Cross country skiing

So three winters ago, I decided to see if I could possibly get back into cross country skiing without buggering my knees up too much. For most of that first winter, I skied at Cumming Nature Center, which is about the nearest place that had rental equipment. I had just come off a really great year of kayak racing, except for the hip pain that was making it increasingly untenable to keep paddling, and I pretty much did no paddling after August except for the Long Lake and Seneca Monster races.

So I was still pretty fit when I took up skiing, and I really enjoyed skiing around Cumming which had a great network of trails and a variety of conditions. Also their rental equipment was pretty great. The only drawback was the driving distance. I usually arrived at Cumming just as the sitting pain was becoming unbearable. On the way home I’d have to stop at least once and walk around and stretch a bit to alleviate the hip pain.

After four or five times renting, I decided to buy some equipment, a mixture of stuff bought on-line and my friend Dan’s old skis. Dan introduced me to something called “Start Tape”, that was like a 1-wax system that you applied like a tape to the wax zone of your skis. I don’t know if it’s because the wax pockets are so much better engineered that when i was skiing in the 70s and 80s or just that my expectations were lower, but I’ve continued to use the Start Tape.

Buying also meant I could ski closer to home at Durand-Eastman park, which had a mixture of groomed trails and skied in trails, and wasn’t a bad place to ski as long as the weather held. I still went back to Cumming and a few times to Bristol when snow was scarce on the ground because Bristol makes snow. It’s only a 1km or so loop, but it’s consistent snow when everybody else is ice and puddles. And when the snow is good, they have an additional loop that’s about 1.8km.

Only drawback of Bristol is that most of their customer base appears to be skate skiers, so they’re not very consistent about putting in grooves. Due to the knee problems that caused me to quit skiing the first time in the 1980s, I don’t do skate skiing any more, and I really want those grooves.

By the end of that first winter, I was tolerating the length of the drive better, and I was skiing as much as 9 or 10 kilometers at a time. A far cry from when I was training for the Canadian Ski Marathon and loppers, but I sure remembered why back when I was doing everything (skiing, orienteering, backpacking, canoeing, etc), cross country skiing was my favourite. If you don’t believe me, look at my domain name, xcski.com.

Second winter came along, and this time I did almost no paddling during the summer because of the hip pain problems. And it turned out to be a complete wipe-out for snow – the only place I skied was at Bristol, around and around that 1km loop. I think I made it up to 7 or 8 kilometers at a time. The driving wasn’t bothering me as much, and I’d often go 3 times a week. Still felt great to ski. I often felt like I was slower than the slowest skate skier, but faster than the fastest other classic skier. I took my drone a few times to get footage of myself skiing using “Follow Me” mode which was pretty cool.

It’s now the third winter. I did get out a very few times in the kayak this summer, but only for an hour or so each time. But the fitness is way, way worse this year. Most of the skiing has been at Bristol, because we haven’t had much good snow. Cumming hasn’t opened for more than a day here or there, but not fully groomed, and I managed Durand once before it all melted away. And I’m slow, just horribly horribly slow. I get one decent loop which takes about 1.5 times as long as it took me two years ago, and then the rest of it is ski for a bit, catch my breath for a bit. I’m up to 3 loops and a bit of this out and back trail called Halle-Bopp. Maybe 4 kilometers total. It’s sad. But if the winter lasts a bit longer, maybe I can add another loop or two by the end.

Except I’ve got a problem. I feel like I shouldn’t even write about this in public, because people are going to tell me to stop skiing. The problem is that my knees are acting up. My right knee especially. For a day or so after I ski, I get a terrible stabbing pain when walking up and down stairs, and sometimes even when walking on the flat. I’ve been grinning and bearing it mostly because I don’t want to give up skiing, but I’m extremely concerned.

More ranting about pain, I’m afraid

So to follow on from The current state of pain, here’s where I stand now. I’ve been paddling for about an hour every 2nd or 3rd day. I’m not very fast, and the thermarest pad I’m using to protect my hip/butt makes me very unstable. I tried biking a few times and after the first one I felt great but after the second my butt was killing me for several days afterwards, so I probably won’t be doing that again. Too bad, because Towpath Bike finally got my gear indexing set up perfectly – it’s smoother shifting that when it was brand new.

Knees

Not much change here. I think I’m getting the “stabbing pain” more frequently, especially after paddling.

Ischial Tuberoscopy Area (aka “Butt pain”)

It got good enough that I was actually able to stand a trip up to Canada, by sitting in the passenger seat with the “sciatica pain” cushion and the seat reclined a lot to keep the weight off my butt. Unfortunately I tried cycling twice and now it feels pretty much the worst it’s ever been. Hopefully it will abate over the next few weeks again.

It’s very hard to remain upbeat about this pain. It’s still restricting my activities and enjoyment of life, and OTC Aleve and Tylenol aren’t really doing much. If I forget to take it for a couple of days, I notice the pain has gone from merely nearly unbearable to completely unbearable.

I really like my new primary care physician, but she seems to have seized upon the last conclusion from the doctor who did the pain stimulator implant test who suggested I should try the Mayo Clinic or the Cleveland Clinic. That seems like a real expensive roll of the dice. I’d have to spend some unknown amount of time away from home, and I don’t know how much or how little insurance would cover.

Tooth/Jaw Pain and Headaches

The tooth/jaw pain I reported last time has been pretty much cleared up. The dentist decided the antibiotic he was giving me wasn’t working, so he switched to something stronger. Almost immediately I got a big swelling on my jaw below a tooth two down from the one he’d started the root canal on. I got that tooth removed a day or two later. After the infection died down and I got the stitches out, the root canal was finished and in a few months they’ll implant a socket where the tooth was removed so I can get a replacement.

Meanwhile, in a quest to see why I’m having all these headaches, I got an MRI of my head which showed a very bright thing in one of my sinuses. It looked scary, but when I eventually got an appointment with an ENT he said it was just a mucosal accumulation cyst, and it was nothing to worry about. About 30-40% of people have one of these and most never know it.

But long before I got to see the ENT, the headaches went away on their own. It seemed to coincide with the progress of the antibiotics. They tell me it’s very rare for infection in the lower jaw to cause headaches, but it sure seems like it did.

Diabetes?

While I was dealing with all these other things, I got a blood test that showed that my A1C had gone from 5.7 last year to 10.7 this year. I’d had this year’s blood test done at a local blood lab that I’d only just discovered was near me and I was finding it hard to believe my A1C had gone so completely to hell in just a year, so I asked for a second test which I had done at the same lab I used last year. This time it was 11.1. That’s full blown diabetes. My doctor put me on insulin – at first slow acting stuff before bed, and later I was also put on fast acting stuff before each meal. What a pain.

When I got my gall bladder out they warned me that it might take a while for my digestion to accommodate the lack of a gall bladder. I wonder if that’s what caused the diabetes? I hope so, because it means it might go away again.

Also, I started noticing that I was rubbing my feet against each other, and it seemed like I was doing it because my feet were always freezing cold and the skin on my feet are always tingling. My doctor did some simple tests and says it’s not due to lack of circulation or lack of nerve sensitivity so it’s probably not due to the diabetes. But it’s still annoying.

So this is happening

I’m slowly ramping up to start a drone business. I have the website https://RochDrone.com/ with copious design help from Bob Raymonda, I have business cards (also designed by Bob), I’ve just filed a DBA, and I’m about to start advertising.

My business card

Funny aside here: Notice that the URL is https rather than http. I’ve got several websites hosted on my server, and I’ve been resisting for years getting certificates for them all and redirecting from http to https. I figured it would be a full weekend type job. But what I discovered once I decided that it was a major requirement if I’m going to run a business website on my server was that basically I had to install a script and run it, answering a couple of questions mostly with defaults it provided, and I was done in 20 minutes. And 10 of that was thinking it wasn’t working because I accidentally forwarded the wrong port on my router.

The goal of the business was originally was to get my neighbors to pay me to get a look up on their roofs to see if their gutters are full of leaves or they have a shingle lifting or an obvious leaking spot at a chimney or a vent pipe. I mean, I would have paid for that when I had contractors telling me my gutters were full and I should pay them hundreds of dollars to clean them. But when I talk to other people, they don’t seem all that enthused. Well, maybe when they see the ad they’ll come around.

Alternatively, there’s a lot of real estate listings that would be improved by some nice drone shots. Or maybe contractors who’d like a look at a roof before they start estimating. Or home owners who’d like before and after shots of what the contractor has done. Or maybe weddings or graduating classes who’d like a cool video group picture. Or (and this one I didn’t think of, but I got approached by two rappers) an overhead shot in a music video.

I never thought this would become a full time job. What I’m hoping for is for it to grow to the point where I’ve got one or two shoots a week. But first, I’ve got to drive traffic to my website. Having a link here on my blog couldn’t hurt.

I’m trying to decide if I want my drone stuff to move to a separate YouTube channel. I worry that going forward it’s probably going to be the only content on my channel and I don’t want to make a new channel and starve my existing one.

The current state of pain

Let’s see where I currently stand.

Knee Pain

I’ve had knee pain since I was approximately 14 years old. It’s mostly a diffuse unlocalized pain that is usually moderate but sometimes gets worse. But the worst is this stabbing pain that feels like somebody going jabbing an ice pick under my knee caps. That doesn’t happen too often, thank goodness,

Back then, the usual doctor’s approach was “Take these anti-inflammatories and stay off it for a few months”, which I would do and then restart doing stuff and then it would flare up again. Sometimes they’d tell me to do some stretches and exercises to build up my quads. Never did much except make them hurt more. Over 40+ years I tried everything from physio to having an arthroscope shoved in there to acupuncture, and no physical cause or any form of relief was ever found. But in 40+ years, I’ve also made peace with the limitations it’s placed on me. Gave up running, orienteering, backpacking, canoe tripping, walking too far, and also got more aware of doing things that could hurt them, like sitting with my knees bent.

Unfortunately in the mid to late 80s cross country ski racing was really becoming heavily biased towards skate-skiing, which was just terrible for my knees. I recently restarted skiing with several self-constraints: no skating, no skiing without groomed tracks, no racing, no more than 3 or 4 times a week. (I did 3 days in a row once and got stabbing pains in my knees afterwards.)

Ischial Tuberoscopy Area

This pain (aka “Butt pain”) came on about 2.5 years ago, and steadily got worse all through the 2021 kayak season. By April or May I was stopping in the middle of training paddles to stretch and rest my butt. By June, I was stopping frequently in the middle of races to lift my butt out of the seat. By the last race of the season, I got out of the boat and realized I would never paddle again that season. A month later I was on a long car ride (not driving) and it was so painful I was holding back the tears by the end of it. The pain was a major reason for retiring from work at the end of 2021.

This pain feels like it’s right on the “sit bones”. One of the many doctors or physical therapists I’ve seen in the last year and a bit explained just how complicated that area of your body is – as well as the sit bone (aka ischial tuberoscopy), there are bursae there, your sciatic nerve comes through and several muscles including the performis and quadrilateral femorus attach to your hip right there. It’s a very small area, near the surface and the pain level is directly related to how many hours and how hard it’s being pressed. Unfortunately because of all the things I’ve had to give up because of my knees, this pain has forced me to give up just about everything I planned to do in my retirement, like kayaking, cycling, traveling, visiting family, sitting at a computer, etc.

I’ve spent so much time in the last year seeing doctors and physical therapists and trying all kinds of diagnostic and therapeutic measures. Pretty much the last kick at the can was a spinal cord stimulator trial, but that failed. Nobody will give me any pain meds other than OTC Aleve and Tylenol, which do almost nothing (not nothing, just almost nothing). I’m kind of despairing right now.

Other Hip Pain

I haven’t actually been feeling for a while but I sometimes get an intense stabbing pain in one hip joint or the other. I started walking the dogs twice a day instead of once because walks seemed to help.

Tooth/Jaw Pain

Back in October or November, I had two fillings put in by a new (to me) dentist. He warned me that I had a filling there that was almost too large and I’d probably need a crown there sooner or later. One of those new fillings was painful right from the start – I hoping it would just sort itself out and it kind of did. The pain diminished but then recently got worse. The first thing they did was to correct my bite by reshaping the top of the filling, and that helped for a week or two, but then it got really, really painful on a Friday afternoon. So I suffered through a weekend and when I got back to the dentist he scheduled and then did a root canal (on the same day my stimulator trial was declared a failure, so it was a really great day, let me tell you.) It’s been getting better every day as the antibiotics take hold. But I’m also now painfully aware that I grind my teeth at night and clench them during the day if I’m not thinking about them. The dentist said they’re checking with the insurance company as to whether I’m eligible for a night guard.

Headaches

I get headaches nearly every day, and they often last all day. Sometimes I think they’re eye strain, but sometimes they wake me up in the middle of the night and then they’ll wreck my sleep and be with me half the day. I think at least the middle of the night ones are probably related to the teeth grinding. The day time ones might be as well or they might be eye strain. I’m thinking I might have to see my optometrist again to check my prescription.

Ear ache

I’m not sure why “headache” is one word but “ear ache” is two, but that’s the way it looks right to me.

I’ve fairly recently had a sort of hotness and ache in my left ear. That’s the same side as my painful tooth (and infection) so it might be related. It’s only a small inconvenience so I wouldn’t mention it except for the possible connection to the tooth.

Gross as this might sound, I produce a lot of ear wax. I had to buy a second set of AirPods because the first set got clogged with wax and I kind of broke something trying to clean the screens. Back when I worked at the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (the only place I ever worked that was so big and old-fashioned that they had a company nurse and doctor) the company doctor syringed out my ears once (after I got a complete blockage) and after 3 days of fruitless syringing suddenly this chunk of wax about the size of two joints of my pinky splashed down in one of those weird banana shaped basins doctors like. These days I use a paper clip that I’ve twisted to put a loop in the end to scoop out wax. I’m sure a doctor would scream if I showed them what I’m going but I’ve been doing it for years.

Restless Leg Syndrome?

If you’d asked me five years ago about Restless Leg Syndrome, I’d say it was a made up thing to sell drugs. But sometime over the last few years I’ve found myself with my legs twitching without any reason. If I feel it coming and concentrate on it really hard, I can stop it, but only for as long as I concentrate. As soon as I go back to reading or whatever, it starts up. Slightly annoying.

To sum up

I don’t where I’m going forward from here. My therapist thinks the knee and butt pain are related to past trauma, which is why they’re not responding to treatments. But I’m not seeing any pain relief in therapy either. I keep asking him when I can expect any sort of change, and he just says it’ll happen when it happens.

But while I wait, I keep hoping for physical medicine to prevail. But I don’t see what I can do on that front. I’m also going to start pursuing “alternative medicine” for pain relief.

Nearly lost my drone today

So I went skiing at Bristol today. I brought my drone alone just in case it wasn’t too crowded. However I made several mistakes:

  • I didn’t bring my reading glasses, which makes it hard to see what’s on the controller screen
  • I didn’t preload a map of the place on the controller
  • I didn’t recharge the batteries even though it’s been long enough that (I now know) the batteries purposely discharge to 60% or so
  • I didn’t realize that the wind was very strong above the treetops, and do something about the battery low or loss of signal RTH (Return to Home) function to do something other than rise up to 300 feet and get blown away
  • I didn’t set the home point somewhere where there were no trees overhead

So anyway, it was doing a fantastic job following me. I kept glancing back because the Mini 3 Pro is so quiet you can’t hear it unless there’s no other sound around. Even people who skied past me didn’t seem to realize there was a drone behind me. (Obviously I had it flying high enough that it wouldn’t hit anybody) But with about 300 meters left on the course I suddenly realized it wasn’t following me. I couldn’t read the messages on the screen, but I suspected it had done an RTH.

I quickly continued on to the home point, and it wasn’t there. I was looking up and I couldn’t see it or hear it, although if it was still up at 300 feet I probably couldn’t do either. Eventually I realized that the video was just pure white and it had a message about the motor stopping, so I realized it was probably crashed in the snow, but it might have been in a tree top.

I took off my skis and hiked a direct line through the woods between the home point and where I’d last seen it, scanning the snow and tree tops all the way. Then I hiked back to the home point along the trail, still examining the tree tops and snow to either side of the trail.

Around this time I remembered that the controller had a “Find My Drone” function, which I quickly activated while the controller continued to tell me how close the drone’s battery was to dying. Unfortunately, I hadn’t looked at the manual for this, and I wasn’t sure what I was seeing on the map. Again, I forgot to preload the map so all I had was a triangle and a dot with a line between them. I started to ski backwards around the trail, and the line seemed to be getting shorter, so I thought the dot was me. Eventually, however, I realized there was a third dot, and the reason the line was getting shorter was the third dot represented me (or rather the controller) and the map was zooming out to show that third dot as it moved further away from the other two dots.

Applying my masterful powers of deduction, realized the triangle and dot with a line between them probably represented the drone and the home point. I quickly returned to the home point, and that told me that the dot was the home point. Using my amazing orienteering skills, I headed in the direction of the triangle, and found my drone sitting in the snow beside one of the downhill trails. Phew. Can’t wait to see if the video looks any good. I’d love to do this at Cummings Nature Center if they ever get any snow.

Update: It turns out that because I didn’t have my reading glasses and couldn’t see the screen, I didn’t actually record any video during the important part. I got some video of my trying to get my drone set up to follow me, some still pics, and then nothing until a weird little bit of video evidently recorded during the RTH where I have about a second of a view over the valley taken from very high up, and then everything gets very over exposed and you can’t make out anything.