Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Canyonlands Half Marathon

After four months and countless miles of running, this past Saturday, March 19th was finally the Canyonlands Half-Marathon.  I was so excited and so prepared for the race!  Last week this time I just kept counting down the hours until I would finally get to leave and head out on the journey to Moab.

After lots of and lots of waiting we finally hit the road last Thursday around 3:30PM.  The first part of the trip was easy and smooth sailing.  There was a winter storm warning out for the mountains and western Colorado but we managed to clear Vail Pass – the highest point on the trip, without any snow or any problems.  However about 20 miles to the west of Vail Pass we began to pick up some snow.  The snow got progressive worse and worse as we continued to travel to the west.  After a quick stop for some dinner in Glennwood Springs, we got back on the road and quickly ran into the worst weather of the drive.  By this time the sun had set and driving became near impossible.  The visibility was so back the only way I could determine where to go was to follow the white line at the edge of the road.  At times this too became impossible as the road was covered in snow. 

Despite the trauma of the drive, we finally emerged from the storm just to the west of Grand Junction.  From there onward we had some light snow and rain showers but it was much easier driving.  The delay because of the storm put us into Moab a little later than I would have like but all-in-all not too late as we arrived at 11:30PM.

Friday was all about getting out and exploring Arches National Park.  I made sure that we got to see the best parts of the park – Landscape Arch, Pine Tree Arch, Delicate Arch, Park Avenue and the Fiery Furnace.  We spent pretty much the entire day in the park exploring and seeing things.  After we got back from the park I had to go and pick up my race packet to get my bib number, timing chip and all the other swag they give you.  In the evening we spent some time walking around Moab and then managed to get some dinner at Pasta Jay’s which was right next to our Hotel.

(Me with Delicate Arch in the background)

(Zack in front of Tunnel Arch)

(Pine Tree Arch)

Saturday morning dawned way too early as I had to get out of bed around 5:45AM so I could get ready and then walk over to the hotel that was being used as the meeting place for all the team-in-training members.  From the Ramada we all walked to the Moab Town Center Park where we would catch buses to take us to the starting line of the race. 

The race course follows Utah Highway 128 which is a winding, narrow 2-lane road that runs along the Colorado River.  The river and highway run through a relatively deep and narrow canyon which has been carved out by the river over the eons. 

The buses took us up to the starting line which was about 11 miles up highway 128.  During the race the entire highway would be closed down as there was no way it could accommodate 5000 runners and cars at the same time.

I arrived near the starting line at 8:15AM which was an 1:45 minutes before the race start at 10:00AM.  I spent the time stretching and just chilling out.  It was easy to chill out as the weather was cold and the wild was blowing with 20 – 30 mile per hour gusts.  Needless to say you needed to stay warm!

 (About 1.5 hours before the start - people milling around the drop off point from the buses.)

(Runners relaxing at the side of the canyon before the start.)

From where the buses left us off near the starting line we had to walk ½ mile to the actual starting line.  Along the way we could drop off our “sweat bags” into trucks that would transport them back to the starting line.  A sweat bag is used for you to put stuff that you want to wear while waiting for the race to start but not during the race itself.  Given the cool temperatures, most people were dropping lots of stuff off in their sweat bags.

While I waited for the race to start, I really spent a large amount of time stretching my legs out as I had experienced some pain in both my left and right legs during my final training runs.  As the time for the race to start approached I felt amazingly relaxed and well-stretched out.

At 10:00AM sharp the beginner’s gun went off and the race began.  Because of my estimated time to complete the race I was in one of the “corrals” towards the end.  It took almost 2.5 minutes for me to get to the starting line once the race had already began.  (By that time the elite runners where almost through their first half mile.)

Once I crossed the starting line I really concentrated on running the race that I wanted to run.  I did not want to get carried away in the moment and run the first mile much faster that I wanted.  However, the first down miles were pretty much down hill – so regardless of what I wanted to do my pace was about 30 seconds per mile faster than where I wanted it to be.

And then…  the INCIDENT occurred.  Around mile 1.5 I felt the onset of some severe pain in my left leg and heard something of a pop.  Oh no – my race plan suddenly went out the door as caused by something going wrong with my leg!

I managed to continue to run through the pain.  It was very hard at times but I was determined to keep going.  I imagined all kinds of things to keep myself going.  I imagined I was just out on another training run with my Team-in-Training teammates.  But despite all my efforts the pain just kept getting worse.  A mile after the onset of the pain I was down to walking as I just couldn’t run any more.  Well – I shouldn’t ever say walking – I was down to limping.  By mile 3.4 I just couldn’t even walk as the pain in my leg had grown so severe I could barely stand to put any weight on it at all.  Worse than the pain from the injury, I was also gripped with severe muscle spasms that increased the pain 10 fold.

So 3.4 miles into the race – I was done!  I had to actually sit by the side of the road just trying to a handle on the muscle spasms that were running through my leg.  About 5 minutes later on of the team-in-training coaches came by and waited with me until the sweep van came by.  He actually shocked when he looked at my leg as the entire leg from my ankle to my knee was experiencing muscle spasms.  He said that you could even see the muscles clenching and releasing.  It hurt!

So I didn’t finish the race.  Needless to say I was not exactly happy!  I wasn’t disappointed I was angry and annoyed.  After all this work I have done for the last 4 months why did this have to happen on this day! 

I took the sweep van back to the finish line and when I got out of the van I couldn’t even walk.  I had to sit in the grass in the park waiting for someone from the medical tent to bring a wheel chair over for me.  The doctors in the medical tent took a look at me and determined that I had not torn an Achilles Tendon which would have been really bad news.  They thought I had done something to one of the tendons on the outside of my leg.

After my examination by the doctors I managed to hobble around for the rest of the time in Moab.  Given I use my right leg to drive I was able to drive the entire way back to Denver on Sunday.

Bright and early Monday morning I called my sister-in-law who is a doctor to ask what orthopedic doctor I should try and see.  She gave me the name of a doc who is associated with a very large orthopedic practice and called him.  I managed to get an appointment on Monday at 11:00AM.  After a thorough examination, the doctor determined I had NOT torn or ruptured any of the tendons in my leg – I had just severely strained them.  Based upon what he said, I had probably been running with this injury for the last month or so, but the 2 miles of the downhill right at the beginning set it off.

I am back to square one with my running.  I need to take the next 4 – 6 weeks off to give my leg time to heal and then rehab.  I am hoping by early May I will be able to back out there training again.  Since I didn’t finish this race I am signing up for the Fall season of team-in-training with the goal being to run the Denver Marathon on October 9, 2011.  I will be doing the full marathon at this time as opposed to just the half marathon.  I know I can do it and I darn well intend to prove it to myself!

My plan is to rest and rehab until late April and then get back to running.  I am already planning on running the High Line Canal 10K in mid-May, the Steamboat Half-Marathon at the beginning of June and the Slacker Half Marathon at the end of June.  Once I have accomplished these races I feel I will be ready to tackle the Denver Roll’n’Roll marathon in the fall.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this past weekend happen.  I couldn’t have done it without all the support I received from everyone.   Big thanks to my brother and sister-in-law for watching the dogs for me and to my sister Lesley and Shelly for accompanying me to Moab and helping me deal with my injury!  I particularly want to thank all those who donated to finding a cure to leukemia an lymphoma!

I raised almost $4500 dollars for leukemia and lymphoma research and treatment.  Because of all the generosity of those who gave I was the second highest fund raiser in the Denver Metro area for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's winter season of Team-in-Training.  I am humbled by how much people contributed to the cause.  Thank you all so much!!!

I hope everyone has had a great weekend so far!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Last Run

Please consider supporting my effort to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through participation in their Team-in-Training program.  I am training to run in the Canyonlands Half Marathon on March 19, 2011.  You can support my effort by pledging contributions to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on my Team-in-Training web page at:
Race day is only 4 days away!  I would like to gather $5000 in donations by that date.  Please consider helping!!

All contributions are tax deductible.  THANK YOU!!!!!!
I think one of the reasons I haven't written more in my blog recently is the fact that I have been so occupied preparing myself - both physically and mentally, for the Canyonlands Half Marathon.  And now the event is almost upon me!  Forty-eight hours from now I will be in the process of driving to Moab, Utah to compete in this race.  I have worked for the last 4 months to prepare myself for this race and now it is almost here.

I am not exactly sure what I am going to do with myself once the race is complete.  Saturday mornings are going to be particularly weird as I won't have to get up early and head out to some trail around the metro area to take part in a lengthy run.  It's just going to be different.

With all the training and fund-raising I have done I feel very proud of my efforts.  I am very hopefully that on Saturday I will be able to complete the race without stopping and run the entire distance in under 2 hours and 20 minutes.  I will not be disappointed if I don't complete the race in that time frame as long as I complete it and manage to run the entire distance I will be very happy with myself.

This past Saturday was my last run with the team I have trained with from day one.  It was a bittersweet run as it felt really good to know that I was finally done training but it was very sad as everyone was going their separate ways.  There is only one other member of my training team who is running Canyonland's with me.  My other teammates are off to run the LA Marathon or the Paris Marathon.  But I have enjoyed this enough to consider signing up for the fall season of team-in-training.  That season begins their training runs on May 7th.  You never know what kinds of crazy things I might find for myself to get up to.  If I do consider that...  I am going to train to run the full marathon this time!

Zack is doing well - though he is in some deep doo-doo with me over his grades for the 2nd trimester of school.  Grrrrrrrr....  is all I can say.  He did some silly things that I hope he has learned lessons from and hopefully the trimester that started on Monday will bring much better grades for him.  Today was a milestone day for Zack as he got his first pair of contact lens today.  I had to help him get them in his eyes, but I am hoping he pick up on how to do that pretty quickly.

Finnegan continues to grow up.  He has lost just about all of his puppy teeth!  He looks kind of toothless right now but many of his adult dog teeth are starting to poke through his gums.  I have wanted to try and get one of his puppy teeth before they were all lost outside (he tends to go outside and chew on sticks which is a sure fire way for his puppy teeth to fall out).  Today I noticed one tooth that was just hanging on by a thread so I managed to pull it out.  He wasn't particularly thrilled with me for doing that, but he didn't really mind that much.

I hope everyone is having a great week so far.  For anyone who has family or friends that have been effected by all the horror in Japan - my thoughts are with you.

Thanks and peace to all!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

What I have Discovered About Myself Through Running

Sixteen weeks ago I signed up to participate in the Leukemia and Lymphoma's Team-in-Training.  The purpose of the team-in-training is raise money for leukemia research while preparing yourself to achieve a significant athletic achievement.  In my case I am preparing myself to run the Canyonland Half-Marathon on March 19.  Through these last 16 weeks I have run and run.  In total I have run over 100 miles in preparation for the race.  By race day I am sure I will have run over 120 miles in preparation.

Through this effort I have learned and re-learned a lot of things about myself.  The first thing I have learned is actually a lesson I had learned before.  That lesson is that I can do anything that I put my to.  Anything - there is nothing that I cannot accomplish.  I never in my wildest dreams thought I had the capability in me to run a half marathon - now I know I can do it.  When we had our "mission day" on February 26th - I went out with a goal to run 10 miles non-stop.  I didn't do.  I ended up walking for over a mile that day.  I felt like an epic failure as a result.  This Saturday during our weekly long run, I was supposed to run about 7.5 miles but since I hadn't run the entire distance last week, I decided I was going to do it.  I was so determined!!  I put myself in a mental state where I was going to succeed no matter what.  I did it!  Yesterday I ran 10.4 miles in 2 hours and 3 minutes without stopping.  I felt like I accomplished something significant for myself yesterday.  I know now that without a doubt I will be able to run the half-marathon without stopping on March 19th!  I can do anything!

Another lesson that I have learned is sometimes the best choice is the more difficult choice.  In so many cases it is so much easier to get out and run and go all out.  But that is necessarily going to get me to my goal.  Instead I have to set my pace and run to it.  If I try and push things too fast I most likely am going to fail.  It is much more difficult for me to slow myself down then to race as fast as I can.  The same applies to life at large, it is much easier to take the easy solution to a problem, but sometime you really need to step back and take the more difficult path as it is the right path to take.  I have learned this time and time again in my person life in dealing with a romantic situation.  It really would be so much easier to just get off the bus and let this person go, but it really is not the right choice and so I need to work through the difficult times with them.  Because it is the right choice.

This third lesson is something that is obvious but I tend to ignore it.  It is easier to run with a team than to be out there all alone.  When I first started running with team-in-training, I would tend to get away from the rest of the group and do my runs alone.  But as time has gone on, I have found having someone to run with and even talk with while you run is so much more motivating and energizing.  Now admitted I don't talk that much when I run because I have a hard time running, talking and breathing at the same time.  But the lesson is the same in life - it is always better to do things with others.  Since Patty died I think I have tended to isolate myself and Zack.  We really need to break out of that mold and do a lot more with others.  Having a great support network and having people to do things with is so much more fulfilling.

Another lesson I have learned is that if I am going to run more than 4 miles in day I really need to put some lube on my inner thighs.  That is kind of a joke but it is so totally true!  Yesterday after my run was complete I was so totally and complete chafed on the inside of my thighs it was ridiculous!  They still hurt.  This is a lesson that I should have learned a long time ago - but I think I am too stupid.  When I did my 100 mile one day bike ride back in 2008 I didn't use any lube and I got the worse chapped butt it was hideous.  So lesson learned in general...  when you are doing a lot of head duty athletic active, prevent chafing!!

Our weekend has been pretty low key.  Well - I should say my weekend has been low-key.  Zack went to a sleepover on Friday night and had the greatest time ever!  I ended up sitting at home watching TV.  Saturday for me was all about the run and accomplishing my goal.  After that I did a bunch of work around the house and ran errands for the rest of the day.  Today has been a Seinfeld Show kind of day.  That is, a day about nothing.  We really did nothing for the majority of the day.  Sometimes you kind of need those kind of days - particularly before heading into Monday!

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Move Along - The All American Rejects

At various times in your life you find a song that you adopt as your personal theme song.  I have had more than my share of songs like that.  It goes well with my view that life is always better with soundtrack.  For much of my high school years I had "theme songs" from the big hair and new wave bands of the 1980's.  Songs like Bill Idol's "Dancing with Myself", Icehouse's "Whisper to a Scream" and Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper".  During college my theme songs were inevitably songs from the band New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen or Public Image Limited.  As I started to get older and into my late 20's and early 30's I adopted a much harder type of music and I started to take songs by Nine Inch Nails, Meat Beat Manifesto and other hardcore bands as my "theme songs".

In recent years it has been a whole variety of songs from artists like the Dave Matthews Band, Midnight Oil, Moby, Coldplay, U2 and many others that have been the songs of the day.  About 2 months ago during a team-in-training run a bunch of us were talking about the songs that we listened to while we ran.  From that discussion I picked up what I am calling my current theme song - "Move Along" by The All American Rejects.

The lyrics of the song speak to me and on top of that the melody and upbeat tempo of the song keep me moving.  I thought to write of this as my blog entry for the day because I got into a discussion via Facebook status posts about this song with a childhood friend.

If you watch the embedded video below you will get to hear the song.  When you listen to words you will probably understand why I like it.  The best phrase is this...  "And even when your hope is gone, move along, move along just to make it through - move along".  It speaks to the what seems to be the whole point of my life right now - (Quoting Winston Churchill for this one) - "If you are going through hell, keep going".

Anyway - here is my current favorite song and theme song.  (And yes this will be on my MP3 player when I am running the Canyonland's Half Marathon in less than 3 weeks.)

Anyway - that's about it for the day.  I had parent teacher conferences with Zack this evening.  It was kind of funny as he had to lead the conference.  We walked away from the conference with a lot of things that he really needs to work upon.

Zack has it lucky as he gets the next 2 days off from school.  How nice is that?  He just had another 4 day weekend 2 weeks ago.  Kids in Cherry Creek Schools sure are lucky in that respect.

I hope everyone is having a great week.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Night Time in Our Household

It is 11:15PM and I am the only person/animal that is still awake in our house.  Every other person and animal is sound asleep, dreaming their dreams and slumbering until the alarms of morning go off in about 7 hours.  As I sit here in my bed typing I am thinking of all the different things that take place every night to put our household to bed.

Bedtime starts around 8:15PM when I send Zack upstairs to get ready for bed.  This is never a happy time as he always wants to stay up later.  But I am relatively forceful about this and there are no exceptions to the rule - Zack needs to be upstairs getting ready for bed by 8:15PM.  I will give some leeway on weekends and holidays but that is very distinct exception as opposed to the rule.

When Zackie heads upstairs the puppies Lex and Finnegan head outside for their last potty time time.  Once they come in they are rewarded with a dog biscuit.  Before they can get their biscuit they need to show me they know their "words".  They need to respond to sit, give me paw and lie down before they get there night-night go beddie treat.  As soon as they have devoured their treats they are sent to their separate destinations.  Lex heads upstairs to sleep with Zack and Finn gets to find a couch to fall asleep upon until it is time for me to go to bed.

I then take Lex upstairs and make sure Zack is done getting ready for bed.  Z will then climb into bed and get all comfy under the covers before I tell Lex to "jump up and go night-night".  Lex will then jump up on Zack's bed and attempt to get comfortable.  Unfortunately for Lex, I usually redirect him and make him move so he gets nice and close to Zack.  For Zack having Lex lie close to him is a big deal, so I try and make it happen every night.

Once Lex is in place I will tell Zack that I love him and to have a good night's sleep.  He will respond with similar endearments to me.  After that I turn off the light, walk out of the room and close the door.  If all goes well that is the last I will hear from Zack until 6:30AM the next morning as he usually falls fast asleep very quickly.  Lex does the same thing and I will not hear from him until he realizes it is morning and time for him to get up.

Finnegan on the other hand gets to hang out with me and enjoy some together time with Dad.  After Zack is in bed I will normally go downstairs and watch TV for an hour or two.  At that point, Finnegan gets as close to me as he can and normally curls up in a ball.  He is so utterly cute as he is still so small and he loves to get as close to me as he can.  Unlike Lex he loves to be near people and wants to be as close to me as he can.

Throughout the evening of watching TV I will pet Finnegan and we will almost purr like a kitten when I do so.  Finally, I am done watching TV and it is time for Finnegan to go in his kennel and time for me to go upstairs to bed.  I usually don't have to say much to Finn - it is like he almost anticipates what I am going to do at this point.  As soon as he feels me get up from the couch he will normally spring up and jump off the couch and head right into his kennel.  I think he is very smart in that way in the fact that he understands what he is supposed to do.

Once Finn is in his kennel then it is finally time for me to rest my head.  I'll head upstairs and climb into bed and find a comfortable position.  I normally lie here for a while thinking but then I doze off and fade into sleep for the night.  If I am lucky I will stay sound asleep until 5:00AM or so but recently I have been waking around 3:00AM and then tossing and turning for the rest of the night.

Anyway - that is what typically happens around our house every night!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.