Sunday, April 18, 2010

New challenges for an old man

Can a 79-year-old geezer who has endured a cardiac arrest, an incipient colon cancer, and a prostate operation overcome erectile dysfunction (aka ED)?

This is actually the least of three challenges I will tackle this year. More important are the other two. First up, on September 26, is my first marathon, a 42-kilometre event for runners and walkers that I will walk as fast as I can. Two weeks later, I will set out on a three-day, 90-kilometre hike along the Victoria Rail Trail from my home in Lindsay, Ontario to Haliburton. I have been training for these walks since January, but more regularly after March banished obstacles of snow and ice.

On the marathon, I will raise whatever money I can for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. When I do the 90-K hike I hope to raise money for the Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay, although arrangements for that have not been completed as this is written.

My challenge last year was climbing 1,776 steps up one of the world’s tallest buildings, Toronto’s CN Tower. I was one of a few thousand participants in that annual fundraiser for the Toronto United Way. There are reasons close to my heart why this year I want to raise money for Heart and Stroke and for Ross Memorial. Those wonderful lifesavers at Ross Memorial have saved not only my life, but also Joan’s. And as a cardiac arrest survivor, I’m naturally supportive of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

But back to the ED thing for a moment. ED is apparently a common consequence of prostate operations. While at my age, sex is far from urgent, it’s at least an interesting topic. It’s not as if sex ability at 79 would set any record. Seniors in Switzerland, where prostitution and brothels are legal, for instance, seem sexually active, judging from a report by syndicated medical newspaper columnist Dr. W. Gifford-Jones (Lindsay Post, March 9). In Lugano, an eager senior who had taken a drug to overcome his ED, visited a brothel, where he died of a heart attack. All 38 brothels and sex clubs in Lugano have now installed medical defibrillators to save the lives of other senior patrons. Defibrillation also saved my life following my cardiac arrest 21 years ago—not, I should add, in a brothel, but in Ross Memorial Hospital. In Denmark, a senior’s home in Copenhagen shows pornographic movies on an internal channel every Saturday night, reportedly because they have a greater calming effect than Prozac. For senior men who are more aroused than calmed, the home will arrange visits by prostitutes.

I’m not about to try prostitutes, pornography or drugs, even in the name of research, to find out how they might affect ED. An exercise called Kegal, however, might be interesting. Women commonly do the Kegel to regain muscle tone after giving birth. A British web site, netdoctor, claims that it is also “Highly effective in helping men who have problems developing and sustaining an erection.” British doctor Grace Dorey says that the Kegel exercise is as effective as Viagra, cheaper, and healthier. There are other similar reports, but also one that claims it doesn’t work. We’ll see.

More important to me is the Scotia Toronto Waterfront Marathon on September 26. The course is flat, and the web site says, “Even power walkers and slow runners love this course because of its 6-hour and 30-minute time line.” The 6.5 hours seem a bigger challenge than the 42 kilometres.

A few decades ago I don’t think that would have been a tremendous challenge. When we lived in Calgary, we were ardent hikers along the 2,000 miles of trails in the four adjacent Rocky Mountain national parks a relatively short distance west. In recent years, the longest walk I’ve made was last October, 30 kilometres along a section of the Victoria Rail Trail that stretches from Lindsay to Halliburton.

I know this. I’m not a fast walker. Before I began my training in January, young folk passed me by as though I was standing still. There is still no way that today I could walk 42 K in 6-1/2 hours. But I have five more months of training left. And if I can’t do it in 6.5 hours, then unless they roll up the sidewalks, I’ll do it in whatever time it takes.

In my next blog, I’ll tell you a bit about my progress in training for power walking and long hikes, and a little about how big my two walking challenges loom.

Search terms: walking, hiking, marathon, fitness, health, exercise, heart disease, colon cancer, prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, Kegel exercise, Victoria Rail Trail.

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