Sunday, October 30, 2011

Karate and Falling

I earned the first stripe on my yellow belt a couple weeks ago.  I've been working pretty hard toward it.  The belt progression is even my exponential and nonlinear than I expected.  I can't imagine all I'll need to do and know to get to my orange belt.

But I digress.  One of my biggest fears is falling.  From any height.  I despise the feeling of free-falling, either from tripping, or from jumping off the Screamer at Hume Lake.  We had to practice falling in kenpo class several weeks back.  The idea is that if ever in a fight, we very likely may fall and need to be prepared for it so that it doesn't shock us to where we stop defending ourselves.  A key point of it is kee-aye'ing (sp?) as we make contact with the ground, forcefully exhaling all our air so it doesn't get knocked out of us and leave us dazed.  The exercises were very low-level falls, like from a crouching position almost jumping backward onto our backs.  It was still a pretty tough one for me.

But last Thursday we were doing a circle-attack exercise, where we'd one-at-a-time enter a circle of everyone else in the class and have to defend against any attack a class member would throw, emphasizing both control and speedy reaction time.  When our sensei went into the circle, I grabbed him in a bear hug, the technique he'd just taught me on Tuesday.  Obviously, he had no trouble throwing me to the ground.  He even complimented me later on my kee-aye as I landed.  Granted, it wasn't intentional like it should have been.  But I didn't have the panicky feeling that normally comes from falling.  That was a pretty cool revelation.  Progress.

More Running

I can't believe where God has brought me.  I remember being so determined to run the Fresno marathon this year.  I wanted to PR (set a personal record), shaving 15 minutes off of last year's time since I hadn't trained enough last year.

Then I tried running sprints on cement.  Four half-mile sprints.  It was an awesome workout, except for the after-math of injuring my right heel.  I was worried I sprained my Achilles tendon.  I was frustrated not being able to run anymore.  Not just frustrated, but scared.

Then my doctor told me I was good to start running again, slowly, and on dirt only to start.  I got excited about the possibility of the marathon again.  It was aggressive; too aggressive.  For whatever reason, my left ankle has now started swelling at the beginning of most of my training runs.  I massage it out and then it's usually fine.

So I'm running the half-marathon, which pridefully felt like such a wimpy effort to not do at least the full marathon (there was an ultra-marathon which was five miles longer).  I honestly considered not racing at all.  It was pride.  The only thing that could really lift that was the prospect of something being free.  I ran a 10K at the beginning of October in downtown Fresno, and there was a deal of getting two free items of past years' race gear (hats, tech shirts, etc.) if you signed up at this event.  So I got two more racing caps, which are usually $15-$25 I think.  It also helped to see that this year's color for the tech shirts is green, which is my favorite color.  It's the little things in life.

So the race still kind of snuck up on me.  I did 6 miles last weekend, somehow thinking I still had another month before the race.  Nope, two weeks as my friend Stephanie reminded/shocked me that Saturday evening.  So I pulled on my running shoes the next morning and did another four.  Then another four Monday night.  And Wednesday morning another four.  That still didn't condition me to jump to ten yesterday, but I did it.  I wasn't sore afterward, but I could tell my whole body just wanted to go on strike for what I was doing to it.  But now I think I'm almost ready for the half next Sunday.  I'm excited!!!!!

And the doctor confirmed it wasn't my Achilles tendon at all, but the misalignment of one of the bones in my heel.  Continued chiropractic adjustments should continue to take care of it.  He encouraged me to use this race to springboard to a marathon in a couple months.  Now I just have to find a good one.


So I flew an airplane!

I bought a Groupon several months back.  It offered a 3-hour instruction class and a one-hour discovery flight.  I decided to stretch myself.

I finally used it a couple weeks ago.  Our instructor's name was Ryan, and the class was at a private charter service near the airport.  The class was really eye-opening as to the challenges that pilots and airports face, and will give me a much more understanding spirit with delays, etc. in the future.  There were about 15 people in the class that Friday evening (one female, the rest male).  We went over the structure of a plane, the pre-flight inspections, and walked around the plane parking area.  They had four smaller planes (Cessna 172's and 182's, the type we'd be flying) as well as a Gulfstream, which I was familiar with because of reading John Grisham's The King of Torts.

Ryan mentioned planes being a great tax shelter somehow.  I'm curious about this.  Apparently why so many wealthy people purchase planes is because of the tax advantages.  Their accountants talk them into it.  I'm skeptical, but thought it was interesting that my career tied into his.  Not that I'm in any position to invest in a plane.

Another cool thing I learned about planes is that they aren't considered to age like cars do.  One wouldn't go buy a car made in the 60's and expect it to be reliable regular transportation.  Planes can't have the mechanical and electrical glitches that cars do because of the safety concerns (to those in the plane and those on the ground below).  So rigorous maintenance is undergone before each take-off.  So a plane is always considered mechanically brand-new.  A pilot wouldn't treat flying or buying a plane built in the 90's any different from one in the 60's.  Which brings up another point, airplane engines haven't substantially changed since WWII.  Car engines keep getting redesigned to improve horsepower and performance.  With an airplane engine, you just want consistent output of power (different from speed), no revving the engine, so they're designed with some deliberate inefficiencies.  It's a sacrifice of overall performance efficiency for consistently keeping the plane in the air.  It's now two weeks after the fact that I'm finally typing all this up, so I hope I'm getting the details right.

At the end of class, we signed up in pairs for one-hour flight slots on Saturday.  I picked the 3 p.m. slot with a guy named Doug.  The way it would work is that we'd both be in the plane for the hour and would switch of flying and being in the backseat halfway through.  We'd each have two take-offs and two landings, with the assistance of an instructor.  The flight pattern was a rectangle along the left airstrip at the Fresno airport.

I showed up and met Chris, our flight instructor, as well as Doug's wife and daughter.  I exchanged info with Doug's wife Kathy and she graciously agreed to send me pictures of our afternoon.  I went first, and Chris taxied us onto the runway and did all the communicating with the Control Tower.  He managed the speed, and we managed the lift-off, turning, elevation control and landing.  I didn't know until getting going that he'd be managing the speed, and that was a a relief not to have to try to get that right along with taking off or landing the plane.

The experience was exhilarating.  I thought I'd be terrified, both when I was doing it, and when Doug was in front.  But each time, I was just absolutely enjoying myself.

When we landed, I asked out of curiosity the approximate cost of getting a pilot's license.  I know it wouldn't be economical $-wise to fly back-and-forth to Orange County, but I would love not to have to spend 8+ hours driving each round-trip.  $6K for all the gas, plane rental time, and other costs just to get my license.  Okay, that goes on the list of "WAY out in left field" dreams.

But the experience was still a blast and absolutely worth it.