For the Love of Running

The story of how me and Lisa met is remarkable and, even still, a little unbelievable.  We’ve known each other now for nearly two years and I’ve been living in Oregon now for 8 months and both of us still have moments of “How in the world did this happen?”.  It all started with a simple question of advice,she asked how to transition from a 100% indoor, treadmill runner to running outside.  This led to several days of talking about future races and training plans and then when she told me she was running the Tinkerbell and we’re both Disney nuts, the conversation turned to other topics a shocking number of which we had in common.  Food, beer, wine, travel, Disney, humor, movies, books etc one right after the other rang bells with both of us.  As Lisa so eloquently puts it “We started talking and just never stopped”.

This past Saturday was a big day for both sides of the coin, Love and Running.  First the running.

Foot Traffic was hosting an “Event Expo” on Saturday morning.  Like a race expo where vendors get together to sell their wares to the race crowd, this expo was a group of event managers who were plugging their events.  We had several races we were going to register for anyway and the expo advertised discounts we were sold. The three races we were going to sign up for were:

Oregon Spring Half – May 3, 2013 (Canby, Oregon)
Vancouver USA Half – June 15, 2013 (Vancouver, Washington)
Foot Traffic Flat Half – July 4, 2013 (Portland, Oregon)

We got discounts of 10-15$ off each race and saved almost 50$ on registrations. One of the tables had a prize wheel you could spin for various prizes, most were trinkets like a water bottle, a pack of Gu, a beanie (which is what I won) but one was a free entry.  It was a tiny slice sandwiched between the Water Bottle slice which was split in two.  Lo and behold, Lisa landed on free entry.  This continues her string of prize luck after she won a free entry to the New Years 5K while we were at the Holiday Half.  The event she choice to use her free registration on is the Columbia River Gorge half in October of this year.  If I join her for that one (and I surely will) that will be 4 half marathons this year which will be most in a year for both of us, and the possibility of a 5th if repeat the Holiday Half (which we would like to).   This also presents me with an interesting scenario since there were a few races I had looked at in August and September and that would present the opportunity to complete 6 in 6 months.  This would “moon me up” to the next level of the Half Fanatics and earn my second moon.  Lisa may or may not be able to complete those with me depending on her fall class schedule, but her 3 in 90 days (May, June, July) will qualify her for the Fanatics at the first moon level.

To finish the day a new chapter was opened up on the Love side of the coin.  I surprised Lisa with a trip to McMenamins Edgefield property out in Troutdale where I had made us reservations at the pretty swanky Black Rabbit Restaurant.  This isn’t your normal beer and burger McMenamins, here they serve steak and fish and wild boar and fancy salads and all the usual Five Star items.  We walked around the property and visited all the outlying bars and got our stamps for our Passports and then headed downstairs to the Winery to do a tasting flight.  All of the wines we tasted were fantastic! Then, right before dinner, when the opportunity presented itself and we were alone, I pulled out her Grandmother’s engagement ring which I had secretly obtained from her family, dropped to a knee and asked her to marry me.  She said yes (well.. nodded and cried, but that’s universal right?) and we hugged for a while and then headed down to dinner.  For me the nerves were over and I was relaxed, for her it was time for butterflies and nerves and head spinning.  Dinner was impeccable and it was an enchanted evening.

From a simple email about running styles to being engaged to be running partners for life.  It’s amazing what a run can do for you.

I don’t know how this happened.. and I’m not sure I ever will.. but I am so thankful it did.  I didn’t realize it two years ago, but I know now I am well and truly blessed.

New running shoes?

It seems like I am going to need new running shoes soon, especially before taking on a three half marathon summer that is planned.  Although based on time and mileage, I shouldn’t NEED new shoes yet, but I think I do, which is why I’m opening this up to suggestions from other people.  What do you wear? What do you like? What would you recommend?

My first pair of fitted running shoes were a pair of Brooks GTS Adrenaline 12’s. (My first pair of running shoes were an off the shelf pair of Saucony’s).  These shoes were awesome, as if they were made just for me.  I felt great running in them and (until Disney) didn’t have any knee problems or injuries.  I put over 500 miles on those shoes including 3 half marathons.  When they were ready to be replaced I went back and got the exact same style, just the newer model, the GTS Adrenaline 13.  At first they were great, but pretty quickly I started to notice things such as them not fitting as well, not feeling as good and a spot on my right foot that’s been rubbed to a massive blister during my last two long races.  I’ve put less than 300 miles on them and the right toe is split open and coming apart, my last couple long runs/races I’ve been plagued by cramps, soreness and knee pain, not all of which can be blamed on/attributed to the shoes, but that’s never a good sign.  I don’t think these shoes are going to last much longer and certainly not for another 150 miles of training and three races.

Lisa is also running in a pair of Brooks that she likes but doesn’t love.  She’s thinking about switching back to her Asics that she was wearing before, or maybe even try something different altogether.  I love Brooks as a company, they do a lot of good things with health awareness, race sponsorship, charity work etc but maybe the shoes just aren’t for us.

I loved my first pair of Saucony’s but I don’t believe they make a support shoe that fits me.  So what would you guys recommend?

Here’s the caveat – I wear a 13 Wide.  Not all shoes come in 13, not all shoes come in wide.  I have flat feet and therefore have a huge pronation.  I need support shoes.  I ran in neutral’s before I knew what I really needed and thankfully did not cause any damage/injury.

Thanks in advance for the suggestions!

2013 Year in Review

Last year I had this to say about 2012.

“2012 was such an amazing year I’m not sure how I’m going to prevent 2013 from being a letdown.  How do you follow up that act?”

Well, needless to say 2013 blew 2012 out of the water.

The Move:

This was the biggest thing that happened this year so I might as well mention it first.  On May 28th, 2013 (a day after my birthday) I got in my car and started driving.  I would drive for the next 4 days nonstop through 10 states and all four time zones.  Until that day I had lived in North Carolina for my entire life.  I arrived in Portland on Friday May 31st at about 7PM local time (by that point I had no clue what time it was anymore, my body still thought it was 10PM).

There are two major “life changing” aspects of this move.  The first is that somewhere (and I still don’t know where it came from) I found the guts to uproot everything and leave everything behind, for all intents and purposes jumping off a cliff and hoping someone at the bottom would catch me.  The fact that a multitude of people, including Lisa’s family, friends and church community did catch me is astonishing and leads me into the second aspect.

From June until November I was essentially “homeless”.  Yes, I was not the traditional “sleeping on the streets” form of homeless, but I had no place to call my own and very few possessions.  I cycled through a series of “foster” homes and couch surfed while I looked for jobs and looked for places to live on my own.  If it weren’t for the people who opened their homes to me I wouldn’t be here.  To know that everything you have at a certain moment in your life, food, warmth, roof, bed, access to a phone to call loved ones, is provided by someone out of only the goodness of their hearts is incredibly humbling.  It is a debt I can never repay, and one that will never be called upon.  No repayment was asked or is ever expected from these amazing people.  Lisa’s church preaches to help the poor and those less fortunate.  These people surely took that to heart and “practice what they preach”.

You can read about the Westward Journey HERE.

Races:

After “The Year of the Race” in 2012 with 15 races in four different distances, 2013 was certainly a step back, but not in a bad way and certainly for good reasons.  2013 featured 7 races including 3 half marathons stretching from Florida to Oregon.

2013 started the same as 2012 with the Running of the Lights 5K at Tanglewood park.  The run through the Christmas lights that started at midnight on New Years day was a repeat for me.  However, this year Lisa had flown out from Portland to come visit me and happened to be here on race day and so she ran this one with me and this was our first race together.

A few weeks later I would travel down to Orlando Florida to run in the Walt Disney World half marathon.  This was a pretty amazing race but unfortunately was marred by a serious knee injury.  I was able to finish the race, but had to walk from mile 9 to the finish in the surprisingly hot Florida sun.  My parents and brother and sister were there to support me and cheer me on and also cheer me up after my disappointing finish.  3:36 was my worst finish ever, but I finished.  I suppose I had plenty of points where I could have dropped out and told the race crew I quit, but I plodded along and made my way to the finish.

In February, I would suffer my first DNS (Did Not Start).  I had signed up for the Pilot Mountain Payback “Heavy” half marathon before I was injured at Disney and I decided I was going to try my best to still complete it.  I had completed the 3 in 3 months I needed to qualify for the Half Fanatics, but now was going to try for 6 in 6 months.  Due to my injury I was not able to run for several weeks and not able to put in any serious mileage at all.  The “Heavy” was about 14 miles so longer than a half and would have been my longest run to date.  I was still dead set on running it until the night before the race.  I was literally in a panic.  I wasn’t sure I could do the distance, it was snowing that night and conditions on the course were going to be horrible.  After a long conversation with Lisa, who told me that if I was so upset about the race I should skip it, I decided not to go.   A few days later, I found out how awful the course was, with creek crossing that were waist deep, and how many people skipped and how many people did not finish and I knew I had made the right choice.  I wasn’t happy with it, but I was at peace with it.

In March and April I ran a pair of 10Ks, a repeat of the St Leo’s 10K and then a new race, the Hope for Hospice 10K.  The first one I merely wanted to finish, which I did in a respectable 1:13, while the second one was part of the training for my second half marathon and I finished a tough course in 1:11 which was only 3 minutes slower than my 10K PR from last year.

In late April I ran my second half marathon of the year, the Kings Mountain Half in Kings Mountain SC.  I was excited to run this race since it ran through a Revolutionary War battlefield, but that ended up being a huge disappointment since the “cannons and monuments” portion of the battlefield was nowhere near where we ran.  An out and back on some access roads with nothing by trees to look at was a HUGE letdown.  Also, towards the end of this race my calves cramped up really bad and I ended up walking from mile 11 to the end.  My 3:08 finish was better than Disney, and slightly better than my first half in New Orleans, but nothing close to a PR.  About the only saving grace was this was my first race in South Carolina, so it was a new state for me.

At this point, the rest of my 2013 race calender got completely erased.  The races I had planned for the Fall were not going to happen and the races for May and June I needed that money for my move across the country.  It would be a while before I would race again, but me and Lisa started running together as often as we could once I got settled in Portland.

In November we ran our second race together, a 10K, and my first race in Portland.  The Cause and Event 10K was a fantastic event that supported many different causes.  The course was mostly greenway through west Portland/Beaverton neighborhoods.  Of course, being Portland in the fall, it rained on us during the race, but it was mostly just a slight drizzle.  I got to meet some of the people who help run Camp Lutherwood and raise some money for them so that was all good!

In December, we finally ran our first half together in Portland, the Foot Traffic Holiday half.  A nice run through Northeast Portland, it was COLD and rainy, but a really nice course and well supported.  Other than my bad cramps for the last two miles it was also a great run.  Lisa rocked it! We finished in exactly 3 hours which was not a PR for either of us, but not our worst finish either.

The next run for Lisa and I will be another midnight New Year’s Day race, but that’s for 2014!

Hiking:

While we didn’t do as much running over the summer as we planned, we certainly took advantage of the gorgeous weather and Lisa introduced me to one of her favorite past times.  Hiking! What else does one do in a place full of mountains and trees? I was quickly hooked.

We started out with an “easy” hike that turned out to be quite a journey.  The loop around the Trail of Ten Falls was about 7 miles or so of mostly flat terrain, but then at the end there was some steep switchback stairs and a steep uphill climb to the last falls which really took it out of me.  I was completely exhausted by the time we finished but it was totally worth it.  The scenery was unbelievable and you couldn’t believe you were just a short drive outside of the city.  It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.

The next hike, merely a week later, was the shortest in distance, but by far the most challenging.  We drove up to Timberline Lodge, which is about halfway up Mt Hood (roughly 6000 feet elevation) and hiked out to Zig Zag Canyon.  It was only about 2 miles there and two miles back, but it including dropping down into several smaller canyons, as well as the terrain shifting as we skirted along the edge of the timberline.  At times we were deep into an old growth forest bushwhacking through underbrush and giant ferns and then at other times we were sliding through a sandy/rocky type landscape with not a tree in sight.  We lost several hundred feet of elevation on the way out to the canyon and while the way out was a nice “walk” the way back to the lodge was suddenly extremely uphill and turned into a “climb”.  This however, was an incredibly rewarding hike.

About two weeks after that we embarked on our third hike of the season which started out innocently enough but turned into quite an adventure.  We had planned on hiking up to Wahkenna Falls and then taking the trail back down along Multnomah Falls.  Unfortunately, through a combination of a poorly marked trailhead and a confusing printed map we ended up parking and starting at the wrong place.  We got onto the Angel’s Rest trail and of course we were several miles into it before we realized it but we continued on to the top of Angel’s Rest. We climbed about 1400 feet along the way and were rewarded with an amazing view up and down the Columbia River.  Across from us was Washington State and we could almost see all the way back to Portland.  At this point we continued along the trail which we thought would take us to Multnomah Falls.  We crossed a creek and then lost the trail and were a few minutes away from becoming very lost.  A couple and their dog emerged from the brush and warned us not to go that way since the trail was overgrown and faded.  It turned out they had just come from where we wanted to go, so they showed us the way.  We parted ways at the top of Wahkenna falls as they headed to Multnomah but without them we would have been seriously lost.  We made our way down the side of Wahkenna falls which was absolutely breathtaking and made our way back down to road level.  Now because of where we parked, we had about a 2 mile walk along the side of the road to get back to the car.  This was terrifying since there was no shoulder and warnings to NOT do what we were doing, but we had no choice.  What was supposed to be an easy 4 mile hike turned into a very challenging 9 mile hike, but we survived it and made it.

Travel:

Lisa loves to travel and we’ve done our fair share of it even if only in the local area.  Shortly after I arrived in Portland, we headed out to the Oregon coast and took in Cannon Beach, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay and Newport.  The Oregon Coast is not like anything I have ever seen before.  Rocks and cliffs and lava flows and trees right up to the water line.  It resembles close to what I expect the Northeast looks like up around Maine.  Also, a month ago we went to Seattle which was a really cool trip and a place I’ve wanted to go for a long while.  We will certainly be headed back there soon I’m sure.

Job:

Changing jobs is never fun, but moving all the way across the country meant quitting my job and then trying to find a new one.  After 3 months that felt like FOREVER I landed a job in Vancouver at a company that makes vitamins and herbal supplements, so I got back into the Food Science industry to a certain degree.  I’m doing quality work but also a decent amount of paperwork and regulatory responsibilities.  They weren’t kidding that the job title “Lab Administrator” is a “little bit of everything”.

Weightloss:

This part hasn’t gone so well this year, but I’m not too terribly upset about it.  I started the year at my lowest weight ever at around 235, but my Disney injury sidelined me for a long while and I ended up putting a little weight back on, probably close to 245.  Then after I moved I’ll admit that I put on several more pounds as I ate my way around Portland (no regrets AT ALL).  I’ll be finishing this year in the 260’s so I’ve actually gained weight, but I’m still way under where I was in 2011 and most of 2012, so I’ll take that and jump into 2014 with both feet.

Can 2014 build on an incredible 2012 and then an epic 2013? Stay Tuned!!!!!!

Too fat to run?

This morning a friend at work approached me to ask my opinion on something that had happened to her the night before.  It appalled me so much I had to write about it, so you guys will get to hear my opinion as well.

She was at the gym running on the treadmill (run/walk interval training) and when she finished she was approached by a young woman who worked at the gym and the woman told her “You know you shouldn’t be running.” asking for clarification my co-worker asked “Is it because treadmills are bad for your knees? Should I be running outside instead?” to which the woman replied “No, you shouldn’t be running at all, you’re too fat to run.  You need to lose another 50 pounds before you should start running”.  Of course, this was devastating to my co-worker who has worked hard and has already lost 15 pounds, but this woman, no matter how “well intentioned” her advice was WAY off base on SO many levels.

First and foremost, she gave her “advice” in the most insulting way possible with absolutely NO tact.  If that was her opinion that’s fine, but she should have had a good reason for it, such as an injury concern or something of that nature.  Not just being “too big”.. that’s not enough of a reason.

Second, as someone who started running at 355 pounds I can say for a FACT that my co-worker is NOT too big to run, and as a matter of fact NO ONE is.  You don’t have to run far or run fast to be a “runner”.  And if you absolutely cannot run, you can WALK.  We all walk everyday, but walking for fitness is different than walking around a store or walking at work.  If you walk with purpose you will walk faster, walk longer and walk further.  You can increase your heartrate with just walking if it’s brisk enough.

Lastly, to lose weight you have to do aerobic exercises.  Exercises that will get your muscles exchanging CO2 and burning calories.  You have to increase your heartrate to pump all that blood to the muscles, and also your heart is one of the strongest muscles in your body and just getting IT pumping burns calories regardless of what you’re doing with your legs.  Running is one of the BEST cardio exercises.  It uses those big huge muscles in your legs which are a FURNACE for burning calories.  You can’t tell someone they need to lose weight to run.  NO, you need to run to lose wieght! It’s that simple.

Don’t let ANYONE (including your own inner voice) tell you that you are too big to do ANYTHING especially not exercise.  Otherwise you will never be able to make the change.  Run, walk, cycle, swim whatever works for YOU. DO IT.

Like the Nike ads say… JUST DO IT.

Disney has jumped the shark…

Well, they’ve finally done it.  They’ve gone too far.  I knew something like this was bound to happen but I didn’t expect it to happen this soon.

runDisney has made the announcement on the Disney Parks Blog of a new race and a new challenge for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.   The Goofy’s Race and a half Challenge (running both the half and full) has been around since 2006.  At some point along the way runners added the 5K to the mix for an “unofficial” challenge referred to as the Dopey Challenge, since if running a half and full marathon back to back is Goofy than surely running a 5K, half and then full back to back to back had to be “Dopey”.

Well, Disney has now made the Dopey challenge official… with a twist.  They’ve added a 10K to the mix (who’s “host” and medal will be Minnie Mouse) and instead of the Dopey being a 3 race challenge they went ahead and jumped to a four race challenge and made it the 5K, 10K, Half and then Full back to back to back to back.  The haul for this is 6 medals – 5K, 10K, Half, Full, Goofy and Dopey.  You get credit for the Goofy challenge for doing the Dopey, which I imagine is only fair.

I don’t like this for a myriad of reasons.  First, this pushes the 5K to Thursday, which complicated travel plans (and days off for those of us who, ya know, work for a living) and lodging.  If you want to come in on Saturday just to run the Full marathon only on Sunday? HA… good luck. Second, the 5K starts at 6:30AM, and the 10K start at 5:30AM just like the half and the full, so you are looking at four mornings in a row of getting up at 2AM or so to get to the start, even if you are staying on park property.  I don’t see how this is fun.  It was bad enough doing it for one race like I did. Last, it’s a money grab… pure and simple.  I love Disney, I really do, but this goes too far.  How much does it cost for the “honor” of four days of torture.  A cool five Benjamins ($495 until June 18).

This past year I paid $150 to run the half marathon by registering for it as soon as it opened.  This year the opening registration is $160.  Ok, so it’s only $10, what’s the big deal.  The big deal is it goes up every year.  Until they reach the point of diminishing returns (i.e. the price gets so high the race does not sell out) it will continue to go up.  That means in 10 years the Disney half marathon will cost $250.  Think about that. I saw someone who posted on the Half Fanatics facebook page that the Dopey was only $20 more than the combined prices of all four races.  Wait… $20 MORE? You don’t even get a discount for registering for multiple races? Damn the extra medals and the extra shirt, most other places with race combos (like the Flying Pirate or the St Leo’s this year) the price for the double is LESS than the individual prices.

Thinking back to this past year’s race experience I shudder to think what next year will be like.  Almost 60,000 runners between the three races.  The expo was MOBBED even when I went on it’s second day.  The race course was MOBBED or as one of my fellow racers so eloquently put it “We were ass-to-elbow the entire time”.  Adding an extra race and an extra day is only going to make this worse.  Now that the shorter races are part of the challenge, they are going to sell out faster and they are going to fill up with people who are doing the challenge rather than who just want to do only the 5K, or only the 10K.  Will they cap it like the Goofy so that the 5K and 10K are not 100% full of Dopey participants, yes, I’m sure they will, but it will still take a huge chunk out of both of those races. 25%? 50%? Where will they cap it?

I have other Disney races I want to run.  I’d like to run the Disneyland half in California (or even the Tink).  Lisa wants to run the Wine and Dine Half, and I love EPCOT so how can I say no to that, and her and a whole host of her friends want to do the Expedition Everest Challenge.   But, do I want to go back to the circus that the Marathon Weekend has become? Hell no.  Not even close.  You won’t see me there unless Lisa is just dying to run the Half (or the new Minnie Mouse 10K).

I know this will be an unpopular opinion, most people seem to be all “HECK YEAH!” and “BRING IT ON!” but I don’t like it.  That’s just me.  If you wanna go be Dopey for a week and spend $5000 in Central Florida in the off season, go right ahead.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon – January 12, 2013

The Disney half marathon is a race I had been looking forward to for a long time.  Even before I could run 3 miles I wanted to run Disney, even though at that time 13 miles was an impossible distance.  It was supposed to be the race of a lifetime, and it was that, but not without a few headaches.

First off I want to thank my parents for setting this up.  They booked the hotel room with their vacation club and paid for my race registration so I could run it this year instead of waiting for 2014 or 2015.  Then they invited my brother and sister and their significant others for a mini family vacation.  Thanks guys!

Race morning alarm clock went off at 2:30 AM on Saturday morning.  The race started at 5:30 (To be finished before the parks opened of course) and the buses from the resort to the start line area only ran from 3-4AM so we had to be out there about 3:30 to make sure we didn’t miss the bus.  We got on the bus and then got dropped off at the starting line area and that’s when the first of the headaches popped up.  The family reunion area where the buses dropped us off was a MADHOUSE and no one had any clue what was going on, not even the volunteers with the ASK ME vests on.  Throngs of people milling around without any idea where to go or what to do.  We sort of deduced on our own that I was supposed to go through the bag check area and somehow make my way to the start line.  So I left Mom and Dad at the family reunion area so they could make their way to the Magic Kingdom and I headed out.

MeMomandDad

Immediately past the bag checks was a huge line of PortaJons, which was nice, but the lines were so long it clogged up the whole area and blocked those of us who didn’t need to use the bathroom from getting to where we needed to go. The “20 minute walk to the start line” was more like 30 minutes because of all the congestion.  I finally  made my way to the starting area and found the corrals which were out in the middle of nowhere in a backlot area on Overpass road.  It was about 4:30 so I sat down on the ground, knowing I had an hour-plus to kill.  The first corral would go out at 5:30 but I was in the 5th corral.

The first corral starts and there’s huge fireworks (set off from the overpass behind us, whether that was meant as a surprise or was just a convenient place to shoot them from) and we were off! They continued to send the corrals off at 7 minute intervals and we set off from Corral E at 6:03AM.  We headed out in the dark road, and while there was a little bit of road side spectator space there wasn’t a whole lot and it wasn’t terribly easy to get to, so note for future races, send the runner to the start alone, there’s no need for spectators to come to the start area.

In true Disney fashion we encountered entertainment fairly early on the course, there was a local high school marching band playing before we hit mile 1 and since it was hotter than normal for that time of year, they also had the first water stop very early around 0.8 miles instead of the traditional 1.5-2 miles for the first stop, so well planned (or last minute change) by Disney.  It was also at this point between miles 1 and 2 that we started seeing the wheelchair racers coming back to the finish.  They started first, so they had a 35 minute head start on us, but that was still AMAZING they they were zooming past 10 miles on the other side of the road and heading for the finish!

A little after mile 2 we came across a giant pirate ship in the median with Capt Jack and Capt Barbossa! Pirates of the Caribbean is my absolute favorite ride at the Magic Kingdom so I HAD to stop.  And the guy they have doing Capt Jack looked so much like Johnny Depp it was uncanny.  Capt Jack was not originally in the ride, but I love the movies as well, so that was a must stop.

PiratePic

After the Pirate excursion we headed down World drive to the “Entrance” to the Magic Kingdom.  We ran through the gates and the Cast Members there told us “Welcome to Magic Kingdom” but that was a bit of a misnomer since we still had about 3 miles to go before we actually entered on to Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom.  We ran along the parking lot roads and around the edge of the Walt Disney World Speedway as we weaved our way to the park.  As we ran in front of the Contemporary resort we got to one of the many choke points on the course.  The road had one lane for runners and one lane for car/bus traffic and it was really really cramped in this section, we also had a pretty major down hill as we went under a waterway “overpass” and then a pretty good climb on the other side.  This route was not exactly flat.  We had a turn around point right at mile 4 in front of Space Mountain (on the outside of the park) and then we looped down into an employee entrance to the park on our way to Main Street USA.

I entered Main Street USA and immediately in front of me I saw my brother Brian and his fiance Melanie who shouted and waved and then point to my left to where my Mom, Dad and sister were standing a few yards away. I jumped off the course (nearly tripping on the sidewalk curb) to say hello and have a few quick words.  The girl standing next to them was reaching her arm out and straining across the rope, so I made sure to give her a high five as I ran off and then further down the course to high five Brian and Melanie as I made my way back down the course.  We then looped around through Tomorrowland to make our way around to the back of the Castle and then in through the back and out the front.  Some people in front of us apparently decided to stop and pose at the entrance of the tunnel (despite the photographer sitting there yelling “KEEP MOVING”) as we came to a screeching halt inside the tunnel for just a second before we lurched forward again.  At the bottom of the looping ramp there was a photo op there with Castle in the background with very short lines since they smartly had 5 photographers stationed there.  I was still feeling good at this point so I stopped for a photo.

CastlePic

I was still feeling pretty good at this point but things were about to start going South in a hurry.  We ducked down through Frontierland past the Country Bear Jamboree and Splash Mountain before we ducked back into the backlot behind Magic Kingdom and back out onto one of the resort roads.  We cruised along again elbow to elbow as we were funneled into one lane to allow for some car traffic as it was getting close to time for the parks to start opening.  I had felt a few twinges in my knee as it would start to get sore, but the picture stops, bathroom stop, traffic jams that forced walking etc would give it a chance to rest and then I would feel OK again.  Between mile 7 and 8 it started hurting pretty bad and I tried my best to soldier on (like the fireman near me in full turnout gear) but then between mile 8 and 9 I had to stop and walk to give it a rest.  When I tried to start running again I would make it about 3 steps before a sharp stabbing pain in my knee stopped me in my tracks.  I was done running this race, I would have to walk to the end if I was going to make it.

At this point I just wanted to be done.  The characters and ambiance didn’t mean anything anymore.  I knew full well I had a 4 mile walk to the finish line.  We continued down World Drive (back past the Pirate ship), until we got to the overpass to take us back to Epcot, and I had heard about this cloverleaf loop as being the “major hill” on the course, and I would have walked it if I needed too if I was still in running shape, but of course at this point I had no choice.  We bypassed the main Epcot gate and headed back out towards where the starting corrals had been before we did a quick U-turn and headed back towards the Globe.  The announcers were calling out where people were from as they turned the corner and as I got there, no one else was around and they hadn’t called a state in a few seconds so I threw out North Carolina, to which the announcer added “a Tarheel” which of course I did not tell him to say, but funny enough a few minutes later someone behind me must have heard that because then he called out “NC STATE”.  I hate that he had to jack me up that way, but I’m glad NC State ended up getting a shout-out.

For a while it was OK for me to walk and only painful for me to run, but at this point about mile 12 it was painful even for me to walk and I’m sure I was limping as I made my way into the park under the Spaceship Earth globe and into Future World.

EpcotPic2

I can’t tell if I’m just breathing heavy or if I’m actually groaning in this picture (which I was doing quite often) but whatever it is, it’s not exactly pretty.  I don’t believe I’ll be buying a copy of this picture.

EpcotPic

This picture on the other hand, I did actually see the photographer and smile and pose so this one is not so bad.  Other than being obviously walking at this point it’s OK.

We turned around at the lake and headed back to the other side of the globe and then out to the parking lot and what do I spy? THE FINISH LINE. Oh my goodness… I made it.  I’m a little shocked and stunned at this point but I actually made it.  I made a beeline for the medical tent after I got my medal and  got some ice for my knee but the girl wrapped it so tight it hurt worse with it on there, so I had to take it off and just hold it in my hand. I managed a weak smile for the finishers photo.

FinisherPic

Don’t ask me how, but somehow I had done it.  I had finished.  I survived the Walt Disney World half marathon.

If I’ve got one major beef with the WDW half it’s the finish line area.  It was a DISASTER. They had water and Powerade as you were getting shuttled down the finishers chute (which I couldn’t grab as I was trying to hold the bag of ice on my knee) and when you got out into the family reunion area they had NOTHING.  They had soda, beer and champagne you could BUY but no water. In 85 degree heat. NO WATER.  I took advantage of every stop on the course to get water and had walked the last four miles, so I was fine but I can imagine this caused some problems to some people.  The food was also non-existent.  They handed out a prepacked box with some trail mix, whole grain crackers, cheese spread (really?) a tiny block of chocolate and a half size Clif bar.  I ate the trail mix and the chocolate but the rest looked inedible.  I also had a squishy banana that had been sitting out in the sun and was hot and mushy but I ate it anyway.  Really Disney? I’m sure you can do better than this.  Then the lines for the buses back to the hotels stretched all the way back to the Globe (nearly) and the line attendants holding signs knew which resorts their bus went to (printed on the sign) but had NO clue what line was for the other buses.  I stumbled around until I found the line for the Wilderness Lodge bus and then had to wait for a long time as every bus number EXCEPT ours came and went multiple times as we waited for ours to show up.

Finally the bus came and I held the ice on my knee the whole way home until basically my knee was numb, which of course meant when I got off the bus at the hotel all of a sudden I couldn’t walk.  I stumbled to the room, at which point my knee started to loosen up a little, took a hot shower (after which I felt just fine) put on my knee brace and was ready to hit the park.  Since it was my favorite park, I requested EPCOT and we had lunch reservations at the German Biergarten which was delicious (and no guilt after burning 1900 calories).

After that I stayed at EPCOT with my sister until they set off the fireworks and they kicked us out.  A fantastic finish to a not so great race day.

043

2012 Year in Review

I’m publishing my Year in Review a couple days early this year since I’m going to be busy this weekend through New Years and may not get a chance to publish before then.  2012 was an amazing year as I grabbed the bull by the horns with both my running and my weight loss and made some dramatic changes in my life.  It will be a year I won’t soon forget.

Races:

2012 was certainly the year of the race.  This year I completed 15 races including 6 5Ks (3.1 miles), 1 trail 5K, 2 8Ks (5 miles), 3 10Ks (6.2 miles) and my first 3 half marathons (13.1 miles).  If you want to check out the recaps of these races with pictures you can click the Races tab at the top of the page which will take you to the race recap page.  Here’s the list in Chronological order of what I accomplished this year on the race circuit.

Jan 1 (Midnight) – Running the Lights 5K -Clemmons, NC
Feb 4 – Winter Flight 8K – Salisbury, NC (First race longer than 5K)
Feb 18 – Fitness, Friendship and Fun 5K – Kannapolis, NC
March 4 – Rock and Roll New Orleans Half Marathon – NO, LA (First Half Marathon)
March 17 – St. Leo’s 10K – Winston Salem, NC
April 28 – Law Enforcement Memorial 5K – Winston Salem, NC
May 12 – Shelton Vineyards Running the Vines 10K – Dobson, NC
May 26 – Spring Folly 5K – Kernersville, NC
June 16 – Rhythm and Run 5K – Kannapolis, NC
July 21 – Beat the Heat 5K – Winston Salem, NC
Aug 4 – Vineyard Stomp Trail 5K – Stoney Knoll Vineyards – Dobson, NC
Sept 15 – Run 4 the Greenway 8K – Greensboro, NC
Oct 20 – RHABA Fast and Flat 10K – Rural Hall, NC
Nov 4 – Rex Healthcare (City of Oaks) Half Marathon – Raleigh, NC
Dec 1 – Mistletoe Half Marathon – Winston Salem, NC

All this came on the heels of only running one race (a 5K) in 2011.  The race bug bit me and bit me hard.

Along with all these races was a whole lot of training mileage.  I logged about 100 miles of training for each of my three half marathons, as well as maintenance mileage to just keep me going.  Keeping a new race on the horizon, even a short one like a 5K, made sure that I could not stop what I was doing and to push me onward.  I set a goal for myself this year of 732 miles (2 miles per day X 366 days).  I’m not going to reach that, my injury riddled December knocking my mileage down to almost zero, but I’m going to get pretty damn close.  Depending on what kind of mileage I get this weekend, I should hit somewhere between 690-700 miles.  This is an astonishing increase after only logging 115 miles in 2011 (Granted, it was only from Aug-Dec).  I don’t know what my goal for 2013 will be, probably not a number/mile goal. Maybe a race goal.  3 more Half Marathons.  More than 3? We’ll have to see.

Weight Loss:

Of course the purpose of all this running was to lose weight.  Although, I got to the point where I enjoyed it and it was no longer a chore.  I also had to adjust my eating habits, which I began in the later part of 2011 when I joined MyFitnessPal in October.

On Jan 6, 2012, my first weigh-in of the new year, I weighed 282.2 pounds.  This matched the weight I had achieved before joining MFP and before gaining back 20 pounds to 302.  This, at that time, was my lowest adult weight.  I had been over 300 pounds dating all the way back to High School.

This past Sunday (Dec 23rd) I weighed in at 237.4 pounds.  That’s a loss (for the year) of 44.8 pounds.  That’s an average of 0.86 pounds a week.  This is much less than the “2 pounds a week” MFP proclaims you can lose using their calorie counting system, but it’s also nothing to sneeze at.

From my highest weight of 355 pounds in the fall/winter of 2009, I have lost a mind boggling 118 pounds. This continues to astonish me.

Fitness Endeavors:

Along with running I’ve picked up a few other fitness related items based on the availability at the YMCA of which I am a member.

I started practicing Yoga in December of last year at the insistence of several of my running friends (notably, all female) who swore by it for the stretching which is vital for preventing injuries.  I’ve now been practicing for a year, and I’ve noticed huge differences in my flexability, but Yoga has also been an amazing stress release and taught me to control my thoughts, control my breath and calm myself when things get crazy.  The deep breathing exercises (similar to the ones we used to do in marching band) has also greatly increased my lung capacity and endurance.  I barely breath heavy at all when I run anymore, much less the frantic huffing and puffing I used to do when I first started.

If Yoga exposed a weakness, so to speak, it was a lack of upper body strength.  I struggled with what are supposed to be some of the easier poses like Downward Facing Dog, and Plank.  I don’t remember exactly when I started, but I began a once a week, light weight lifting routine using the weight machines at the Y.  I’ve noticed a marked change in my arms, shoulders, neck and chest.  I’ve also noticed recently, that while it did take a while to see a result, I now can hold poses like Down Dog longer than I used to be able to, so definite progress there!

One of my friends from Yoga class nagged me for a while (in a good way) and convinced me to finally come to a spin class with her.  I had done spinning once at my old Y and absolutely hated it, and was hesitant to try it again.  I finally gave in and started it around April, after my first half marathon training was complete and I had time for some cross-training.  The spin class at my new Y is the Les Miles RPM class which uses an enthusiastic instructor and loud music to rev you up and give you a “beat” to follow.  I fell in love right away, and even though the class completely whipped me, I loved every minute of it and have continued to come back for more “punishment” weekly.

Friendship:

After getting over the nervousness of group exercise classes and embracing the social aspect of gym life, as well as the social aspect of fitness websites DailyMile and MyFitnessPal, I’ve been able to break out of my shell and become much more social than I’ve ever been in my life, including joining the local running club, the Twin City Track Club.  A large part of this shift is also the increased confidence in myself from losing weight and becoming more physically (and mentally) fit.

Big shout out to my old friends Tim and Amanda (who got me into running and got me on MFP), and to my new friends Jen (my first running buddy), Cathy (who dragged me from Yoga to spin), Heather (who cheered me on in New Orleans), The running family of Landis’s Kathi, Brian, Briana and Caramia (who are always open for dinner and a run anytime I’m in Kannapolis), Lisa (who shares my love of running and all things Disney) Rob, Robert, Jill, Emily, Steve, Carmen, Lesha, Hernan and everyone else in the Twin City Track Club.

And thank you to all you out there who read my blog, whether I know you or not, have met you or not, you keep me going with your encouragement!

Personal:

I was hesitant to mention this on the blog, but it is relevant.  Some of you who have read my blog for a while know I was married, with several references to my wife, her family and particularly the painful death of my father-in-law that marred my 2010 year in review.  My wife and I are no longer together having separated in September of 2011 and after the required one year waiting period our divorce was finalized in November of this year.

I mention this for two reasons… the first is that her leaving me (she literally walked out, came home from work one day and she was gone, despite the fact that I knew she was leaving, it was still sudden) was the spark that started this whole snowball rolling.  I realized after years of trying to help and “fix” other people I had neglected myself to the point of serious unhealthiness.  I decided to take care of ME before I started worrying about others.  I joined MFP, took up my running again which had fallen by the wayside, and started this journey to where I am now.  I’m not ashamed to say that a little bit of “How do you like me now?” is the flame that burns for my motivation to keep going.

The second reason is that for those of you who did know I was married, or thought perhaps I still was, I didn’t want there to be any confusion or scandal when in the next couple of days I introduce you all to my new girlfriend.  She’s coming to visit me and run a race with me on New Years (same midnight race as last year) so I’m sure she will be making her blog debut shortly.

Looking Ahead:

2013 looks to get started the same was 2012 did with the midnight New Years race, so hopefully that will be a sign of good things to come as I follow on the heels of this amazing 2012.  I still have some work to do, and a little bit of weight still to lose.  I’m also going to be running my 4th Half Marathon, in Disney in January which I’m very excited.  There’s also another fairly exciting adventure in the works for 2013 but you’ll just have to stay tuned for that.

Happy New Year!

Hebrews 12:1

I’m not a church going man, and not a Bible scholar, so this post is not meant to be preachy, but I think it’s appropriate, so bear with me.

I had seen a quote on several running websites that I was fairly certain was Scripture, but it kinda resonated with me.  And the quote was this…

“and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”

I Googled the phrase and discovered it was in fact a Bible verse from the letter to the Hebrews.  When I Googled Hebrews 12:1 it directed me to a website that gave several different versions of the verse based on the translation.  The translation from the New American Standard caught my eye and I really liked it because it used the word “endurance” instead of “perseverance”.  Here is the full text.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”

Bible study aside, this is a pretty powerful phrase if you look at it as the “race” is life.  Which I’m sure is the original intention.  Life is in fact an endurance event. There is no shortcut, no easy way, you have to endure.  Until the finish.  Which in this case, the finish is pretty final.

Even if you don’t believe the Bible, if you look at it from a non-religious standpoint it’s still pretty powerful.  You have to have endurance.  But you have to learn endurance, you’re not born with it.  A lot of bad stuff can happen to you but it’s not the “end of your life”.. your race is not yet run, your life is not over yet.  Keep running.. keep living.. keep going.  Don’t stop.  Don’t give up.

The only thing that would  be more appropriate is if the letter was one chapter longer and this was Hebrews 13:1.

Packing my bags for Hollywood….

Ok, so not really, but I did have a very unique experience today that has a surprising running tie in.  I received an email earlier in the week from the Twin City track club that a local movie production needed runners of all types for a “race” scene.  I looked into it and thought it sounded fun and replied to the email with my name and contact info and got back a quick reply with instructions for Saturday.  I was going to be in a movie!!

The movie is called “Goodbye to All That” and is directed by Winston Salem native Angus MacLachlan (screenwriter for Junebug).  The IMDB page is HERE Although there’s not a lot of info on there since this is early in the production which just started a couple weeks ago.  Today’s scenes involved male lead Paul Schneider, who is also a North Carolina native.

 

I think “good and valuable consideration” is movie-speak for “You get to hang out on a movie set all day and tell your friends you are in a movie” since we certainly didn’t get paid (not that I expected to).

The day started out with a good bit of “hurry up and wait” which of course is always expected.  We got our clothing approved by wardrobe and then headed out to the set, then they picked the ones they wanted and the rest of us went back to the community center (“holding”) to change clothes.  I was smart and brought street clothes with me since although I had signed up for a “runner” I had a feeling they may also need me as a “spectator”.  For the first scene I ended up as a spectator.  By the time we got back to holding, it was time to break for lunch, so we stayed there and ate lunch, then they decided to film a scene with the actor by himself (which took several hours) so we basically sat around and cooled our heels and wondered what was going on.  Then we finally got back out to the set to start shooting our scene.

 

Our first scene involved the finish of a race, where our hero is going to win the race.  Those of us who are spectators were lining the course and cheering for him and he came by and then cheering for the next two or three guys who were coming after him (who were extras like us who got picked as “runners”).  It was a pretty fun scene, and of course as you would expect, we went through the scene 10 or 12 times.  3 times from one camera angle, 3 times from another camera angle.. a couple times with a close up of him and his daughter etc etc.  Was fun though.   The camera was pointed right on me as the scene started, so there’s a good chance I’ll actually make it on screen.

 

After they wrapped up this scene, then we had to hustle back to holding to change clothes quickly for a different scene.  In this one I got to be a runner! But I didn’t actually run.  For this scene (which was a different race) the dejected hero is moping back to his friends after not winning this race (although he had a medal).  For this scene, I’m in the background with the female who won the race and we are celebrating with her big trophy.  So I know for SURE I’m in that shot since we’re definitely supposed to see the winner behind him.  I’ll be interested to see how this plays out in the movie, if this is before or after the race he wins.   Even if I’m out of focus in the background I’ll still be there.

It was certainly an interesting experience, even though it’s small, uncredited, unpaid parts, it’s the background extras that make the scenes realistic.  As we were celebrating with the trophy in the parking lot, there were people walking through the parking lot as if going to a car, and then on the road behind us a couple of women who were runners were still running (or finishing) the race.  So really three layers of “background”.  Adds a lot of depth.  For the first  scene the only background was us spectators, but that’s a more controlled environment.

I may try to do that again! It was actually pretty cool.  Now I can’t wait for the movie to come out!

Beat the Heat 5K – Winston Salem NC – July 21, 2012

There are a lot of different challenges in distance running.  Distance challenges (how far can you go), time challenges (how fast can you go), course challenges (hills, trails, pot holed roads) and environmental challenges (heat, snow, rain, ice).  This race is not a terribly difficult course, but the timing of it is brutal.  Definitely an environmental challenge.  I very nearly signed up for this race last year until I realized that Beat the Heat was not an invitation, but a challenge.  Can you beat the heat? Despite being in the evening it was still very warm and with rain threatening, very very humid.  It was 89 when I left my house, but I don’t know what it was at race start.  It was cloudy and a little bit of a breeze but still quite warm.

 

Smiling pre-race.  My running buddy Jen who is sidelined with a bum hip right now was at the race as a volunteer and she took all these photo’s.

 

The race was hosted at the Wake Forest University football stadium and the roads around it.  Nice venue, relatively flat (345 ascent, 354 descent).

This is a serious race.  This race is the US Track and Field North Carolina 5K championships with prize money and everything.  Sadly, but stoically the young girl who won the age graded placings had to defer the prize money because she is a high school athlete and has to keep her amateur status.  Still very impressive for a 16 yr old girl with a bright career ahead of her.  There was a huge crowd for this race, about 1000 people.  It was about the same as my starting corral for the New Orleans half marathon, which were about 1000 people each (plus or minus those who shifted corrals).  A lot of dodging and weaving at the start and it didn’t really thin out until about a half mile.

 

I’m in there somewhere, I promise.

They had three “corrals” so to speak at the start line. Elites and USTAF people up front, then under 20 minute finishers, between 20 and 30 minute finishers and then over 30 minute finishers.  My PR is 34 minutes, and so I didn’t want to be all the way back in the back with the walkers and strollers to start out with, so I tried to start as close to the front of the “over 30 minute” group as I could.

I started off as always pretty fast, caught up in the crowd and the excitement of race day.  Given the extreme conditions I planned on running this race slowly, with the goal of just finishing. I was very surprised to tick off a 10:36 first mile, but I knew I couldn’t hold that pace, but I did a good job holding miles 2 and 3 at a steady pace 11:41 and 11:49 respectively.  But I got a surprise as I loaded the Garmin at home.  I covered the last 0.11 miles in 1:04 which is a 9:52 pace! WOW.  I wasn’t trying to kick or push to the finish, but I guess my feet just went crazy.

 

Ran into Jen on the course at about 1.25 miles, she was almost too busy enjoying her beer to snap a picture but she managed to catch a couple of me.

 

Pushing hard to the finish with my unconscious kick.

 

Yay! I did it! (I have no idea why I do the Nixon Double Peace hands, but I always do….)

Finished up the race with a nice post race dinner of pizza and beer (after I sat down for a while and cooled down since I didn’t feel so hot immediately after the race).  Was not a PR, but wasn’t too far off.

 

Still smiling post race…. always a good thing.

  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.

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