Tuesday, December 20, 2005

How Does it Feel?

You can never really get inside someone else's head. During a race it can be helpful to think you know how someone else is feeling (especially if you're trying to beat them), but it's always just an assumption. Will one more surge break the spirit of your competition? If the pace is hurting you is it killing them? Breathing can be a "tell", but you never know for sure.

Pain and discomfort are inherently subjective and difficult to quantify. This is what I was thinking about on my run today. It started with me thinking about the increased discomfort a marathoner feels as he gets to the bottom of his or her glycogen stores, and how it's actually the brain that gives the muscles the order to shut down (through pain) to prevent the body from damaging itself too much. In the past I've had a problem with this "wall", and through Lydiard training I'm hoping my body will work well enough to keep my brain from trying to shut it down during the late stages of the marathon next month.

But all this pain is voluntary. I started to think of Finn, our 6-month-old, who is wearing a cranial band (or helmet) in order to correct his moderate case of plagiocephaly. He wears the helmet 23 hours a day, and he gets checked tomorrow by a specialist, then by the people who make the helmet and monitor his progress. It's not supposed to hurt, it doesn't "squeeze" his head at all, and the only pressure is "static" where his head bulges. That's nice to hear, but he's not old enough to tell us the real deal and we (my wife and I) ultimately make the decisions regarding his well-being. It's hard to be an advocate for someone else, but it is necessary.

I'm nervous about the appointments tomorrow because I don't really know what is right. I read what I can about his condition, and everyone seems to agree that the treatment doesn't hurt. However, I sense he is happier with the helmet off. Part of this might be an emotional response, seeing his full head revealed, scratching his scalp (he likes this after getting the helmet taken off), and kissing his head the way parents do. He gets his "break" from the helmet at 6pm or so, this way we can bathe him and have some time together before he gets strapped back into it for bedtime.

So tomorrow a decision gets made. I'm hoping his measurements (of how crooked his head is) fall into the "slight" category from the "moderate" he started with. If so, we'll see if we can spring him from the thing entirely, or perhaps have him wear it only at night. I'm worried about things like his lack of peripheral vision in the helmet, and also that he hasn't rolled over with the helmet on, which is something he's done without the helmet in the past. I'm skipping out on some of work (and doing the run very early) so I can be around for both appointments, and I'm hoping things go well.

Sixteen miles gives a man time to think.

Training: 16 miles, 1:55:45, 7:14 pace. Felt a little tight from Sunday but good overall


Scooter said...

I suspect if there was pain from the helmet, you'd know it. There'd be a fight when time came to put it on. I do suspect that you're right and it's not a delight to wear. I suspect that the roll over issue may relate to muscular development and comfort of doing that. My fingers are crossed for a reduced schedule.

Johnny Lyons said...

I feel for you Mike. Ash was a very fussy baby, and I always worried I wasn't doing the right thing to help him feel better. I hated not knowing what he really felt, but still being ultimately responsible for trying to make him feel better. I know I would have a very hard time going through what you are with Finn. I know he'll be alright, but try to give yourself big hugs too (I know that's not easy) and I will too.

Thomas said...

That's a really tough one, Mike, and I don't envy you. I think if the helmet hurt him, he would let you in no doubt about it, so I wouldn't be too worried about that. But for the discomfort ... who knows. He probably prefers the helmet off because that's "natural".

I'm sure you will do the right thing in the end.