Monday, October 17, 2011

Another lesson learned ....

I recently ran the Portland Marathon after suffering a strained calf three weeks before I knew running this marathon was a gamble, although it was one I was willing to take.  I had been training since July and really felt ready to run a solid marathon again as I was running times I had run when I was healthy!  It was such an amazing feeling to be able to train at higher level again and challenge myself.  I even got use to and looked forward to the super early morning runs with my neighbor that has a crazy on call schedule and some mornings I think he only got a few hours sleep after bringing new life into the world delivering babies in the middle of the night.

I knew when I went to see our Team Blaze Athletic Trainer before the marathon for an assessment and she recommended running with real caution and encouraged me to drop out if I felt pain it was a gamble, although I really felt much better on Wed. through Sun. morning with no pain. Unfortunately, when I got to mile 10 it felt tight and after going up the St Johns hill to mile 18 in the marathon my calf was done, so I walked and jogged back to the finish. 

Should I have quit?  What would you do? 

 I personally have always felt that once an athlete starts dropping out when the going getting tough it makes it easier to quit in the future.  By the same token if I had quit at 13 mile maybe I wouldn't be injured or maybe I would be and then regret the fact I didn't finish my journey.  In retrospect I'm glad I did the race as it was my opportunity to run a marathon less than 11 monhs after heart surgery and as my wife reminded me, you finish in 3:48 and so many people would love to run that time!  Thanks babe for always supporting and giving me the glass half full perspective!

Of course hindsight is always 20/20 and I now realize I was really fooling myself to think my calf would hold up for 26.2 miles.  Unfortunately, after training since July and feeling better throughout the week I decided to roll the dice and now I'm paying for it.  My challenge since heart surgery is that my motivation and passion for challenging myself has impacted my judgement.  So, now I rest, let this heal effectively and build the solid foundation to hopefully support me in 2012 and beyond without ongoing injuries!

After visiting two doctors in the last two weeks....

I had an ultrasound and the specialist said I tore the muscle in two places (inside of mid-calf and near my shin) and another Dr.  confirmed it today, although he said it wasn't as bad as he thought based on the ultrasound relative to how it looks.  It still hurts really bad to walk, so he set me up with boot and said NO RUNNING, which should be a given as I can't walk without pain. I can swim with a buoy and do core/upper body exercises, however I must reduce all weight bearing activities if I want this to heal.

What did I learn through the experience.....

* I learned that sometimes it's better to sit on the sidelines and support others. 

*I learned once again that even if I'm in pain and obviously going to run slower than planned I can't quit.  So, in the future I need to use better judgement instead of letting my motivation cloud my judgement.

*I learned that although this sucks and I'm now chilling for the next 4 weeks that it could always be worse. 

*I learned why I do all this crazy stuff.  I truly love the challenge and resting to effectively recover from this will in time help me.  As my wife always tells me, "in time this will be a small bump that will pass." 

*I learned that I'm going to really focus in 2012 to build an effective foundation to hopefully stay healthy and enjoy the racing again!

* I learned that for Halloween I 'm going to be a cardiac storm trooper as I already have the heart pillow, spirometer and now the walking boot so why not just grab my afro wig and try to have fun with this latest bump in the road.  Remember to enjoy the journey and keep the faith!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Portland Marathon 2011

The 40th annual Portland Marathon last weekend was my 21st marathon since 1998 and honestly meant a lot to me.  It was less than 11 months ago that my future was very uncertain as I was going through heart surgery.  Sure, I knew god had more plans for me, however I didn't know if I would ever swim, bike, and run again.  I viewed the Portland Marathon as my chance to finally run a solid race on this course, unfortunately it wasn't my day, although it's this challenge that will drive my motivation this winter to challenge myself as I look forward to IM AZ 2012!

As I began training for the Portland Marathon in July I knew I had a long road and many miles in front of me to get back to where I wanted to be.  I was actually surprised after 4 weeks of training just how much fitness I regained.  My confidence and fitness continued to build through the training to the point I was running times I ran before heart surgery!  I was running more 45-50 mile quality weeks than ever before, so I thought I was really ready to run a solid half marathon in Sandpoint on 9/18 and then I proceeded to go out too fast which lead to me going symptomatic with a heart rate of 182.  I also experienced tightness in my right calf that continued through the race.  I was disappointed with the results, although I realized this was completely self inflicted.  In retrospect I should have rested more right after this race instead of trying to get back to training again.

Unfortunately in the 3 weeks following this race my right calf never recovered even though I tried every treatment approach I knew.  I rested, iced, elevated, compressed, used anti-inflammatory meds., aqua jogging and even resorted to the goofy compression sleeve.  The week before the marathon I ran 12 miles to test the calf and felt great for 10 miles, but then the calf tightened again.  So, I decided to take the entire week off running and aqua jogged/swam before the marathon as I thought it was my only hope of running a solid 26.2 miles.

On marathon morning I actually felt great with no pain or tightness for the first time in 3 weeks!  As I arrived at the starting line and saw other Team Blaze members (Daniel, Scott and Gretchen) it great to be there again taking on the marathon challenge!  We'd all decided to run together for the first part of the marathon, which work really well.  I went through the first 10 miles in a comfortable 7:15 pace and my HR was only 162, however my calf was starting to tighten, so after stopping to stretch it I told Daniel to go ahead as I knew couldn't maintain that pace without pain. 

I stayed fairly steady through mile 16 until the 1.5 mile climb up the St. Johns Bridge which lead to my calf balling up. As I reached mile 18 I thought about throwing in the towel as I knew the cramping wouldn't stop and my pace was slowing with a jog/walk approach.  I soon realized that I was better off to keep going as I was closer to the finish by pressing on.  During the last 8 miles I had time to reflect and search for motivation to keep going to the finish, unfortunately my left calf and hamstring were now cramping too, so I would jog about 1/3 mile then walk/stretch to prevent cramps. 

At mile 24 for the first time in 21 marathons I came to a table and sign that read, "free beer".  I thought to myself why not, I'll take two cups please.  I had to laugh when one of the guys I was walking with ask if he could have the whole pitcher. After drinking a few shots of beer I pressed on to the finish, although I kept cramping which resulted in more walking.  Once I was 1/2 mile from the finish my new goal became running under 3:50, so I pressed on to finish in 3:48.

I was pleased to learn other Team Blaze members had great races with many new PR times and first time marathoner!  It's a great feeling to help guide others to achieving their goals and frustrating when I see athletes I coach that I know trained really hard experience a day similar to mine when it doesn't go as planned.  We all desire those days when it all comes together, however as anyone knows that has raced many races that things don't always go as planned.

What did I learn through this experience?

1) If I continue to stay focused I will continue to improve my fitness.

2) Learn about the injury by going to the Dr. right away instead of trying to manage it myself.

3) Rest means complete rest from running or the injury won't get better.

4) Take responsibility for your injury and stay positive as feeling sorry for yourself doesn't help you recover.

5) Maintain a positive attitude as research shows this will in fact help your recovery!

6) Get support from others which is something I learned during heart surgery and still attribute to my quick recovery.

7) Set appropriate goal- I learned that although I know I can run sub 3:15 again that I need appreciate bring able to participate and not focus on old times.  (This is really tough for me.)

8)Maintain my fitness through cross training activities like swimming, cycling,aqua jogging, elliptical, pilates etc. is key to keeping my sanity.

9) I learned once again I can finish what I start when the day isn't going as planned.  This is a tough decision as I feel sometimes athletes should stop before risking further injury.  I was basically at point the marathon of no return as I had an 8 mile walk back to the finish either way so why not finish.

10) I need to listen to my body and rest so this doesn't become an ongoing injury.

So, my new post heart surgery marathon PR is 3:48, which as my wife reminded me is a time many people would love to run and I just had heart surgery less than 11 months ago.   I really appreciate all the support, encouragement and perspective from everyone.   My whole life the challenges I've faced have always driven me to work harder and continue to persevere on my journey.

As I finished the marathon the first thought that came to mind wasn't I never want to run another marathon, but instead it was focused on when my next marathon will be to establish a new PR!  My new goal  right now is to run the marathon in Ironman Arizona Nov.20, 2012 faster than I ran Portland!
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

11 months and 11 years

Tristin, Reece & I

 As I sit here typing I’m reminded of my last 11 months since I underwent heart surgery.  Some days I almost forget and then I hear the tick, tick, tick in my chest.  There is not a day that goes by since Nov. 15, 2010 that I don’t thank god for giving me more time on the rock to live my life.  I’m so truly blessed to be given a 2nd chance at living an inspired life and trying to in turn inspire others.
Over the last 11 months my life has followed a bumpy road, although I truly feel god doesn’t give us more than we can handle.  I’m so fortunate to have an amazing support system in my life that has truly helped me smooth my bumpy road.  My wife (Tristin) has been a key in this process. My son (Reece) makes me laugh and reminds me daily to enjoy the little things in life. My family has been there with me every step of the way.  My friends and athletes I’m so fortunate to coach have inspired me more than they will ever realize to keep living and maintain my passion for living a healthy life.  Special thanks to Dr. Daniel Zwiesler for helping to keep me motivated during the Portland Marathon training with too many 5:30 am runs and 50 mile weeks to count.  (you've done the work so now make it happen!)
My parents and I after my first Portland Marathon 1998

As I toe the start line tomorrow for the Portland Marathon, I will truly let my heart lead the way as I feel blessed to be at the starting line again.  I’ve learned over the last year that it’s more difficult sometimes to get to the start than the finish.  My training for Portland started in July with minimal fitness, however I’ve been able to continue to improve each week and feel as fit as ever.  I had reached almost all my fitness goals and then on 9/18 while running the Sandpoint Half I strained my right calf.  Although at first I chalked it up as my own overzealous attempt to run faster than I should have run the first 5 miles and general soreness, it’s turned into another bump in the road.  I ‘ve basically been forced to take the two weeks off running and aqua jog/swim as I had to give myself the best opportunity to get to the starting line in one piece.
I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to stay positive, use every injury treatment tip I know and honestly reflect on why I do all this crazy endurance stuff.  The answer is simple: I LOVE the challenge of pushing myself mentally and physically.  It’s the mental challenge with the marathon that keeps drawing me back.  For me this Sunday it’s about me vs. the Portland Marathon course.  This will our 5th battle and unfortunately the score is not in my favor, however I’m hoping all my hard work training over since July will lead me to my solid day.  I know I need to take a more patient approach and really listen to my body. 

Trisin & I in Maui, HI after getting married on Oct. 10, 2000
This Monday, Oct. 10th will also be another special day as it’s our 11th wedding anniversary! It’s amazing Tristin has put up with me this long and feel so blessed to have her in my life. She’s always maintained her unconditional love and support for me.  She has been there to pick me up when I fall or just listen when I need to vent about the bumps in the my road. She is truly a special person that touches the lives of others with her positive spirit for life.  You’re an awesome wife and mother to Reece!  We’ve made so many awesome memories and I look forward to years of adventures as our road hopefully takes a smoother path.

The future with endless possibilies!
 All of this has taught me to more clearly understand the idea of success being measured by getting to the starting line.  I continue to strongly believe in the importance of enjoying the journey and looking forward to the future as I take on new challenges!
Thanks for reading and supporting!