The perils of an overly large meal: a modern-day Aesop’s Fable?

Once I got over the horror of reading Saturday’s Washington Post story about a 23-foot  reticulated python that killed and swallowed a 54-year-old Indonesian woman, it occurred to me that this might be a kind of modern-day Aesop’s Fable: how one overzealous meal turned a ferocious beast into a hapless victim.

Lying in wait and striking the woman as she went to check on her garden, the giant snake likely squeezed her to death with its powerful muscles before ingesting her, a process that probably took close to an hour. But when villagers came looking for her the next day, the bloated snake was no match for the angry (and no doubt shocked) mob, which killed it and took it back to the village, where Wa Tiba’s body was found inside.

This isn’t the first time a reticulated python has swallowed a human. Just last year, the same thing happened to a 25-year-old Indonesian farmer – and the snake that consumed him met the same fate.

What would Aesop say?

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5K Challenge #6: 2 races in 12 hours = 2018 PR

night moves river

 A scene from Friday’s Night Moves run, as posted on Team Neighborlink’s Facebook Page. 

My plan was to change things up this week and run a Friday night event instead of Race #6 in the Adams County 5K Challenge.

Instead I did both – and cut more than a minute off my 5K time, despite starting that race less than 12 hours after the previous one.

Night Moves, organized by Team Neighborlink, is a series of after-dark runs through Fort Wayne’s back alleys and lesser traveled routes to show people parts of the city and its neighborhoods that they don’t ordinarily experience. It isn’t intended to be a race. It’s an untimed event limited to 75 runners, and the course is “marked” only by volunteer cyclists who direct you when to turn.

I figured this would be good for me because A) I’m kind of OCD about knowing the general shape of a course beforehand, and B) I knew I’d have to push hard to keep up with the mostly young, hip crowd of runners who show up.

Adding to the uncertainty factor was the fact that I’d forgotten my phone when I’d headed into town earlier to do some last-minute graduation party shopping, and was thus unable to connect with a friend who’d planned to do this event with me. Unbeknownst to me, her babysitter fell through, and so I was on my own.

All we were told about the run, which started at the downtown YMCA, was that it would be 3 ½ to 4 miles. It was dusk when we headed off toward some kind of gathering at Freimann Square, ducking between a pair of food trucks, and on toward Germanfest at Headwaters Park. From there we crossed the lit-up Martin Luther King bridge en route to Science Central, then veered right on a side street and took a back alley to Spy Run, where I got cut off by traffic from most of the rest of the pack.

I was gasping for air. But as we looped back toward the bridge at the confluence of the city’s three rivers, running a stretch of the River City Rat Race course in reverse, I told myself to just hang in there as we were surely headed back toward the Y.

Wrong! The cyclist at the next corner told us to go right instead of left – meaning taking the Spy Run Bridge back across the river north of downtown. We looped around and took the Greenway underneath the bridge in total darkness. “This would be perfect for a zombie run,” I thought.

We emerged at the entrance to the Old Fort, where we were directed to take the pedestrian bridge  – up two flights of stairs – back into Headwaters Park, where Germanfest was in full swing.

My chest was heaving, but I could still see a few runners up ahead and I knew I wasn’t last, having passed a handful of stragglers who likely started out way too fast. It felt good to be running through downtown on a Friday night, through a crowd of people out drinking and stuffing their faces. Passing by the Hoppy Gnome, which looked like there wasn’t an empty seat in the house, I realized I wouldn’t have wanted to trade places with any of them just then.

A few blocks later we were done. There was no finish line, just high fives and good vibes. But I couldn’t stick around because it was late and I had a lot to do on Saturday.

I expected to skip the 8:30 a.m. 5K the next morning, but my husband encouraged me to go, figuring it would help keep my stress levels under control during a busy weekend. (One nice thing about the dinky races in this series is that you can arrive just before they start and take off 5 minutes after finishing, so it’s not a huge time investment.)

I figured my legs would be shot after the previous night’s “race” (which is what it felt like to me), but at least I’d get my participation points for the 5K Challenge. The race started at a southern Adams County campground called Amishville. Storm clouds were gathering to the north.

“We’re supposed to run down to the covered bridge and back,” I overheard one runner tell another. “We better hurry, so we don’t get caught in the rain!”

I wasn’t going to worry about my finishing time, rain or no rain. But after being disappointed in my time the previous week, I knew I wanted to work on starting out faster this time while focusing on keeping my breathing relaxed. This was easy to do, because the first part of the course was mostly downhill. I just went with it, trying to avoid thinking about how much this was going to suck coming back.

One nice thing about an out and back course, as opposed to the twists and turns of the previous night’s run, is that you don’t use up any mental energy thinking about where you’re going. I just focused on the runners ahead of me – and on not stepping in horse manure. We were in the heart of Amish country, after all.

As we looped around the covered bridge at the halfway mark, a couple I recognized from previous races overtook me. They’d consistently beaten me the first three races in the series, then I beat them the last two. I was tiring, so I wished them luck and watched them go.

But they didn’t pull ahead too far. The hills were tough on everyone. I just focused on finishing out the course, reminding myself not to worry since I knew my time would be off anyway.

Funny thing, though. When we turned back into the campground and I could see the clock, instead of reading 35-something as I feared, it read 31-something.

I couldn’t believe it. Seeing that I could still beat 32 minutes, I sped up and just barely made it, in 31:57.

Almost a minute and a half faster than the previous week. My best time thus far in 2018. Who would’ve guessed? Not me.

I’ve still got a ways to go to get under 30 minutes, and farther still to beat my best 5K time of 27:58. But this feels like progress, and it’s even better since I didn’t see it coming.


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5K challenge #5: Disappointment + inspiration

I was a little disappointed that I didn’t improve my time in the fifth race of the Adams County 5K Challenge. After cutting more than 2.5 minutes last time out, I was hoping to be at least a little faster. But my time was nearly identical: 33:26.

DSCN7224What helped put my race in context, though, was discovering that a relative I’ve sometimes spotted at local races over the years was running his first race since finishing up chemo just a few weeks ago.

I’m sure it was frustrating for Jeff to be running so slowly – he finished a couple minutes behind me, which had to feel weird as he’s generally much closer to the front of the pack. But the fact that he was running at all, so soon after chemo, was kind of incredible.

Talking to his wife after the race, I discovered that he had the same kind of cancer Dad did: non-Hodgkins lymphoma, the fast-growing kind. He’s about the same age Dad was when he was diagnosed (62 vs. 64), and both of them initially thought the problem was that they’d torn their rotator cuff.

Dad has enjoyed more than 10 cancer-free years since then, so there’s plenty of cause for optimism. It sounds like Jeff is already making plans for his comeback, having recently signed up for a 200-mile bike race.

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Learning to appreciate hunger

carpenter's plane

My natural reaction to hunger, whether it’s real or make believe, has always been panic. Never mind that it makes no sense whatsoever, as I’m hardly in danger of starving to death. That’s just how I’m wired.

Lately I’ve been working on appreciating hunger as a sign that my body’s using up  excess fat. The other day at work, wanting to finish something up rather than stopping what I was doing to grab some lunch, I zeroed in on that panicky hungry feeling that was getting in my way and forced myself to relax.

Then I imagined myself as an unfinished wooden statue, patiently waiting while some master craftsman took out a wood-trimming tool – it had been years since I’d seen one, but I thought I remembered my dad once calling it a carpenter’s plane – and began to gently shave off the excess padding around my middle.

That’s kind of a creepy image, now that I think about it, but it worked at the time. For the rest of the afternoon, every time my hunger alarm went off I was able to reframe it as a good thing rather than a stressful thing. And when I finally went home, instead of gobbling twice as much food as I needed because I was “starving,” I was able to stay calm.

The funny thing is, a couple of days after that my dad showed up at our house with a carpenter’s plane to shave the side of a door so it would fit better in its frame. 

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10 reasons why… Exercise is the best medicine.

This week I’m sharing a post from another blog I’m connected with, t2diabetespioneer. (If I could figure out how to simply reblog it, I would.)

  1. exerciseasmedicineIts most common side effect is weight loss.
  2. A natural sleep aid.
  3. It’s free! (Or can be, anyway.)
  4. Slows the aging process.
  5. Gives your brain a boost.
  6. This ‘drug’ is never subject to recalls.
  7. Makes you happy.
  8. Improves your appearance.
  9. Reduces risk of heart disease and some cancers.
  10. It makes every other physical activity, from golf to sex to unloading groceries, easier.


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5K Challenge #4: 2.5 minutes faster despite (or because of?) racing with on-call phone

I thought about skipping Race No. 4 in the Adams County 5K Challenge, given that I was on call.

DSCN6792I took a new job recently with an agency that works with adults with intellectual disabilities, and it was my turn to be the person who handles off-hours crisis calls from the various supported-living homes we serve over a two-county area. I’d been up late the night before dealing with a situation at a home just a few blocks from Saturday’s race site, in fact.

But I knew I’d want to get in a run Saturday even if I didn’t do the race, and I’d need to carry the phone with me in either case, so I decided to head over to Decatur and take my chances. Worst case, if I got a call during the race, I’d just stop and walk while I handled it. And if the call came when I was plausibly within 15 minutes of the finish line, I could wait til then to return it, as we had a call-back window.

In the previous race I’d gone out too fast and been gassed at the end. This time, knowing I couldn’t take this race very seriously while being on-call, I tried to stay relaxed.

This was an out-and-back road course, which is inherently more boring than a Greenway race but also much easier to visualize. I picked out a couple of runners to keep in my sights, but didn’t obsess about staying with them.

“Just enjoy the run,” I kept telling myself. “Stay in the moment.” Needless to say, this was much easier than usual, knowing that a call could come at any time!

Starting the season woefully out of shape, I’d run the first the three races in this series around 36 minutes. So when I reached the turnaround, I felt fairly confident I was no more than 18 minutes from the finish line.

I was feeling really good, and I knew the way back would seem shorter  – it always does. I was still nice and relaxed, and as I made the turn onto the road that made up the bulk of the race, I was psyched to see that it appeared to have a slight downhill grade I hadn’t noticed earlier.

I picked up the pace, and that road disappeared in what felt like a hurry – compared with my first three races, at least. The voices of those who’d been running near me – a married couple and a mom and her son – got fainter and fainter.

The course ended at a church, and we had to take a lap around it to get to the finish line. When I came around the final turn I was pleasantly surprised to see the clock had just ticked past 33 minutes. I finished just under 33:30 – 2 ½ minutes faster than my previous race!

I’m still about 5 minutes over my 5K PR, but that’s OK. Progress is progress. And in this case, just getting the race in without getting derailed by a crisis call was a victory in itself!


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History intersects with new approach to health care at Walk with a Doc event


One of several restored structures from the 1830s-1870s located at the Forks of the Wabash on the edge of Huntington, Ind.

I’d driven by the Historic Forks of the Wabash many times over the years, on my way through Huntington to Wabash or Peru or West Lafayette, without ever once stopping to see what was there.

On Saturday, with a weekend off from the 5K Challenge, I decided to check out a “Walk With A Doc” program for an upcoming column. I wound up not only meeting some interesting people – potentially including my new doctor – but also discovered that our meeting spot was the site of several treaty signings in the 1830s and where, in 1846, 346 Native Americans were loaded onto canal boats for a forced uprooting to Kansas.

Several historic structures, including Miami Chief Jean Baptiste Richardville’s 1834 Council House, have been restored on the grounds, which include 1.5 miles of paved trails. As a group of about 15 of us walked along the Wabash, down and back both ways, we watched a crew building a bridge that will connect this trail to another one that leads to an island across the way. (I didn’t catch its name; that will have to wait until a return visit).

Our host for this walk was Dr. Janelle Maxwell, who runs Cardinal Family Medicine with her husband, Dr. Matt Pflieger, who was out of town on a “running vacation” with friends. They got involved with the Walk With a Doc program while practicing medicine in Denver for 10 years before returning to Dr. Matt’s hometown to set up a direct primary care practice.


Dr. Janelle and her son Eli, 7, who found a painted rock left along the trail as part of the “Huntington Rocks” project on Facebook.

She was funny and friendly and led a brief discussion on the health benefits of gardening before starting the walk. Anyone who answered a question or made a comment got to choose a packet of seeds.

I imagined a Walk with a Doc would draw mostly hypochondriacs brimming with medical concerns real and imagined. But several people I talked to said they were here in support of their doctors, who have a much more personal approach than most. When was the last time your doctor responded to your text, for instance? Or better yet, texted you, just to check in to see how you were doing with a current health issue?

“They do a lot of things to help us lose weight and be healthy,” said Pam Pranger, who attends a weight loss class run by Dr. Janelle. “I’ve lost 10 pounds, and I’m going to lose another 10.”

I’d never heard of director primary care, but apparently it involves paying a fixed monthly fee that covers most services the doctors provide. You can learn more about how that works here. I haven’t really looked into it yet, but the people I spoke to at the walk were big fans of the program.


Eli escorted Pam Pranger on the final leg of the walk. It was her first walk, but she said her goal was to “be able to keep up by the end of the summer.” After that, she wants to work up to joining her cousins on walking marathons. 

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5K challenge: Exploring new terrain in familiar territory

DSCN6707Though I grew up in and currently live in Wells County, Indiana, I’ve always felt like I knew neighboring Adams County pretty well. My parents worked there, my grandparents lived there, and I’ve interviewed a fair number of Adams County residents over the years.

Yet three races into the Adams County 5K Challenge, I’ve found myself exploring new terrain each week. Saturday was the first time I’ve ever been on, much less noticed, Decatur’s Rivergreenway despite having been to that town literally hundreds of times in the past.

The Greenway in Bluffton where I’ve done a lot of my running is fairly straight and flat, with the Wabash River on one side and River Road on the other. It’s right out in the open. But the section of the Decatur Greenway that we ran Saturday was more secluded. It was also more challenging, more of a rolling course with a couple of short but steep switchbacks that I wasn’t expecting at all, given that Decatur itself seems fairly flat.

I was a little bit disappointed that I didn’t improve my time this week – in fact, weirdly, I ran the same exact time as last week, down to the second: 35:57. But this race was more of a struggle, probably because I started out too fast but also because I couldn’t visualize the course. There’d been no map posted. Even in a short race like a 5K, it’s nice to know if you’re going out and back or following a twisty loop or whatever.

There are two weeks til the next race, so I’m hoping to start boosting my mileage and throw in a couple of interval workouts to see if I can’t start getting my time down.

I’ll also be curious what I’ll get to explore next time. Race #4 will be the third one in Decatur (though ultimately four towns are participating), but thus far each course has been different and I think that will be the case next time as well. (Whereas it sometimes seems like Wells County races almost always take place on the exact same course.)

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A minute faster in 5K Challenge race #2

DSCN6705A friend talked me into attending a 6 a.m. Boot Camp class Friday. After all those burpees, jump squats and walkout pushups, I could barely move the next day – and I had an extremely drippy cold to boot. Nonetheless, I managed to cut a full minute off my time in the second race of the Adams County 5K Challenge, the St. Joe HASA fun run in Decatur.

I wasn’t doing any celebratory cartwheels afterward, in part because of that nasty cold but mostly because I’m still ridiculously slow: 35:57 is more than 7 minutes off my best 5K time.

Still, progress is progress. I’ll take it, for now, along with the vastly improved weather at this week’s race.



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Running reboot: Starting over with a 5K Challenge series


I didn’t take any pics in the rain, so this bear on the logo will have to suffice.

There was a time when I didn’t much bother with 5Ks. But coming off a year of injuries, followed by a winter during which I essentially started working two jobs, I’ve been barely running at all. Given all my frustration, the Adams County 5K Challenge seemed like a low-pressure way to ease back into racing again. You fill out one form, write one check and suddenly you’re automatically registered for 13 races.

It remains to be seen how many I make it to, or whether I can actually get back to being competitive in my age group again. But if nothing else, I thought it would be fun to “run with the herd” again.  

As it turned out, the rainy conditions made for a pretty small group at Saturday’s Swiss Village 5K in Berne. We were so spread out, there wasn’t much opportunity to lock onto another runner’s back with my eyeballs and try to reel them in.

I was running without a watch as usual, so I had no idea what my pace was. I told myself my time didn’t matter, that I was just getting a baseline to beat next time out. As I came around the bend toward the finish, I saw that the clock read 36-something. And suddenly it seemed really important that I cross that finish line before it got to 37, because I remembered that back in 2010, when I was about ¾ of the way through my weight loss, I’d run a 5K in 36-something.

I made it, but just barely: 36:57, an 11:55 pace. Nowhere to go but up from there. Luckily I’ve got 12 more races in which to improve.

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