Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If You Aren’t Bleeding, You Aren’t Trying Hard Enough



One of my favorite mantras that I use to motivate myself and Jakob is, “If you aren’t bleeding, you aren’t trying hard enough.” I can’t remember when I heard it for the first time. It might have even been childhood. It seems like I have said it forever. Anyhow, today I was definitely trying hard enough. It has been quite awhile since I last crashed the bike. I ended a long crash free streak last week with my fall on the ice. This week it was another slippery surface. If I keep telling these stories I’m going to gain a reputation as a real klutz.

Like the day with the ice, I hadn’t really expected to encounter any adverse weather conditions. Actually, I hadn’t for the entire trip to work. It was a standard, overcast, cool and cloudy winter morning. I was enjoying the traffic level of downtown. The university’s finals were last week. The students were all now on Christmas break and the last 2 miles of the commute had far fewer cars than usual.

The best part of the ride was playing with a dump truck for a couple miles. He passed me just before having to stop at a red light. One of my favorite games is trying to stay with any car that passes me for as long as possible. The light turned green as I was approaching the back of the truck. All vehicles leave an area of disrupted air behind them. If you can get into that space, you can ride without any wind resistance. A bus, or dump truck, leaves an even larger area behind it than a smaller car. For the next mile I was able to draft behind him at a surprisingly fast pace. I always stay to one side and remain ready for them to suddenly stop. A face full of dump truck would not be the way to start a day off right. Unfortunately, our paths eventually separated and I had to face the wind on my own for the rest of the trip.

As I pulled into the parking lot at work, I let my traffic vigil down and began to relax. I have to ride across a large parking lot before making the final turn down the hill into the underground garage I park the bike in. The lot is a well maintained, freshly coated field of asphalt. Any moisture on the ground makes it extremely slippery on the bike. I hadn’t encountered any damp areas on my way in though so I was not expecting it to be slick. Fresh off of busy traffic filled roads, I often speed through the lot and lean hard into the final corner heading down the ramp into the garage. As I leaned into the turn this morning, I noticed the layer of morning mist covering the asphalt. It was about that time the back tire started to slide and down I went.

Of course I didn’t do this when nobody was watching. There was a vehicle coming out of the garage at the time and another one pulling in behind me. Like last week, it was another very graceful fall. Luckily, one of the rare skills I have is a tendency to wipe out in a well controlled fashion. I went down on my left hip and knee like I was sliding into a stolen base. I don’t think I was on the ground for even a full second before popping back onto my feet. Both cars pulled up with open windows to make sure I was alright. I was disappointed with myself that I missed another golden opportunity to jump to my feet and yell, “TADA!” One of these times I will remember. Instead I said, “I’m good, that happens all the time!” All the time might be a slight exaggeration but it sure seems like it the last 2 weeks.

The only damage done was a small abrasion on my hip and on my knee. The strange thing is how I managed to scrape the skin off both places without tearing a hole in my thin polyester pants. Tomorrow I think I will take that last corner a little slower.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

First Snowfall

Winter has finally arrived in full force. Monday morning was a crisp 6 degrees with wind-chills reading in the negative. There had been flurries of snow throughout the night before but I didn’t see any accumulation on the road from my window. I thought the only hurdle of riding my bike to work would be dealing with the cold.

After 3 years of riding I have, piece by piece, collected all the technical clothing that I would need to be comfortable in just about any temperature. It’s possible to wear too much clothing even when it’s below freezing. Then you end up sweating like a pig which can lead to chills later or just feeling suffocated and weak for the entire ride. The converse is not putting enough on and finding yourself any where from chilly to suffering in pain and wondering about frostbite!

At this stage in the game I am pretty good at choosing the right articles of clothing for any given temperature while working out. If I were to sit still on the side of the road for an extended period however, I would most likely freeze to death. A mechanical failure of the bike would probably require picking up the bike and jogging to my location so that I didn’t freeze to death. On the bike, 6 degrees with a -8 wind-chill requires:

Heavy wool socks
2 pair of micro fleece pants
3 layers on top - Polyester base layer, heavy fleece 2nd layer, thin nylon windbreaker
Convertible mittens over thin wool glove liners.
Fleece hat.
Fleece scarf neck tube thing that I hate.
2 pair of neoprene booties over cycling shoes.

Snug as a bug. Well, almost. I should have worn a wind resistant layer on my legs. The wind-chill, combined with the wind of riding, had the front of my legs freezing and tingling. A much longer ride would have made me worry about damage but for the 30 minutes to work it was an amount of suffering that I could deal with.

My face was comfortable for part of the ride. After 15 or 20 minutes the following always occurs: The scarf tube thing catches all of the moisture that you are breathing out so the scarf and your face end up wet. Then you get too hot and need a fresh breath so you pull the stupid scarf tube thing down. Then, if you are bearded like I am, your beard which is wet from sweat freezes solid and crunches and cracks every time you move your mouth.

Comfort on the ride really wasn’t that big of an issue. The highlight of my first true winter ride this year was discovered as I came around the corner heading into one of the busiest intersections of my ride, Ingram Mill and Sunshine. There was a gigantic sheet of ice across the middle of the road. It stretched from curb to curb and was some 20 feet long ending right at the crosswalk. The intersection itself was clear but getting through the ice to it was going to be the problem. The ice had formed in a depression in the road, the cars had melted the snow flurries and then the water had refrozen. A night of polishing by passing cars had left a shiny, mirror like surface standing in my way.

The light was green at the moment but it was late into the cycle and was about to turn red. If I sprinted, and happened to make it across the ice field, I would make the light safely. However, if I lost it on the ice going over 20 mph it could get ugly. Since there were no cars behind me, I decided to take it slowly and just wait through the next light cycle. I only made it about 5 feet onto the sheet of ice before the back tire lost its traction and began to slide.

It all happened fairly gracefully. The bike spun sideways. I leaned back and found myself sitting upright and sliding on the ice with my bike between my legs. I stood up and gingerly worked my way to the edge of the ice field to wait for the light to turn back green. Bike shoes are not made for ice walking. The cars sitting at the red light waiting to cross the road probably enjoyed the show more than I did. As their light turned green and the cars began passing, I got many smiles from drivers.

In the end, bike and body are fine, pride was slightly damaged. Many people might decide this is the time to start driving until the weather is cooperating more. I interpret this as the time to prepare the snow bike. She is a hearty beast with a studded front tire. She will plow straight through the fiercest of winter conditions.



(more pictures of Snow Bike)

Week of December 6 - Bike 80, Run 18

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Letter to the Director of Transportation, Springfield Public Schools

Rick Emling, Director of Transportation
Springfield Public Schools, Transportation Department
1600 East Chestnut Expressway
Springfield, MO 65802
Fax (417) 532-0545

Dear Mr. Emling,

The City of Springfield prides itself on being a bicycle friendly community and was recently named a Bronze Level Bicycle Community. I was not feeling that friendliness on the morning of Monday, December 6, 2010, at approximately 7:45 a.m. While traveling north on Ingram Mill Road, I found myself mere inches from possibly being killed by the driver of the No. 7 Springfield School Bus. I ride my bicycle to work daily and have done so for the past 3 years. I ride over 4,000 miles a year and in the past have generally had very safe interactions with the Springfield School bus drivers. I take responsibility for my safety and ride in a high visibility yellow jacket. I have a flashing red taillight. I obey traffic signs and wait my turn in lines. I signal my turns and try to follow the law.

I haven’t brought this incident to your attention with the hope of causing trouble for the driver in question. I would like to use this opportunity to solicit your help in educating your drivers with the law related to bicycles.

At the time of this incident I was riding on the right hand side of the northbound lane of Ingram Mill Road, less than 1/2 mile north of Glendale High School. I was riding approximately 18 inches from the gutter seam. I do not recall the distance the bus was from me when it began its pass but it began moving back into my lane of travel shortly after the door passed me and well before it was safely beyond me. As the rear bumper passed me it was no more than a couple of inches from my handle bars. This space between us was only there because I had began braking and moving closer towards the curb as the bus was squeezing me into the gutter. Had I not braked and evasively moved, I would have been struck by the side of the bus.

I would appreciate it if you would bring this incident to the driver’s attention. If it were a simple oversight regarding the length of their vehicle, then perhaps more training is in order. If this potentially deadly pass was for any other reason, then perhaps more training regarding the law is necessary. I would remind the driver that according to Missouri Revised Statutes § 307.188, bicycles have a right to be on the road. Contrary to many road users understanding, the law does not say bicycles must ride as far to the right as possible. It says as far to the right as is safe. It further instructs that if the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle, that a bicycle may use the full lane.

I would also point out that according to Missouri Revised Statutes § 300.411 and § 304.678, the burden to pass safely is on the overtaking vehicle. It states that drivers “...shall leave a safe passing distance, when passing the bicycle, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.” If a standard is necessary to understand what a “safe passing distance” is, I would direct your attention to a bill currently in the Missouri House that will most likely pass as it has in numerous other states. It will require a passing distance of no less than 3 feet.

I could almost understand a driver becoming upset if I were holding up traffic unnecessarily and stacking up a line of vehicles behind me because I was riding to slowly. However, that was not the case in this particular situation. As you may know, Ingram Mill is not a narrow road. There was more than ample space in the center of the road for the driver to negotiate a safe pass without even having to slow down. For the sake of safety, I would remind the driver that if there was not ample space to pass safely, it is the passing vehicle’s duty to wait until it is safe to do so and not to attempt to squeeze through.

There is plenty of room to share our roads, and they would be much safer for all of us, if we would just show a little courtesy for those around us. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
Jim Phillips

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Week of November 21 - 48 Bike, 15 Run
Week of November 28 - 64 Bike, 17 Run

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What's the Worst That Could Happen


The first gymnastics meet of the season was this weekend in Van Buren, Arkansas. Jakob has spent much of the last month dreading the day. I have a hard time understanding the stress he feels but I am not the one who has to stand in front of the judges, rows of parents and other competitors, all the while performing skills that are difficult to do when nobody is watching or grading you. I like to think if it were me, I would be looking forward to cleaning up the competition the way he always seems to do. Well, except for this particular meet, when his worst fears would be realized.

The first meet always seems to be the hardest for him. In the last month I have been showing him the videos of past meets at the beginning of a season. I thought it would help if he saw that his routines are never perfect the first time he competes them. It takes an entire season of smoothing out the details before the end of the season when they can be performed mistake free. This year, he is actually much further along than he normally is. He almost has all the skills in all six routines down, including the bonuses. Bonuses being extra skills that make the routine harder but yield larger scores.

Despite being better prepared than ever before, he was still feeling the nerves as we drove to Arkansas to put him to the test. I always ask, what exactly are you afraid of? If you know what the specific fear is, you can develop a plan to face and overcome it, so that it no longer stands in between you and reaching your goals. He shares the same fear we all do, failure. What will happen if I mess up or can't do it? The obligatory lessons I try to impart about just showing up and doing your best are still things I struggle with as an adult. As a competitive child who strives to win, who usually does win, such noble lessons probably sound like nonsense.

Aside from his usual pre-meet jitters, once inside the gym, he had his game face on and looked ready to go. His first event was high bar. His warm up had gone well and I watched as he stepped up and saluted the judge fully expecting him to start the meet off strong. Around and around the bar he swung, legs were straight, toes were pointed. A couple of small breaks in form but still looking sharp. Nearing the end of the routine, he came around the bar again to begin one of the final skills where he lets go of the bar with one hand and turns his body to swing back the other direction. That is when it happened. His swing took him a bit too high causing him to lose his balance and forcing him to bail off the bar.

One fall is not so bad. A single point is all that's lost. But it wasn't simply falling that he would have to deal with. His fall was actually well controlled and he was going to land on his feet. Unfortunately, as he landed he rolled his right ankle spraining it. He was unable to finish the routine. Now he was realizing his worst fears for a meet. Not only would he not be able to get back on and finish his high bar routine, there would be no way he could do the high impact floor routine. No possible way to run full speed and vault. He would be unable to do the layout back flip dismount from parallel bars or the double back flip planned for rings. In the middle of the first of six routines, his meet was essentially over.

He handled the situation in a manner that made me proud. He didn't cry or refuse to go on. They put ice on the ankle and taped it up. He decided with his coach to stay and do what he could. They would finish pommel horse, rings and parallel bars and just take the deductions for skipping the dismounts. Vault and floor would have to be skipped altogether as there is no way to perform them without being able to run, jump and land on both feet. Even if he performed every move he was still capable of doing without a single deduction, he would have no chance of a competitive score.

As it turns out, "failure" was not as bad as it had seemed in his dreams. His world did not crumble. His friends were still there for him. Sure there is disappointment when a situation takes a turn you hadn't hoped for but there are also valuable lessons to be learned. Lessons about continuing on the best you can, even when it's not the way you had planned or hoped for. There are lessons about keeping on your smile and hanging in for the rest of your team even when you are in pain. And of course, the lessons he will learn over the next month about overcoming an injury and getting back on the horse.

It might seem nice if life always worked out the way we hoped it would. However, we wouldn't have a chance to learn all those valuable lessons we learn when life takes those turns we dread and fear the most. Those are the moments when true character shows. Anyone can smile when they are standing on top of the podium. The question is, are they able to smile when they are standing at the bottom? The answer for Jakob was yes. As a parent I could see and feel his disappointment as he looked to the boy in first place at the top of the podium, but as he accepted his ribbon for last place he graciously smiled and held his head high.



Week of November 15 - 64 Bike, 15 Run

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Almost Fully Recovered

Recovery from the 100 miler is substantially complete. Activity and physical comfort is beginning to return to normal levels again. It’s been almost 3 weeks and I still have a little ground to cover but for the most part, I feel excellent.

The first two days were the most uncomfortable. I tried to sleep a lot the first 24 hours but had great difficulty doing so. I would drift off for 20 minutes and then jolt awake in cramped up pain. It would take substantial effort to roll over and find another semi-comfortable position before dozing off to repeat the same cycle over and over again. Everything from the waist down was stiff and fairly useless. My left ankle was swollen and my lower shins were bruised. I had to use my hands to stabilize and raise myself from a sitting position to standing.

After a couple days had passed I was sleeping better and able to walk in a fairly normal looking fashion. Every step, especially when down stairs, was still painful. I took two days off work to focus on healing and refueling before going back on Wednesday. Fortunately, I have a job sitting at a desk and I am able to recover while working. I took walks at lunch but wasn’t motivated to run or cycle during the first week off.

By the second week, I was getting pretty antsy to do something active. On Tuesday, even though my ankle was still swollen and stiff, I decided to ride the bike to work. They say you must be careful after taxing yourself as I had because you are still prone to an injury until you have fully recovered. Even though the ride was more uncomfortable than it normally is, I think it did a lot to help loosen stiff joints and muscles. I managed to ride the 16 miles to work and back on 3 days that week, each time leaving me feeling better than the last. Saturday, after 2 full weeks without a run, I went out for short 2 miles. It felt so good run! That was until I had gone about ½ mile. After 2 miles I felt like I had done 15.

In this third week, I should be back to an almost normal amount of activity for me. I‘ll come in with about 60 miles of riding and 15 to 20 on the run. I still haven’t decided what the next challenge will be. There is a 50 mile run I am considering in the spring but I haven’t committed to it yet. I like to keep something on the horizon to keep me motivated to stay active. It makes it too easy to skip a day, or more, of working out when you don’t have a goal you’re getting ready for.

This weekend is Jake’s first meet since Regionals. I am excited to see what this season at a new level holds for him!

Week of November 8 – 48 Bike, 2 Run

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bloody Birthdays



Not my birthday. Today is the Marine Corp Birthday. November 10, 1775. She is 235 years old. Having been out for more than 10 years now, I still remember this day as it comes around. It was always a huge celebration complete with formal ball and drunken debauchery. I have another reason to remember this date every year as well. It is the anniversary of one of my bike accidents. Two years ago I was headed home from work and got t-boned in an intersection less than ¼ a mile from the house.

I hesitate to tell this story and make cycling seem much more dangerous than it really is. I'm an aggressive all season rider, and like everything in my life, probably make it more risky than it should be. I wouldn't suggest riding in thunder storms and blizzards for anyone that hadn't spent a significant amount of time in the elements. But I think if you ride on normal days, with visibility in mind and as the law suggests, you are relatively safe out there. The health benefits greatly outweigh any danger you might face. So having said all that, here is the bike accident story.

In defense of the older woman who hit me, it was dark and raining. However, I was riding with a headlight, flashing taillights, and day-glow orange jacket that had reflective stripes. It’s much cooler looking than it actually sounds. She hit me directly under a street lamp in front of an elementary school. Not to mention the street is one of Springfield’s designated bike routes and is well lit. But overall, I think I fared pretty well in the accident. At least as well as you can when bouncing off the front end of a moving vehicle on a cold, dark, rainy night.



The sun had been down for less than 30 minutes but it seemed unusually dark due to the rain clouds that had been dumping all afternoon. It was around 40 degrees and my fingers and toes were feeling the chill of the cold rain. I had made it all the way across town in the height of evening rush hour without any trouble whatsoever. Usually, I start to relax a little as I enter our street. After passing through that last large high speed intersection that often has accidents blocking it. For the most part, my road is wide and there is plenty of room to share even with cars passing in both directions.

Despite having made it through the many other, what I have always considered, more dangerous places of the commute, my wide safe designated street would be the location of the accident. It was a T intersection on my right side, where I have the right of way, and a car was waiting at a stop sign for me to pass. Or so I thought. As I passed in front of the car it went!

I saw her bumper lurching towards me and tried to steer away from the front of her car. I could tell I wasn’t going to make it and leaned toward the hood thinking I might make it on top and escape going underneath her wheels. This clever plan may have worked had my feet not been strapped into the pedals. When the bumper made contact with my right leg and the front fork of the bike, I was instantly knocked sideways away from the car. My first impact was either my left cheek and nose, or my left hand still wrapped around the bars. I couldn’t tell which hit first but they were both hurting pretty badly.

Luckily, she stopped immediately and didn’t drive over me as I was lying directly in the path of her car. She hopped out and I jumped up. I tend to do this after going down hard. It’s probably not the best habit as one day I may be really broken and do more damage by standing up immediately. She was profusely apologizing and I told her I was fine. I mean, beside the fact my head was spinning a bit and there was blood around my left eye and flowing from my mouth and also my right thigh was aching pretty bad. One of my teeth was broken and it had put a really nasty cut on the inside of my lip. But as bad as all that sounds, I remember thinking I was fairly fortunate for not being worse.



I was impressed with the City’s rapid, yet obscenely excessive, response. In what seemed a very short time, 2 cop cars, a fire engine and an ambulance had shown up to render aid. Even though I was up and walking around, I left my bike lying in the middle of the road with its lights flashing. The first officer to the scene carried it off the road and directed me to the ambulance while he began taking statements. After the paramedics had looked me over, I declined a ride in the ambulance as I was pretty sure I would be fine. Sara would disagree with my diagnosis later. The police officer interviewed me and after I repeatedly assured him I was good to go, he let me leave.

A friend had happened upon the scene and recognized me standing on the side of the road. He gave me and the mangled bike a ride home. I had planned on just walking it as it was only a ¼ of a mile to the house. I cleaned up and then Sara picked me up and took me to gymnastics to watch the end of Jakob’s practice. As we sat talking about it and what I was feeling, reluctantly, Sara convinced me to go to the emergency room to be checked out. We waited until practice was over and the 3 of us headed to the hospital. I had a large bruise on my right thigh where I had impacted the car. I broke my nose. I broke a tooth that cut a large hole in my lip, and had multiple chunks of skin missing. It really wasn’t that bad. The doctor couldn’t do anything really but clean the scrapes and recommend pain killers.

The next day I went ahead and went to work. I did drive that first day however. 2 days later I was riding my bike to work again, though much slower than normal. Luckily I have more than 1 bike. Aside from the nose surgery a couple months later that forced a couple weeks of rest, everything else healed on its own over the next 6 months or so. My nose is now better than before and I don’t have any problems from the other injuries.



The woman admitted fault and I was fortunately in complete compliance with the law for riding at night with more light and reflectivity than is actually required. If she had carefully looked, she should have seen me. Because of this, her insurance was willing to cover my medical expenses and replace my totaled bike. Even though she was legally at fault, I believe for the most part, we all play a part in any accident we are involved in. I learned 2 valuable lessons in this 1. First, just because you have the right of way does not mean everyone will give it to you. And second, more lights are better than less. Trust me, they are not expecting you to be there. I am now hyper aware of this and use much greater caution approaching intersections, always looking for an escape route should a vehicle decide not to wait.



One other thing I found interesting about this accident is that it occurred at an intersection that had my name on it. It's like that expression, somewhere out there is a bullet with my name on it. I mean literally, this intersection has a sign with my name on it.



Week of November 1 - 0 bike, 0 run

Monday, November 1, 2010

100 Miles of Busiek

Alone into the Dark

Over the last 8 months, I have spent a part of every single day thinking about how my birthday would play out. I am 40 years old and running 100 miles in celebration. I had no real idea how this day would work. My expectations were based on other people's accounts and my own imagination. I have never gone more than 50 miles before. When I finished the 50 miles I had trouble climbing into the car and I don't think I could have managed to turn around and run the entire course again. But as time passed, like it does with every painful event we have endured, the memory of the suffering dulled. The dream of completing a 100 mile run began to get louder again. However, this time I would be more prepared, even more determined, and I would certainly finish. The day had finally arrived and it was now time to find out if I would be able to win an argument with the voice we hear that always tells us to just give in when it gets difficult.

I didn't think I could slack in the preparation to run 100 miles in one day so I prepared diligently. With workouts before and after work and a long effort on the weekends, over the past 240 some days, I ran 1,347 miles and rode 1,980 (give or take a few tenths for my GPS buddies). The longest run I did in one day while building up was 30 miles. Unlike the marathon or shorter distances, you don't get a chance to run the race distance before the race. I did things like park further from doors and take long walks at lunch. I went for runs at night to practice being tired. At the end I did a by the book 3 week taper, and made it injury free and fully rested to the day that I would find out if I could resist the strongest urge to quit that I have ever faced.

When I opened my eyes at 3:30 am and saw the fog of my breath float to the top of the tent, I took a deep breath, and thought to myself, "I don't think I want to do this!" But it was far too late for thoughts like that. It was 31 degrees. I had only gotten a couple hours of sleep if that. For the most part, I laid wide awake thinking about the day to come. Hoping it went well, fighting off the urge to dwell on all the things that could end the run prematurely. Dehydration, broken bones, blisters, wimping out.

Without the fanfare and other participants of an organized event, the morning was very dark and uninviting. Normally, the crowd of other people milling around whom are about to suffer with you can give you an emotional rush of energy. But crawling out of the tent alone, I didn't receive any boost of energy and truly felt compelled to climb back into the sleeping bag with Sara. That would not happen though. It was time to start moving and not stop for a very long time.

I went to the truck to get dressed and use the heater to try and warm my body that was aching from the cold. Sara and Jakob joined me shortly. We decided we had to time to drive to the gas station and get some coffee instead of freezing in the cold while waiting for the camp stove to boil water. For a while, I stressed about making it back in time to start promptly at 6:00 am. Reluctantly, I began to accept that there was nobody firing a starting gun this morning. I could start whenever I felt like it. After the 40 minute trip I was feeling warmer and ready to get it on. Sara and Jakob were the only witnesses to the beginning. With a kiss goodbye, I faced the dark trail and began one of the longest days of my life at 6:06 am.

The first part of the day I actually had a great time. The weather was cool and dry. The sun had come up within an hour of starting. By 10:00 am I had my shirt off and was in a real groove passing milestones quickly, full of confidence. Being totally rested for the first time in so many months, I was able to run fast and still feel very relaxed. The pace to begin the day with had been a nagging question for a long time. I had always sensed it might be an issue. Just because I can manage a certain speed for the first 10 hours without much pain, does not mean I can maintain that same speed all night long. But it felt so good I didn't want to stop. I cranked up the music and ran. I would pay for my exuberance later.

Within no time, I was nearing the halfway point. They say the first half is run with your body and the second half with your mind. I passed my previous best of 50 miles in just under 12 hours and started to think I might just run this whole thing strong. I could be done in 24 hours even! Maybe, I'm a fast person after all! Another lap brought me near 60 miles. Unfortunately, as the sun set and darkness fell around me, the wheels began to fall off.

It was at this point I met up with Nate on the trail. It was good to have somebody with me. It allowed me to put my focus somewhere other than on myself. Nate didn't start a loop with me. He arrived shortly after I had started a new lap. Not wanting to wait an hour and a half for me to come around again, with a little goading from Sara, he decided to try and catch up with me. He was unprepared for the number of intersections he would face though and had to guess a couple of times on which way to turn. To his good fortune, he popped out on the trail about 30 feet in front of me just as the sun was going down. He didn't have a light with him and we shared my headlamp beam to get back. I carried light with me when it even got close to dark because navigating this rocky trail at night is treacherous with lights on. To attempt it without lights would be pretty wild.

With 62 miles down, I began another lap with my friend Aaron and actually had a little bit of energy left to use. I was however, starting to lose the spring in my legs. From all of the steep rocky downhill running, my quads just above the knee, were really starting to hurt. It was that sharp stabbing sort of pain deep in the muscle. I would run for several minutes but then have to walk for long periods to catch my breath. There didn't seem to be any more cushions left in my joints.

On the next loop I picked up Collin. Somewhere between miles 68 and 74, around 11:00 pm and after 17 hours, I ran my last step. My legs had reached a point where I just couldn't get them to run anymore. I was starting to get nauseous when pushing up the hills and finding the right footing on the steep downhills was really starting to become tedious and painful! I would try to muster a running like movement on the flats but it was actually slower and using more energy than the brisk walk I was still able to manage.

You would think having 75 miles in the bank, and only a quarter of the distance left, would make you feel pretty good. The only flaw in this view was that at the pace I was able to move, and with the pain I was feeling now, much less a couple hours from now, I was looking at another 8 full hours of pushing forward with pain in every step. But in the end, this is the challenge I came for and it was finally time to start facing the excuses that would beckon to me for the remainder of the journey.

At 2:55 am, with over 80 miles in, I began what would be the hairiest loop of them all. Luckily, I had Jamie with me who was the only friend I have that has actually run 100 miles before. Not only was I walking at a fairly slow pace, I was having to stop and sit on the side of the trail to regroup myself every couple of miles. Throughout most of the day I had been religiously taking in 20 ounces of Perpetuem and taking 4 Endurolytes every hour, but a couple hours ago I had pretty much stopped drinking. Every sip was turning my already queasy stomach more sour. I never did vomit though it may have helped. Jamie forced me to drink plain water and keep taking Endurolytes. I can't imagine how this loop would have played out alone. I remember him reaching out to keep me from toppling over on the rocks as my balance was fading.

That ended up being the longest loop at 2 hours and 25 minutes. I have read stories about people dropping out of runs when they are 90 miles in. I remember thinking how could anyone do that when they are so close! I now completely understand that when you are 90 miles in and suffering more than you ever have, the prospect of another 4 or 5 hours of fighting back the pain of every movement, can appear to be an insurmountable mountain. This is what I was thinking as Jamie and I reached the aid station after 23 and a half hours of pushing behind me and just under 12 miles left. If I can just talk myself into continuing on, I would only have 5 hours left!

I had lost the ability to regulate my temperature and was getting very cold. Exhaustion was pounding on me and I felt the desire to just close my eyes, if only for a few minutes. We had decided somewhere out on the last loop that I would sit by the fire and try a cup of coffee while warming up my feet for a few minutes. Once I was in the chair I asked permission to take a nap and I think someone said I could have 15 minutes. I passed out and spilled the hot cup of coffee Sara had just handed me down my leg. It didn't wake me for long though and I got a good power nap in. In what seemed like a long blink to me, Jamie said what I needed to hear which was, "I hate to be the bad guy but your 15 minutes are up." I managed to sit for another couple of minutes but Sara reminded me I needed to keep moving. Shortly, I was up and ready to go again. Well, not ready to go, but ready to be done and there was only one way to get there.

Power Nap

Aaron was ready to take on another loop with me. His previous long run had only been 5 miles. But in the past 12 hours he covered nearly 12 miles on a cold dark trail with me. We can do so much more than we think we can. I left with two bottles on this loop. One filled with coffee and one with ginger ale. It was exactly what I needed. While I was still having some balance issues, I was only experiencing the nauseousness when climbing the hills and that was an improvement. Then came the second sunrise of the run, it was one of the most uplifting things I have experienced on the run. Even though it didn’t bring the warmth I was hoping it would, it did raise my spirits about the end. Although it was still 3 hours away, it was becoming an attainable destination again.

I set out on the final loop alone. I had been fortunate enough to have a friend with me for the entirety of the night. I think they saved me numerous falls on the shifting rocks by catching me mid sway. Nate, Aaron, Collin and Jamie not only helped me through some of my roughest miles, but they also provided much comfort to Sara, who I'm sure was concerned for my safety. She stayed strong and motivating throughout the entire event. Her sister Amy, and brother Zac, stayed awake through the night with her. I was truly humbled by all the people who showed up and gave their day and night to help me realize this goal. There were people checking in with texts and Facebook posts throughout the night. Having so many supportive people behind me was a great motivator to keep moving on!

The final loop was really uneventful. It was merely a matter of gutting out the time to finish it up. I had regained my mental faculties and enough energy to get there. I really wanted to have the strength to run the final yards, but despite trying numerous times to get a running gait going, I never could do it. I looked more like a crazy person dancing in place by slowly stomping my feet. I settled back into my Frankenstein like walk and waddled down the final stretch of trail.

After 27 hours I felt completely raw inside and out. Nearing the finish was emotionally overwhelming. I was surfing through different waves of emotion and fighting back sobbing outbursts when Jakob and Sara met me on the trail with a few hundred feet to go. They were exactly the people I needed to see and I was happy to have started and finished the run with them. I walked and cried the final distance with them by my side.

The Final Yards

As I came into camp I was euphoric. I didn't have the energy to do anything special. I just plopped into the chair by the fire and began to chat with those who were there. It was one of the best moments of my life. I will have memories of this night for the rest of my days.

Finished

I still can't articulate very well why I felt such a need to face this run. Doing something like this really does seem to put your life into perspective. It helps you realize what is important and who truly matters. It provides a glimpse into a part of your character that can only be reached through a monumental challenge. Just telling myself I could do it was not enough. I needed to go toe to toe with the whispers to quit and I desperately needed to beat them.

Hey Doc! You remember me? You said I wasn’t strong enough! Well guess what?

Fun Facts:
Average Pace - 16:45/mile
Calorie Intake - roughly 5,000
Fluids - over 3 gallons in the form of Perpetuem, Coke, Ginger-Ale, Coffee and plain water.
Electrolytes - 82 Endurolytes pills
Blisters - zero! I swear by my Injinji socks.
51 Water Crossings - Feet were wet the entire day.
Elevation - 9,500 climb, 9,500 descent

Photo Album

Monday, October 25, 2010

“When you feel like stopping and can’t go any further…just keep going.”

In only 5 days I will be 40 years old! Strangely, it is not the getting older that is occupying my thoughts. I don’t feel run down or over the hill in the least. In fact, I am in the best shape of my life. Actually, I feel much stronger than when I was in the Marines even. The run is what’s on my mind and I can’t seem to think about much else right now.

In case you haven’t followed along since the beginning, on the morning of my birthday this Saturday, I will set out to cover 100 miles of trail at Busiek State Forest. For the last 8 months it has been at the forefront of my mind. If the distance isn’t enough of a challenge, the cumulative elevation change of almost 19,000 feet of rugged terrain and 68 water crossings should do the trick. I have collected everything I need and prepared myself, both mentally and physically, as much as possible. I’m simultaneously excited for it to start and ready for it to be over with so I can find something else to think about.

Preparation for the event has been a great journey. I have received encouragement from so many friends! Several people have told me that it has inspired them to get moving and that has been the best motivation. Throughout the run I will be reminding myself of the simplest yet profoundly appropriate piece of advice I heard from friend Mike Filla: “When you feel like stopping and can’t go any further…just keep going.”

The weather looks like it is going to be beautiful. The forecast is for a low of around 50 and a high near 70. It may actually be a little on the warm side but I suppose that is better than the 14 degrees and 6 inches of snow I faced when I toed the line of my first 50 mile ultramarathon a couple years ago.

I plan to start at 6:00 am on Saturday morning and should be done before lunch on Sunday. Sara is going to need company waiting for me to come around on each lap and if you are interested in running a lap (or more) with me that would be great as well! She will have a bonfire going and probably worrying about me more than necessary so someone to talk with would help the time pass for her.

Busiek is located some 20 miles south of Springfield. On Hwy 65, about 10 miles south of the Hwy F Sparta exit. As you head down the hill into the park, you come to a T. Take the road to the east (or left for the directionally challenged) and follow it to the last parking area. From there you should be able to see our campsite which will be the closest one to the parking lot.

I hope to see some of you there!

Week of October 18 - 20 Run, 48 Bike, 10 Walk

Monday, October 18, 2010

Google: Blurry Vision – 801,000 results



I have been waiting for the resolution of this problem before I mentioned it here. About a month ago Jakob woke up complaining about the vision in one eye. He described it as blurry in the peripheral but clear in the center. A day or two later he was having the problem in both eyes. He was having trouble at school and losing his balance at practice. It was leading to dizziness and then headaches. We took him to his doctor which began a month long journey with many ups and downs.

He was coming off a nasty stomach virus that he had fought for a couple of weeks. At about the same time the symptoms of the virus were diminishing, the vision started to falter. At first it was only in one eye and not too bad so we weren’t extremely concerned. With the help of Google, I learned that viruses did sometimes attack the vision and with time it should subside.

When he wanted to leave practice early we began to question. He never wants to quit early. When he came home from school saying that it had moved to both eyes, one of them completely blurry and they were now hurting, we began to get really concerned. We took him to the doctor. He was sent to an ophthalmologist who then sent him to a pediatric ophthalmologist. It was obvious that he was experiencing a problem, that was gradually getting worse, but they could not find a cause and had little comfort to offer. They speculated that it could possibly be a tumor pressing on the optic nerve and suggested an MRI.

Of course, they could not rush him to the MRI, an appointment had to be made. You have to wait for the appointment. They don’t give you an immediate answer when a test is done. You have to wait for the results. Minutes seem like hours and days seem like weeks. All the while we had decided to keep a positive attitude for Jakob’s sake and did our best to reassure him each time he would complain about his vision. This is far more difficult in practice than in theory.

To his face it was, "don’t worry it will all work out." In my head it was more like, what if he is going blind? Was he going to die? You try to remain optimistic but the numerous nightmarish stories you have heard in the past of healthy children stricken with cancer or freakish diseases flood your mind. We were overcome with emotions and stress. Until this time Jakob has always been exceptionally healthy. I have never before experienced the utter and absolute helplessness that can come with a serious threat to your child. There is nothing you can do but wait and try to comfort them. I have a new found respect for those parents with children fighting chronic health issues. You place your child in the hands of doctors and pray for miracles.

Finally the results of the MRI came back. We were pleased to find out there was not a tumor. Relief! Then in their brainstorming (something I wish they wouldn’t do in front of you), they mentioned MS. Multiple sclerosis would be extremely rare in a boy of this age but blurry vision is a symptom and once they throw something like that out there it is hard to forget. The doctors thought we should see a neurologist. However, the neurologist here wouldn’t be available for several weeks. Are you serious? WEEKS!

After a couple more days, his vision continuing to get worse, they were able to get us an appointment with a neurologist at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital within a few days. It was an amazing facility and we felt confident that they would be able to help him. They performed numerous tests. They wanted another MRI, looking more closely at the eyes, and they did a full blood workup. Again, unfortunately, they could find nothing. Perhaps unfortunately is the wrong word. We were fortunate that they did not find any tumors or cancer or other deadly illness. It felt unfortunate because while they ruled out the bad things, we still didn’t have any answers whatsoever. The only thing they offered was that nothing appears broken so it should come back, eventually. How long? No clue. Maybe tomorrow, maybe a year.

During all of this, friends and family members were trying to help and show their concern. Everyone we know was Googling and calling and telling us all the potential maladies they thought it could be. At times like this, Google can be your best friend and your worst enemy. I had turned to it myself many times throughout the ordeal. In case you’re wondering, it says it could be anything from allergies to AIDS. It brought up nearly a million possible explanations. While I realize these calls were a deeply heartfelt effort to help, with each new uninformed opinion, Sara was presented with another possible malady to worry about. I tried to remind her that she needed to be listening to the neurologists at one of the best children's hospitals in the world. They were highly trained doctors who were looking at blood test results and high resolution pictures of his brain. We had plenty to worry about without relying on the speculation of anyone with an internet connection.

At this point it had been 3 weeks since the symptoms had appeared. We finally received the results of the second MRI and there was nothing negative. We received the results of all the blood work and everything seemed healthy. Again we were pleased they had found nothing terrible but disheartened that they could offer him no relief. Another long week passed with no change. The doctors had pretty much told us either it will resolve itself or another symptom will manifest to give us a new direction. And so we waited, hoping, praying, reassuring, secretly freaking out.

Then, as suddenly as the symptoms had set in, he began to feel better. His vision is now better and his headaches are gone. He has returned to gymnastics and is again throwing big tricks and laughing with his teammates. It seems like a simple ending to such a long and stressful set of events but I really couldn’t ask for a better result. I don’t know exactly what it was that caused it and I don’t really care. I’m really just glad to see him smile again.

Week of October 11 - 40 Run, 16 bike, 10 walk

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cap and Rotor



That is a cap and rotor.

I drove to work today for the first time in many months. I felt dirty and lazy making my way through the steady stream of other poor lost souls all trapped in our cars. In the past several years I have only driven to work on a handful of occasions. I am overcome by a sense of restlessness and regret every time I do it. My time of exertion before and after each day of work has become a source of solitude and meditation that I need in order to properly focus.

I chose to drive today for a couple of reasons. First, I am a little stiff from completing my biggest training week ever. It was my last week of big mileage before starting my taper and recovery for the birthday run. I completed 80 miles of running, 32 miles of riding and 10 miles walking. 30 of the miles were run yesterday on the trail at Busiek. I will spend the next 3 weeks cutting back on activity in order to begin my birthday run on fully rested and recovered legs.

Second, and the main reason I drove, was because I needed to visit the Conservation Department to reserve the camp site that we will use as my aid and refueling station during the run. You are supposed to have a permit to camp in the area or you could be fined. It doesn’t cost anything to get the permit but you do have to go to the Conservation Department office on the far north side of town to get one. I could have ridden the distance on the bike but it would have required taking extra time off work and I figured I had earned a day off and would just drive there during my lunch break.

The thing I hadn’t planned for was the Jeep breaking down on the side of the highway when I left on my lunch break! Just as I merged onto the highway there was a sputter and loss of power and then the engine completely died. I coasted onto the shoulder but was barely able to make it out of the traffic stream. I tried several times to restart the engine but it was quickly becoming apparent that it wasn’t going to happen. I knew I should have ridden the bike!

If there is one gaping hole in my resume of manly skills it is my total lack of knowledge when it comes to vehicle maintenance. Luckily, we have a good friend that is a mechanic. A couple of phone calls and he was on his way to my aid. As the semi trucks roared by a couple of feet away and shaking the Jeep, I hoped and prayed it wasn’t something expensive or difficult to fix. Within 30 minutes my friend was there and digging under the hood trying to find the culprit.

As it turns out, the cap and rotor needed replaced. For those of you like me, the cap and rotor have to do with the spark plugs and fortunately it is a cheap and easy fix. Or at least it appeared easy as I watched him do it. In no time at all he had replaced the part and the Jeep fired back to life. Even though I had gone well over my hour lunch break, since I was on the right side of town already, I decided to go ahead and get to the Conservation Department and get my site reserved so I wouldn’t have to go through this again.

You know how they say you learn something new everyday? Well today I learned two new things. First, I now know what a cap and rotor is and what it does. Second, the stupid Conservation Department is closed on Columbus Day which is today.

Week of October 4 – 80 Run, 32 Bike, 10 Walk

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Haven’t had time or inspiration to sit down and write anything of real interest lately. I had another week of solid training to include a 25 mile outing on Sunday. One hard week to go before finally starting my taper. Body is ready for some rest and recovery!

Week of September 27 – Run 65, Bike 32, Walk 10

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

One Month To Go

It doesn’t show in my log as I normally track Monday through Sunday but if I had tracked Saturday through Friday last week, I hit a 7 day total of just over 75 miles of running. How elite runners can mange 100 miles per week or more is beyond my understanding. This is the largest mileage I have ever managed without injuring myself. I only put 16 miles on the bike though which has me missing it quite a bit. I have also been walking on my lunch hours and got about 10 miles of that in this week as well.

Usually, far before this amount, I am struggling with joint aches and other problems that make it difficult to continue and I’m forced to rest. I am of course experiencing the normal muscle soreness of a regular workout routine but other than that, I am feeling stronger than ever. I am starving all the time! Even though I never pass an opportunity to eat and don’t deny myself any craving, I have managed to lose about 10 pounds since beginning the journey. The plan is to stay at this intensity for the next 2 weeks and then begin my 3 week taper until the 100 miler.

I would like to do at least one more long run on the trail after dark. I have gotten a couple of 3 and 4 hour runs in starting at 10:00 pm. It is a whole different experience to be alone in the woods and running at 1:00 in the morning. It takes a couple of hours for me not to jump every time something moves in the darkness off the trail. Your world is reduced to the cone of light produced by your headlamp. You can hear and occasionally catch movements in the peripheral but it is covered in a shroud of black. Once I thought I saw someone up ahead standing on the side of the trail!

Week of September 20 – Run 62, Bike 16

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Do You Have The Time?



I took the speedometer off my bike. For some reason when it is there I am enslaved by it. I hold myself to an expectation of maintaining a certain speed. Though it was frustrating at first, I feel like I am riding stronger without it. Of course, that could be entirely false as I don’t have a way to measure how fast I am going, but it feels that way. It has allowed me to focus on other things and has been quite liberating.

I have always been a little obsessive when it comes to measuring time and distance. I’m always counting things. It’s 8 miles and there are 7 lights and 9 stop signs. How many minutes does it take? If I push x amount faster, how will it affect y? I use the numbers as a distraction by trying to calculate in my head different things like exactly what time will I arrive. I also use the measurements to judge myself. As if it really matters if I ride to work in 26 minutes or 29. I can tell you that the difference in effort between those 3 minutes is substantial!

Sure there are some times when actual measurement of time is important. For instance, how long you cook your chicken or what time you get to work. I can’t deny, with endurance sports at least, that paying attention to measurements can help you reach a greater potential by incrementally pushing yourself further. For the most part however, I think I pay far too much attention to the arbitrary units of time and distance. Occasionally I forget and must force myself to remember the joy should actually come from the doing and not whether it took less time than yesterday or not.

It’s possible that I would actually enjoy things more, and perhaps get more out of it, if they took longer. My speedometer is off but I’m still wearing the watch. For now.

“Don’t count every hour in the day, make every hour in the day count.”


Week of September 13 – Run 48, Bike 64

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ebb and Flow

The ebb and flow of motivation through the miles is similar to the ups and downs in daily life. Sometimes you just wake up in a funk. You can’t shake off the sleepiness and nothing seems to go your way. Suddenly the next day you are brimming with a new perspective on life and ready to tackle the world! There is often no visible explanation for the changes but it is very easy to feel. You can be down for a couple days and sometimes only for a few minutes. At least this seems to be the way I experience it in both life and miles traveled. Energy levels during a long run often follow the same up and down cycle but the changes occur more quickly and are more acute.

At one moment I am cruising along enjoying the scenery and then an ache will set in. Before you know it my legs feel heavy and my stride becomes more inefficient. Every step can become painful. This is usually when the strongest desire to stop and rest comes. It washes over your whole body and the voices in your head giving you excuses to quit begin to get louder and even more convincing.

Haven’t you have done enough . . . if you keep pushing you are going to damage something . . . who is going to know if you just take a break for a little while?

Often, if I just persist, like a storm that has blown in quickly and turned the weather upside down but then blows out leaving the air calm, my aches will fade away and the pace becomes easier again. Before you know it you are cruising along again feeling like you might just finish in record time. These recoveries are blissful and knowing they will eventually come is one thing to focus on to help you through.

As I progress through my training cycle and spend more and more time pushing myself each day, I have found these moments to come more frequently and with a greater impact to my system. I have different strategies I use to combat the urge to give in to the rising desire for the sweet relief of rest. Often I take the approach of taking stock of my form and breathing. Spending just a few minutes actively relaxing and controlling your breathing patterns can help you make it through a rough patch. There are times, if the trail is smooth and wide and nobody is near, that I will close my eyes and run 10 or 15 steps collecting my thoughts.

I use my MP3 player a lot to keep my spirit high. This morning was no exception. It was much easier to ignore the voice of weakness when I had Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” pumping in my ears. I believe the more often you place yourself in these situations, and subsequently the more times you overcome these feelings, the better you become at handling difficult scenarios as they arise not only on runs but life in general.

It most likely has something to do with nutrition and the amount of rest I’ve had. There is a fine line between performing the optimum amount of training to reach your potential and burning out before you get there. Along with a higher resting heart rate, lack of ability to recover from exercise and the inability to sleep well at night, one of the symptoms of burnout is a lack of motivation to train. Ideally, you should train just below the point of burnout. If you cross this threshold into burnout you have no option but to rest. Continuing on will only raise the required level of rest necessary to compensate. To make it more confusing everyone’s line is in a different place. You must just listen to your body. I think I’m in the right place.

Week of September 6 – 48 bike, 55 run

Friday, September 10, 2010

That Time I Lied to the Government and Got Caught

I get the standard questions about why I push myself on a fairly frequent basis. I usually give some sort of short sarcastic remark. Something like the “because it’s there” response to why climb a mountain. I suppose to be honest with myself I would have to admit that the truth lays somewhere deeper in my estimation of my self worth. A constant need to prove I’m strong enough, man enough, tough enough.

In elementary school I played football. I played for several years and don’t honestly remember much about it. With the exception of the year I hurt my back. I don’t remember a single catastrophic accident, just an uncomfortable pain that started to set in at practices. It made it difficult to run or be active similar to a pulled muscle in your back if you have ever had such a thing. You use your back and stomach muscles for just about every movement. Any disruption to your core makes everyday living a difficult task.

After complaining of the pain my parents took me to the doctor to be checked out. He did all sorts of x-rays and tests and eventually concluded that I had suffered some fractures to my spine. I want to say in the L4 region. He suggested a surgical procedure wherein they would fuse vertebrae and place metal and such in support. It required a waist to neck brace that would have to be worn for a year after the procedure. Because the brace was paramount to proper healing they wanted to make sure you could handle the brace emotionally and socially so you had to wear it for 6 months before the procedure as well. I was not excited about the prospect of being so limited for a minimum of 18 months at the age of 12.

The surprising thing was that the procedure would not even necessarily end the discomfort in my back! There was a fair chance it wouldn’t help at all and a small chance that it might even make it worse. Because of all that went along with it, my parents allowed me to make the decision. At that time, I figured I might as well wait and see if it got worse. The doctor told me it would be an issue for the rest of my life and military service would definitely be out of the question.

I stopped playing football. I guess overtime the pain diminished because I don’t recall it being much of a problem over the next few years. Of course I didn’t actually push myself that hard as I wasn’t involved in any sports or physical activities. At 16 I picked up the skateboard and did that aggressively for many years but my back didn’t bother me with that.

Perhaps because a doctor had told me it would not be possible, or maybe because the Rambo movies were released during my developing teen years, I had a fascination with the military. I was attracted to the Marines because the advertisements said they were the toughest! The motto even played up the exclusivity of the group by openly claiming not everyone will make it. The Few, The Proud. When I graduated several of my friends signed up.

I wanted to be a part of it. I tried to sign up as well. In their detailed inquiry into medical history the question of my back came up. They sent me to a specialist who took x-rays. He didn’t like what he saw. He said it would definitely be a problem and I would never be able to handle the training. I was disqualified. I remember the devastating let down.

For the next couple of years I was lost. I didn’t know what to do with my life. For a while I thought I wanted to be a police officer and even went to a couple years of community college towards that. I didn’t know if my disqualification from the military would stop me from being a cop but I would cross that bridge when I came to it. I remember my friends who had joined coming home and sporting their Dress Blue uniforms around town. I was haunted by the feeling that, according to the doctor, I wasn’t good enough or at least that is how I had taken it. I would never be one of the few and proud. I was one of the many, broken and unable.

I used the next years to get active. I rode a bike. I ran. I took martial arts and worked out at a gym. I needed to prove myself to myself. My back never did bother me. It was then that I met a recruiter. He told me the military processing center purged their records every couple of years. This made sense to me because it was before the time of a computer on every desk. I thought there is no way they keep all that information easy to access, what would be the point? We hatched the plan to apply to the Marines again but this time I would accidentally leave out the part about having a back injury. The recruiter who had given me this information wanted me to go to another recruiter to sign up though, you know, just in case I got caught it wouldn’t go back on him. What could possibly go wrong?

I lied to the new recruiter. I lied to the doctors. I lied to them in all the paperwork. Have you ever attempted to get in before? Nope! Have you ever been disqualified before? Never! I was on my way. They sent me to the processing center to take the tests and physicals. It was all going smoothly. I passed all the tests with flying colors. And then, they called me into an office and had me sit down. They asked me to read a sign on the wall out loud to them. I can’t remember the exact words but it essentially said:

Knowingly giving false information or withholding required information on any recruiting form is a felony offense, punishable by a $10,000 fine and three years in prison.

After reading it aloud he asked if I wanted to make any changes to my enlistment paperwork. They were just trying to scare me. I’ve seen this tactic before. My mom did this to me all the time trying to catch me in a lie. You look them in the eye and you believe the lie. He doesn’t know. No sir! Absolutely not!

It was at this point that he placed in front of me the package that I had filled out 2 years ago when I was disqualified. My heart sank to the floor and I thought I was going to jail. Now, not only would I never be one of the few, I would be a felon for trying. They told me to sit tight because a doctor wanted to talk to me. A doctor? Don’t you mean the police?

The doctor asked why I wanted in so badly. He asked if my dad or recruiter had coached me to lie. I pled to him how active I was and how I knew I would make a good Marine if they would only give me a chance. I realized I wasn’t going to jail but again was feeling like all hope was lost. To my surprise, he told me if I could get several good references from doctors and people who had seen me active, he would submit a waiver for me! It would be up to a medical board and they would decide based on my records and whatever references I could find. I had my mission.

I wasted no time. I had numerous people write what a hard working person I was and how I had never complained about my back. Employers, doctors, martial arts instructors. I took it all back to the recruiter and then had to wait. And wait. For several months I waited. I heard nothing. The gleam of hope I had experienced was now dwindling. And then it came. A letter from the United States Military saying that I was fit and could join immediately!



In the end, I was a good Marine, I think. My back never did bother me. I learned to take with a grain of salt anyone’s opinion that you can’t do something. So called specialists claimed I would not be able to handle it. I got to show them! Well, myself at least. I always fantasized about finding them one day and saying, you remember me (not like they would), you said I wasn’t good enough and guess what? I was! To this day however, I am often haunted by the voice that screams I need to prove myself. Not to anyone in particular, just myself.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Reference Page

And now I begin my last full month of real training for my run. Getting as much mileage and time on my feet as I can handle without injuring myself will be the main focus. To give you an idea of my intent, last weekend I did a 20 miler on Friday and followed it up with a 10 miler on Saturday. I plan to do back to back long runs for the next several weekends.

Disclaimer: You may find the rest of this post extremely boring if you are not deeply interested in running! Click the links under the pictures to take you to the references mentioned.

You might wonder where I got the information that I use to train myself for such a run. There is actually quite a bit out there regarding running ultras. If you have the internet and the desire to search for it, there is a ton. I thought I might lay out how I came to know about ultras and what I used to develop my plan to run one. My study of the subject began with a magazine article.

I had just been convinced to end my 10 year break from regular working out and run a 5K with a friend who had been pestering me to run with him. It restored my love of running and inspired me to take up running for exercise again. Shortly after this run I picked up an Outside Magazine that we had laying around. Sara had caved to a door to door salesman who gave us a great deal on a subscription. It had an article about Dean Karnazes.

Outside Magazine Interview

There is some controversy within the ultrarunning community about Dean’s marketing of himself but in my mind, Dean has raised a ton of money for different charities and written a couple of books that have inspired many people to get active. I am one of those people. Through reading that article and subsequently his book, Ultramarathon Man Confessions of an All Night Runner, I was set on the path I am on today.


Ultramarathon Man Confessions of an All Night Runner

After reading his stories I was inspired to find out more about the people who run such distances. That is when I found, Running Through the Wall. It is a compilation of stories from runners about the running of ultra distances. Some are famous and competitive and others are more like me, back of the pack and just trying to see how far they can go.


Running Through the Wall

This led me to Ultrarunning Magazine. There is a magazine for every niche of life! This is where I began to learn the finer details that you need to know to run far. Nutrition during exercise, training tips and of course, inspirational stories about long runs.


Ultrarunning Magazine

Another book that I always have handy is A Step Beyond: A Definitive Guide to Ultrarunning. This book can answer most of the questions a person would have. Chapters on nutrition, training, mental aspects, injuries, clothing, anything you can think of.


A Step Beyond: A Definitive Guide to Ultrarunning

One of the books that I often recommend for anyone suffering from an injury or really any aches and pains when running is Chi-Running. You think you know how to physically run. Like anything however, there is an optimal technique that makes running easier. This book teaches you a more efficient way to run. I use the principles it teaches and review it every time I suffer any pains from running.


Chi-Running

I get most of my nutritional information from Hammer. Their research seems sound and their products work very well for me. I sampled many sports drinks and supplements before settling in on Hammer.


Hammer Nutrition Products

For inspiration in times of low motivation I have purchased the following movies:


Running on the Sun

A documentary about the Badwater 135. Badwater is a grueling 135 mile race beginning in Death Valley and ascending to 8000 feet by the race's end. Temperatures reach 125 degrees in the middle of the day.


The Runner: Extreme UltraRunner David Horton

The Runner follows David Horton as he runs 40 miles per day for 66 consecutive days in an attempt to set the speed record on the 2,700 mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.

Finally, one of my favorites is Indulgence.


Indulgence 1,000 Miles Under the Colorado Sky

Indulgence follows Anton Krupicka training in the mountains of Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California during the summer of 2007. Anton is known for running over 200 miles per week in the mountains to prepare for a race. He also has won just about all of the races he has entered.

So now you know the things that inspired, and continue to inspire, me to run. I also now have a handy page to send people to when they have questions about running!


Week of August 30 – 64 Bike, 38 Run

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Big Fat Cold Drops

Got to work a little later than usual this morning. Apparently, it would not be cool to show up drenched to the bone from riding your bike to school when you are in the 5th grade.

Sara has been leaving early for work the last couple of weeks so I have been riding with Jakob to school and then riding on to work from there. It has been exceptionally mild weather lately so there have not been any conditions that required a different arrangement. Of course in my mind, there is NO condition that would ever stop me from riding my bike. The only thing that differs is the amount of clothing necessary and the amount of lighting.

As we go to leave this morning it is raining and not just a sprinkle either. It is the big fat cold drops. The kind of drops that when you try to run from your car to the door, even though it only takes 2 seconds, you get completely soaked. I had maintained hope throughout the morning that when it came time to go the rain might have slowed enough to get there. It is less than half a mile to school so we wouldn’t need much of a break to get him there dry. As we opened the garage door and saw it coming down in buckets, hope faded and I knew it was going to be rough trip. I suggested that we just wait a few minutes and see if it breaks. After 10 minutes, it wasn’t getting any lighter.

He still hasn’t complained at this point. I can tell he is beginning to get stressed about showing up late. We decided that if he put on other shoes and wore a large rain coat over the top of his backpack, he could probably get there without getting too wet. We put his dry shoes in his pack and pulled the coat over him. His shorts were still exposed on the bottom but we didn’t think they would get to bad. He got onto his bike and faced the opening of the garage and steeled himself to go. I was thinking he would make it. He might be a little damp but its just a little water so no big deal. The rain began to fall even harder.

Not wanting to show up late he says, “lets just do it,” and then rides out into the rain. Before we reach the end of the driveway, my clothes are wet. I don’t wear waterproof clothing to ride unless it’s below 50. I just dress for the temperature. If I had worn a raincoat, I would be drenched from the sweat within so I just enjoy the cool rain and let my clothes get wet. It’s all technical fabrics and dries quickly. However, I don’t have to sit at a desk in my wet clothes or sit under the scrutiny of school age children who mercilessly tease any sort of irregularity.

We had made it a couple hundred feet down the road and riding behind him I can see that his shorts are completely soaked. I ride up next to him and can tell he is fighting back the tears. He never once suggested that we turn back but I could see in his face that he was absolutely miserable. I imagined him sitting uncomfortably in his class wet and cold and suddenly took pity on him. It may have helped that he didn’t complain about it. If he had I might have held my ground to prove a point but he was fully prepared to finish the ride. I experienced a moment of compassion and told him to turn it around.

Once we got back to the house I told him to put on some dry clothes. I got busy taking the tarp off the Jeep, put the top up and replaced the doors. I have just been covering it with a tarp during the rain and leaving everything open for most of the summer. As I drove him up to the school he thanked me numerous times. In the end he may have been 5 minutes late but with the line of cars still dropping kids off, he would not be alone.

After dropping him I headed back to the house, parked the Jeep, got on my bike and rode to work. The rain never did let up.

Week of August 16 – Bike 48, Run 48
Week of August 23 – Bike 84, Run 23

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bronze Wedding Anniversary



Today is my Anniversary! For 8 years I have been married to the woman of my dreams.



It seems rare to hear a person speak about a relationship as a positive thing in their life. I hear plenty of people talking about their poor relationships. As I listen to stories of failed relationships I hear at work or from friends, I think how fortunate I am to have found Sara. My relationship is definitely a positive part of my life.

We met through a mutual group of climbing friends when I first moved to Missouri.



It is easy for me to understand my love for her within the confines of my head but to articulate my thoughts into writing is much more difficult. I look forward to going home. I miss her as soon as she leaves and don’t sleep well until her return. Just saying her name fills my heart with emotion. I was a scoundrel before meeting her and having her in my life makes me want to be a better person. She is a source of my strength and the motivation I use to push myself. I absolutely cannot imagine my life without her in it.

She is deeply compassionate towards all living things (including animals which I do not understand). She has a sarcastic wit that can always lift my spirits.

Below is the video from our wedding. It’s a little blurry at times but I think it does the job minus my cheesy narration. It was actually made before computer editing and digital video. I shot most of the video (with the help of a couple friends during the ceremony) on an old analog camcorder. I did the editing with two VCR’s, a CD player and microphone with an old audio mixer. We had a single copy on a VHS tape for years and then a couple years ago had it placed on a DVD.



Batiatus: How many men would you kill to hold your wife again?
Spartacus: I would kill them all.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

DIY Shock Treatments

Lately, when I stand up to crank on the pedals, my bike has developed a creaking sound. I cannot stand the sound of something loose or rattling. It's always been a pet peeve of mine. This one isn't difficult to diagnose. I know it's one of the bolts that holds the chain ring on. A simple fix but I have to remove the back tire to do it properly.

The work stand I have created for the bike isn't ideal but it does function well enough. One of the downfalls is that you only have easy access to one side of the bike. Sometimes to reach the side of the bike that is against the wall, instead of taking the bike down and turning it around, I will lean and rest the top of my ahead against the wall looking down the side of the bike I'm trying to reach.



You'll notice in the picture just above the rear wheel is an outlet. Last winter at some point one of the prongs in the charger to my headlight disappeared. I searched around for it in my bags and on the floor but never did find it. I ended up stealing one from another charger and making it work. I had forgotten about the one that had been lost and wrote it off to the land of wherever things go when you can't find them. It's a place filled with socks and keys and things of this nature.

I had just returned from my Saturday morning run. Nobody else was home and I decided to spend a little time in the garage tinkering on the bike. Perhaps it was finally time to get rid of the wretched creaking noise. As I began to take off the rear wheel, I was having trouble getting the leverage I needed on the bolt that was closest to the wall. I must have put it on well because it was really giving me a hard time.



As I was leaning over the bike, working on this stubborn bolt, I did as I always do and leaned forward to rest the top of my head on the wall. Apparently, I touched the wall directly on the outlet. Because of the high humidity and the last couple hours I had spent running, my hair was still drenched. As my head touched the outlet, I heard a large POP! I saw a flash of light and then a moment of darkness. I wasn't aware at this moment exactly what was happening but it forced me to stand straight up and take a step backwards and from my mouth came an audible "Bah!" The radio and light that were also plugged into this same wall turned off.

After I gathered my senses I realized that I had just shocked myself directly on the top of my head! I looked to the outlet. My first thought was that I had been so wet headed that I had splashed into the outlet and gotten a spark that way. When I looked closer I saw what had happened:



It's the prong that I had lost off of my headlight charger.

Once I understood what I had done, and then promptly checked to make sure I hadn't burned a patch of hair off the top of my head, I actually felt quite invigorated. For a moment I thought, wouldn't it be cool if I had just gained some sort of super power? Alas, this was not the case. Or at least if I did, it hasn't manifested itself yet but I am patiently optimistic.

I don't know how much of a charge I gave myself but it was enough to pop the breaker and now the outlet doesn't function. I'll replace it next time I get the urge to do some tinkering in the garage. Next time I think I'll shut the power off first.

Week of August 2 - 48 Bike, 26 Foot.