Ecstasy wins over agony

OCT. 13, MILE MARKER 5 ON THE OHIO & ERIE CANAL TOWPATH TRAIL — This is about the same spot on the race where it all went horribly for me in October 2015. I had completed the first half of a half-marathon course that day in 56 minutes, and mentally I was running excellently. But I had ignored the signs of sciatica which had given me some mild pain 4-5 times in workouts prior to the race.

john half croppedNo guessing at what happened next. As I did the 180-degree turn in Brecksville, I felt a strong shooting sensation all along the back of my right leg and up into my back. The more I ran, the worse the agony. I slowed down. I walked. I ran again. Nothing changed the intensity of the pain.

Before this, I’d run at least 30 different road races of varying distances. This would be the first time I wouldn’t finish a race. I limped to a first aid station and then watched hundreds of runners continue past my perch on the back of a golf cart. I was out.

FAST FORWARD: A lot happened in the intervening time. My mother-in-law Shirley Johnson, who was living with us, died. My younger sister Denise died of cancer. I gained weight. I stopped taking great care of myself, and soon my GERD disease returned, causing me growing stomach distress. My gastrointestinal specialist, Dr. Natin Davessar, recommended I consider a surgical procedure called Nissen Fundoplication. After consulting with surgeon, I went “under the knife” and had this minimally-invasive surgery in January 2019. It was a success.

After that, it was up to me. Working closely with the terrific staff in Sports & Exercise Studies at Cuyahoga Community College, I resumed workouts with an emphasis on running. I did two 5-K races, including the first-ever Triceratops Run at Tri-C East. Then I shifted to longer runs and training runs. By July, I was averaging more 30-35 miles a week in training. It was hard work. But today I weigh 50 pounds less than I did the day in early January when I checked into Parma Hospital for pre-admission tests.

There aren’t words to describe how outstanding Sports & Exercise Studies was in helping strengthen me. The class I took with personal trainer Gina Matteucci taught me a lot and gave me confidence to keep going over the summer. Professors Holly Clement and Christine Phillips offered counsel and advice. When I had a mild hamstring pull, both provided recommendations which got me back to the training regime safer and sooner. Four days a week, runs of varying lengths (4 to 10 miles) got added to morning prayer, Bible study, and other parts of my daily routine. By late July, I’d decided to try running a half-marathon once again.

I had two local race options: The Akron Marathon/Half Marathon on September 28 or the Towpath on October 13. I opted for the Towpath because I’d run it before and because the gravel and dirt trail would be a little kinder to my knees and feet than the blacktop and hills of Akron.

But of course, best-laid plans go awry. Canalway Partners, organizers of the Towpath Trail race series, moved their event further north — to a part of the trail which is all blacktop. Of course the Towpath has a lot of shade, but that would actually work against runners this time.

RACE DAY — The thermometer on my car kept showing a plunging temperature as I made my way north and west towards Valley View. It was a low as 37 degrees at one point on the journey. I was second-guessing my attire, wishing that perhaps I’d added gloves. Fortunately the temperature improved to 43 degrees at around race time, and then the rising sun warmed the course and the 950 or so runners on it. There were three different distance categories, with the half-marathon being the second longest.

I arrived a little later than I’d wished, and it was a one-mile walk from the parking lot at Cinemark Cinema in Valley View to the starting line. The “ringing cowbell” gun for the start sounded as I was still heading to the starting line, and suddenly I was like a salmon swimming in the opposite direction of all the other fish. I arrived at the start, did a couple of stretches, and galloped off.

bridgeJust before the two-mile mark into the race, runners encounters a pair of pedestrian bridges over busy roadways. The course description says, “These bridges rise to 30 feet above the roadway at each point and include a 7% grade.” Take a look at the photo. It might measure as a 7 percent grade, but it felt much greater, especially on the return.

Fortunately, there were no problems this time. With Kathy’s help, I had successfully carbo loaded the night before. (BTW — The endless pasta bowl at Olive Garden works quite well.) I have a pre-run routine which includes a protein breakfast of omelet with ham and turkey two hours before race time, a cup of coffee an hour before the race, and a lot of stretching and warming up exercises. I maintained a fairly steady 9-minute mile pace for the entire race.

Results? Among the 300 male half-marathon runners, I placed 118 with a time of 1:57:56 (chip). I was sixth in my age/sex class, and — most importantly — finished without any significant aches and pains. All the advice, preparation, and training paid off.

Here’s a link to the Towpath Half results.

20191013_195240There’ll be another half marathon or two in my near future. It’s excellent exercise, and it will help me continue to win the battle against GERD.

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From time to time, I like to share work which my Media Writing or News Writing students do in their class assignments on this blog. HANNAH MAYER is a student in my News Writing class who shows a lot of promise.

It is harder than ever to teach news writing, because so little news writing is present in the media these days. Brief blurbs on social media read on cell phones substitute (poorly) for real news. Hannah did a fairly solid job of writing about the impact of a change in Ohio law this year, and what it might mean at one area high school. Give it a read!

Will Medina Allow Show Choir Become a Gym Credit?

MEDINA — Show Choir is now being recognized as a physical education credit in Ohio. The Ohio General Assembly passed the bill this year, but is leaving it up to each Ohio district to make the final decision.

In order to receive exemption from the required physical education (P.E.) credit, students must perform for two full seasons. Ohio State Representative Tracy Richardson (R-86) sponsored the bill because she believed show choir students showed a large amount of physical activity through their dance and rhythm. Even though the bill became law in Ohio, the final choice is up to each district. The Medina City School District thus far has shown no signs of putting this into place for its students.

Tyler Skidmore, show choir director at Medina High School, said that the addition is beneficial for high schoolers. “I know that show choir can help make getting into shape fun and encourage good fitness and training habits,” Skidmore said. He believes that show choir should count towards P.E. credit if marching band and sports do.

Skidmore adds that Medina show choir students are physically active for about three hours a week. This can dramatically increase during the summer months where students are physically active for up to six hours a day. He’s unaware of why Medina hasn’t allowed this P.E. exemption, but hopes it works out for his students in the 2020-21 academic year.

Medina HS’s show choir, Encore Entertainment Company, is a competitive choir that travels all around Ohio and neighboring states to compete. Encore is an auditioned group that contains about 46 high school students grades 9-12. For many years, Encore members have questioned why their extracurricular didn’t count toward P.E. credit. The passing of this bill has only stirred the conversation and questions within the school’s show choir.

This bill has had some push-back from show choir students themselves, believing participation alone shouldn’t be a blanket rationale for P.E. credit. Julia Scott, a senior at Revere High School and an active show choir member in ETC, is one of those students. Scott is pushing for an evaluation of each choir to be the ultimate deciding factor on whether it should count for credit in Physical Education.

“Different show choirs have different levels of choreography, and thus varying levels of physical activity,” Scott said. She believes that each choir should be evaluated by its competitive ranking or judged for physical activity by a P.E. teacher in order to qualify for high school credit.

Overall, Scott says she supports show choir becoming an exemption for P.E. class for the same reason that Medina HS’s Encore director Skidmore does. If activities such as sports, online gym, and band count, than so should show choir.

According to the website, Ohio has over 200 show choirs. Many schools are already allowing this competitive activity to count toward physical education. There is no clear answer yet on whether Medina Schools will offer it for P.E. credit. Board Vice President Valerie Pavlik did not respond to interview requests for this story.

Hannah Mayer is a Medina resident. She wrote this as part of an assignment for MJS 2010 News Writing at Cuyahoga Community College



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