Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Run of nice weather in the next week or so

Let's talk training

Focusing like a LASER BEAM on what's important and how to get to the start of marathon training healthy and with a good base, I've been planning my training from this week all the way through the middle of July. I basically followed just a couple of guidelines when I wrote this out. One, I planned a VERY gradual weekly mileage increase over the next 15 weeks. Also, once PIM is over, I put in a cutback week every 4th week or so. And finally, I haven't planned any racing or any hard running. All easy runs and long runs. Depending on how it's going, I may throw in a 5K or two somewhere to use as a gauge of where I am. I wonder when the Heights run is.

Anywho, I'll post what I've got. It's not what I normally see from other runners. It's not ambitious. :) I think though that it's smart and takes into account that I am in effect a new runner, or one starting from scratch anyway. If you don't mind, give it a once over and tell me what you think.


Monday, March 30, 2009

It could be worse

I'm not able to run as much as I'd like right now with my ankle problem. Hmmm...my ankle problem...So, what exactly IS my ankle problem. I frankly don't know anymore. I was trying to describe to Bill yesterday that I went out to run but only did 2 miles and then had to stop. I explained that it wasn't aerobic. It was my ankle. But the ankle wasn't hurting. I was just feeling like if I ran more, it would start hurting. It actually feels better after I run. I think I'm just a big chicken with this thing. I think it's getting better and getting stronger but I just don't want to do ANYTHING that could put me down for a prolonged period of time. At least now I'm not running far and not running fast but I'm running.

Speaking of taking it easy, I did 2 miles tonight with a small cadre of PIMsters We did a 3 minute WU/4x5R/2W and a 2 minute CD. I got some sweat. My breathing was somewhat increased. And most importantly, my ankle never felt a bit of pain or discomfort. So, I think I've just got to keep running within myself and keep being patient. I ran 37 miles this month, the exact same number of miles I ran last month. The good news is I ran those 37 miles in 16 days in the month of March, not 10 days like February. I am getting out there more consistently and that is a very positive sign.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Is THIS the last cold front?

A couple of weeks ago, I seem to recall many of us predicted that that would be the last cold front of the season. I put up all my jackets, sweaters, sweat shirts, and long sleeve shirts and began preparing my mind for the coming hot summer months. So, I got up this morning to head out for a run and soon found out that it was 40 degrees out. Don't get me wrong. I ain't complaining AT ALL. Had it not been for the stiff breeze, I'd mark this down as one of the best running days of the year. But the wind did make just slightly uncomfortable. But as long as you were running or in the sun or running in the sun, it was perfect.

We had a great group of PIMster's out this morning and the weather had us all feeling quite frisky. Two cadres of Aerobics led by me and Coach Deb did 4x 5Run/2 Walk with a 3 minute warmup and 2 minute cooldown. It's really fun to see these runners progress. I remember just a few weeks ago when they didn't think they could run for a minute at a time and now they're doing 5 minute intervals. I relish the look on their face at the end of a workout when they've done something they did not think they could do and accomplished something they've never done before. It's really great. I want to do this (coach new runners) as long as I'm able and I thank PIM and HARRA for giving me the opportunity to do this.

For me, maintaining good nutrition and staying on track with my exercise is all about routine and this week was anything but routine. I had to work in Humble this week so my hours, my drive, my daily routine was all screwed up. I didn't have my snacks with me so I left work FAMISHED every day. I did find a Subway near the hospital and ate lunch there Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday but I didn't do well driving home. I made it home for supper only twice. The other days, I did not do well. That's the ups and downs of changing your lifestyle. The week before was INCREDIBLY successful but I wasn't juggling work and the rest of my life. I know I can do it. I've just gotta get back to it. Hey, that rhymes.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Faint of Heart

I was so proud of myself. I got out of bed early to run this morning which is my intention EVERY Monday but I rarely do it. I inevitably end up running in the afternoon, getting home late, and missing Heroes time with my family. I wanted to get this first week after my vacation started off on the right foot so I jumped up and gathered my stuff and headed out.

One snag in the whole thing was that it appears that we have mice. Or maybe it was one or both of my TEENAGERS who finished off my jar of peanut butter. Being the creature of habit that I am, I was NOT happy when I was not able to have my regular breakfast of two pieces of toast with reduced fat peanut butter and honey with a glass of skim milk (450 calories). Instead, I had a cup of GoLean and a cup of skim milk (280 calories).

I started my walk and felt pretty good. No discomfort at all in my ankle. After a half mile, I broke into an easy run with a plan to do 2 miles and then walk it in. About a quarter mile in, I started feeling weird. Very light headed and I was seeing stars or something. I turned right around and started walking back. After I got in the car, I just felt HUNGRY and tired. So, I stopped and got a couple breakfast tacos after I showered and felt fine after that. I know my cals have been low the last week so I wonder if it finally caught up with me. Anyway, if my body's sending those kinds of signals, I'm going to listen. That's why I cut the run short. I still got a 1.8 mile brisk walk in. And if I get a good Subway for lunch and feel good this evening, maybe I'll tack on a 2 mile run around hood.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

All good things come to an end

As I sit here enjoying my last few hours of vacation, I must admit that I needed that!!! Almost 2 years is too long to go without some extended time off, even if it was a STAY-cation. So, what did I accomplish? Not as much as I wanted. What I did do was see what a full week (actually 9 days) of consistent, good nutrition and consistent exercise gets me. I lost 4.3 pounds this week and ran 5 days out of 9. My food logs look GREAT!!! 47% Carbs, 27% Protein, 26% Fat. I was right at about 10,000 calories for the week. No junk food and no sweets to speak of, not even once. And I was rewarded by Mr. Scale.

I had sort of a breakthrough on my ankle problem as well. I've been tasked by Jim to do these exercises to strengthen my peroneals on the LEFT leg. Let me just tell you. This is no easy task. These muscles are very hard to isolate. And part of my problem is that other muscles in my foot and ankle compensate so when I try to do the exercise, my brain just hasn't been able to tell all the muscles except the peroneus longus and peroneus brevis to CHILL!!! So, I've bee "squeezing" those muscles on the side, trying to get my toes to not help and my anterior foot muscles to not help and it's been very frustrating. Anyway, I got to moving my foot around today and all of a sudden, something in my brain just registered. I can finally RELAX all the muscles except the ones I'm targeting. Don't ask me how. It's really just like a light bulb went off in my head and in a split second, I knew how to do it. It was weird. The brain is amazing!!!

I've also been processing all the information about my ankle problem and have come to some decisions. I was looking at my mileage leading up to the Rodeo Run and realized (I guess I already knew this) that my weekly mileage had in no way prepared me for a 10K. The distance was the farthest I had run since starting back and my total mileage that week was 17 miles. This following weeks of 2, 6, 8, 6, 8 miles. Looking back, yes, I had this problem with weakness in the peroneals but it was the sudden jump in mileage plus hard racing without being prepared that really made that weakness manifest itself in an injury. What sucks is I would think I would be the LAST person to make such a mistake. I'm usually very disciplined and patient and know what I should and should not be doing with my running. I just wanted to get out there and do a race and enjoy it and get back into the scene. I should have picked a 5K. :) Lesson learned.

So, I really don't think that I need to stop running completely. However, I MUST watch my weekly mileage, continue to do those exercised for my peroneals, and NO HARD RACING!!! When I did get to do a race again, I won't be going all out. I need to feel my way back and be patient. Right now, my #1 goal that overrides EVERYTHING else is to get loose 100 pounds. Secondary to that is getting to the start of marathon training healthy and fit. EVERYTHING I do must be with these two goals in mind and I sure ain't gonna let a 5K or 10K ruin my chances of attaining them. Besides, I don't see any PR's at that distance in my very near future, even WITH a healthy ankle. Patience Padawan!!! That's the name of the game right now.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Drastic Measures

Drastic times call for drastic measures. I've been staring and a box of HEB chocolate chip cookies sitting on the kitchen counter for most of the week. I don't know where they came from. I think DW brought them into the house. Grrr! Today after returning from the Children's museum, I was particularly famished and those 150-calorie each cookies looked darn tempting. Instead, I went for a leftover slice of Deep Dish Pizza made from one of my Cooking Light recipes and some cantaloupe. But even after that, those cookies were calling my name.

So, here's what I did. I threw them in the garbage. And I didn't just throw the sealed container in the garbage. I opened the box and emptied the box into the garbage. The old me would be upset about throwing $4 worth of cookies "down the drain" but how sick is that? Rather than being upset about throwing them away, I'm upset about how they got into the house in the first place. Still, I'm happy that they sat on the counter there for a whole week and then suffered their final demise before the two teens got back from mission trip.

Poo-Poo those Peroneals

What scares me the most about any type of ache or pain or even injury is NOT KNOWING. Not knowing the cause. Not knowing how to fix it. Not knowing what the future holds. A couple weeks ago, I didn't know. CRAZY thoughts entered my mind like "I'm going to have to have surgery again" and "I'm just not meant to run" and "I'm not going to be able to lose weight without running." But thanks to some knowledge I've gained from working with MAT extraordinaire Jim Guillory (jimguillory@comcast.net) as well as my podiatrist, I think I have a pretty good grasp on what is my core issue with my ankle.

This all started, or so it seems, after the Rodeo Run 10K. Ever since running that race, my LEFT ankle has been hurting something fierce. And it only got worse with running. I played around with rest and ice, the normal stuff, for about a week but not wanting to waste any more time, I made an appointment with the podiatrist. I also set up another appointment with Jim Guillory at the Houstonian who Catherine recommended. He does this thing called MAT that Catherine promised would get me going again, provided there was no "real" injury.

The course of action prescribed by my podiatrist was to look into orthotics or to see what an MRI might show. I suggested we shoot it up with cortisone and see if just knocking the inflammation out would get it done. If the pain comes back after a few weeks, we would know it was something more than just chronic inflammation. He actually thought that was a good idea so we did it.

The LEFT ankle felt pretty good after that and I ran a couple times over the next two days. By then, I could start to feel it again, not near as badly but still so, something didn't seem quite right. So, I went to see Jim on that Saturday. Through Jim's "investigation" which included a lot of muscle testing, we found that the root of the problem was the peroneal muscles on the RIGHT side which were VERY weak. I had surgery on that ankle about 3 and a half years ago and somewhere along the way, I just "stopped" using those muscles. I would go so far as to say that they are atrophied (non-functional or greatly diminished).

To make a long story short, the weakness on my RIGHT side has caused my LEFT side to compensate. During the 10K, which I ran very hard, my LEFT quads had taken up for most of the work, trying to compensate for the weakness on my right side. At some point during the race, my LEFT quads gave out and the last muscles to "take over" were the LEFT peroneals. It's so interesting to me that the muscles/tendons that actually hurt and that I considered injured were not at all the cause of the problem. I think conventional treatment that you would get at say a doctor's office or even a sports med clinic would concentrate on the hurt ankle and never address the rood cause. This is where Jim's knowledge as a kinesilogist trained in MAT really made sense of the issue holistically. Jim was able by whatever it is he does to get all my muscles working again and when I was done with my hour with him, I felt great. However, the weakness in the RIGHT peroneals persists and unless I get those strong, I'm going to continue to have problems.

Jim gave me some exercises to do to strengthen those muscles on the RIGHT side. These muscles are very hard to isolate and work on. It's even harder when the peroneals have little or no strength. In the mean time, Jim suggest that I don't run at all, for risk of messing myself up again. DON'T RUN??? Are you kidding? I asked how long it would take to get those muscles strong enough to run. He told me honestly that he doesn't know. It could take a long time. Plus, according to Jim, running does not strengthen those peroneals. When I run, all the other muscles are just going to compensate for that weakness and the peroneals are simply not going to get stronger that way. The ONLY way to get them stronger is through the 3 or 4 specific exercises that he showed me and time.

This really leaves me in a pickle. I really, really, really want/need to run. But because of the issue with my peroneals, I run a HUGE risk of injuring something else. However, I'm optimistic. Through this process, I've learned that knowledge is POWER!!! And knowing what the problem is, what all the risks are, what the prescribed treatment should be, and a little bit more about how my body works, I can make an informed decision on how to proceed. Jim says no running. The podiatrist prescribes a prosthesis (orthotics). Now that I have all the information, I can take responsibility for my own health and decide for myself what to do. I like!!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another's easy run is my speed workout

We led our Power in Motion Aerobics-2 group last night in a 6x3R/1W easy run. Well, it was easy for most but for me, the pace was more like speedwork. But, hey, I can hang. No problem. We warmed up with a 3 minute walk and then started the repeats. I was tasked with bringing up the back of the pack and about 2 minutes into our first interval, I looked down at the Garmin and we were at about 11:45 pace. WOW!!! I volunteered to coach some never-run-before runners, not a bunch of speedy Gonzales's. :) I don't know if anybody else in the group felt like I did. I mean I've been running now for ~4 months and I've lost some weight so I knew I could do this workout but it was definitely not an EASY RUN effort for me. Still, it was good speedwork and I can definitely handle that once a week.

My weight fell off the bottom of the chart this morning at 314.5. I had to rescale my y-axis. I'm moving on down and like it very much. It's amazing how well I do on my nutrition and exercise when I'm not stressed by work and so busy I don't know if I'm coming or going. I've gotta work next week when I'm back to work on keeping the stress down and making plenty time for me and the fam.

Rest today.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Up and down

I hit a new low on the scale this morning, 317 lbs. My daily weight is all over the board as the chart below shows but my true weight is moving in the right direction, albeit slower than I'd like.

Garmin on the Fritz

Over the past couple weeks, I've been having a problem with my Garmin randomly shutting off in the middle of a run. I think the first time it happened was during the Rodeo Run. I've been debating about muddling through and just "monitoring" it incessantly during my runs to make sure it's still on or just go out and get a new one. I've had it since September of '06. Well, now that I say that, I realize it has been a relatively short amount of time and the thing should have a longer shelf life.

So, plan B...I called Garmin and it turns out that for the low, low price of $99, if you mail it to them, they will fix it. And if they don't fix it, they will replace it with a brand new one (refurbished). So, what to do? If my goal is immediate satisfaction (I always lean this way) the Best Buy, Galleria has one in stock for $199.00. Unfortunately, most of the local running stores just don't do the volume to be able to offer any significant discount off of retail. Even my favorite running store, Luke's Locker, won't even let you use your HARRA 10% discount with any Garmin products. I bought this Garmin back in '06 at Finish Line Sports who did honor their HARRA 20% discount. But that was 20% off of regular price, ~$350 back then. That was still a good deal and patronizing one of our local running stores is always a good thing. Of course, if I want to get a new unit and want the lowest price, amazon.com is the best deal. But if you include shipping and all that, you're pretty close to Best Buy's price and the immediate gratification is worth the extra $15-20.

So, I've got to decide today. Do I want to save $100 and go without my Garmin for a month or more? Or do I just want to replace the unit and get immediate gratification? These are the kinds of tough, painful, gut-wrenching decisions I have to deal with on vacation.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Resting today

I've been on vacation this week and have felt so relaxed. That is until I logged in for a quick peek at work e-mail. BIG mistake!!! I ended up working for 3 hours. Grrr!!! That's the last time this week I'll be doing that. Promise.

I got in a great workout yesterday, the first time I'd run since I had my ankle treated on Saturday. The ankle felt GREAT. I'm going to post later about MAT (Muscle Activation Techniques) therapy but suffice it to say, it's miraculous. Plus, it makes so much sense the way Jim explained what was really wrong with me. Anyway, I ran like a kid yesterday. I just felt great, perfect, back together.

I'm supposed to be taking it easy so rather than my usual Monday 3 mile continuous run, I opted for a prolonged warmup, some walk/run, and a good cooldown. I parked over at the pool and walked to the tennis center for some silly walks. I didn't take in the whole routine. I just did some toe walks, heel walks, washing machines, and cross-body leg swings. Then, I did 3x180/60 walk/run followed by a brisk .5 mile walk back to the car. Total 2.6 miles.

I was running easy, very easy and I felt good. No pain in the left ankle at all. I checked my Garmin and my pace was in the low 13's. I wonder if the satellites hadn't caught up toe daylight savings time or were suffering from some other malfunction. I didn't feel like I was running 13 min pace. I'm glad I only did the distance I did because feeling that good, I may have been tempted to go longer or harder and I'm supposed to be "babying" the ankle.

I have a rest day today. My next workout is with the PIM peeps tomorrow night. Can't wait.

Memory lane

I'm doing everything I can to stay uber-motivated about running and losing weight, especially since I've had a small setback the past couple of weeks with an ankle problem. I went back to the blog archives to reminisce about the old days and I came to my '07 Houston Marathon race report. I read the loooooong post and it reminded me of a guy who had a positive attitude, who enjoyed "the lifestyle", and who found out one day that he could do anything he set his mind to.

I thought I'd post that race report again, not because I'm vain or because I want to RE-toot my own horn. It's just that the guy in that post inspired me when I read it last week. I need him back badly.


Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes
to stand before a giant
With just a sling and a stone

Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor

Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand

But the giant's calling out my name
And he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again. "Boy you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"

But the Voice of Truth tells me a different story
The Voice of Truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
And the Voice of Truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth

The giant in front of me on Sunday, January 14, 2007 was the Chevron Houston Marathon. 26.2 miles. The thousands shaking in fear were the years and years of sedentary lifestyle and obesity that kept me from living life the way it should be lived. My weapon, my sling and stone if you will, was the body that showed up at the starting line. A humble weapon but one that has served me well nonetheless.

That song by Casting Crowns was playing on the radio after my first ever race, the Run with the Saints 5K, in the Fall of 2004. I knew at that time that this would be my theme song. Little did I know after ankle reconstruction, a short regress into the sedentary lifestyle after surgery, losing 75 pounds, and enduring hundreds of miles training for the marathon, that today I would need to listen to that Voice of Truth more than ever before.

I had 3 separate goals for success in this race. Goal 1 was to finish the distance, period. Goal 2 was to finish in time to get all the race goodies like the medal and finisher's shirt, and finisher's stein. From talking to the race officials and to previous finishers, I learned that as long as there was still a steady stream of finishers coming across the mats, that they would keep the goodies coming. So, I figured if I just stayed close to a good steady group of runners, I'd get my goodies and I figured that 6:15 or so, 15 minutes after the official close of the race, would get me there. Goal 3, my if-everything-went-perfectly goal, was to finish at 13:45 pace, a 6 hour marathon and a guaranteed official finishing time recorded for posterity.

The Chronicle in Monday's report the next day called the weather "optimal" but to me, the near 100% humidity was a killer. Still, I'm not complaining as it could have been worse. The forecast earlier in the week called for temps in the 70's for race day so at least it was cool and unbearably muggy instead of hot and unbearably muggy.

When I got in the car on race day, I was greeted by a small balloon bouquet left there by Jan and the kids the night before. Jan must have stayed up even later than I did on Saturday night, waiting till the coast was clear so that it would be a surprise. Guess the kids painted my windows too but it all washed off through the night from the rain.

I picked up June, who parked at the Starbuck's on Memorial, and we rode in to the GRB together. We got off our feet for a while, checked our bags, talked with Striders and other friends and generally tried to chill out before the big dance.

It was getting to be about time so I made my way out to the white corral. Here, I have to confess my disgraceful behavior. Thinking about goal 2 and wanting to maybe save 5+ minutes on my gun time, I shamelessly made my way to just about the very front of the corral. I actually lined up next to the 3:50 pace group. To the several thousand runners behind me, I apologize. I've never done that before and never will again. Still, I didn't hear too many complaints as folks passed me and I had a chance to see many Striders and bloggers that I normally wouldn't see in a race so that was awesome. Pam, Amalia, Jamoosh, Cassie, Bessie, John Dimarco, and many others I can't recall. Just before mile 3, a young man passing me said, "Hello, Sir! Remember me?" I recognized him as the banana boy from the 30K, the young spectator that spurred us all on, dressed as a big banana. He was running the full, though not in a banana costume, at least not this time.

I was excited at the start but stubbornly in patience mode. I've been told enough about going out to fast so I was intent on not making that mistake. I'd heard about guys peeing on the side of the road and kind of blew it off as folklore, but IT's TRUE!!! I saw a dozen or so guys relieveing themselves at the bottom of the Elysian bridge and listened to all the ladies around me talking about how nice it would be to be a guy. At the next opportunity to pee in public without getting a citation from the policeman standing 30 feet away, I decided to take in the full experience and pulled over for my last pee break, in front of God and everybody. I was acutally laughing as the hollers echoed from the hundreds of runners behind me. I'm just glad I wasn't standing there alone or I may have been too embarrassed to go.

Mile 1 was on pace for a patient start with 13:57. Mile 2 was 14:00. Then I eased down to my 6 hour goal pace with an average pace around 13:46 through mile 8. At this point, I still seemed to be in the middle of a big group of people but it wasn't too crowded. I'm feeling good that there are a lot of people ahead of me AND behind me. About mile 6, Dusty Cook caught me and we ran a few miles together through the half marathon turnaround and past the Mecon Fountain. After that, I stopped to stretch a little bit and never quite caught back up with Dusty who finished his 19th Houston marathon in perfect veteran form.

On Saturday night, I had set out an awesome plan for my greatest supporters, my wife and kids, to follow me around the course. They ended up leap-frogging me and popping up 9 different times over the course of the race. The only one they missed was the first intercept planned for the corner of Michaux and 11th street. I think from talking to them that they were acutally there but missed me in the sea of runners passing by and I missed them as well. After that they settled into their leapfrogin' groove just as I was settling into my grove because they hit every other waypoint along the way and even one or two unplanned ones. They really moved around the course like veterans and I was so proud of them.

I felt confident and comfortable through the half marathon turnaround. I was thinking, WOW, I'm right here in the middle of a bunch of runners. At least some of these are bound to be with me at the finish. Then, all of a sudden at the turnaround, the half marathoners did just that. They turned around and all of a sudden, I found myself amongst just a handfull of marathoners. I realized then and there that it was going to be a lonely rest of the race.

The crowd support continued to be unbelieveably incredible, even as the back of the pack was coming through. It's crazy but I think my favorite group was the polka band on University. They were awesome, right on tune, professional, just the right beat and that was a good pick me up. The crowds along University Blvd. were the best. I really enjoyed that part of the run. My pace through the halfway mark was pretty much on target at 3:04:56 but I was starting to feel not quite right. Not good to start thinking about struggling at just the halfway point of a marathon.,

Coming down Weslayan, I started exercising my math skills. I figured for every quarter of a minute (15 seconds) off my average pace, I would be off the 6 hour finish by about 6 and a half minutes. So, 14 minute pace would put me in at 6:06:30, 14:15 pace, 6:13:00, and so forth.

It was an awesome sight at the Weslayan intercept where two additional family members showed up to cheer me on. My mom and our dear friend Ruthie showed up with warm wishes, hugs, and WATER!!! I don't think Mom has ever seen me run before and I got the feeling she was proud. Ruthie, one of the most energetic people I know, ran with me up on the median. The whole family was a sight, all out in the middle of the street with their signs, my daughter on her roller shoes, the little one trying as hard as he could to get in my way. That was a huge boost.

After seeing the fam at the Weslayan intercept just past Bissonet, and just before turning on Westpark, I started to slow to around 14:45 pace. I took my first walk breaks at this point but was still putting one foot in front of the other. I think at this point, my struggle was mostly mental. Yes, physically, I was in trouble but at points where I could decide that I was going to get moving, my body responded relatively well.

I walked the entire way up the Westpart Bridge but ran down and to the next water stop. At that point, things were thinning out big time and I started to see and hear murmurings of opening the streets. Although the water stop volunteers were cleaning up and packing it in, they were still serving the stragglers with a smile and much needed encouragement. I really appreciated that.

On Post Oak, I started to see the first vehicles actually on the course. Race official were driving slowly beside the stragglers/strugglers, checking us out, making sure we were ok. The sag wagon moved past me and I must admit that after considering the 10 or so miles ahead, I did actually give it a thought. Even though traffic was allowed to cross the course ahead and behind the runners, the streets remained closed through Post Oak, up San Felipe, and right on Tanglewood. This really surprised me because at this point, I was well off of 6 hour pace. It seems the reports of strict, rolling street closures on 13:45 pace were greatly exaggerated, at least through mile 17 or so.

Between mile 17 and 18, whatever mental problems I was having, if they were only mental, were manifesting big time physically as I struggled up Tanglewood. Halfway to Chimney Rock, having slowed to a 15:00+ pace, I saw a reflection in the stop sign ahead. It's like some kind of strobe light or something and I thought, oh, some spectators have a disco set up for us ahead. Then, I looked behind me and saw that the reflection was actually the flashing lights of the "pace car", not the pace car you would see at the beginning of a race but the car pacing the last runners that were allowed to stay on the course, in the street, and it was gaining fast. Before I got to Chimney Rock, the car had passed me with polite instructions from the officer inside to move to the side.

Fortunately, there was quite an entourage of various official vehicles, trucks, and race officials who crept along behind the pace car and the street was not open to general traffic so I was at least able to stay to the side of the street. I turned on Woodway and a remnant of high-endurance spectators were still cheering on the stragglers there at Chimney Rock and Woodway. I was still able to stay on the street, to the side as crews continued to pick up equipment and clean up the course. I saw the 30K timing mats and computers being pulled up right in front of my eyes, maybe 200 feet in front of me. That's why friends who were tracking me were worried because my 30K update didn't go out. After Sage, Woodway was open to traffic so I moved up on the sidewalk.

The Mile 19 water stop volunteer entourage passed me on the sidewalk, probably heading back to where they parked. I knew water would now be a long way away. I thought now I won't have water until I see Jan and the kids at Crestwood. Still, that concern was only in the back of my mind as other thoughs dominated my thinking. Serious thoughts about jumping in that sag wagon and going to the GRB to see June and others finish. Thoughts about how unprepared I was for this. Thoughts about how my 20-mile training run was cut short 3 weeks earlier due to abdominal pain. Thoughts about how I was now running farther than I had ever run before. Thoughts about my second goal now being history and my last goal of just finishing fading fast.

One foot in front of the other.

Even the belly dancers were packing up as I passed them at 610. I would have liked to see those ladies dance. Many of the experiences and memories that so many veterans talk about, I knew I would not have, not this year. When I crossed under 610 and continued on Woodway, the office instructed me to stay on the sidewalk. I was in survival mode at that time, walking mostly but shuffling every chance I got. I kept watching my overall pace on my Garmin slip by a second, then another, then another. For each second on the overall pace that slipped, that was 26.2 seconds added to my finishing time. Hey, I may have been near exhaustion, but I could still do the math. Dr. DeLaVina would be so proud. At the Arboretum, I noticed that the course was still not open to general traffic so I stepped back down on to the street, on the course, the course I registered for, the marathon course.

I saw the number 20 painted on the street but no flag, no cool miler marker sign. It had already been picked up. At the entrance to the Picnic loop, I saw the beer truck that I had heard gives out an early celebratory beverage to passing runners. There was ice dumped out on the street as the crew had packed up the truck and were getting ready to pull off. I was so thirsty, I actually ate the ice off of the street. Thinking back, I can't believe I did that. I was somewhere in na-na land.

The urge to quit was overwhelming. I had not respected the humidity early on. I went out too fast. I had nothing left. I was thinking, this is not the wall. This is something else. It wasn't anything that came on abruptly. It was more like the sum of a buch of crap that had been going on since that nice policeman in front of the Galleria said, "Just 10 more miles." Grrrr! I thought, ok, Jan's going to be up at Crestwood, I'll just get her to take me back to the GRB. I quit. I wasn't ready for this. My 3rd goal was gone. I had a new goal, to get to Jan.

Jan recognized a lot of the runners that were running ahead of me around Transco Tower and she saw them go by at Crestwood. She was wondering where I was. She walked down to the corner of Memorial Loop and continued to wait. Finally she saw me around the corner and down the hill on Memorial. She said I was doubled over with my hands on my knees and then I was leaning against a light post, stretching. When she and the kids came within my sight, I ran to them, said hello, got some water, hugs, and some love and kept on going. My head was asking my body, "What in the world is going on? I thought we were going to stop." Jan called our friend Danny who finished around 4 hours and told him that I didn't look like I was going to make it.

Just after I saw the family, things got a little better. My body didn't feel better. My energy level didn't go up. I didn't have any sort of surge in adrenaline. I just saw a small glimpse of hope.

I was walking up on the trail, head hung down, when I heard voices calling to me. "There's Vic! Hey, Vic!!! C'mon Vic!!!" I stopped walking and started running. I'll be doggone if it wasn't the remnants of the Strider water stop, packing the truck and cleaning up. My recollection is a bit foggy as to who all I saw so forgive me if I forget to mention anyone here. I remember Carlos coming over to greet me and wish me well. Then my former PIM coach, friend, and Strider, Rose, along with Reuben came up to me with water, with life. Rose said, "Get down here off that trail and onto the street. There's no traffic yet. You're doing great. You're going to finish." Reuben says something I'll never forget or quite understand. He said, "Vic, I've been thinking about you. You are such an inspiration to me." Can you believe that? Reuben, an unbeliveable runner and inspiration to so many. It was humbling and surreal having someone who is such a huge inspiration be inspired by something I was doing.

At mile 21.5, Rose and Reuben ran with me up to Wescott, and hope continued to build. Rose asked me if I needed more water. I told her that, thanks to Doug Spence, I know where all the water fountains were. I almost cracked up as Rose tells all the surrounding stragglers to "STAY WITH VIC!!! He knows where all the water fountains are. OK, everybody? Y'all stay with Vic!" I don't think at that point I really felt like leading the Children of Chevron through the the wilderness for 4 more miles.

A faithful spectator was at the Starbuck's handing out water bottles. I had a drink and a Gu and more hope. I started to really take hold of goal 3 which was to finish. I kept thinking about my promise to SteveB to be there by 2 pm, when he had to leave. Still doing the math the whole way, I figured this was doable.

Turning onto Allen Parkway, which was still closed to general traffic for a while longer, thoughts of quitting started to fade. It wasn't getting any easier to run and my muscles and feet and back were really hurting. Then hope came running across the street. It was Rose again. She had driven over to some apartments on Allen Parkway and was coming across the street to run with me. She said, "Don't worry, Vic. I'm here. I'm gonna get you to the finish." She ran with me for about 10 minutes, ran back to her car and met me up ahead AGAIN to run with me for another 5 or 10 minutes. Rose left me to run back to her car but told me she'd see me up ahead. When she left, I cried because I was so touched. But that's the kind of person Rose is and the kind of people the Striders are.

It's mile 23 or 24 and my tears were just about dried when I saw Christy running towards me, waving her hand, yelling "C'mon Vic!!! You're doing it!!!" Turns out Christy had been parked by herself on Allen Parkway for who knows how long, waiting for me to pass by. Christy had already run a half marathon earlier and drove out to cheer me on after her race. We ran together past her car. Christy encouraged me the entire time, telling me that I was going to finish and what a great accomplishment it will be and how proud she was. Then after 5 or 10 minutes, she said goodbye and ran back to her car. Hope continuted to build.

It was under 2 miles to go and here ca e hope again. I mean Rose. She parked up at Sabine and ran back to get me. Not a lot of hoopla. Not a lot of cheering. She knew what I needed at that point. Just someone to pull me along and keep my feet moving one in front of the other. She stayed in front of me and I just followed. When we got to her car, I thanked her and told her that I loved her and that I was going to make it. I was going to make it!!! That was the first time that thought entered my mind. I said it out loud again as she drove off. Hope began to feel real!

I came up Lamar, into downtown with about 1.2 miles left and Matt Wright was waiting for me in front of the library. Matt Wright, who was voted by the Striders waiting at the finish line as having the freshest legs, met me downtown to run the last mile with me. He phoned the finish line and said, "I've got him. We're coming in." Matt said some other encouraging words but mostly he just talked about how good my hair looked. He just went on and on about my hair. Well, thanks, Matt!!! Seriously, Matt was awesome. He kept me safe and motivated through downtown and I'll never forget it. Oh, and by the way, Matt is my barber.

Matt got me to the train tracks where Coach Steeeve and SteveB, who had just run a full marathon, join us. Coach asked me if I can see the blue finish line "right there." Well, it didn't look "right there" to me but I can see it. SteveB was in his friggin' sandals. Yes, he ran me in the last .3 or so miles IN HIS SANDALS!!! I remember seeing that but not saying anything. I'll never forget that image.

Over those last fractions of a mile, I tried to be tough and gut it out but my effort was relegated to either running or bending over in a dead stop with my hands on my knees trying to recover. You know the drill. The finish line was still standing and the closer I got, I could see that the clock was still ticking. The hope I was holding on to was realized in an instant when I saw and heard the cheers of what sounded like hundreds of fans, but were really my family, my friends, my Striders. No stopping now with the masses watching and just 40 yards to go. I crossed the finish line in 6 hours 48 minutes and 30 seconds. Goal 1 accomplished.

Now, as if it couldn't get any better than the oupouring of support from my family and friends along with finishing my first marathon, the Chevron Houston Marathon had volunteers still waiting at the finish 50 minutes after the official race was closed, handing out finisher's medals. When the beautiful lady put that medal around my neck, the flood gates opened and I balled like a baby, a very BIG baby. My wife came over and held me and I gave her a big ole' wet, salty kiss. The kids were there and I hugged them. Then more high 5's, hugs, tears, smiles, and laughter as the family and Striders shared in my joy. Thinking back, we must have all been a sight, standing out in the middle of Rusk, right under the finish line, just partying and laughing like this was all for us.

Wait, it gets better. After we partied out there on the street, Coach realized the mission was not over yet. If there was a way to collect the rest of my swag, Coach and company were going to find a way. The entrance where the 18,000+ runners entered the GRB Convention Center earlier was locked. Matt knocked on the door so hard it almost fell over. Then he was trying to pry the door open and a face appeared in the window. "This runner needs to get his shirt!!!" exclaimed Matt. The official opened the door and let us ALL in. He said "Runners only!" That's me.

So, moving by adrenaline only, I made my way across to the other side of the Convention center. It was like another race with another finish line but instead of FINISH, the sign said FINISHER'S SHIRTS. Somehow, my walk turned into a bit of a shuffle and I scampered to the counter just before they were about to close. I got my finisher's shirt and my finishers mug. GOAL 2 ACCOMPLISHED!!!

You can keep the tens of thousands of fans, the belly dancers, the bleachers, the cool mile markers, the music, the noise, the fanfare. Just give me my family, my friends, and the Striders there at the end. I'm so glad it turned out the way it did. I doubt very seriously it's going to be like that ever again. If it is, I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing. But this one was so special and I wouldn't have had it any other way. I accomplished my goals. I overcame with the help of some special people the overwhelming urge to quit. I AM A MARATHONER!!!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Could it be?

I've been wondering about my current shoes and if they're ready for retirement or just middle aged. According to my records, they just have 151 miles on them. HOWEVER... I purchased them back in July '08 and as far as time, I've probably logged twice as much time in these shoes as other runners with 150 miles.

I bought a new pair last Wednesday and just broke them in for the first time tonight for a little 1.6 mile recovery run/walk after yesterday's 10K. And it was unbelievable how much better these feel than the old shoes. So, although I reluctant to retire a pair of shoes with only 151 miles on them, I think I'm going to do just that.

I've heard it said that a shoe should last 300-500 miles. Well, I've come to the conclusion that while that may be a GENERAL guideline, there are a lot of factors that go into how long a shoe should be used before it's retired. For one, I think my weight puts exponentially more stress on a shoe. Being at 300+ pounds, I'm seriously "pounding" my knees, legs, ankles, and even my shoes a lot more than your average runner. Secondly, it just makes sense that if you just look at my pace, I'm spending a lot more time per mile in my shoe than your basic 8-10 minute miler. So, I might run a loop around Memorial Park in 45 or 50 minutes where it takes others half that time.

So, it's really not a big deal. I just think about stupid stuff like this while I'm running or sitting around the house, or playing taxi driver to 3 kids (this makes up the bulk of my life). I guess I've got a new pair of yard shoes.