Tuesday, May 4, 2010

2010 Pittsburgh Marathon

The last four months of my life have been very good on the running front. I've had the opportunity to run with 4 wonderful friends as they trained for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon and I prepared for the full on the same day.

We met on the snow, in the sun, and I think I remember a few runs in the rain! It was cold, it was cool, it was windy, it was Pennsylvania winter training.

Now what makes this training so special to me is not the destination race, not my second marathon, but WHO I trained with. Christine, Shannon, Tina, and Saima were all part of the beginner 5K program I helped coach last summer. Saima had run before, but the rest were just starting out. They went from being nervous about their first 10 minute continuous run to 13.1 miles in less than a year. It was such an honor to take that journey with them, to see the joy on their faces when they ran their first 10 miler (well, Shannon and Christine! Tina actually ran a half in January and Saima was in San Fransisco when she ran hers...) and the excitement on race day was incredible.

The night before the marathon, we all met at Robin's house (she ran her first half with me in October 2009) for a pasta dinner. It was pot luck and FANTASTIC. The company was great and the atmosphere was electrifying. We ate, talked, laughed, joked, and burned some of the nerves and excitement to help us all "try" to sleep just a little that night.

The next morning came early for me. I got up at 3:50 am to get ready and make the 45 minute or so drive into Pittsburgh. They were closing the streets down at 6, so I wanted to be there by 5:30 to make sure I wasn't miles away. We all met at the drop bag check in and made our way to the start.

Pittsburgh had the Nugo Bar Pace Team for the full, but no pacers for the half. Christine, Shannon, Tina, and I were going to run with the 5 hour group to the 10 mile mark, then I was going to continue on and they were going to run their best 5K in together. Saima is a bit faster, so she ran with our friend Marie who was go leading the 4:45 pace group. As we made our way through the crowd, I realized we were not going to get much closer to our pacer than we were--about 50 yards or so. When the gun went off, we headed for the line and crossed 9 minutes after the start (about 30 seconds behind the pacer.)

We kept up with him for the first 4 miles, then at a water stop, he disappeared. But in hindsight, I'm kind of glad. Our first 4 mile splits were 11:19, 11:13, 11:15, and 11:23. We were supposed to be running an 11:27 pace. (I learned later from my wife who was at the finish that the 5 hour group finished around 4:55 GUN TIME--remember, it took 8 and a half minutes to cross the start!)

At the fluid stations I point out to my running partners to make sure they drank. It was hot, humid, raining, and breezy--all dehydration factors!

At 7 miles, Shannon ran into the first relay exchange and passed her bracelet off to Jessa (another amazing runner from last summer) and continued on to finish her half. We ran together until around mile 11 then I was with Jessa for another 1/2 mile.

Saima finished in 2:18:22, Shannon in 2:31:08, Christine and Tina in 2:40:55.

It was around the time that the girls made the turn for the half that I realized I was in trouble. My legs were feeling heavy and my lower back was starting to cramp. I was carrying my Camelbak, but for some reason, I wasn't drinking much from it! I had NOTHING at the first 3 or 4 fluid stations. I was dehydrated! I had been preaching hydration for a week!

At mile 12-1/2 or so, my buddy Mike caught up to me. I was walking at this time after bonking. He was pacing a friend for the half and was on his way to finish the full. He could have finished 2 hours ahead of me, but being the selfless ultra-runner that he is, he stayed with me.

At mile 13 my calves and shins cramped. At mile 14 I thought for sure I was going to throw up. At mile 20 we were warned that my pace had slowed to the point that I was close to being moved off the course and onto the sidewalk.

I tried to catch up on my fluids. But too much water or Gatorade made my stomach sick. I took my S!Caps and nursed my Camelbak (filled with Succeed's Ultra.) Mike talked to me, told me stories about his friends and running. Told me about some of his races. He made me laugh a few times, threatened to take my watch off of me, and told me to set the pace when I said "that's it, we're running the last 5K in."

At 5:47:23 into the race, I held Mikes hand high as we crossed the line together. As strong and as tough as I think I am, I needed Mike on Sunday. I don't think I would have quit. in fact, I never even thought about it, but I might have if I was on my own.

I hugged my wife hard. Michelle (our friend Mike was pacing) rushed to get me extra water and popped me with electrolyte pills. We made our way to the drop bag area and I gathered my composure. I must have thanked Mike 20 times.

We headed to our cars. I told my wife that I was so disappointed in myself. I wanted 5 hours BAD. I finished 35 minutes slower than my first marathon and was sulking in my failure. Dawn said that I should be proud for going the distance, not quitting in the face of unusual conditions, and not surrendering. I felt a little better.

It took a few days for it all to sink in. Today's Tuesday and my stomach is still a bit queasy. I've consumed a little more than 100 ounces of fluids today and am starting to feel a little better physically. But what really hit me today is the fact that I actually made it. I didn't give up. I didn't lay down and die. I kept moving forward, I wanted to vomit, but I kept going.

I may be slow. I may have bonked. But Dammit, I didn't quit! On June 5th, outside of Washington DC, I'll be embarking on another 26.2 mile journey. But this time, I'll be a little smarter!

Stay safe, keep those soles to the ground, and keep moving forward!

Run on,

Sunday, March 28, 2010

No Surrender!

"Well, we made a promise
we swore we'd always remember

No retreat, baby, no surrender"
No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen

I'll bet these lyrics apply to just about all of us runners. We made a promise to ourselves that we would carry on, make it that extra mile, storm up that hill, conquer the distance. Or maybe we swore we'd get thin, healthy, and fit. But how often do we forget the promises we make to ourselves?

This song is one of many in my LSD (long slow distance-just in case the ATF is reading) play list on my iPod. It came threw my headphones during the first of 4, five mile loops in Mingo Park today and really made me think. It was raining, making the 45 degree temperature feel a bit chilly when the wind blew--even slightly!

A few weeks ago I explained that I developed a personal mantra of "Mind Over Mind" help me control my ADHD and "other" disorder. Today was a perfect day to pump up that mantra. It was cold, I was soaked, and 20 miles is a long way. I left the house with intentions of running 17-20 miles, but I knew I wouldn't be happy with anything less than 20--guess that's a part of the ADHD over focus thing.

I turned the corner of my first loop and saw my Jeep sitting in the rain. "No Retreat, Baby, No Surrender!" I stopped, filled my bottle, downed a Carb Boom gel (they are my new favorites!) and headed out on my second loop.

I watched a Blue Heron fly from Mingo Creek into a tree, then fly up stream to another tree. It was as if this beautiful bird was watching me run up the road as I admired his wing span and beauty. The rain kept coming, my hands were still warm from the dry gloves I just put on at my "aid station."

My mind went back to the song. "We swore blood brothers against the wind, Now I'm ready to grow young again."

On Friday I had the honor to be chosen to speak at one of the Pittsburgh Marathon Seminars as an "Inspirational Runner." My emotions started to explode almost as soon I started. Running has become such a passion in my life. It has become a part of me--a Blood Brother. I started out close to 400 pounds and on a fast track to the cemetery. My heart beat slow. It was efficiant, but slow. A "Natural Bradycardia" was the diagnosis. Not a disease, but something that was going to catch up to me as I aged and be a problem. That's when I realized I wanted to grow young again and running was my transportation to get there.

I stopped to pet a German Shepherd Dog and talk to a very nice man. He asked how far I was running today. I told him 20 miles. His eyes lit up, asked how long I've been a runner, then told me he was proud of me. I never would have thought another person would be out in the park today, but I found one that shared my passion for being outside--and lifted me up with his encouragement.

My Jeep was all alone in the parking lot as I finished mile 10. I filled my bottle, Carb Boomed up, took a S!Cap, and headed out for my third loop. I passed the Blue Heron again. I smiled at him. He has his wings to fly him where he wants to go, runners have their legs. His sense of freedom comes from hundreds of feet above the earth. Mine in an 11 minute 30 second mile.

I thought back to Friday night. My emotional talk. I had to refocus at times to gain my composure. I shifted from a heart felt explanation to levity, and back again, when I choked up. My Blood Brother and I have come far and we still have a long journey ahead of us.

I realized my emotions were hypomania's from my "secret disorder"--Bipolar 2 Disorder. The biggest difference between Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar 2 are the manic episodes. Fortunately, Bipolar 2's hypomanias are not as severe as the manic episodes of Bipolar Disorder. I've been learning to control my hypomanic episodes, but during my talk it was difficult. I spoke from my heart. I spoke with passion. I spoke with emotion. I told the audience that I am living proof that you don't have to be fast to be a winner--and I think that's the very first time in my life I actually believed I am a winner. I also explained that you get a medal, food, water, a sense of pride and accomplishment, and maybe a little pain at the finish line. But you also get a ticket, one that no one else can see, one that takes you on the journey to the next goal.

Running doesn't stop at the finish line. It goes on forever. It's "the promise we'll always remember." I saw my Jeep and remembered, "no retreat baby, no surrender!"

I didn't have another pair of dry gloves. My legs were feeling the cold in my running shorts. the brim of my cap was dripping with rain. I filled my bottle, Carb Boomed, S!Capped, and turned my sights toward another 5 miles.

The Heron looked at me as I ran by for the seventh time. I felt a connection. There was no other place in the world I would have rather been at that time. My legs were tired from carrying 283 pounds 16 miles. My ears were chilled. My hands were warming up. The rain started to slow, then it stopped.

As I approached the 2.5 mile turn-around of my 5 mile out and back loop for the last time today, my legs started to cramp. In all the miles I've run since I became Blood Brothers with my passion, today brought the first leg cramps ON a run. 18 miles in, I stopped at one of the parks bathrooms and tried to stretch the cramps out. For the first time today, I wanted my run to be over. I thought of the warmth inside my Jeep. The hot air blasting from the heater on my cold legs.

"Mind Over Mind!"

The pain went away when I hit the flats. I picked up the pace. I said good-bye for now to the Heron as I finished my last mile. My Jeep waited patiently for me to finish my 4 hour run. The Boss reminded me again the there's "No retreat, Baby, No Surrender!"

The cramps kicked hard when I stopped. I couldn't stretch them out. I put on a dry top and reluctantly got in the drivers seat. It took a little while, but soon the heat was blaring on my legs. The cramps went away. Tired, hungry, and warming up, I pulled into my driveway and realized how lucky we are as runners. Non-runners will never be able to feel the joyful pain of leg cramps after a 20 mile run. They will never see the world from the bouncing eyes of a body breathing heavy. And some folks just don't have the luxury of being able to run.

Remember that promise "we swore we'd always remember!"

No retreat Baby! No Surrender!

Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward!

Run on,

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Time to set a MANTRA!!!

OK, so I have ADHD. And last week I discovered I have another disorder as well (not ready to talk about that one yet.) It's been a year of discovery. But although I don't WANT either of my disorders (I will talk about the other eventually!) I need to learn to manage them.

These disorders are not curable. I've had them ALL of my life. And after learning about them, I finally understand why I do certain things. A lot of the stressful and problematic areas of my life have a direct relationship to one, or both, of my God given brain "talent!" Now, after almost 37 years of breathing air, I need to learn how to deal with the transgressions of life caused by said "problems."

I have a few plans of action, making lists (some so simple that I feel like a moron) of things I need to do on a day to day basis. Things like pack your lunch, take your lunch, fill your water bottles, take your water bottles, put your keys away (I lose those little buggers at least 3 times a week... OK, sometimes 3 times a day!) all make my lists. Simple, yet so far effective!

Compassion and support are a must. I need my wife to understand that somethings I do, I do as a manifestation of said problems and not just to tick her off! Learning to acknowledge symptoms as they start, finding the cause, and stopping it. And living a simple lifestyle (no more hashing) where I can control how the stimuli of the world effect me.

But the two plans of action I lake the best are MAINTAINING AN ULTRA HEALTHY LIFESTYLE and realizing it's really, honestly, and truly MIND OVER MIND!!!!

Now, how about that! I just got a doctor's permission to be almost obsessive about my health! I can go back to the stick diet I was on before and know that I have to be strict and splurging once in a while really is BAD for ME. That splurge can lead into months of making poor or less than appropriate food decisions. And now I have a physical AND a mental reason to run and work-out! That's right, some people like the stress relief of exercise, but I need that relief to burn energy and help myself stay focused in life! How sweet is that!!!!!

And MIND OVER MIND!!!! What an awesome mantra to have as a budding Ultra Runner? On today's 19 miles, I forgot my mantra a few times and allowed myself to walk a bit. I allowed myself to want to give up at times. It was a bad run after 11 or so miles. I struggled, but when I remembered that my mind was shutting me down, I was able to get that extra effort.

I'm determined to turn my minds problem into a strength. My secret disorder comes with excessive optimism, so why not put it to use? All the motivating things you read in Runner's World or online in blogs (like this one) needs to be put into place. My mind is a very powerful thing. I've managed to get by all these years and function in our society. I have a problem that I kept hidden and learned to work around. Now, I'm aware of that problem and dammit, I'm going to exploit my mind for all it's worth.

After all, isn't everything we do in life a direct reflection of our mind? Want to have ice cream, your mind lets you know it's OK and the deliciousness is worth the extra calories. my mind tells me it's super swell and I need to eat the entire carton. My mind over mind tells me to skip the ice cream because it's going to lead me down a path I'm better leaving untraveled.

So my mind tells me I'm a strong person that has a lot of love to give the world. It tells me to go out and run. Run a mile, then maybe 2. Why not go for that half-marathon? Why not shoot big and run that 50K? But my mind is also able to tell me I am just a human with limitations. By allowing my mind to work over the mind will greatly increase those limitations.

Nothing is too far, nothing is too hard, nothing is out of reach!


Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward!

Run on,

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It feels so good...

To be running again!

I threw my back out a few weeks ago shoveling snow--after snOwMG 2010. It was the first time in my life I hurt my lower back. I guess age is catching up with me. Anyway, I've been seeing a new Chiropractor who is also a runner. Well, he's actually a triathlete!

What a refreshing experience to visit a doctor that shares your passion! I learned of Dr. Geo Toomey at one of Greater Pittsburgh Road Runners races. I was volunteering at the race (one of my goals this year is to help out at more races) and someone mentioned that Geo is a doctor. When I found out he's a chiropractor, I decided that I would go to him the next time I needed adjusted, I like to support the folks in the organizations I belong.

Turns out Geo is a fantastic chiropractor! He had me running after 2 adjustments and is really helping me get a better understanding of what I need to do to become a better runner. He offers great advice on core exercises, strength training, intervals, and more. I never felt a friendship with a doctor as much as I have with Geo!

Training for the Pittsburgh Marathon is coming along a little slower than I had hoped (due to the back and the lack of motivation/ADHD) but it's back on track.

I've learned that I need to really concentrate on what outcomes in life I really desire and make sure my actions support what I want. I placed little stickers with 180 and 76.5 on my rear view mirror, stereo, and control panel of my Jeep. I want to weigh 180 pounds someday and the Laurel Highlands Ultra is now 76.5 miles (6 extra miles due to a detour for an unsafe bridge.) It may seem like 3 different places in my Jeep is a little extreme, but I see these little reminders often (I'm a salesman, so my Jeep is kind of my office) and remember that my decisions today will affect these goals in the future.

It's helped with my impulses so far!

Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A very open blog entry!

The last few months have been HARD!

I've been making some poor decisions regarding my training, eating, and hydration habits. I've been eating on impulse, giving in to temptation, and allowing myself to eat unhealthy food WAY too often! I've bagged a few long runs because "I just didn't feel right." I've been a total training mess!

Well, thanks to the help of my therapist, I've discovered a few interesting things about myself. It seems that I've been trying to be someone I'm not. I'm trying to be the employee that I think my superiors want, the person I think my friends want me to be, the runner that I think others see when they look at me. All of this thinking has prevented me from being who my superiors hired, who my friends know, and who I want to be as a runner! I've been trying to live my life as someone I'm not.

Throughout my therapy, the therapist noticed a few traits in me and decided I should be screened for ADHD. My wife has been telling me I'm ADHD for years, but I always thought she was teasing me about a few of my idiosyncrasies! Well, I was wrong. It turns out I am ADHD--with hyperactive and impulsive traits!

OH, so that's why I fidget so much? That's why I misplace things, am unorganized, and have a hard time concentrating when there are the slightest distractions! That's why I buy things, eat things, and have other impulsive behaviors! I never thought I would be happy with a diagnosis of ADHD, but it's a real relief!

Losing my identity came from wanting everyone to like me for who I thought they want me to be and not who I really am. This caused me to forget the ways I've learned to deal with my ADHD for the last 36 years and my impulsive nature really flared up--thus the binge eating, run bagging, etc. Knowing that I have these tendencies is a real plus for my future!

So now, I'm going to have to learn to think about what I do before I actually do it. Before I make that late night bowl of cereal, I need to think about what I really want--to be a lean, fit, ultra runner. When I'm out for a run and decide I need to pick up my pace, I need to think about how it's going to affect my overall run (will I tucker out early, is this a hard run day, what's the focus for today's training?) My therapist and I are working on strategies to help me with everyday things that I've struggled with forever--losing things (like my keys a few days a week,) keeping focused on finishing tasks, and a few more.

I think knowing about my ADHD is going to help me use my "problem" areas as strengths. I can focus on who I really am, what I really want, and how I'm going to get there. I just may need to make some things conscious for myself that others may do automatically.

I hope this all made sense. It's an eye opener for me. I need to live by a modified version of Isaak Newton's Third Law of Motion, "for every action I take, is the consequence what I want?"

Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow, Snow, and more Snow!

We've been pummeled with snow here in South Western Pennsylvania. Not as much as some of the country received, but 24 inches Friday into Saturday and another 5 or so inches today.

I love winter and a LITTLE snow. I don't mind 3 feet of snow if it comes in a week, but 2 feet overnight is killer. Plus, it took out our power for 4 days and 5 nights! My back had enough with the shoveling, but sleeping on the recliner in the family room (the only room with heat,) and carrying firewood for 4 days did it in! I'm having a hard time standing up straight--and I'm only 36 years old! Hopefully Dr. Toomey will take care of me tomorrow!

With all this snow leading to a very sore back, I haven't been able to run for a week. Good news for my Planters Fasciitis; bad news for my mind! I'm going threw some serious running withdrawals! Hopefully, I'll be back and running by Saturday!

The Mingo Mingle FA 50k was postponed indefinitely. Snow has the park shut down. Plus, the idea was to get a lot of folks together for a fun and exciting time on the trails--the snow would have kept the number of runners at a very small number.

BUT, we have power! And right now it feels like a luxury!

Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


After 2 years of working on raising my good cholesterol, I finally managed to pull out a 42! My doc wants it 40 or higher, so I'm good for now! Bad cholesterol is 92 with triglycerides coming in at 66. Blood work is looking good!

I've been exhausted for the last few days and actually bagged a long run on Sunday. I felt that bad! This week I've managed to keep up with the marathon training schedule. Seems as though running is the only thing pulling me out of a funk.

I'm loving the YMCA. I've decided that I'm going to make the ETR (Express Training Room) my strength training workout 2 days a week. It's taking me WAY to long to get a workout in the Wellness center.

The ETR has 12 Strive machines. The idea is that you complete 3 sets on each machine with around a 30 second rest between sets. Maximum amount of time on each machine is 3 minutes. Combine the quick time on the machine with the lack of a crowd, I should be able to get a full body workout in less than 40 minutes. Looking forward to giving it a whirl!

Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward!