Saturday, September 5, 2015

Hood to Coast- The Mother of All Relays

     Earlier this year the opportunity arose to join some other Sub-30 Club runners in the Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon. This is considered the Mother of All Relays. Our team was lucky enough to be selected in the lottery and so began the whirlwind adventure.  I knew this trip was going to be fun, but I didn't realize just how much I would be challenged. We planned, and planned, and joked, and planned some more. Our gracious Captain/host Lonnie and his wife  Roni, made arrangements for us to not only stay at their home, but to get us there if needed (Biggest Thank you ever you guys). Most of our team, the Neon Banana Hammocks, stayed at Camp Neon up until and after the race.
     I flew out on Tuesday as did another teammate, Kate. She hung around the airport and waited for me to arrive so that Lonnie only had to come to the airport once. 

     The next couple of days involved the remainder of the team arriving. (Christine, Sheri, Amy and Jamie, Cathy, Dave, Jennifer, Susan and Sherri) and preparing ourselves for what was about to come. Lonnie and Roni had prepared some awesome goodie bags for the trip, which was like Christmas for everyone.

     It seemed like a blink of an eye before we were getting ready for bed the night before Hood to Coast. Everyone got their gear together and decided what was necessary and what was not. We decorated our vans and celebrated what was about to become a reality, the awesome race, but facing a nasty storm. 

Race morning, Bavana 1 (See what was done there credit goes to whoever came up with it) had left early to get to the top of the mountain. We had been assigned a 7:15 start time. I was in Bavana 2 which only had to be at the exchange for me to kick off leg 7 which would be in the afternoon. Yeah we can sleep. But at 3:30 a.m. I was awake and I could not go back to sleep so I had coffee. My body was still on East Coast time plus having the excitement and nervous energy did not help. Once the rest of the team was awake we finished packing the vans and took our group photo.
     We headed out the door to our breakfast, which I had planned to eat something semi healthy and filling to hold me through. We hit a little restaurant called Shari's Restaurant and Pies. Everyone had ordered their breakfast, and once we were done we found out how crappy they were about upselling. No offer of pie. Our checks were handed to us and Jamie asked the waitress if the pies in the case were for sale.  The waitress quickly said, "Yes. Did you want to buy some"? Since I am #TeamPie I ordered a slice to take with me for after my first leg. Yes please. We hit Target for some last minute odds and ends then off to the first exchange with Bavana 1.

     Leg 7: 5.40 Mi. - Moderate LEG DESCRIPTION: Rolling hills along Hwy 26 on paved shoulder and farm/country roads.  LIES. All Lies!!!!!!
I anxiously waited for Christine to finish Leg 6 and get the slap band from her.Our wait was a cluster as the people calling in the incoming runners was not loud enough to be heard over the excited mob.  The course was also curved so we weren't able to see the runners coming in.  At the last possible second I heard Team 406 and saw Christine bringing it in strong.  I jumped out onto the track and we hugged, exchanged the slap band and I was off.  The beginning started through a mulched track around the outside of a schools athletic fields. That quickly began the suck of Leg 7.  It was similar to running in sand. When I finally hit the neighborhoods and saw the "rolling hills"  What the hell do they call a hill?  Bethlehem has nothing on these hills.  I was getting my ass kicked right out the door.  I battled the hills up and down over and over until they finally eased up.  The sun came out about 2 miles in and temperatures quickly escalated. (Oops no hat or sunscreen).  I managed to get 1 roadkill on this leg, but it was hard fought.  The terrain was more difficult than I thought so now I was freaking about my second leg, which was Very hard.  I tried to take in the scenery which was beautiful.  I thanked volunteers and waved to kids who were cheering along the way.  I also loved that some residents and farmers had set up sprinklers to spray into the road for us.  I completely took advantage of these moments of bliss.Before long I was coming up a short hill and could hear a crowd cheering.  I was getting close to finishing.  Before I knew it I heard 406 being shouted and saw my teammate Jennifer.  The slap band was passed and I stumbled to my other team mates across the road.  I was a hurting puppy.  I massaged my quads, calves, and hamstrings at the van and chugged down some electrolyte water before we headed out to the next exchange.  This leg was the F Bomb Leg.  I said it a whole bunch. 

     Leg 19: 5.89 Mi. - Very Hard LEG DESCRIPTION: Long leg over challenging up and down hills on paved back country roads. Cell phone coverage unreliable until after Leg 32.  And then the sky opened upon me!
This was my second leg and our 2nd major van exchange.  On the way here from Portland we stopped for dinner at a grocery store.  I wanted to stay healthy in the eating department so it was hard boiled eggs, a turkey sandwich, and a quinoa/ kale/ broccoli salad.  I was starving as it was now about 11pm and we hadn't eaten substantial food since breakfast. We got to our exchange site and prepared for bed.  A few of us took our sleeping bags to sleep underneath some trees since it was drizzling.  After settling down the thunder began rumbling and lighting was streaking the sky.  We tried to go back in the van to be safe.  That was short lived as tempers began to flare (7 cranky/ tired/ hungry/ hot people crammed into a minivan is kind of a recipe for this).  Since I was next up I decided I needed sleep desperately and I took my chances outside under the trees.  There was a non-stop rumbling of voices around me, car doors opening and shutting, headlights on and off, and people heading to the Honey Buckets (yes they were actually called this). I finally nodded off for a few minutes before the guys at the coffee tent set up their boom box and began blaring music.  Are you freaking kidding me?  Its so freaking late and people are trying to sleep everywhere.  I struggled and finally nodded off for a few more minutes with my alarm set for 3:30am.  At about 3am my buddy Jennifer woke me up because she wasn't sure what time I was going to be getting up.  (Love ya Jennifer). 
      I prepared myself and got my gear together and mentally prepped myself.  People were in and out of sleep and wondering where the other team was.  We knew their estimated time.  Jamie went looking for them while I was still getting ready.  David and I walked to the exchange when the race gods decided I need to run in a monsoon.  A freaking cold, windy as all hell, with a splash of wicked lightning storm. I waited anxiously in the pouring rain for Christine with all of my lighting on.  I was ready to go.  Suddenly I hear 406.  My turn.  I run out into the street to wait for her to come up the hill to me.  I saw poor Christine busting her ass coming up that hill and she passed the band.  I was off into the dark, alone and cold.  I couldn't see more than a few feet in front of me as I climbed the hill.  I was struggling up it and it never seemed to end.  I was passed by some of the fast runners.  By the way, those with soft steps should have to wear warning sirens  because it's scary as hell in the dark when they come out of nowhere.  I finally hit the top of this mountain and began my steep decent.  I was cruising and felt great. I was cool and relaxing a little bit.  I met my first volunteers who guided me down a side street.  I started to cough from some sinus drainage and couldn't stop.  Then up came my hard boiled eggs all over the side of the road.  I felt crappy.  I caught my breath and continued on, much slower.  Back up another freaking hill.  When suddenly I see something moving in the roadway in front of me about 5 yards away.  There was a snake, about 5 feet long slithering across the roadway.  What the hell?  Can the running gods throw any more crap at me tonight?  I went to the other side and sprinted past it and struggled up the next hill.  
     I was wearing out and desperate to see some form of human life besides the scattered volunteers at turning points.  There weren't any.  I can't see around me and there weren't any street lights.  Blackness.  The rain finally stopped and I was starting to heat up.  My shoes and socks were shot and so was the good feeling from when I started. I pushed on.  Then I finally had someone approach me from behind and tell me how grateful she was she found me.  She thought she made a wrong turn and now she knew she was on the right path.  Off she blasted by me.  I'm so glad I could help.  Professional moving road marker.  Then the final upward climb at the end of the leg started.  I pushed like there was no tomorrow.  I needed to finish and I needed it sooner than later.  Finally I see signs of life.  Lights, cars, people.  Yay.  I finished into the chute and handed the band off to Jennifer.  I was beat, but rejuvenated once I saw Roni there.  She was our volunteer and this was her station.  I was so freaking excited to see her friendly face. David was there too and he walked with me to the van then back to get desperately needed coffee. I apparently missed giddy time in the van during the hell leg.  

     Leg 31: 3.96 Mi. - Moderate LEG DESCRIPTION: Gradual hills on narrow paved back country road. Leap Frog On Baby! Oh and More freaking rain.  
By this point in the race the weather has hit the fan and communications have been lost with everyone.  We were in the section of the course where there was no cellphone signals or data available.  A major storm had torn through the area also knocking out power to half the county. We were at Leg 22 waiting for Sherri to finish when a volunteer at the exchange began to break things down and put stuff away.  She said we should have been leap frogging at this point.  According to the manual given to us by the organizers they would determine that and notify us if we are to start doing that.  We never were. It appears the volunteer doesn't know the rules.  We were way off schedule and we knew that, but so did they. We ended up meeting up with Bavana 1 at the major exchange.  There was some discussion as to leap frogging, but they didn't seem to want us to do that yet.  We waited for Jamie to finish and Amy had already left on her leg.  Both vans chatted for a few before an executive decision was made to meet up the road and see what we could find out.   We drove up to the agreed upon exchange and waited for Bavana 1. Once there the need for real food was bearing down and we so happened to have a group of Fireman running a fundraiser selling chili.  I knew I had more time to rest so sure a bowl of chili and coffee sounded great.  The sun began to come out and temperatures were rising again.  Oh boy what a freaky storm this was.  
     We started to worry because we didn't know where the other van was so we began to search for them.  
 Finally Bavana 1 arrived.  They met with a nice lady who had given them an official note to go ahead and leap frog the remainder of the course.  Yay for eating chili before running. David drove me to leg 31 to drop me off.  Before we got there the sky opened up again and dumped some more rain.  Thank god I had dry shoes and clothes on.  I jumped out and watched Vanana 2 drive towards the next drop off.  I took a quick visit to the Honey Bucket and off I went on my final leg.  It was going to be mostly down hill so i knew I could pull a quicker time. I had to be extremely cautious as the roads were covered in mud and fallen pine needles and branches.  During a moment of my heavy exertion I almost had the chili back.  Luckily I held on and busted down this hill.  I managed to get a second roadkill on this course.  About halfway through the clouds broke and out came Mr. Sun to bake my behind again.  Dear Running gods, I was already challenged and I know what I'm capable of.  Please give me a freaking break. The temperatures began to spike and I was soon baking in the sun.  On a plus side I was drying out.  Before I knew it I was nearing the end of the leg.  ALL. UP. HILL.  I was determined to beat that damn hill if it was the last thing I did.  I finished the leg, but this time was different.  I didn't have teammates waiting for me.  My exchange buddy, Jennifer had already been there and left.  This was the leap frog part.  
     David had to drive everyone to their legs and we all ran at the same time.I waited around for David to come back and the breath of fresh air was nice.  At this point my legs warned me I was too hard this time.  All the down hill and curves in the road that had steep cambers caused me pretty moderate ankle and knee pain.  I pushed the line this time and I knew it.  I just needed ice and to sit.  David and Jamie came back and picked me up and we worked our way through the final legs to pick up Vanana 2's teammates. Jamie was the final runner and was going to be bringing us into Seaside.  

     Seaside was a hot mess.  People were everywhere and thanks to Hurricane HTC the finish line party was cancelled as all of the tents were destroyed and things blew away.  It was a finish at your own risk finish line.  I was disappointed to say the least, but I was happy to see Vanana 1 and wait for Jaime to bring us home.  Soon after arrived Jamie blasted through the finish line and we followed him through.  The coolest thing was hearing the announcer say Team 406 then repeat Sub-30 Club.  Whats that? Age, Hours?  We should have shouted back a bunch of badasses.  Jamie handed out our finisher medals and we posed for a group photo and then homeward bound we were on a 2 hours drive.  I slept most of the way.  When we got home there was some pizza eating, beer consuming, moonshine sipping fun mixed amongst showers. Lonnie and Roni must have the worlds best water heater.  

     On Sunday people started disappearing back to reality, but we partied throughout the day.  We drank, laughed, hooted and hollered. There were stories exchanged, inside jokes passed, notes read, and so much joy.  It was sad to see it all end.  We discussed doing this again next year and instantly I knew I was onboard.  I love this race.  The teamwork and camaraderie.  The friendships from the people in my phone were even more solidified.  Thanks for the adventure and I can't wait to run with you all again. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Runners World Festival and Half- Meeting My second Family Part 2

     Sunday morning was a freakishly windy and cold morning for the half marathon. We lined up for a group photo and rush to the start line which was a short distance away. Laurie and Patricia, two super bad ass women, where with me at the start line and going to accompany me to a PR.  I was super excited to have them alongside me during this journey. This was my whole goal of Runner's World festival.  I was extremely nervous, but they help to relax me.

     We were at the starting line and then the countdown begin where they started the race for us. We were off and down the street. Laurie helped reel in my pace as I often Jackrabbit from the start lines. We kept a great pace and worked our way through the city. I continue to produced my bad habit of checking my watch and comparing it to my pace band I received at the expo.  Laurie finally had to threaten to remove my watch so they didn't over stress about it. I quickly realize this was going to be a very tough half marathon.

      I beasted my way up every hill that popped up in front of me and Laurie had me blasting down the hills on the opposite side. Her voice help keep me calm and prevented me from overdoing it, while still pushing myself outside my comfort zone. I was happy to see some of my friends along the way. By the halfway point I knew that I was heading towards a PR. I just had to keep pushing myself.

     Mile 11 seemed to come fairly quickly. I started my climb up another hill when my right calve locked up.  The pain shot through my leg and it felt as though someone had stabbed me. I could not move.  I had to stop for a minute and stretch and massage it out. Laurie gave me a good pep talk and persuaded me to keep pushing. I began my painful steps down the next hill when David Willey came up from behind me and Laurie. Laurie introduced me to him and told him what I set out to do.  He checked his watch and looked at me and said I could easily do it and he said, "let's go".  David Willey left us behind, but Laurie and I raced towards the finish.

     I put out all of the effort I had left in the tank to get across that finish line. The closer I got to the finish line caused me to tear up. My emotions overflowed as I crossed that finish line.  I saw myself in a completely different light this day. I felt a great sense of accomplishment and pride. I felt that I had won a huge battle.  I remembered that at one point I was told I would never run again, but I just did 13.1 freaking miles on a hilly course. I found Allison and we both hugged and cried for a few moments. She was proud of me as much as I was. It's not very often that I can have the self confidence to feel pride in myself, but I did that day. Laurie helped bring out my inner strength so that I could drown out my demons and accomplish the goal that I had set out to do. Thank you so much Laurie. She encompasses what the Sub 30 club is all about. We are a family and we are here to support each other no matter what our goals are. 
The privilege and honor was all mine to get to run alongside these two badass ladies. 
Shane and Monica
A smile......I didn't know what was still to come. 
Christine getting to feel what cold really is. 
Before the half. 
Back of the pack party. 
Lynn bringing in the party. 
My hair dresser Dara. 
And the girls love her hair style too. 
Stella and Larry photobomb. 
Group photo before the 5K. 
2 races in 2 days. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Runners World Festival and Half- Meeting My second Family Part 1

     October 5th, 2014: I spent my morning helping my mother get settled in her new apartment before I left for my weekend of awesomeness in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Things were not going as planned and the kick off from Salisbury was getting later by the moment. There was not too much traffic, but we had the usual stop for lunch, stop for bathroom breaks, missed a turn, and then a little bit of a traffic jam in Pennsylvania. We finally arrived in Bethlehem and the first thing I noticed was holy-moly Hills.
     We missed the kid run by about 30 minutes. I was in trouble with Georgia and Grady as they were super excited to do the kids run.  After soothing the tempers we managed to work our way through packet pick up with no problems. I even got to visit the famous and awesome Elizabeth Comeau (#RWZelle) and introduced her to my family.  The site of the RW Festival was amazing. We made our way to The hotel near downtown Bethlehem where I quickly had to leave to meet the rest of the Sub- 30 club at the Moravian Book store for a book signing and surprise birthday gathering for the creator of our little group, Ted Spiker from Runners World's Big Guy Blog.  He is such an amazing and awesome writer. Speaking of which check out his book, "Down Size." 

Size      The gathering at the bookshop was amazing. I was very quiet and shy which is totally not like me. But this was the first time I was meeting Ted, Mark Remy, and other members of the Sub-30 Club in person. It was surreal to be standing among people I only knew from photos and posts on Facebook. We were there for little while and mingled a little bit, but it was getting late and everyone wanted to head out for drinks or to bed for the races on Saturday. I followed the group to BrewWorks, a local brewery, to hang out for a little while before I decided I should probably get back to the hotel and rest. 

     Saturday morning was a little hectic trying to figure out where to park and exactly where I was supposed to meet everyone. An idea came about to create a custom shirt with Ted's face on it for Runners World Festival.  We all had purchased it and were going to do a surprise unveiling during a group photo that morning before the races. We also had custom tattoos with his face as well. Ted had become a symbol of our group. All of his goals and work brought us all together. We had essentially become great friends and even more a family. 

     This moment was a culmination of months worth of planning, discussion, and jokes. We were all lined up for the group photo near the start line.  Lonnie and Laurie, mementos of our group, pulled Ted up to the front of the group and stated that there was something wrong with the picture. Laurie pointed out that our shirts were wrong and at that point our queue was to remove our shirts to expose the awesomeness of Ted on our chests.  Lonnie and Laurie then presented Ted with his own shirt. It was such a fantastic moment right before we all ran together. 

     Almost immediately after taking the group photo we had to line up for the beginning of the 5K. Stella was running with me and the rest of the group. She actually thought Lonnie's hair was great since it was neon yellow. She then asked if she could get a picture with him. The race was about to begin and Stella was smack talking  to me about the 5K. Everyone there thought it was hysterical. I couldn't help but laugh, and secretly I was hoping she would beat me. Lonnie Nicknamed her flash which has stuck. I was not concerned about PR'ing the 5K, because my goal was to actually PR in the half marathon on the following day. 

      The race began and the crowd launched forward to the beginning of the 5K. Stella was keeping a nice pace even as we entered the entrance ramp that crossed over an inclined bridge. Once the bridge leveled out we were up another incline to round a block and then it was all downhill from there.  Coming down the bridge we saw the race photographers and I told Stella to do something like wave to the camera. Stella proceeded to flap her arms like a bird and jump and stick her tongue out.  The most exciting part about that is that she was clearly having fun.  As much as I want her to excel in running, I want her to continue to have fun and not lose sight of that. As we approach the finish line Stella launched like a rocket. I broke off towards the side of the course to pick up Grady and have him cross the finish line with me. We did it and Grady got to high-five Bart Yasso. Awesome.  

Bart Yasso:  The Mayor of Running

Monday, November 3, 2014

New Year, New Goals- Part 2

     Hello friends.  Long time no see.  I have soooo much to write about, but not enough time to do it.  I need to write more often and empty my head.  Well since my last post I had run my first half marathon, the Ocean City Island 2 Island Half.  It was awesome to get the feeling and nervous jitters of a big race.  I did post a race report on Facebook, however I lost it.  It was a great race that started on Assateague Island and ran all the way to the Ocean City Inlet.  I finished with my right calf locking up on me in 2:19:45.  I felt great up until about mile 10.  Then after the race I was super dizzy and nauseous.  I basically stuffed my face at a pizza joint on the way out of town.  Man did I ever need that.  My pride was not only in running 13.1 miles, but overcoming the obstacles of having a serious leg injury.  Running through pain and discomfort.  But I also take great pride in passing my running passion on to my 9 year old daughter, Stella.  She ran the 5K that day and took first in the 10 and under category, with a 28:27.  She ranked 148th out of 750 total people, and 53rd out of 488 women.  I couldn't have been any more proud of her.  And she ran it ALONE.  My wife was freaked out of course, but enough of my friends had talked her into allowing it.  Plus I gave Stella my phone so my wife could follow her on Map My Run.

      In August I ran my 2nd Half Marathon with one of the local running clubs, The Pemberton Running Club.  It's a small half with no frills and thrills.  Just things donated by members from bibs, to medals, to food, water, bananas, and GU.  They are an awesome group of people and extremely generous for hosting this.  there were a total of about 15 people running it.  I was lucky enough to have my running buddy, and great friend, Michelle run it with me.  It was a nice course and I got a little hot, but still managed a PR of 2:16.  Michelle pushed me when things got tough.  She always helps me to push myself on our runs.  Running with others forces me to not get lazy.  I read somewhere this week the perfect explanation of this, taking off the training wheels.  I push beyond my comfort zone.

     I want to use this post to thank you Michelle for helping keep me outside my comfort zone and for being a friend.  You are such a great friend and I truly enjoy our morning runs.  It helps me kick the day off right.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

New Year, New Goals- Part 1

     Hello.  It's me again.  I know I've been missing for awhile, but life has been speeding by in a flash.  I hope everyone has stuck around long enough to see what I've been up to.

     I had a decent summer since the Annapolis 10 miler, but I was pushing for the half marathon distance.  I wanted to do it so badly I could taste it. I went on a long run with a friend Melissa, from my running club and I was pushing to reach 12 miles for my long run and she was going to do 20.  We set out to do a route they had done the previous weekend, but apparently my map reading skills sucked and we missed a turn.  In the middle of the boondocks with the sun rising we decided to keep going down the road we were on.  There was a young girl in her front yard with her dog.  Melissa asked her how much further to road went.  This young lady apparently doesn't know how to judge distance because she said, "it just goes up here a little bit and loops back to Mount Hermon Road".  Mount Hermon Road was the road we had just crossed so we knew it would loop.  Well while we were still in the middle of this loop, which turned out to be a 6 mile loop, my watch was beeping 11 miles and I was hurting and hitting a wall. I was out of GU so Melissa gave me one of her extras and I tried to push back the wall.  I hit 11 1/2 miles and needed to walk.  Melissa ran ahead a little bit and came back for me.  I knew I was in trouble at this point.

     The sun was really starting to glare down on us and the temperatures were rising.  I was on fire.  I knew my water levels were also getting low and we were literally in the middle of nowhere.  I was alternating running and walking intervals by running until I couldn't run anymore then I'd walk for 1 minute.  We finally made it back to Mount Hermon Road and my watch read over 13 miles. I officially unofficially completed a half marathon.  I was beat, but excited.  I can do this.  Reality soon washed over me.  We were on Mount Hermon Road, but not where we crossed out.  The loop was actually more of a horseshoe.  We were almost into the next county west of where we started.  My hips and legs were starting to fall apart.  The pain was getting unbearable for any running as I reached 14 1/2 miles.  I had to walk.  Melissa was running ahead and then kept coming back to me.  I told her to keep going and I'd meet her down the road aways.  My watch displayed 15 miles as we finally crossed the road where we went into the crazy horseshoe from hell. That's when I knew I was in really big trouble since that point was about 7 miles from my car and civilization.  
     I pulled out my phone and called my wife, Allison, to tell her what was going on.  She could see from the RoadID app where I was currently and she could tell that I was better heading straight than retracing my steps back to the car.  I knew where I was, but I was looking for the shortest trip back.  I also noticed my phone hitting 5% battery remaining at this point so I told her I would be in touch.  Melissa came back and I told her to just finish and come back for me in her car.  Melissa is a speed demon and she was so nice to keep coming back.  I think she knew I was hurting.  Steadily the road was passing underfoot, but the pain was not subsiding with walking.  The asphalt was radiating the heat right through the soles of my shoes and burning my feet.  After what felt like and eternity I see Melissa coming back again and she decided to walk with me.  We decided to try hitchhike a ride back tot eh campus where our cars were.  My guardian angel arrived in the form of a tour bus company building.  I knew the owners wife from my daughters cheerleading and school. We knocked on the door and luckily there were some people there.  They let us in to use the bathroom and fill our water bottles and to cal for help.  Allison laughed at me when I called and told her where I was.  We waited at the curb for my rescue ride back to the campus. I then had to spend the afternoon at my daughters fall festival walking around.

     After that little excursion I did not recover well.  I was off for a week, but just couldn't seem to bounce back.  I had physically and mentally drained everything I had in me. I barely ran through October, but in November something kick started me up again and I started my 3 days a  week of running.  Everything was going well, even the decision to buy our first house and all of that stress didn't slow me down too much and then we moved.  Holy cow that sucked my life energy out.  We moved over Thanksgiving weekend.  Thank goodness for some great friends who were still around to help because I would have dropped dead form fatigue.  I started getting back on track shortly after the move.  We stayed in town, but the area is near the city park and zoo and a ton of great running routes.  I was stoked.  December started and I floated on through the holidays with great difficulty.  We were going to New Jersey the day after Christmas to spend time with my parents.  On December 23rd my mother called me crying uncontrollably that something was wrong with my father.  I could here him coughing and choking in the background.  She informed me EMS had been called already, but my father was acting weird and not responding to her.  She got off the phone when EMS arrived and called me shortly later to tell me his blood sugar was so low that the machine didn't register it.  They gave him almost a full quart of OJ to bring him to a normal level.  They were not worried about him so he wasn't taken to the hospital.  The diabetic doctor decided to pull him off some booster for his diabetes meds.  On Christmas Eve I got the same call again from my mom, but this time my father was refusing to go to the hospital.  We decided we were going up Christmas day instead. I didn't know this would be my last Christmas with my dad.

     Christmas day my kids opened there gifts at home and played briefly while we packed the car and drove 4 hours to New Jersey.  Upon arrival my mom was in a hurry to get the kids their presents and watch them open them up.  My dad was trying to be himself, but I could tell he was tired.  He looked awful.  He had been on full oxygen for months now, but he was still having labored breathing.  My mom was adamant that the doctors claimed he was showing huge progress with his heart, but he didn't look like it.  We were spending a few days there and then had to return for work.  On December 27th I drove my mother and father to see his kidney doctor for an appointment.  She walked in the room and immediately told him he looked like $hi+ and wanted him to go to the hospital.  She asked if she sent him to be admitted would he and he agreed.  That's not my father.  I knew things were bad.  We spent 9 hours in the ER waiting to get him a room.  Once the settled him in we were sent home.  They were just going to "tune" him up for a few days and send him home.  We were leaving Saturday so we brought my mom up with us and my aunt was going to take her home later.  We would be leaving town after a visit with him.  He looked so much better when we came back.  He was joking with Stella and Grady, but Georgia was keeping her distance.  She seemed to be afraid of something, but I didn't know what.  After awhile Grady started to have a melt down he was ready to leave and we didn't want to cause a disturbance so we said our goodbyes and headed out the door.  Sunday was a busy day getting settled, but I called up my dads hospital room.  He answered but I heard a ton of laughing and commotion in the background.  My mom, aunt, and uncle were all visiting.  I told him I would call him Monday night when I got home from work.

     Monday afternoon my mom called me but I wasn't able to answer the phone.  Apparently my dad had passed out and they believed he had a heart attack.  He was stable but in ICU for observation.  She said he had woken up and said hi to her and m aunt but went back to sleep.   Denial was still in control for me.  He's had numerous heart attacks over the years and bounces right back.  At this point I had been up since almost 1am not sleeping and was really tired. I got into bed about 10:30 and crashed shortly after, then I woke up.  My wife was calling me she heard the house phone but missed it.  She said it was my mom.  I called her and she was in hysterics.  "Dad's gone".  I lost myself in the pain and emotions.  We needed to head back to New Jersey now.  We woke the kids up and in a whirlwind we were packing dirty clothes, funeral clothes, and necessities to head back.  Before we made it out of town my aunt called me.  She said he was not gone, but things weren't well and suggested we still come.  Like there was a doubt.  Allison chose to drive since she knew I was up almost 24 hours.  We made it to my moms house at about 4am, but needed to get the kids in and settled in the house.  I found my mom sleeping in her recliner with the TV on, but she was still dressed.  We got situated and my mom was in a rush to get back.  I needed to get some coffee in me and wake up a bit so we could go.  Allison decided she would take my mom and come back for me later.  They left the house and within about 15 minutes I got a call on my moms house phone.  The doctor was calling for my mom and I told him she was on her way.  He said I should get there as soon as possible as well.  We hung up and 5 minutes later he called back and said, "Albert's gone".  I called Allison to let her know and Allison had just drooped my mom off at the entrance and was going to park the car.

     The next week was crazy family drama, holy cow does a death bring out the total crazy in some people.  I was in charge, the youngest of 3 boys and yet the only responsible person.  I was forced to deal with people I hadn't spoken to in 10 years, and had no desire to as well.  On top of trying to figure out the funeral for my father.  He assured my mother and I over the years everything had been taken care of.  All he had really done was arranged for the plots at the veterans cemetery near McGuire AirForce Base.  There wasn't a coffin or any other arrangements made.  Stress overload and not even a spare moment to get out to run. This taught me a valuable lesson about what I need to do for my children.  I survived the ordeal and I'm still struggling with my mother.  She doesn't drive and is a technophobe.  It's hard to help her form 200 miles away.  Shes hoping to move this way soon, but she has a ton of unfinished business left in New Jersey first.

     I bounced back after a few weeks in January and came back strong.  I gradually increased mileage and felt great. I ran through ice, snow, rain, fog, and sleet.  I came home with frozen eye lashes and goatee.  I was being a badass, or so I like to think.  I signed up for my first official half marathon, the Ocean City Island 2 Island Half Marathon and found a training plan and stuck with it to a T.  It was a long few months and I was dedicated to getting finished and a first one on the books.  I set my sight on the goal and pulled the trigger.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Summertime Success

Grady's first plane ride
June has been a fun and successful month.  At the same time I've had some demons to fight off.  June 24th, 2011 my boys were born.  I had to celebrate their birthday, and at the same time I have flashbacks of losing Cullen.  What is the proper response to this type of situation?  There isn't any.  Not many people know how it feels or what thoughts you have running around your mind.  
Running in Pasadena, CA

We returned to California to visit family and had a blast.  The much needed vacation also helped me settle my mind.  While in Pasadena, I was able to run through some hilly areas and test out my capability of handling hills.    I had a blast running.  I am back up to over 9 miles on my long runs, even in hilly terrain.  I absolutely loved running there and didn't want to leave.  The scenery is beautiful and the weather was gorgeous.  There wasn't more a runner could ask for.  Well, besides multiple pairs of sneakers and running gear.  I was able to knock out 3 days of running while there, but wish I had more.
We also managed to squeeze in a trip to Disneyland/ California Adventure with the kids and Grandma while we were there.   I can't begin to imagine how many miles we covered on foot while inside the park.

I finished the summer on a great note. On August 25th, 2013, I competed in a huge race.  One that has been coming for quite awhile. My competition was fierce, but he put up a good race.  My competition was me.  My first race over a 5K.  I knew it was an instant PR, but I wanted to beat my self doubt.  I wanted to feel that pride in myself as I crossed the finish line to cheering family.  I wanted to do so good.  My family unfortunately couldn't make it.  We decided it would have been too much on the kids to be up and out of the house so early for a couple hour car ride so they could sit in the sun and wait for me.  We decided maybe next year they could join me.  My great friend (Thank you Jen H.) let me crash on her couch the night before so I could get my race packet the day before and not be driving at a crazy hour.

The 38th Annapolis 10 Mile Run- My first race over a 5K

     At about 6:55am we were in the starting line crowd waiting for the run to begin.  the weather couldn't have been more beautiful.  It was cool and there was a lack of humidity, my biggest fear. The pre-race jitters were at their max.  My stomach was churning like I had a butterfly garden in there. I was far enough back from the front so I couldn't hear the starting sounds.  There was just a mass movement forward and a slow jog towards the starting line, and that's when I knew we had begun.  I clicked my Garmin start button and jogged about 10 feet before everyone came to a halt.  The crowds were splitting and causing a jam up because of some puddles.  A few moments later I finally made it over the starting line.  I was on my way, down the driveway of the Naval Academy Stadium and on my way towards the finish.  I could feel the slow gradual increase in altitude as I ran along the city streets.  I knew I was pushing hard in the beginning because I was passing a ton of people.  I made a conscious effort to try to hold back and save energy for the end since thats where the hills were mainly going to be.  In what seemed like no time at all I was running towards downtown Annapolis and up to the first water stop.  It was mayhem.  There were tons of tables and volunteers were yelling "water" or "gatorade".  The volunteer handed me a cup, but it was empty.  She quickly apologized, grabbed another and had me on my way.  Into the beautiful downtown Annapolis we ran.  This large mass of people looking like a stampede running through historically rich streets.  The townspeople were awesome.  They were out on their porches cheering for us.  We had closed their streets down for a couple of hours on an early Sunday morning, but they were still happy to have us there.  I worked my way through the streets feeling the ups and downs of the road.  I felt great.  I rounded the corner and into view I could see the never ending bridge on Rt450.  It just seemed to keep climbing and the peek never seemed to arrive.  My friend told me that her running partner had stuck a crab sticker on a light pole in the middle of the bridge so I kept looking for it.  I must have missed it in the crowds because before I knew it I was coming back down the other side.  Oddly I was feeling great even after the huge bridge.  (Side note:  the winner passed us on the bridge which is about the half way point)

     I followed the pack up another great sized hill into a neighborhood of awesomeness.  People had sat outside in their driveways ringing cow bells for us.  Some played music as we ran by.  Others had even set up tables of water and Gatorade.  There were sprinklers set up to spray out onto the sidewalks and roadways for runners to partake in a mini cooling session.  It was great to see such great support from this community.  We continued out and up another hilly road.  Along the path there was a table set up by a gentleman and his family.  Apparently the cups of what I thought were Gatorade turned out to be beer.  I found out quickly why a lot people weren't really stopping at his house.  They were friendly and all, but beer in the middle of a 10 mile run isn't very good for keeping GU down.  I realized I was more than half way done.  The hills were starting to wear me down finally and the temperatures were also rising.  I made it to the final stretch where we passed a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and were greeted by church goers who lined up to give high fives to the runners.  It was awesome.  Not much further up was a man playing the steel drum singing Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds".  And then the Rt 450 Monster returned.  Back across the bridge I had encountered earlier.  It was much, much harder now.  We were being cheered by people with signs.  Some read, "little hill, BIG PRIDE" or "last hill".  I powered up the bridge albeit much slower than coming over it. I beat it.  I was now coming down the bridge.  No more big hills.  I heard people yelling from the sides to encourage some walking down it, "Don't waste a hill".  

     I made it to the final turn before the Navy Stadium and smacked right into a physical wall.  I was so close, yet physically drained.  I pushed myself to the point where I finally broke down and had to walk.  Then a woman how had already finished started yelling, "you got this".  She was cheering for me.  She saw the look of defeat on my face and just this little words, I was rejuvenated.   I could see the trail running into the grass that began the hilly driveway to the finish line.  I sprinted the best I could.  As I reached the finish Line I could see the gun time click off 1:50 mins.   I hit my Garmin stop button.  My time was 1:44 mins and 10.22 miles.  I was thrilled.  Sweating profusely and struggling to breathe, but happy.  My wife had been watching me on the My RoadID app so she could see where I was live.  She called me immediately to congratulate me and tell me how proud she is of me.  She then let me go because she could tell  I was not breathing too hot yet.  I was an emotional mess.  I was tearing up from the pride and the stripping of any self doubt I had at the beginning.  I did it. I went and collected my custom Timex Iron Man watch with the Annapolis 10 Mile Run Logo on it.  I look forward to doing it again next year.  And hopefully I will have a cheering section waiting for me near the finish.  

Courtesy of  Thank you!

Finish Line Pride. 

Miles- 76.82 (June)
           60.67 (July)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mid-Year is upon us!



     This has been a crazy busy few months with work and life.  My running has taken a dip thanks to an achilles issue.  I was running more often and greatly improving times and distance, where I had reached slightly over 9 miles in a run.  The local running club started doing group runs on weeknights and weekends so I was able to run during daylight hours and my 8 year old Stella, was able to join me since it was in a safe area.   On the third group run we were doing a 3 mile run, easy, around the park when about 2 miles in I felt a stinging and burning sensation in my left calf .  I stopped, stretched, walked a little, and then slowly jogged backed to the car.  I elevated, iced, and rested for a couple of weeks to make sure I was ready for the Baltimore 5K with my family.

       On May 11th, 2013, we were picking up our packet for the Color Run in the parking lot of Camden Yards along with about 12,000 other people.  Stella and I were running it this year and my wife, Allison, was walking it with my son, Grady (almost 2) and Georgia (4).  I felt great, stretched and warmed up.  The weather was beautiful and the race organization was awesome too.  Stella and I took off at the start and she dragged her feet a little as we ran through Camden Yards.  It was beautiful and such an amazing experience.  I realized quickly in that Stella and I were passing loads of people in our wave and we were catching the previous wave.  I let her control the pace and I try to teach her about controlling her effort to save some for the entire run.  We hit the color stations and breezed through coming out bright, and sometimes hacking if someones inside the station got a little overzealous with the powder.  We were continually making our way through the crowds and I checked my phone and saw that we making great time.  I felt great and she kept making me pull harder.  (I am so proud of this little runner).  As we rounded the last curve and saw the finish line I told her she could run as fast as she wanted and cross before me, but she had to wait on the other side.  She started to sprint and I tried to keep up with her.  We were passing a couple of college aged girls with about 50 yards left and they started to run faster too.  Stella ran even faster, so they ran faster.  It became a foot race between an 8 year old and 20 something year olds.  They did finish slightly ahead of her, but I had to restrain myself from laughing out loud as an 8 year old gave them a run for their money.  Stella is a natural.  3.04 miles in 29:21.  I think it would have been a sub-30 5K.

     We were walking around waiting for Allison and the kids to finish , when Stella decided I wasn't colorful enough and used the color packet that some woman gave her to "spruce" me up a little.  I took a direct hit of neon red in the eyes, with my phone in hand.  After getting my vision back we caught up with Allison and hung out to relax and party.  After standing around my achilles started acting up again.  Thats when I knew it was time for new shoes.  I spent the next week in pain and discomfort, which means no running.

     I went to Annapolis for training for work and while there I went to a running store, Fleet Feet Sports.  The staff was awesome and listened to me about my injury history and looked at me feet, walking gait, form, showed me some tips for helping with my achilles and properly fit me for sneakers.  they didn't ask me what shoes I wanted they brought me a bunch of different shoes to try on and made me run in them.  I found the perfect pair and some inserts.  My new Mizuno Wave Rider 16's are the first pair of non-Asics I've ever owned.  My last pair, Asics Gel Nimbus 14's really turned me off after having owned and loved the three prior generations.  The changed for the worse.

     While I was in Annapolis and falling in love with the area AGAIN, just as every other time i'm there, I ran with my friend Jen.  She mentioned the Annapolis 10 Mile Run (A-10).  It's a historical race that challengingly takes you through beautiful Annapolis with a lot of hills during the crazy Chesapeake August weather.  I signed up with the nervous excitement of a kid at Christmas.    ( I am a little nervous for having a race that goes beyond 5K, and about the hills since I live in an area where we have "A" hill and it's not much of one.  I know I'll be ok.

     I came home on a Friday night from the 3 days in Annapolis and met the Sunday morning running group for a 5 mile run.  It was my first run after a few weeks off.  The group I ran with are awesome, but I was not aware of their pace. They are fast.  I was dying with being off so much, but they pushed me to an average pace of 10:26 min/mi.  I felt great running, but bad because they kept coming back for me since I was dragging and had to walk some.  I came home cleaned up and went to run some errands and sprained my foot getting out of my car wearing flip flops.  Figures.  So another week of no running and still keep getting a lingering  pain in my foot.  I started doing Yoga again to help loosen myself up, but it isn't any replacement for running.

     I am hoping to be back up and running again shortly and started adding my mileage back, even though I know i's going to have to be doe slowly.  Thank you for reading!  If you have any suggestions or tips for the 10 miler for me shoot me a message.  I'll take all the help I can get.

Miles- 17.51