Monday, January 23, 2012

I can run!

There was a time, not too many years ago when I believed my running life was over.

X-Rays revealed significant arthritis in my left knee.  My orthopaedic surgeon told me there was nothing he could do except knee replacement surgery.  I could run as long as I wanted to, but he assured me that my running was going to be over quite soon and a knee replacement was in my future.  His advice was to put that off as long as I possibly could.

Long story short I did quit running . . . for about 10 years before I found my own miracle cure.  No surgery or medicine and I was able to run again.  And run I did!

Not fast . . . but I completed a ton of marathons and a whole bunch of ultras.  Two cartilage knee surgeries (one on my left knee and one on my right) didn't even really slow me down.  My only personal running goal left is to finish a 100 mile run.  Three attempts and three failures . . . well . . . let's don't call them failures.  Just unsuccessful attempts.  A failure would be to not try.

And I've tried.

My October hip surgery has been a difficult challenge.  And the story had not finished.

But I have hit a plateau in my comeback and progress is not detectable right now.  That may start to change tomorrow.  Or next week.  Or next month,  Or maybe next year.  Or maybe not at all.

And that's what I've been thinking a lot about in the last two weeks.  What if 4-6 miles is my new limit?  What if I don't progress any further?

It's not that pain starts building and it's the pain that limits my distance.  No . . . it's something really strange.  My hip seems to 'tighten up' and loose strength.  I know that doesn't make much sense.  And you would thing I would just run through that.  But it is very limiting.  And I'm having a really hard time getting through this.  To the point where I have started to consider the possibility that this could be as good as it gets!  There may well not be a successful 100 mile finish.  There may not be another marathon . . . nor even a 10 miles in my future.

Now understand . . . I'm not giving up!  And I honestly don't want a single comment about this post.  I just wanted to share with you what is going on in my 'unusual' mind!  My hip doctor has warned me this may be a six month recovery and I'm only 3 months in!  Well ahead of were he thought I would be by this time!  So the story if far from over!

There is a part of me that is not sad at all about this possibility of limited running!  Honestly there is even some relief there!  Right now when I think about all the work needed to even have an honest 100 mile attempt the mountain seems almost too high.  A significant part of me is not disappointed to think I may not have to go through this.

4-6 miles a run is PLENTY to continue a healthy, active life.  And maybe my active life could even be extended by NOT attempting these longer distances.  It's not bad to do a 4-6 mile run every other day.

Quite frankly, in the middle of my 10-year hiatus when I thought I had arthritis, I would have done a 'double back-flip' to run just 2 miles every other day.  So . . . to be able to run 4-6 miles is a gift I'm seriously happy to have received!

But let me say this again.  I'm not giving up yet.  I'm just saying that if I do have to give up . . . I'm okay with it.  Just as long as no one puts "But he never could finish a 100 miler!" on my gravestone!  Hey . . . come to think of it, I'm going to be cremated anyway, so that's just not going to happen anyway!

Seriously . . . no comments please.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Weymouth Woods 100k

I spent Saturday (and into Sunday) at the Weymouth Woods 100k . . . an awesome race put on by Marie Lewis and the Mangum Track Club.  As I always am, I was so impressed with ultra runners and their quests.  So many great stories out there.  People testing their limits!  And some just out having fun.

My main job at Weymouth was trying to keep Charles West away from the aid station volunteers.

Charles thought I was there to 'crew' for him in his effort to qualify for the Western States 100 miler . . . the super bowl of ultra running (yes . . . he was successful!).  But actually Marie Lewis called and asked me if I would be willing to do a special favor for her.  Charles is well known for getting a little 'focused' on his goals and as the race progresses Charles transforms!  In addition to intimidating aid-station workers, Marie was very concerned about the long-term effects that seeing Charles might have on any of the children he might come in contact with.  So Marie asked Erich Chatham and I to try to keep Charles away from people.

Just the look on Charles' face will, at times, put "the fear of God" into the souls of the un-informed!  Charles transforms from a friendly, mild-mannered, fun-loving guy into what appears to be a wide-eyed zombie creature that can't talk and just walks around giving you weird looks!  Dogs run from him.  Children cry in terror.  So as race director, Marie needed a strategy to handle this situation.

At this year's race I was quite successful as we didn't lose a single aid station volunteer to Charles' stares.  And not a single child started crying!!  A few children did get wide-eyed when they saw him in the afternoon, but Erich and I were able to talk with them and convince them that Charles wasn't real . . . only an actor 'playing the part' of a zombie as entertainment for the race!

Unfortunately I didn't get many pictures of Charles.  Every time he finished a loop my job was to get him his stuff and get him back out running just as fast as possible so I didn't take pictures during his lap transitions. (Quite frankly that's probably a good thing . . . there are children that read this blog and I wouldn't want to scare them!)  But here are two shots of Charles that I can post . . . he almost looks human in these two!
First lap . . . Charles hasn't transformed yet.

Charles with Fred 'Doom" Dummar about lap 4.  Transformation underway.

Weymouth is a NC state park near Southern Pines and must have been an experimental forest where agronomists and biologist were secretly trying to bred a variety of pine trees to develop gnarly roots that would stay near the surface of the soil and even above.  Not sure exactly why they were doing this . . . probably it was some tactic to be used against the Soviet Union during the cold war. 

Eventual winner, Tomasz Kochanowicz, in an easy section where the roots weren't hiding.
Just trying to walk the trail during daylight is a risky venture . . . the roots hide in pine straw and wait for the unsuspecting human to walk by.  Then . . . they somehow jump to the surface and trip their victim!  And during the night, these roots are even more active!  It takes a brave soul to even walk the paths at night . . . let alone try to run them!

Virtually every runner at Weymouth fell victim to these roots at least once during the race and I'm guessing the face-plant record at the race is north of 10 falls!

Uninformed people would think if a runner runs 62 miles they would lose weight for sure.  Well, perhaps a few do, but this is another area of competition at Weymouth that most runner are not aware of.  Marie, and aid station captains Susan Dummar and Doug 'Boogieman' Dawkins plot for months to develop ways to thwart the weight loss for their runners.  Their goal is "No Runner Loses Weight!"  If a runner doesn't gain weight, then Marie, Susan and Doug lose.  But they win if a runner gains weight!  So the game is ON!  They fill the two aid stations with food to tempt runners using unfair tactics . . . things like constantly cooking hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, fresh, hot pizza (no one can resist pizza!), lots of homemade soups and even grits (with ton's of butter for sure!!).  And of course the usual high calorie diet supplements like gatoraide, potato chips, Mt Dew, Cokes, ginger ale, etc.  You have to almost force them to give you just water!  All day and all night they are trying to stuff food into the mouths of their runners.  No doubt . . . Susan and Doug won the competition this year.

Susan Dummar's main aid-station.  Complete with propane heaters too keep runners warm as they feast!
Decisions!  Should we cook hamburgers or grilled cheese next?  Everyone's got an opinion!

aka "Man-Camp" Doug Dawkins' hidaway aid-station
Bill Keene stumbling out of 'camp' full of grits!

This is DEFINITELY a race to stay away from!!!

And yes . . . like I said Charles did qualify for WS! As he finished lap 13 with one to go, he had an hour and 15 minutes to finish the last 4.5 miles.  After about 58 miles of hard running, all those Weymouth roots and the cold temperatures I really didn't give Charles much of a chance for success.  His lap times had slowly been creeping up and up.

But Charles had a secret weapon . . . Dan Gardiner!  Dan is one heck of a runner (2009 Medoc marathon winner!) and one heck of a nice guy.  Plus one heck of a motivator!  And I should have realized if you take a motivated runner (Charles).  And add a motivating, encouraging friend . . . you would get success.  About 15 minutes before the 14 hour mark (Western States cut-off), Erich Chatham and I were plotting a strategy of how we were going to survive the trip back to Raleigh with Charles after he had missed the cut-off.  We were scared.

But I looked up and there was Dan with a big smile on his face!!!  He said Charles was just a minute or so behind!  Unbelievable.  Charles knocked that lap out is just about an hour!  Talk about a motivated runner!

Unfortunately my camera battery died so I didn't get a picture of Charles finishing.  Damn!  But . . . for the record . . . he smiled!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Free at Last! Free at Last!

Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, I am free at last!"

Today, Dr. Jones 'released' me!  I can now return to running as I feel like I should!  Sweet!  Obviously he is pleased with my progress and so am I.

But realistically I haven't been able to do all he allowed me to do.  He wasn't holding me back . . . I was.  If I followed his plan to the max I could have been up to probably 10 miles or more.  But I know I'm increasing as fast as my body thinks I should.  And I'm fine with that!

This last weekend I ran 5.8 Medoc miles.  And I could have done more I'm sure.  But I held back.  Dr Jones would have been prould of my restraint.

And quite frankly I've been real prould of him.  He did keep me 'throdled back' some but his advice was spot on.  Once he let me start running I started trying to push it some.  When the pain came back he told me to back off to 'every other day' for my runs.  EXACTLY what I needed.  Some day I need a day';s rest.  Some I need two days rest.  But it's working great!  Obviously, he did a great job as a surgeon.  But he as also do a great job helping me with my recovery!  He is almost as excited as I am for me to finally finish my first 100 miler!

So when will I be ready for another 100 mile attempt?  I really don't know yet.  Certainly not this spring and probably not in the fall.  I'm thinking Umstead in 2013 may well  be my target.

How cool will it be when I actuallly finish my very first 100 miler AFTER hip surgery!!  Not sure if that as ever been done or not!  But I'm pretty excited to give it a go!!  Hopefully my hip will be "on board!"

Friday, January 6, 2012

Time to get serious!

Oh how quickly things can change.  We runners know that.  Sweet, flat pine needle sections can quickly give way to brutal, steep, rock/rooty uphills that just kill you and suck the oxygen out of your lungs.  As runners . . . we learn to just take it as it comes.  We try to anticipate, but that doesn't always work.  A good plan is a flexible plan.

Okay . . . my running just plain sucks right now.  I can manage 3-4 miles . . . barely.  And pace . . . what's that??  My speed is slowing down to the point where soon I will have to measure my mile speed in quarter-hours per mile not minutes.

Things aren't going to just magically get better by itself.  I have to make some positive changes or else things will just continue on at their current trajectory . . I'll turn into a rock in four more years!!

So I decided to focus my efforts at getting better and remove all the 'stuff' that is getting in my way.  I've decided to make some huge changes in my life so I can focus things on improving my running.

One thing getting between me and a 4 hour marathon is my hip.  But realistically I've done all I need to do to remove it as an obstacle.  Surgery and later physical therapy has gone well and the hip really is improving every day. Maybe not very fast . . .certainly not as fast as I want.  But there is nothing to do except give it some time.  So I will . . .

So . . . "Hip . . . you have until March 2nd to totally heal.  Period.  You better get with the program!  Beginning March 3rd I'm starting my new training program and you better be on board!"

So what else is hindering my training you ask?  Well . . . my job for one thing! 9 ours a day, five days a week!  That is a lot of time . . . time I could be spending training.  Sooooo . . . no more job!  That's right.  I'll just stop work so I can focus my efforts on running!  I mean . . . it should be worth it!  Right?  Imaging the thrill of finally finishing a 100-miler!  Doesn't that outweigh any joy I get from a silly paycheck?  Maybe I'll get a little job that doesn't take quite so much time . . . something mindless (I should be able to excel at that!!!).  Possible options include:

1) Walmart greeter,
2) statue polisher,
3) fly fishing guide (but that could be a problem 'cause I would have to be able to out-think a fish),
4) professional blogger (pay would suck),
5) career coach (anyone that would hire me would be even more stupid then me), or
6) professional backpacker (warm weather only!)

       (I would love some additional ideas and options you think might be 'down my line!')

Sure . . . things will get tight financially!  I'll just have to cut back on some things.  But it will be worth it!  Lot's if final plans to be made, but senior Olympics here I come!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 . . . another frickin' goal post!

Okay . . . in a prior post I already re-capped my 2011 goals and my actual results.  Not a stellar year by my measure, but I did okay considering.

But now it's 2012 and it's time to look forward and set some goals for the year.  I really do believe we all need stated goals we work towards but I'm a little afraid to set too many running goals for 2012.  I do have to be careful.  I know.  So . . . . I do hereby declare 2012 to officially be know as the "Year of Recovery."  2013 will be the "Year of Success" . . . more on that in late 2012!

Okay so here are my 2012 goals in no particular order . . . except #1.

1.  Have fun running!  That goal has been my #1 goal for the last several years and it will continue to be for as long as I can run.  The FUN is the single thing that keeps me doing it.  As soon as it stops being fun my motivation drop and my whole outlook on life sours.  Seriously.  So I'll strive for fun at any cost!

2.  Run injury free all year.  Okay . . . to some degree I can't control this goal so it really might not be the best goal.  But I can influence being injury free by to trying to not progress too fast.  Plus, I can sure lose some weight.

3.  Run a marathon in May or before (but still abiding by goal #2).  If my recovery goes according to plan, this should be a piece of cake!  But I do want to keep myself focused on building up as long as my hip let's me.

4.  Complete a run 50 miles before year end.  Again, this should be fairly easy assuming my recovery continues on track.  I really should make it a 100k . . . and maybe I will.  But I need to keep this easy.

5.  Host a new running event . . . one quite different for any other I've seen.  I have some ideas and and the beginning of a plan.  So we'll see . . . more to come on this one!

Okay . . . that's not too many goals and I do think they are realistic and achievable.  2012 does need to be fairly easy . . . especially since it is the 'Year of Recovery"!!

Also, I have a few New Years Resolutions . . .
  • Lose some weight . . . not going to go crazy here.  If I dropped too much I would run so much faster . . .  then I would have to re-name this blog.   Way too much trouble.
  • Keep a positive, fun attitude . . . no matter what!  There are things on the horizon that look like potentially cloudy skies.  I have to force myself to remember it's the rain that makes the forests grow.  Everything in life is an opportunity.  And each of us CHOOSE how we react to everything that happens.  Find a bright side always . . . and then focus on that!
  • Do more backpacking and fly fishing.  I've sort of gotten away from these two loves of mine and that's a shame!  I need to make time for these just like I make time for running.  Heck . . . I can easily combine these!
  • Do more to help others.  I can do more than I do today . . . and I should.  And I will.
  • Do what I can to help get America back "on track."  My focus will be to do what I can to bring term limits to our representatives . . . state and federal.  In my eyes, congressmen always thinking about the polls and how to stay in office is a root cause of why America doesn't address such key issues as our crushing debt.  True, the chances of my efforts being meaningful are very, very slim.  But I can try.  And I will.

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Littleton, North Carolina
World's Slowest Runner . . . well, at least in contention for the honor. Just your average "below average" runner.