Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Injury

In the blink of an eye. No. In an instant, in the moment it takes you to go from vertical to horizontal with a 500 pound motorcycle crushing your foot and tearing the most vital ligament in your metatarsals, it happened.  I lay there with the bike on top of me.  That's what I remember.  I lifted the bike off of me.  Parked it back in the garage and went to the ER.  I had to wait a week for the swelling to subside before I saw the orthopedist.  He confirmed the worst news: I had several cracked bones and the lis-franc ligament was torn.  That ligament basically holds the foot together.  Not supports some of it or helps out the others.  This is the main one. He stated that my foot will never be the same, running will be difficult for me and in essence my marathon days are over.

I remember that moment I decided to run my first marathon.  I was having dinner with a friend who was signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon.  He had injured his ankle and was unable to run.  He transferred his race entry to me (I'm not a bandit!).  

The doctor left.  Thoughts swirling, feelings going every which way. Numb. Surgery was scheduled for the next day.  I had been told to prepare for possible surgery that day (no food or coffee after midnight).  Now I was told to prepare for surgery for the next day (no food or coffee after midnight).  Ugh.

Miles 18-22 were the toughest.  Haynes Point. Lonely.  Windy. Cold.  Had to pee.  Then coming around the corner, I saw the crowd.  Cheering and yelling and spurring me on.  Tears formed.  Strength renewed.  Just a few more miles to go.  

Surgery was uneventful, at least for the surgical team. I now had three screws in my foot.  It took quite awhile for the anesthetic to wear off.  The ride home was uneventful, at least for me!  Since then, I have sat in my recliner with my foot in the air.  I usually go outside and sit in the Sun for a bit.  Make some phone calls, email (work and personal, check Facebook). Sitting here is the toughest.  I want to start rehab.  I want the physical therapist to yell at me.  I want to move my foot and make it hurt.  I want to run.

Just a half mile to go.  Uphill to the Iwo Jima Monument.  A burst of speed and I ran across the finish line.  A Marine placed a finishers medal around my neck.  My son was there to congratulate me (and help me back to the hotel and car.)  He told me he was proud of me.  That is what I remember.  

I will recover from this injury.  It is not a matter of IF I will, I know I will.  That friends, is not a matter of over-confidence, that is the truth.  As one friend put it "You've beaten the odds before and you will beat them again." and another friend, "Suck it up Buttercup."  Indeed I will.  But I am not fooling myself.  The road to recovery will be tough, it will be painful and I may not be the same runner as I was once was (not that I was fast by any means) but I also know that I will not travel this road alone.  I have you.  (a special shout-out to my wife: she has been so wonderful in taking care of me, has not complained, has helped me every hop of the way--she is a blessing!).  You will encourage me to push and you will encourage me to slow down.

You will encourage me to...Keep Running!
God's Peace,

Sunday, September 2, 2012

So There I Was...Climbing Saddle Mountain

So there I was climbing Saddle Mountain, leading a tour of school kids from the School for the Blind and Deaf up the mountain when all of a sudden a bear jumps out of the woods.  I've read that when encountering a bear, one does not need to outrun the bear, only those one is with.  Man, those little kids were fast!

As the truth goes, the day was clear, the temperature was near perfect and I was running up the mountain.  Running!  Saddle Mountain is about a 4 mile hike up and back.  I was about an 1/8 of a mile from the top, the summit, the peak, the goal, when I encountered a fallen tree across the trail.  As I hit my head on the tree, I glanced a branch and sliced open my head.  I fell to the ground and blood began pouring out.  Not a trickle, not a little blood but a very steady stream.  As the warm liquid violently left my body, I thought for a moment this might be it.  If I cant get the bleeding to slow or stop, I know what happens.  Rescue would be at least 30 minutes away (at the fastest) and that might not be soon enough.  I sat there watching my life pour out of my body. Scary! I yelled for my hiking buddy (a lesson here is never hike alone!)  who came running to me.  We were able to stop the bleeding and with my partners help made it down the mountain and to the emergency room. I received 15 staples and will have a very cool scar for the rest of my life.

How did this happen?  Simple.  I ran with my head head down and did not see the obstacle.  The military has a term called situational awareness or SA for short; basically keeping focus.  I lost my SA for just a brief moment and paid the price.  I failed to look ahead and was quite surprised when I sat on the ground watching my blood stream out of my head.  Have you lost your SA?  Have you been going through life with your head down?  I'd encourage you to look up.  There might be a tree with your name on it, waiting to slice you open, knock you down.  And most importantly, you are not alone.  "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (deepest darkness) I will fear no evil for You (God) are with me."  You are never alone.

I'll make a full recovery but I will always have a scar to remind me of that day when I was on the ground watching the very essence of my life leave me.  My scar will remind me to keep my head up, look ahead and most importantly...

Keep Running!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Heat, Hills and Hurt: Reflections on the St. Louis Marathon and Life

The St. Louis Marathon was my sixth and arguable my most difficult race.  Not my slowest or fastest but the most hot, hilly and hurtful.  Running is not new to me.  Many miles have been logged, I have more shoes than my wife, I know the terminology, I  subscribe to two running magazines and have a slew of others in my favorites web site list.  I was hoping for a PR (personal record to those in the know).  My training was intense and purposeful, my diet was pretty good;  I still need some tweaking in that area.  My mental approach to the race was, I felt, very good: relaxed, strategic-steady pace, cut the tangents, run my race.

The temperature at the start of the race was 70 degrees.  I had trained in temps around 40-50.  The difference of 20-30 degrees was of great concern to me. I realized, however,  there are some elements I can control, my training, diet, etc..., but there are some I cannot control: the weather and the course.  Starting out it was hot and ending it was hot.  A strong wind came up at several times and while I am usually not a fan of a headwind, I was thankful this time.  The cooling effect was much appreciated.

I had downloaded a map of the course and studied it in detail.  I could tell you we would turn left, then right, right, left and right with a slight incline at mile 5 and so on.  There were more turns at the beginning of the course.  I didn't realize the length of the hills on the second half of the course.  I saw the elevation chart but the hills didn't look all that challenging.  And in retrospect they weren't all that daunting.  I've ran hills, trained on hills, ran hill repeats.  I was ready for them, or so I thought.  Typically, a runner bemoans an uphill and is thankful for a downhill.  Not in my case for this past race.  I was happy for the uphill and cringing on the downhills.  Sometimes the things that we do not enjoy are actually better for us than the easier circumstances we seek.

My split time at the half marathon point was 1:59:12.  My PR for a half is 1:58:00.  I was in great shape at the halfway point: on target for a marathon PR of less than 4 hours, my pace was consistent, breathing and muscles were not being pushed hard at all.  Then mile 15 happened.  In one moment, my hopes of a faster time were dashed.  In one moment my body cried out to me.  In one moment I had to consider quitting the race.  And that my friends is something I am loathe to do!  I had trained hard, I had traveled halfway across the country, I had studied nutrition and strategy, my mental state was right where I wanted it to be.  Quitting a race for me is not an option, but I had to consider it.  At mile 15, my IT band, or so I think (I'm going to a doctor later this week) snapped.  The pain was sharp and intense.  Every time my left leg impacted the ground, a pain rushed up and down my leg.  My IT band had given me troubles over the past month and a half and I thought I had taken proper care of it.  Apparently not.  I had joked with friends that all I needed was for the leg to make it to mile 20 and I could hop from there.  I didn't realize the event would happen with 11.2 miles to go (yes, that .2 is important).  I slowed my pace from an 8:45 minute mile to an 11:30 and essentially ran up the hills and walked down them. I stopped and stood at one point.  When I started up, I cried out in pain and in tears.  This was mile 20.  Mile 21 found a medic on a bike following me for about a half mile.  I quit crying.  I came around a corner and a volunteer told me you can see the finish line.  There it was.  Glorious. Completion. Finish line!  I ran faster, ran harder, ran with purpose.  I crossed the line in pain, but I crossed. I could barely move, the pain was intense. When they placed the medal around my neck, I almost fell over.  I made my way to the rest tent and sat down, drank some water and expressed thanks that I was done.

Our lives can be hot.  We may find ourselves in circumstances in which we are not prepared for, but just wait, the Father of all Good things, will send a breeze to cool you.  The wind may appear at first, to be a curse, but in it He provides a blessing.

Our lives can be hilly.  We may have studied the map but nothing compares to running the course.  And, in the end, the up-hills may provide more comfort and benefit than the down-hills.

Our lives can be hurtful. Injuries are often an indication of something deeper.  I can google and self diagnose all day long, but in the end, I need a doctor to examine my leg and maybe send me to a specialist for further evaluation.  If you're hurt, ask what else is going on?  What is it that is causing the Hurt?  Oh, and don't google it, seek the counsel of an expert.

In the end, the race was run and I received the medal.  This marathon wasn't the prettiest but it was completed and sometimes, in the face of heat, hills and hurt, that is the true accomplishment.
Keep Running!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cramps on the Run

Running tests who you are: your desire, your commitment, your willingness to sacrifice, your passion, your body, your mind and especially your spirit.  As a runner, I have encountered many difficulties.  IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, lost several toenails, sore knees, dehydration, pulled muscles and a pinched sciatic nerve.  Those all hurt in one form or another but the most frustrating injury one is when I get a cramp.  Several years ago I pinched my sciatic nerve (the worst pain I have ever experienced) and since then, my right calf has a tendency to cramp. I am aware of this and take measures to control it.  I know what to do and more importantly what not to do in order to avoid the cramping.  

Yesterday I went to run a quick ten miles.  I had my warm-up planned and knew when I was ready to increase the pace.  I encountered rain, wind and hail.  For me that is motivational as I figure anyone can run on a nice day but it takes dedication (or foolishness) to run in nasty weather.  My pace was quick, legs felt good and my breathing was well under control.  At mile 5.31 I felt a twinge in my left calf, not the right one, not the one prone to cramping, but the good one, the calf I can rely on. And then, boom! A cramp.  I slowed the pace and tried to stretch it out.  I walked a bit but that did not help.  I was able to jog very slowly until mile 7 and then walked the rest of the way home.  I had to cut my run short and was much slower than I had wanted.   

What causes a cramp?  Dehydration, lack of nutrition, over use of the muscle and several other factors.  My hydration and food intake for the week were not good.  I'm pretty sure that was the issue.  

How do you treat a cramp?  When I got home I soaked my legs in an Epsom salt bath, used a foam roller and lacrosse ball and then put on some compression socks.  Oh, and rest.  Which is, for me, the most difficult.

Now, when you are going through life and get a "cramp", that is, an experience that forces you to slow down and maybe call for help, how do you get through it?  Maybe soak yourself in God's Word (there is nothing sweeter), talk to a trusted friend for some external perspective and get a hug from a loved one.  Oh, and some rest.

Keep Running!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Wall

I am helping a friend train for her first marathon.  One of the questions she asked was how to train in order to avoid the wall.  I told her "You don't."  You will hit the wall or rather, the wall hits you.  Typically, the test comes anywhere from 18-22 miles.  Up to that point the race has been fun.  Seriously, there are bands, people in costumes, folks cheering you on.  But, when that moment hits, and you will know when it does, play time is over.  Now it is a test of the will; the desire to continue on in the face of adversity.  Overcoming circumstances. 

What is the wall? The "wall" is that point in a marathon where your energy is gone, your muscles want to quit, you ask why you are doing this and the will to continue is tested.  It is the most difficult point in the race, in fact this is the point where many people quit. Getting through the wall comes down to desire.  During my last marathon at about mile 23, I said to myself "Alright, you've got this."  A runner next to me said something encouraging, gave me a fist bump and then ran to the side and vomited.  Not what I was expecting but that little bit of encouragement helped me. 

When you encounter the wall you want to quit.  When you encounter the wall, you know the finish line is close.  When you encounter the wall, you have an opportunity to do something great.

Life is like that isn't it?  You hit the wall physically, emotionally, mentally and/or spiritually.  You have run the race for so long you are tired, exhausted actually.  Loss of a loved one, relationship ended, lost job, financial difficulties, loneliness, question your faith?  Whatever your wall is, be encouraged to continue on, get up every morning and go through your day, have a cup of coffee with a friend, call someone you haven't spoken with in awhile and put a smile on their face. Eventually the wall will fade and you will have made it through another race.  The best way I have found to conquer the wall is simply:


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Joy Comes in the Mourning

I have experienced loss this week.  My wife's (and mine) Aunt Laura passed away.  She was a dear sweet lady with a smile on her face, a twinkle in her eye and a love for Jesus in her heart.  We saw her last year and simply enjoyed her company.  She was a blessing! 

Psalm 30:5 states "For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning."  The verse is using two parallels: God's anger is short lived but His love is forever and our grief only lasts a short time but joy in Him is everlasting.

I spelled the title with the word "mourning" on purpose.  Let me explain.  First, I do not want to mis-interpret the scripture and certainly I do not want to add to or take away from God's word, but, as I thought about the contradiction that hurt lasts for the night and when the light arrives, there will be joy, it occurred to me that love does not exist without grief and grief does not exist without love.  For instance, when I hear of  a death of someone I did not know, I do not really grieve for that person or that family.  Sure, I am sorry for their loss, but I do not feel a sense of loss.  However, when a close friend or a family member dies, I hurt, I weep, I miss them.  Grief only happens when we lose something important or more importantly someone.  

Joy comes in the mourning because we loved and cared and regarded that relationship as important and valuable.  We weep because that person deeply affected our lives in significant and meaningful ways.  And that is where joy is in the mourning.  When we lose someone, we can rejoice in the gift they were to us, we can offer thanks for the time we had with them and we can (HERE IS A BIG ONE) give forgiveness for the times they hurt us.  As the Light of Christ surrounds and comforts your heart, joy does indeed come in the mourning.
Keep Running!