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