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January, 2018:

Can’t Watch Football Players Kill Themselves for Sport

Ever since I learned about the concussion risk associated with American football, I can’t in good conscience support the sport. Not only do these athletes risk their lives during the game, they risk serious brain injury, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and the associated problems that can afflict them for the rest of their often too-short lives. It’s devastating to learn about the players to fall into drug addiction and/or attempt suicide.

Rams Football Field by Miss Wetzel’s Art Class from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The more I learn about the CTE and the widespread risk players seem to take, I feel like football is modern-day bullfighting. We watch players accept the substantial risk that participating in the sport will kill them, and this sport exists simply as entertainment. It’s a money-making scheme for the owners, the coaches, and hopefully the players. I suspect those in power have little regard for players once they are no longer contributing to the team’s winning record.

Although I have serious problems with this sport, it seems like a majority of fans are unfazed by disclosure of information about CTE. I kicked a simple anonymous survey to my football-loving friends to try to understand their perspective.

Out of the 30 people who responded to my questions, all of them knew that CTE is a problem facing NFL players. Eighty percent (24/30) knew about the research on the 111 NFL players brains that were tested for CTE – 110 of them were found to have it.

I asked my friends, “How do you feel about watching and loving a sport where it appears that every player except the kicker is likely getting brain damage while they’re playing the game and associated problems after they retire?” Many of them responded that professional players are adults who freely accept this risk (hopefully with full disclosure of the health consequences), just like people who choose to smoke, drive, or participate in other dangerous professions. Others said this situation bothers them and they will likely watch fewer games.

I also asked my friends, “What are your thoughts about players like John Urschel and A.J. Tarpley who retire early to preserve their health?” The overwhelming response was positive. They said these players were “smart” and that they “respect,” “applaud,” and “support” their decisions. One friend responded that these players, “made the best decision for themselves” because they suspected their “long-term financial success was going to be outside football.” Another friend said, “I think it is a great statement to others about the dangers of this sport.”

A friend pointed out a flaw in my questions. Since CTE currently can only be diagnosed post-mortem, we only know about the data in players who have had their brains examined. A lot more than 111 people have played professional football, so the information about how widespread this problem is among current players is speculative.

And I don’t disagree that football is fun – at least flag football – and many players professional and not, love this sport. I suspect most of them started as children, and participation gave them friends, heartwarming memories, and for some, academic and professional opportunities that they would not have had otherwise. With child athletes, it’s up to the parents to decide what activities their kids will do. Note: I’m not saying you’re a bad parent if you let your kid play football. I just hope you make educated decisions about what league they play in and what safety precautions are required. As a former gymnast, I can say when you fall in love with a sport so young, it’s hard to give it up, even when it’s in your best interest.

While others are getting excited for the upcoming Super Bowl, I cringe at the thought of players risking their lives for our entertainment. I don’t watch the game, and it makes me want to ask the sponsors and companies that run ads: “How can you feel good about making money off these players’ lives?”

First Marathon in the Books!

After more than five months of training, I finished my first marathon – the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona on January 14, 2018. I had never been more nervous for a race.  I had calls with my coach the day before and morning of the race. His last piece of advice to me was, “Breathe.”

Being around friendly fellow racers helped too. They all had words of encouragement when they heard it was my first complete marathon.

My race bib, shirt, and medal

Spectators Matter and Dogs!
The spectators for this race are awesome. Seeing their faces and hearing them cheer makes a difference. Some set up extra water stations; handed out orange slices, bacon, and beer; and held up signs. Hat tip to the spectators who made multiple appearances along the route. I was happy to see so many people with their dogs along the race route. Each one made me smile.

Your Backside Matters
More racers need to understand that their backside is entertainment for the people running behind them. I want to see more shoulder and calf tattoos and shirts with interesting backs. Several racers during the last 7 miles complemented the back of my shirt as they passed me. One said it was “dirty lie” because we were only at Mile 19. I responded that my shirt doesn’t say, “Last Mile.”

Watching so many people’s backs confirmed my idea of getting a variation of the Ignite Phoenix bird tattooed on my right shoulder blade and wearing t-back tank tops on race day.

How do these People Know my Name?
At several water stations, the volunteers cheered for me by name. I thought, “Do I know them? How do they know my name?” as I examined their faces for something familiar. And then I remembered, “Oh right, it’s on my bib.”

Still smiling after 26.2 miles and walking home from the light rail. Those numbers of my hand reminded me of when to take my gels.

“Coach, It Hurts.”
By Mile 20, I was in pain, and seriously contemplating whether I could finish the race without walking. I was afraid if I started walking, I wouldn’t be able to start running again. A frequent thought that crossed my mind was, “Coach, it hurts.”

During my training, I did a 23.8-mile run. Coach David said my body could handle the 26.2-mile distance, even if I had to walk the last miles.

I didn’t want to walk, or entertain that possibility, so I flipped from thinking about the pain to distracting myself by mentally going through gymnastics routines. (I was a gymnast for 17 years. I’ve completed many challenging runs with this trick.)

Mile 23 – 5K to go
At 5K to go, there was no way I was going to walk. Even exhausted and in pain, I could run a 5K. At the water station at Mile 24, a volunteer cheered, “Looking strong Ruth!” I didn’t feel strong, but appreciated it.

Mile 25 had the steepest hill on the course. I had some choice words for the organizers at that moment, and then I thought, “This is why I train on hills.”

Finish Strong
I had a good end of the race, coming down the hill at the end of the Mill Ave Bridge and turning the corner towards the finish line. I raised my arms and smiled as I crossed the finish line. Despite being in pain, I look happy in all my photos from the race.

I started walking after I crossed the finish line. I didn’t want to stop moving because I knew more pain would set in.

Post-Race Pain
Oh, and did it hurt. I had pain in my hips, quads, knees, and feet. I had been dealing with a sore ankle for the last week and taped it with KT Tape for the race. It did remarkably well during the race; I felt no pain until I took the tape off post-race.

I hurt so much after the race, I couldn’t get comfortable enough to nap after I got home and showered. Instead, I laid in bed for an hour and watched YouTube on my phone. I had Gatorade and chocolate milk after the race, and I didn’t want to eat for a few hours after the race.

The next day I had substantially less pain than I expected. Most of pain was in my quads. Surprisingly, I’m not going to lose any toenails from the race. I only lost one during training.

Got the Bug
I’ve heard marathoners are one-and-done or get the marathon bug. Even before this race ended, I was thinking about my next race. My goal for this race was to just finish. Now, I want to see if I can improve my time and feel stronger.

Here are my stats from this race:
Finish Time: 4:44:37
944/1852 Overall
344/809 Gender (Women’s)
63/141 Division

A Year In Invisalign

I’ve worn Invisalign trays for the last 53 weeks. Every Tuesday night, I switched out my current trays for the next set, and every time it was a remarkable sensation to feel which teeth my new trays would be moving. Thankfully after the first few months, my teeth didn’t hurt that bad, but I did get my trays stuck in my mouth on more than one occasion.

There has definitely been movement in my mouth. I’m curious to see my before and after photos to see if the change is significant. My teeth were mostly straight before doing Invisalign. I did this because their alignment was off and if I didn’t do something, I’d likely break my bottom teeth on my top ones. So, as long as we prevented that issue, I’m happy.

52 Weeks of Invisalign Trays – Week 53 is in my Mouth

Two Birds, One Stone
Sleeping with Invisalign was never problematic, because I’ve been sleeping with a night guard for years – one of the lovely benefits of going to law school. (No, you don’t wear a night guard with your trays. The trays replaced the guard.) My trays help protect me from myself, well at least grinding my teeth. There were many mornings where my trays were jammed tight on my teeth from grinding and clenching them in my sleep.

So it’s a two birds, one stone situation, but a very expensive stone.

Floss Champion
I’ve become that guy who keeps a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss in the office. I regularly brush my teeth and my trays when I’m at work. One of the benefits of Invisalign, is you will instantly know if you have a bit of food between your teeth the moment you pop your trays back into your mouth after a meal.

If you’re doing Invisalign, you’re probably flossing – by necessity.

22 Hours a Day

Running with Invisalign
I’m training for a marathon. During my long runs, I use gels to replenish my calories and electrolytes. With Invisalign, they recommend you wear your trays 22 hours a day, and my long runs were usually longer than 2 hours. I didn’t want to run without them, but I didn’t want to have to pop them in and out either. I was afraid the gels would either stick to my trays and/or stain them.

Thankfully, neither of those things happened, even when I used cherry-flavored gel.

The Process Continues
This week, I go back to the orthodontist this week for my 53-week follow-up appointment. I feel like a junior high kid every time I go in there. Hopefully, my doctor will tell me that my teeth have moved to where they need to be, and I get to move into the maintenance phase: 6 months of wearing my trays all the time and then I get to shift to just wearing my trays at night. I look forward to the days I get to chew gum and sip coffee for hours.

Reducing the Waste I Create

I’ve watched the videos like I Tried To Make Zero Trash For 30 Days and We Tried To Make Zero Trash In Our Beauty Routines For A Week, and they inspired me to look at my habits and what I can do reduce the amount of trash and waste I create. Like many people, I recycle and I use a reusable water bottle, but I feel like I can do more, especially when it comes to the amount of plastic I use. These are some of the things I want to try to reduce my environmental impact:

Don’t Forget to Recycle by Blue Pylons from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Bamboo Toothbrush: The next time I need a new toothbrush, instead of buying a plastic one, I want to try one make of biodegradable bamboo.

Zero-Waste Deodorant: Instead of buying a deodorant in a plastic twist-bottom tube, I want to try a natural deodorant that comes in a glass jar. I also wonder if something like this would be better for my sensitive skin.

Shampoo Bar: Yes, there is shampoo that comes in a bar. I’m curious to see how well this will work. It’s going to be a while before I try it because I have short hair and it wasn’t too long ago that I bought a new bottle of shampoo.

Seedling by Kevin Doncaster from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Regular Bar Soap: There was a time when we just had bars of soap next to the skin for washing our hands. I could go back to that. I wonder if I can find a bar of soap that has exfoliating properties that I could use instead of my apricot face wash.

Asking Companies to Consider Lower-Waste Options: There are certain products that I know I won’t want to give up – like my moisturizer. I can ask them to consider offering a version that comes in glass instead of plastic. At least then they’d know there’s an interest.

Reusable Produce Bags and Food Containers: Top of my list this year is to pick up some reusable produce bags so I don’t have to keep using plastic ones every time I go to the store.

I often shop in the bulk food section of Sprouts for seeds, dried fruit, grains, and lentils. They don’t advertise this, but you can bring your own reusable containers to use after they weigh it. I want to get some jars and try this.

Since my diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, I would love to compost the parts I don’t eat. I currently don’t for a few reasons: (1) I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong and create a smelly mess that will attract rodents and bugs and (2) if I use vermicompost (aka worms), I’m afraid I’ll kill them and have a smelly mess that will attract rodents and bugs. (The fear is real – I’ve killed a cactus.) My city collects landscape waste, but not food scraps for composting. If I want to try it, it appears Arizona Worm Farm sells a ready-to-use worm bin.

I’m excited to try new products as I need them and see what works.