Saturday, June 17, 2017


RICE is an approach that one can use to relieve pain, reduce swelling when an injury to muscles, knees, ankles etc, to minimize the impact of the injury, promote healing. It stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation, see information on WebMD for detailed discussion.

Last Sunday, I felt my right calf being pulled as I was slow down to conclude my 5 mile run. No real pain just calf tightness. So I did not pay too much attention to it.

I was OK on Monday. I did feel that the tightness in my right calf. One more night sleep, the tightness in the injured calf was almost gone. I had my usual after-lunch jogging - no pain. Another night rest, I did not feel the tightness on my right calf, and I decided to continue my routine runs - instead of 5 mile run, I ran 5K, and ran much slower that usual. At the end of the run I felt right calf tightness again - but I could walk home without much discomfort.

When I stepped out of my car that morning at the parking lot at work, after about 30 minute drive, I really felt discomfort and tightness in my right calf as my weight shifted from left foot to right. I limped to my office!

My colleagues notice my limping, and they introduced me to R.I.C.E.

Upon reading, it is obvious that my symptom is really mild: no pain, no obvious swelling  - so I do not need ice, I do apply compression or massage the right calf - which reduce the tightness there, I elevate my right leg a bit.

The most important part of RICE for me is REST, preventing stretching the muscle again before it fully heals. I learned the lesson the hard way - I restarted my running too soon, and my symptom worsened.

The recommended rest period for a mild calf strain (pulled calf) is 2 ~ 3 weeks. The real criterion to return to exercise is pain free, discomfort free with the the injured calf. The return to full strength schedule should be gradual  - a calf workout may help, which include foot pump, seated calf raises and standing calf raise.  Any exercise that cause pain should be stopped immediately.

 After learning my lesson, I decided not to run,  not to walk for extended time or distance, for a week or two. Instead I started cycling. In fact I biked with Lily in about 1 hour for 16 km this morning - since cycling barely uses calf - I experienced no calf tightness, discomfort.

Consistent running provides tremendous  benefits, but got to RICE when any injuries occur.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Benefits of Regular Running

I have been in near perfect health conditions for quite sometime, slim/perfect BMI, energetic. One blemish was low HDL (high density lipoprotein) Cholesterol, a.k.a. the good cholesterol,  due to lack of high intensity exercise.

Since started full time job, I sit in front a computer almost all day long daily and quickly my HDL became low. Despite years regular exercise - primarily walking/jogging, my HDL number did not improve because my exercise intensity was not high enough. My doctor suggested me to take medicine to increase my HDL cholesterol. I did not take the suggestion because I knew I could improve my HDL without medicine, and that the medicine has side effect on liver. My HDL turned to normal during the years when I was the coach to Nicholas' youth soccer team - running and playing soccer with kids weekly.  Unfortunately my HDL quickly went back to below normal after I stopped soccer coaching. 

I started running twice a week last October, one during the weekday, one on weekend.

I run when it was really cold - I just put on gloves, hat and heavier sports wear.

I run when it is hot - get up a bit earlier and try to stay in the shade.

I reschedule my run time when it rains, but I run twice a week.

Started recently,  I run when I go on business trip - bring my running shoes and sports wear.
I run when we are on vacation.

There has been no exception unless I am sick.

Running once or twice is easy, running regularly is hard to most people. How to keep running - start slow with easy to reach goal such as running one mile once a week, when comfortable gradually raise the bar; find incentives other than exercise, such as fresh air, beautiful sunrise or sunset ...set a long term goal - mine initially was 5K run, and now it changes to 5 mile run at Colony green dragon 5 miler in October. My 5 mile run will help me to climb Mt Whitney later this year as well!!

In addition to better health, stronger legs, higher energy, two recent events demonstrated the significant benefits of the regular running  - 1) I had no obvious sour muscles after my first full day hiking for 16 miles on Cross Timber Hiking Trail, 2500 ft elevation change; 2) My HDL cholesterol is tested to rise from below minimum requirement to substantially above it. My doctor was amazed and I am very pleased!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Cross Timber Hiking Trail

It rained yesterday and foretasted to be Sunny on Memorial day, so Yong and I decided to go to Cross Timber Hiking Trail by Lake Texoma for a long distance hiking on Memorial day, in preparation for climbing Mt Whitney. The trail is mostly shaded by trees but it is a hilly trail - per North Texas standard. We hiked 16 miles with total of 2500 ft elevation gain. The hiking poles are extremely helpful for hiking on this hilly trail - I could not imagine what could happen today without it.

trail head

portion of the trail is densely bushed 
I learnt quit a few things from  hiking of such a long distance in one stretch of time for the first time.

We were incredulous when Yong told me  the day before that the average speed to hike this trail is 2.5 miles/hour. Come on! We can walk 3 miles/hour in casual walking, I thought. But we completed the 16 mile hilly trail in 8 hours including breaks with our best efforts, almost exactly what he told me. The lesson learnt is that we should not extrapolate a conclusion when conditions are different.

Each of us brought 2 bottles of water and 2 bottles of Gatorade for this 8 hour hike. We barely had enough - we both finished our bottles shortly before we got back to the car. We should have brought more water.

Since the trail has dense bushes, we wore long pants, applied plenty of bug spray in addition to Sunscreen. Despite walking into Spider webs twice on the hiking trail, we got no bug bites on the whole trail.

A cove of Lake Texoma 
Cross Timber trail has beautiful scenes along the shoreline of Lake Texoma but it could become boring since it kind of repeats itself many times - same tress, same bugs, similar coves, and similar bird chirping .....after a few turns we felt we just passed a similar place a few minutes ago.

To me there were many variations - I heard the chirping of cardinals, mocking birds and heard the pecking sound from woodpeckers a couple times among other chirping I am not familiar with, I whistled with them!  The changing clouds and rock formation along the shoreline changed the seemingly same shoreline views; paying a little bit attention to the surroundings - I saw a well camouflaged dragon fly on a dead tree branch, tried to got a closer view of a camouflaged lizard on my camera, I saw different colors of flowers and I saw butterflies.

More fundamentally hiking in the wild for me is to exercise for a better body, to breath fresh air, and to forget about daily life and to have a total mental relaxation of mind. It is like a sign along the trail states - A Stairway to heaven  .... for both body and soul.

Our trail

Texas Sky

A well camouflaged dragon fly
A lizard

A stairway to heaven

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Spring with Many Firsts

It has been a beautiful Spring in North Texas - the trees budded earlier, and landscape is greener than usual due to the alternating rain and shine. It is also a special Spring for me because it is a Spring with many firsts!

In February Lily and I went to our first political rally due to curiosity and I came out moved. We had our first yard sign to support a candidate for an election, and we had our first precinct walk together, and I walked precinct two more times. I  talked  a few voters into having our candidate's sign placed in their yards. Engaging is so much different from mere participating - we learned a lot about political process, appreciate the difficulty of running for an office.

precinct walk
Despite years working in oil/gas industry, an opportunity came for the first time for me to work on a rig this Spring. I was curious and excited at the same time. My team members took quite a few pictures of me working on a task as souvenir. In addition to curiosity and excitement, I appreciated the danger and risk associated with working on a rig.

a test Rig
I reviewed many papers for national/international technical journals, and listened to many PhD thesis seminars, I was invited to server as a member on PhD exam committee for the first time this spring. Though I was not particularly excited because it was no difference from review a peer's paper submitted to journals, I treated just like any other technical seminars, asking questions; what is different this time was that I also probed the candidate's understanding, and contribution.

A university campus
We become a member of Dallas Arboretum for the first time after so many years living in DFW. We used to think that becoming a member or buying a pass was not economical because we typically could not use up the embedded value. We changed our mind set now, we treat it as enjoying the membership while supporting the organization or cause.

Dallas Arboretum
When traveling, we usually eat the food we are familiar with, American, Italian, Mexican or Chinese. When we went to Austin for the Easter weekend, we ate Peruvian food for the first time just for the sake of trying something new and different!

A Peruvian Resturant 

To keep my weekly running routine started last October going, I brought running shoes and sports wears with me on my most recently business trip to Chicago. I jogged twice and ran once  ( a total of ~ 14 miles) - first time I intentionally exercised on a business trip.

Lake Front trail at Chicago Downtown

 A first can come with procession of time, it may come with opportunity, it can come with curiosity, change of mindset ...... there are many many more firsts to come ....

Explore nature, society, human nature  ..... it is exciting, thrilling .... and fun!!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Lake Front at Chicago Downtown

I went to Chicago for a conference this week. The first thing I did after I checked in at Hyatt at McCormick Place on Sunday was to walk to the shoreline of lake Michigan. 

It was a cool Sunny afternoon, and I followed the trail map from the hotel to walk toward the lake front, and was pleasantly surprised to walk by the soldier field stadium (Chicago Bears' home). Despite steady cool breeze, the water in the first marina I passed by was as flat as a mirror - reflecting the blue sky and white yachts. Walking around the Marina I walked toward Adler Planetarium to view the silhouette of the Chicago skyline from this small peninsula.

A Marina
A paved trail
Chicago Skyline in the afternoon
Lake Michigan
The next morning I woke up around 6:30am and decided to run for 5K  and cool down in my usual pace. I brought everything needed for a morning run, running shoes, shorts, T shirt, sunscreen and baseball cap! Getting out of the hotel, I ran north through an area of apartment buildings, turn right through an underpass to cross highways and then an zig-zag overpass to cross rail ways, trying to follow the lake front trail earlier than previous day, I made a wrong turn before reaching 2 km distance, and quickly realized it since the soldier field - my reference point, was in the wrong direction. Corrected course, I turned around when I reach 3km. Instead of a silhouette, the downtown high rises were in the bright morning Sun.

I encountered runners or bikers every 1 ~2  minutes on the  lakefront trail - not too many and not too few. The portion of the trail from hotel to Planetarium is mostly tree lined for a pleasant 5K run and I walked 1 km additional back to hotel. After showering and breakfast, I still had plenty time before the conference kick-off at 9am.

My running trail
Chicago Skyscrapers in the morning Sun
The conference ended at 2:45pm on its last day. I had a short nap and decided to have a 10K walk to the navy pier directly, bypassing the Alder Planetarium.

It was a good extension of my previous trail: different views, close up of high rises, there are steel art work, and concrete art work along the way, and a big fountain in the park surrounded by the high rises. There were a lot more locals and tourists along the lakefront, on the lawn, on the pedestrian walk way, and bike way between the aquarium and navy piers.The long walk produces a new tourist attraction - touring lake front on Segway. In the end I walked 7 miles, i.e. 11+km for the round trip.

The Lake Front at Chicago Downtown is a perfect place for hiking, running or just wandering.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Colorado Bend State Park

Colorado Bend State Park is about 100 miles northwest to Austin, and is known for its trails along creeks, canyons and Colorado river. Hiking, paddling and camping are the main activities. Caverns are another attraction, which we did not explore this time.

The campsites are primitive, no electricity, so the nights are dark, stars are bright. There is no cell signal. All these made us closer to the nature and wilderness.

We went there on April 16 with six other families for a one-night camping trip. Since we were in Austin the previous night, we got to the park relatively early in the morning and hiked more trails than the rest of the group. We hiked on Gorman Falls trail first in the morning by ourselves and before the rest of the group arrived, and then we hiked the Spice Wood Canyon trail and Spice Wood Spring trail - they together formed a loop,  in the afternoon. The next morning I ran along the river trail for 5 miles before everyone got up! Before we left the park, we hiked on overlook trail to have a look from 200 ft above the Colorado river to take in the whole Colorado bend.

Gorman Falls

The most popular trail at the park is Gorman Falls. trail, which is a 1,3 mile one way trail mostly flat, but rocky. There are typical Texas Hill country small tress, bushes and wild flowers along the way. The last 100 ft or so of the trail is very steep before reaching the fall viewing area. The trail end is densely wooded and water pours from top of the canyon at the fall, and rains down from near by areas constantly.

Spice Wood Canyon + Spice Wood Spring Trails

The trails at the park are typically one way trails. Studying the trail map, I picked this combination trail to form a loop. The trail head is at the south end of the camping/picnic area. We took the Spice Wood Canyon trail first and then turn to Spice wood spring trail near the 1 mile marker. The total length of the loop trail is about 3.7 miles.

The Spice Wood Canyon trail is on top of the Canyon and mostly wooded. The overlooks along the trail provided great views of Canyon and the creek at the bottom, which provides beautiful scenes and  much needed breaks from the more or less monotone trail.

It all changed when we turned onto the Spice wood spring trail. The trail cross back and forth from one side of the Spice Wood Spring to the other side. The scene along the trail changes constantly as well, from peacefully running creek, to water falls, to emerald green ponds. We tip toed on rocks to cross the creek so many time, in one stretch we decided to take off our hiking boots and waded in the creek, and a few boys in the group tried to catch transparent fishes in the creek. We stopped a lot to take in the surroundings through our eyes and ears, and through our cameras.

Overlook trail

We hiked on the Overlook trail on the way leaving the park. The first portion of the Overlook trail overlaps with the Gorman Falls trails, they divert from each other at about 0.5 mile marker. The trail is about 1.25 miles long one way, and the end of the trail is the Rusty;s Roost View Deck, 200 ft about Colorado river. We had a commanding view of the whole Colorado rive at the bend -looking east  - the Gorman Fall was clearly in sight among the dense green.

West portion of the Colorado Bend

The easy portion of the bend, the white ribbon in the green is the Gorman Fall

Colorado River

The bank of the Colorado river changes dramatically from section to the other. It has hundred foot high cliffs on both side of the river at one stretch, and flat land all the way to the edge of the water. There are camp sites in the latter stretch. There is a pretty flat River trail along the river from the campsite to the Gorman Fall - which can be a 10k round trip for a good morning run! I turned around on my morning run at the park due to time constraint, I ran 8K (5 miles) that morning.

A deer was altered as I ran by

Note: It was a wonderful trip and all of us thoroughly enjoyed the Spice Wood Canyon+ Spice Wood Spring trail. The only regret was that we did not paddle on the Colorado river due to weather (first day) and time constraint (2nd day).