Friday, May 08, 2009

The Cincinnati Flying Pig

Susan and I left town on Friday afternoon to head for my big marathon weekend in Cincinnati. We spent the night in Effingham, Illinois at the Hampton Inn. The next morning we headed about 5 hours southeast toward Cincinnati and arrived at the expo to pick up my race packet. The expo was huge and we wandered around in there for about an hour before we left to head for our hotel at the Sheraton North Cincinnati. We settled into the hotel and called a friend of mine from high school, Sarah Whitten. We met Sarah at Applebees and had a nice conversation while we watched the Kentucky Derby. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to relax. I had intended to go to bed early but Rob had a plan to come by the hotel and stay with me, instead of me picking him up early the next morning. Unfortunately for me, Rob had promised his boys that they could stay at King's Island until 10. By the time I finally got to sleep it was after midnight. We got up and left the hotel about 5:15 a.m. It was raining ever so slightly. We found a place to park and by the time we got to the starting line it was 6:15. Rob shared with me later that was cutting it a little too close for him. I had to take care of bathroom business before I got run/walking. As I was coming out of the bathroom at Paul Brown stadium I could hear the countdown to the start of the race. I knew I had plenty of time, because the starting line was packed with 16000 people preparing to run or walk the full or half-marathon. I finally was able to squeeze into line and approximately ten minutes later I was crossing the starting line to my first marathon. Since I hadn't run for three weeks, I was feeling good and I decided to run until my right achilles started causing discomfort. I had proactively ace-wrapped it. I was wearing my Salomon Pro X3D trail shoes with speed laces to keep from irritating the ganglion cyst on the top of my right foot. I was wearing my Swiss Gear hydration backpack with two quarts of hotel tap water in it (nothing but the best for me).

The first six miles (you can see by looking at the graphic) went very well. My foot didn't hurt. I stopped between mile 4 and 5 to remove my long sleeve shirt with my number on it. At mile 7 the elevation changed so I started my walking plan. I began to walk the uphill portions and run the downhill portions. As I'm typing this I'm starting to remember my frame of mind during this portion. I decided to keep running until 13 miles and then walk the rest of the marathon once I reached the halfway point. I was carrying my cell phone with me and Susan told me she, Robin and Rob's aunt were around the 13 mile mark. As the next few miles unfolded, I became frustrated because I came past 13 and still no sign of Susan. At mile 14 or so I rounded a corner and a fraternity had a table set up with a sign that said Free Beer. I wasn't so excited about that but I spied a Krispy Kreme box on the table. I walked up and asked if I could have one and they said "yeah man, get one". I slowed to a walk and ate that stale donut. I finally reached them and they were at mile marker 15. She explained that a cop had told them incorrectly. I sat down in the chair that Rob's Aunt Gayle provided for me and changed my sock and took off my ace wrap. My ipod was dead after 2 hours and 50 minutes of playing (I need a new battery). I gave Susan my ipod, a kiss and headed back down the road. I put my headphones in my cellphone and started the music up on it. I must have looked kind of tired at this point, but I was determined to finish. I had been receiving text messages regarding where Rob was on the course and I had just received that he had passed 19.7 miles. I told Susan and Robin that they better head toward the finish line because Rob would be crossing soon. I headed around the loop and by the time I got to 16.5 I stopped to use the porta-potty. It was nice to not be so focused on time that I couldn't go to the bathroom if I needed to. The technical details of the race are here. Around mile 17 I saw a young lady starting to stagger like she was going to pass out. I asked her if she was okay and she said she was and put her hand up giving me the sign to leave her alone, so I did. Around mile 18 they were passing out gels so I grabbed about three and didn't use any of them. I gave them to Rob after the race. The last time I used Gels it upset my lower GI tract too much. About mile 19 I was walking off and on around a 13 min/mile pace. I called both of my brothers to let them know my progress. Once I hit mile 20, I knew I was going to finish under 5 hours. I decided to run as much as I could tolerate. Taking walk breaks turned out to be the key to my success. I crossed the 26.2 finish line in 4 hours 50 minutes and 18 seconds. I became emotional after I crossed, getting a little choked up at the thought of my accomplishment. I was now officially a marathoner. I wandered around and got my mylar blanket and was more concerned about connecting with Rob, Susan and Robin than I was getting my finishers medal. Eventually I found Rob and we connected with the girls.
We went to the merchandise tent and got in line to get a finishers hat. While in line I met Biggest Loser contestant Bette-Sue Burkland. She told us that Ali (Vincent) was over in the Prevention tent. Ali was the winner of Biggest Loser season five. We headed over to the tent and met Ali and talked with her for several minutes. She was very nice and down to earth. We chatted with her for about 5 minutes and the girls had their picture taken with her. After the marathon, Rob and I headed to the hotel to take a shower. I'm sure that no one wanted to ride with us anyway. We stopped at McDonalds and both got a Big n Tasty and a Coca Cola. We eventually made it back to Rob's Aunt and Uncle's house for afternoon lunch of Lasagna and salad. Aunt Gayle had a friend who was a massage therapist. She came over and worked on my right leg and achilles for about 20 minutes. I wore a compression sleeve on it all day Monday and Tuesday it was feeling fine.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My running story

The early years
When I was a freshman in Cape Girardeau, I, like many other kids, decided that I would participate in track. I just wanted to be a part of something. I was chubby and not fast so I decided my event would be the two mile. I did not enjoy running, because I had no fitness. I would run with the group on training runs but always had to walk after several minutes. I took part in a couple of track meets running in the two mile, but I don't even remember my times. All I know was I was slow and after that track season my running career died. I ran a small amount in Army basic training and advanced individual training. My fastest two mile time in the Army was 13:54. I pretty much decided that I disliked running. When we would do the yearly physical training test for the Army Reserve I would run the two mile and throw up after running it. Over the years I would attempt to run, but never any distances greater than two miles. I particularly remember running on a treadmill at the YMCA one day and actually running three miles. I was surprised that after two miles, I started to feel different. That was my first clue that running longer distances had a different feel.

Adult Onset Athletics
In the winter of 2006 I made up my mind that I was going to start running, but I wasn't really sure how I was going to do that. I knew I wanted to lose weight and I thought running would be a great way to burn some calories. An injury while skiing to my right shoulder prevented me from getting started until June. At that time I weighed about 192 pounds. Despite being out of breath often and extremely hot, I soon realized that I would enjoy running and started training to run my first race (a 5k in October). I finished that first race in 26 minutes and 45 seconds. I didn't have an official time because I was carrying the timing chip in my pocket. I continued to enjoy running 3-4 miles 3 days a week until I did another 5k on Thanksgiving of that same year. My time was slightly improved, so that was encouraging. My friend Dwight asked me if I wanted to start meeting the group to run long on Sunday mornings. At first I was really intimidated by running 8 miles. After my first long run, I can remember feeling a huge sense of accomplishment. I realized that I might be able to run longer distances.

I continued to train running two days during the week and doing a long run on the weekend. I continued this pattern and started thinking about some longer distance races in the fall of 2007. My 5k times continued to improve. I completed the Kitchen run in May of 2007. My time was improved quite a bit. I ran a 24:57 which was an 8 minute and 12 second per mile pace. I hadn't run that fast since my Army days. My weight was starting to come down a little. I was around 185 when I started training for the Bass Pro Shops Half. While preparing for the BP Half I ran the Sunshine run in October of 2007 and completed in 52:59 which translated to an 8:33 pace. My weight was slowly inching down close to the 180 mark. November of 2007 I completed the Cohick Half marathon.
I ran it in 1 hour 59 minutes and 19 seconds. It was my most significant athletic achievement in my life. I had a taste for more of this challenge. During the 2007 training period, I ran into an old friend from church who I hadn't seen in awhile, Patrick O'reilly. Patrick and I started running together as often as we could. He had completed a couple of marathons in his transformation from an overweight guy to a new thinner runner. I appreciated his experiences and he helped me learn how to run conversationally. I had hernia surgery in December 2007 and it took awhile to get back into the swing of training for another race.


Once 2008 rolled around I wanted to do a marathon but didn't feel like I had enough time to train after the hernia surgery. I battled various discomforts in my knees during these runs. After a hot summer of training, I settled on running the Sunshine Run again in October of 2008 and participated in my first duathlon (bike and run). My time for the Sunshine run was quite a bit faster than the year before (48:07), but I found out that it was 0.3 mile short. The first Sunday in November, I ran my second half-marathon. I ran in 1:49:46.
A significant thing happened in September of 2008. My best friend Rob Horton returned to running after a 18 year hiatus. Rob was a pretty special runner when he was younger but like many before him, life happened and he went another direction. For those who know Rob, it was no surprise to find him quickly obsessed with all things running. He inspired me to take my workload of running to a new level. I cautioned him about not starting too fast, but Rob moves to his own beat. I spoke with him about doing a marathon in the spring and we settled on the "beginner friendly" Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon. He was also about 265-270 pounds when he started so he had some work to do in that area. My weight had gotten down to 171 by the fall of 2008 and with my best friend now concentrating on running, it was time to take it to another level. Rob was progressing rather quickly and I was concerned that he was going to soon pass me in time. I knew I just had to beat him in at least one race. The 2008 Turkey Trot was the one. I ran it in 22:25 and Rob ran it in 22:48. That was a 7:14 pace and I beat Rob by 23 seconds. That will be my one claim to fame in our running journey together.

Through the months of December, January and February I logged more miles than I had done in the previous nine months combined. Every time I looked at Rob's mileage, my competitiveness kicked in and I would add more distance. However, I couldn't keep up. My body just couldn't handle all of those extra miles. Little did I truly know the eventual outcome of this foolishness. By the time February was over, my weight was down to 158 and I was starting to look like a high school kid again (I'm only 5'9). During this time, my aches and pains were minimal. Rob and I were following the Jeff Galloway training plan for our long runs which included taking walk breaks at every mile. We had started doing some trail running and decided to run a 10 mile trail race called the Psycho Wyco in the KC area on Feb 14. We both had a phenomenal time. Rob wrote a nice detailed race report. Eight days later on Feb 22, we ran 22 miles on the Frisco Highline trail. Our original plan was to run 20 but we were feeling so good that we added two miles. After that run, I started experiencing some discomfort in my achilles in my right leg. I also started experiencing pain on the top of my right foot which turned out to be a ganglion cyst. I decided to take 3 weeks off to let my achilles rest. In the mean time, I started swimming and biking to maintain my fitness. As soon as I returned to running my pain returned and I was developing some scar tissue back there. I spoke with my friend Justin who is a physical therapist and he told me to be careful that I might be developing achilles tendinosis which is a chronic condition. With the marathon a month away, I cut back the running. After a couple of weeks off I attempted to run two days in a row on a weekend 3 weeks before the marathon. I was convinced that I needed to see how it was going to feel. I could hardly walk on the next day. I officially scrapped the idea of running the marathon. I was bummed because I had already paid and Rob and I were supposed to run it together. I decided to skip the marathon and take 6 weeks off from running to allow the ankle to heal. I went to see an orthopedist and during my exam, he discovered something about my right foot. He told me I had a congenital condition called tarsal coalition. Essentially my right foot's bones are somewhat fused together. It causes serious rigidity which in turn creates severe shearing force agains the achilles because my flat foot overpronates so badly. He said I could still run, but I may not be able to put in the mileage I was doing before. He encouraged me to focus on shorter distances. I explained my plan of taking six weeks off, etc. and he thought that was a good idea. I still planned on going to Cincinnati to have a weekend away with Susan and support Rob in his marathon quest. I was biking and swimming and not having any discomfort. I decided that I would focus on doing triathlons instead of marathons. After a couple of weeks off of running, I was feeling much better. I went for a walk at Wilson's Creek with Rob. We walked 8.5 miles and I felt great. The walking didn't irritate the achilles like running did. Rob encouraged me to walk the marathon so I could get the finisher's medal. I was hesitant, but thought I could always quit if it got to painful to walk.
We went to Cincinnati as planned and I ran/walked the marathon in 4 hours and 50 minutes. For a more detailed account read my race report. After this event I can say with confidence that I would like to run one of these again. I was concerned at one point that my long-running days were limited. I realized that with the right strategy and preparation I could do more marathons. I'm looking forward to doing more.