes: The question of future technologies (will future watches transmit information?), issues of bulk and comfort, issues of arbitrariness (if the people on the boat tell me what time it is, what’s the difference?) and issues of distinction (in what ways does this provide “assistance”?). I don’t know whether the rules will be modified to allow wristwatches, though as I eagerly expect my Bia Sport delivery I obviously have a preference. This conversation could not have taken place without the prompting of the initial suspected deviance.

This, with my Lance/Diana piece from yesterday, is pretty much the gist of the paper. I’ll devote today to do the bulk of the write-up. And, will stop by the pool for about 3500y in the evening!

In some personal news, my MRI results are in. No new pathology; the hernia from 2012 is almost healed. The pain I’m experiencing is a phantom from the disc bulges touching the nerves. The doctor is prescribing painkillers, and I’ve been cleared to go on with my life. I am again planning to run the Kaiser Half, and will walk it if I’m in pain. Also, all my marathon swims for the summer are still on target. Yay!

Diana v. Lance: What Motivates Conformity and Solidarity?

This morning I’m heading to undergo an MRI, so that my spine specialist can figure out how things are going with my disc. The steroids have been helping some, but have not entirely vanquished the pain, and I’m truly afraid to ask the doctor about the Kaiser Half, even though not having trained for a week probably means that, on some level, I know running the event is out of the question. Swimming doesn’t seem to hurt me as long as my wall pushoffs are gentle, and since I’m not training for any flashy pool events anytime soon, that’s cool.

Had an absolutely delightful sit-down with Evan Morrison on Sunday morning, in which we talked plenty about swimming and some about my paper in progress about Diana Nyad. I’m still parsing through forum posts about Nyad’s swim, and our conversation made me think about the inevitable comparison between the Lance Armstrong controversy and the Nyad brouhaha.

Interestingly, Diana actually commented on Lance’s confessions on the Huffington Post, mostly blaming Lance not for the content of his actual deceit but for not living up to the image of a Greek God and bringing his heart with him to the interview with Oprah. One seasoned, media-savvy athlete criticized another. She found his charity anti-cancer work inspiring, but his personal affect cold and his response to having ruined other people’s careers cold and unapologetic.

Diana was to learn a lesson of her own about how to treat others in the sport. In her early years, she disparaged and ridiculed Walter Poenisch, who completed an assisted Cuba-to-Florida swim, and he sued the International Swimming Hall of Fame for defamation. Nyad retracted her disparaging comments in 1983, but a deeper lesson would follow; following the criticism from other marathon swimmers, she reportedly understood how Poenisch must have felt and issued a too-late apology.

The focus on honor, achievement, reputation, and disparagement in marathon swimming is not all that surprising to me. As many, including Evan, have rightfully pointed out, marathon swimming differs from pro cycling in two important ways: The lack of funding and the lack of official governing bodies with quasi-judicial capacity. In the absence of these factors, economic and legal incentives for compliance with the rules of the sport don’t really drive people’s motivation, and other powerful mechanisms need to come into play. Two themes have emerged so far from my analysis: The importance of verifiable evidence and the importance of personal reputation. The former is very interesting. As Evan said on Facebook, the effort is to supplant “haters gonna hate” with “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Marathon swimming isn’t a great spectator sport (though, I have to say, the way the Olympic 10k was set up in 2012 made it more watchable and a very enjoyable experience for my dad and me). Which means that monitoring compliance requires independent observers on the boat. It’s hard to pay attention on the boat, and observers are also saddled with responsibilities for the swimmers’ welfare (as the movie Driven says, they have to balance the swimmer’s life and their dream on their shoulders.) And with no big financial incentives for observation, this becomes very tricky. If observers are paid out of the swim’s sponsorship, that contaminates their judgment. If they pay their own way, it’ll be more difficult to recruit them for remote or lengthy swims.

But it seems that the call for evidence can be mitigated by two factors that seem to loom large in the analysis: The extraordinariness of the claims and the personal reputation of the claimant. I’ve recently had the opportunity to feel for myself how nice it is to be largely regarded as an honest, truthful person, and to be taken at my word about my swim’s compliance with the MSF rules. Of course, I am slow and what I did is far from remarkable; not being an old timer, if I had claimed to swim the distance in, say, five hours, I’m sure people would clamor for documentation. Also, some remarkable people who do remarkable feats are taken at their word because they have a history of honorable behavior and truthfulness. In Diana’s case, the lack of transparency and deceit about aspects of the previous attempts, plus (later) the Poenisch mess, colored people’s impressions of her very negatively and yielded some of the acerbic responses I saw on the forum, especially in the earlier threads.

Which brings me to the last issue. Suppose, in the aftermath of the MSF rule publication, marathon swimming becomes well known and internationally recognized, and suddenly there’s a ton of money in it (wouldn’t that be nice? I love that I’m getting support and some sponsorship from Activyst and from the Zoggs Israel rep–it’s super nice of them and I like bags and goggles–but it’s not like they can finance an entire swim expedition a-la Nyad). Does that mean that honor and shaming will lose their role? I don’t think so. The Lance downfall was full of regulation and money and public interest, and still, themes of reputation, honor, honesty and transparency loomed large in the public discourse about Armstrong’s career. Maybe even in highly regulated sports enterprise, informal social control retains an important role, which is heartening and disheartening at the same time.

More Galilee Notoriety, and a Hat Tip to Bill Welzien – First Solo Crosser of the Sea of Galilee

My swim across the Sea of Galilee, December 2013.

The Daily News of Open Water Swimming graciously covered my December crossing this morning. The story includes some information that was not included in the earlier report by Shvoong, and Steve asked excellent questions. During our email conversation, Steve informed me of something I didn’t know: There was a previous solo crossing of the lake!

Bill Welzien of Key West, who is a pastor and race director for Swim Around Key West, swam a course almost exactly like mine in September of 2009. Here’s his fabulous race report.

I had no idea I had broken Bill’s record (his crossing took 10:25, mine 09:30) and the last thing I want is some sort of Walter Poenisch situation, where someone’s previous achievement is forgotten because of a newer achievement. So, I sent Bill a nice email congratulating him on his swim and offering to compare notes about our experiences.

I want to leave aside the question whether Bill’s reliance on his friend John at the end of the swim to get out of the water is significant. I am a stickler for EC/MSF rules because of respect for the sport’s “tradition” (iffy and arbitrary as it is) and because I want the legitimacy and respect one gets from one’s peers for such enterprises. But I couldn’t care less whether other people swim in wetsuits, getting a helping hand to prevent injury out of the water, with fins, or with a cap that makes them espresso drinks. This is especially true when the only “technical violation” of the rules is getting a helping hand from a friend when you’re essentially done with the swim. Bill swam for the challenge, for spiritual communion (Bill is a Christian pastor, and swimming in the lake where so many of Jesus’ ministries took place was of special resonance for him, as per his race report), and to have fun, and that’s good enough for me to acknowledge and respect his achievement. As far as I’m concerned, Bill’s swim is totally legit and he gets credit for being the first lengthwise crosser (unless there’s someone we don’t know of who preceded him.) I have enough criminal law, criminalization, policing, and social control in my professional life to be obsessed with it in my swimming life!

Bill Welzien’s swim across the Sea of Galilee, Sep. 2009.

So, to talk about the more substantive aspects of the swim: It’s hard to tell where Bill’s swim began and ended, but he seems to have gotten in and out close to the entry and exit points of the Jordan, so his course would’ve been very similar to mine. His pilot reports that he swam 23km, which is slightly more than the straight line. Here’s what I think happened: Bill benefited from much more favorable temperatures (he reports water temp being 83 to my 64), but he suffered from the Sharkiyyeh, the nasty Easterly wind that blows across the lake on summer afternoons. He reports that, toward the end of the swim, the wind was right in his face. That chimes with my experience vacationing on the lake as a kid. This might have led him off the straight course and contributed to his slower swim. In Bill’s place, if I scheduled a Sea of Galilee crossing for September, I’d probably have started it much earlier in the morning, at night or at least before sunrise, or tried to swim the lake in the other direction, South to North, to avoid being caught in the nasty winds in the afternoon.

As I mentioned, unless there are other solo swimmers I’m unaware of, I’m happy to give Bill the “firsts” credit. I still hold, as far as I know, the world record for the course, but there are many excellent swimmers in Israel who, if they decided to go for a solo swim under EC/MSF, could easily break my record. Bon Chance to the next person to try this beautiful course!

Zombie Ailments Return, Part II: The Herniated Disc

It’s been a difficult week, in and out of the pool. A nasty old injury is back to make my life miserable, and I’m trying not to let it take over my life.

On December 2011 I experienced horrific back pain, which made it difficult to walk, sit, and function. It turned out to be a hernia in my L5/S1 disc, and it took four months to more-or-less heal and for the pain to be bearable. The injury slowed me down, resulted in considerable weight gain, and made my miserable and irritable. I could not take painkillers, because they made me less lucid in class, and therefore spend much of my time at the office crying and sobbing from pain. I reviewed my ergonomic situation and got Bambach and Salli stools for my home and office desks. Things gradually improved and I moved on with my life.

As of Saturday, the hernia is back with a vengeance. I’ll be going in for an MRI on Tue, and then we’ll know more, but the spine specialist thinks the jelly part of the disc is pushing on nerves on my left side. The pain is radiating toward my mid-back and toward my butt. It’s very difficult to function, yet again. This time I’m taking a course of Prednisone. I’m also swimming daily 3k workouts, and as long as I don’t push off the wall too harshly or make any jerky moves I don’t feel pain in the water. But, I suspect that my grand plans to run the Kaiser Half on Feb 2 may have been shattered (am still in denial about this.)

Looky! Entry on Openwaterpedia!

More Sea of Galilee publicity! Was contacted today by Steven Munatones and interviewed for the Daily News of Open Water Swimming. I’ll post a link when it’s available. But on top of everything, turns out there’s an entry for me on Openwaterpedia. Good times! I asked and received editorial privileges, so I could edit some information there (I was listed as having completed the Tampa Bay Marathon, which I did not complete because of a shoulder injury. A good social scientist learns not to overclaim!). I really hope to have some achievements to add to this thing in the future!