Butt-First Runner

It’s Photokina time!

Photokina is a monster photo gear expo that’s held annually in Cologne, Germany.

Naturally, the new-product announcements have evoked a flood of authoritative commentary, mostly by folks who’ve thought real hard about the specs but have never actually had the equipment in their hands.

“I would NEVER buy the Nikon DL 24-500 with that tiny CX sensor!”

Never mind that pros like Craig Litten and Joe Marquez have done marvelous work with Nikon’s little miracle sensor.

And then, on the other hand, we have the working pros who couldn’t care less about the specs, so long as the equipment gets the job done.

Austin professional photographer Kirk Tuck is an excellent case in point. Kirk has done spectacular work shooting small electronic devices and other assignments using the small-sensor Sony RX10 III. Using his “flawed” gear, Kirk makes more money than Jeff Bezos.

In sports as in photography, we often get in trouble when we rely too heavily on the little computer in our heads.

Surprisingly often, there’s a wide disconnect between what’s logical, and what actually works in the real world.

Visit any running forum, and you’ll find “experts” opining on all manner of subjects, from speed training to diet, shoes, fuels, etc., based on vigorous brain-churning and minimal experience. The advice sounds reasonable, but in the hands of the innocent beginner, it can be dangerous.

The more challenging the sport, the less likely your airy speculations will receive an appreciative hearing. On the ultramarathon list, you’d be roundly hooted if you proposed something you hadn’t actually tested in a race. The stakes are simply too high for egghead answers, when you’re 40 miles into a 100K and you need a fast solution.

I just returned from a four-day hospital stay for an infected foot (cellulitis). Logic would have never supported the solution I found for kick-starting the healing.

I described my method in a thank-you note to friends who’d sent me their good wishes.

During my recent illness, I was very conscious of your prayers. Thank you!

Perhaps you’d like to hear how they helped.

On Sunday, around the time service would be ending, at 11:45, I sat on the edge of the bed feeling a bit sandbagged. The docs were uncertain of a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Then I felt a sudden wave of wonderful energy, as if people were holding me in a happy, cheerful light. (In our church, we send healing prayers at the end of Sunday service, typically around 11:45.)

The doctors had recommended “ambulating” for short periods to prevent clotting. So I got up and ventured out for a tour of the hospital.

The foot was painful. I set off at an awkward, shuffling pace. But as it began to loosen, the pain went away and I was able to go faster. I ended up covering about a mile, and at the end I was zipping along.

There was a nurse on the ward who was very nice but kind of serious about everything. To see if I could make her smile, I sped up and covered the last ten yards at a shuffling run, posing like a macho old long-haired marathoner. I felt cheerful, energized and full of mischief.

I had installed a music app on my Samsung tablet. I had loaded about 110 songs into the app, but I didn’t realize it was set to choose a song at random and automatically start playing it whenever the tablet was opened. I lifted the cover and WALK LIKE A MAN! started playing, very loudly!

I just had to laugh. If that wasn’t the spiritual teacher manipulating reality with his boundless sense of humor from behind the scenes, I’ll eat my hat.

The upshot is that the next day the foot showed the first signs of real improvement. Forcing energy into the area with vigorous walking surely didn’t hurt. But it was you-all who got the process started by your kind thoughts and prayers. Thank you.

Years ago, I ran an 8K on a severely sprained ankle – the ankle was still swollen and in a cast. The race was strictly limited to people over 50, and I just didn’t want to miss running among all my fellow gray-hairs.

I started with the 80-year-olds, and as the ankle loosened with exercise I was able to speed up. I ended up finishing at 7:30 pace.

The upshot is that it elicited a tremendous healing response. From that point the ankle swiftly improved. (See Tough Love for Injuries from 2011.)

How can we know when it’s safe to adopt a drastic, out-of-box solution?

As usual here on JA, I’m going to propose that you start by monitoring the calm, dispassionate feelings of your heart.

If you’re injured, and you decide to try an active fix, of course you’ll want to be very, very, very careful. The solution is not to simply go tearing around just because the guy on JA said so. You’ve got to start slowly and constantly check in with how the injured limb is feeling.

If your body is responding with “No, no, no, I don’t wanna go!” you will know what to do – pack it in! But if the ankle is getting nice and loose, and the pain is fading, and there’s an accompanying feeling of subtle rightness and health and joy – then I’d say there’s a decent chance you’re on the right path.

But not always, because where injuries and health are concerned, it’s just simple wisdom to err on the side of caution. Our emotions can fool us – “I want to do this, so it must be right” –especially if we haven’t been training for very long, and we haven’t learned to monitor our body’s subtle signals.

I remember how I “cured” a nagging shoulder bursitis by climbing over a fence and slipping and wrenching the heck out of it. Not that I would recommend it as a universal solution! But I think it suggests a principle: that we can sometimes speed a healing by administering a big jolt of energy.

When I choose my next camera, I won’t be comparing specs. I’ll have a very clear list of my particular needs: the camera must focus quickly, because I often photograph active kids, dancers, and public speakers. It must follow-focus brilliantly, and it must give me outstanding white balance and exposure. Also, the manufacturer’s customer service must not resemble a vast smoking bombshell crater.

In short, there are times when butt-first – going with real-life, hands-on experience, instead of endless  logic-churning – just works best. And those times are surprisingly common.

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