Friday, August 28, 2015

Back on the Road

Last Thursday I had surgery to correct a deviated septum.  Per doctor's orders the recovery time said no running for 7 days.  Well, that 7 days is up and this morning I was able to get out on the road again.  I only did 6 miles and I ran at a really leisurely pace.  Even taking it easy it wasn't a pleasant run, I'm glad I got out, but it was not a great run.  I've learned over time that taking more than 2 days off means that next run is going to be a rough one.  One rest day at a time is best, at least it is for me.  If I need more rest I can take it easy on a day and then rest the following day.  Two days of rest back-to-back is ok, but my body likes to keep moving and doesn't like extensive rest period.  So, coming off an enforced 7 day break was rough.  I'm hoping this morning's "tune-up run" will help tomorrow's run feel better and smoother and easier.

The Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) is only 58 days away.  Not a ton of time to continue training.  I started my training late and this little break isn't great but I could do it now if I had to.  I would just like the next two months to try to whittle down my time.  Tomorrow will be my first long run in two weeks so I think I'll see how 13 miles feels.  Hopefully better than today's 6.

On the positive side I'm down to 195lbs.  That's down from 203 when I actually started training and consistently eating well.  8 pounds in a month isn't too bad, I'll take it.  With any luck I can remove another 12 to 14 before the MCM, that alone will help the time significantly.  I know I'm not going to beat my 4 hour 29 minute run from my last MCM but the fact that I'm ready to run a marathon (mostly, more time for the surgery to heal will be great) is an accomplishment in and of itself.  Here's to continued training, health and not falling off the freaking bus this time around.  Getting back into shape just sucks!  

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wilie E Coyote

I saw this cartoon several months after I had run the Marine Corps Marathon in 2008 and realized that this was me...

Two weeks after I finished the marathon I went out to do an easy 13 miles on a rather beautiful Saturday afternoon.  It was a great day for a run.  I had knocked out 11.5 miles and was feeling great, I couldn't believe how quickly I had recovered from the MCM.  As I was caught up in my thoughts of how cool I was I never saw the SUV come up from behind, drift off the road onto the shoulder I was running on, and clip my left arm.  My elbow shattered the side view mirror and ripped it off the side of the truck.  The next hour is a fragmented blur of memories.

Two weeks later the doctor did a secondary X-ray, and the line in my Humerus, that he thought was a hairline crack, hadn't healed at all.  He said that means it wasn't broken at all or that I had something very wrong with me that is preventing my arm from healing.  Turned out to be an "anomaly in my left Humerous".  Two weeks of no running psychologically messes with you.  Then I got the flu.  I was only down for a day, but the after effects seemed to linger for about three weeks.  I was so weak that going to work exhausted me.  After 5 weeks of no running at all, my spirit was broken.  I had no reason to run.  No race on the horizon.  No goals.

Finally come Feb 2009 I decided I needed to get back into the swing of things.  I ran everyday for three weeks.  It was hard.  I was just starting to feel good again when in the middle of a long run my left foot started screaming at me.  I changed up my stride and started running on my toes, and that worked for about a mile and then the daggers started shooting through my foot.  I ended up walking home.  The doctor said it was an overuse injury.  "Stay off of it for 6 weeks" he said.  6 weeks passed with no running.  By that time I was psychologically done.  Broken.  Not motivated.  Not Dedicated.  Just didn't care anymore.  It was then that I saw this cartoon of Willy E. Coyote. 

I had reached a major milestone in my life.  I ran a marathon.  26.2 grueling, painful, heart wrenching miles.  The most intense test of intestinal fortitude I had ever experienced...and completed in my life.  Once I hit my top, I had no where to go but down and I hadn't had the foresight to set another goal.  The end result was that I was now in the same situation as the comical coyote.  Now what?  I did what I set out to do.  What is next? Where is the next challenge?
 Getting back into shape hurts.  It hurts your legs.  It hurts your lungs.  It really hurts your pride.  It mentally hurts you as well.  I used to be able to run X miles at X pace, but now I'm running X miles at X+Y pace.   Nothing humbles a man or woman like a long run, well...maybe interval training can.  It tears you down into a whimpering, hobbling visage of your former self.  I did not enjoy that process. 

I am back down to my marathon race weight.  I did in two and half months what it took 12 months to do the first time around.  I had a lot more confidence that I could do it this time around.  I also had a lot more training and nutritional experience than the first time around.  Had I had a doctor around he/she might have yelled at me for the way I did it, but Oh well, I'm alive and it seems I'm healthy.

The moral of this long winded post is that we should never become complacent.  We always need to have a goal that we have our sights set on, some sort of challenge that pushes us to step outside of our comfort zone.  I learned that I need to have follow-up goals before I reach the 50 meter target.  The goal this time around is to run marathons in preparation for a 50 mile ultra marathon in preparation for a 100 mile ultra marathon.  That alone will keep me busy for the next few years.  However, applying lessons learned, I will keep adding to the list of goals long before I get anywhere near goal accomplishment.   NEVER STOP CHALLENGING YOURSELF.  If you find that you are comfortable in life, you are probably being lazy.

Why I Run.

The very beginning of October of 2007 I had just gotten back from Paraguay and my company took a PT test.  I did fairly well, scoring in the 270 range (out of a possible 300).  After every PT test, as those of you in the Army know, there is a height and weight test.  I had never passed my weight, always being a bit over the maximum and for those like me there is a "tape test".  Your leaders pull out a tape measure and measure how fat you are and then plug the numbers into a chart that determines your body fat percentage.  As long as you are under the prescribed body fat limits, you pass, which I always did, and this time was no exception.  However, after the tape test my 1st Sergeant pulled me aside and said "Engel, I know you are a bit older than most of soldiers in this company, and so the Army allows you a little more body fat than the younger kids.  But you barely slid under the line on this test.  You need to lose some weight."

As I walked out of his office and I was processing the conversation I realized that he had just called me fat.  My immediate reaction was, "yeah but I scored a 270+ on my PT test, that puts me in the top 10% of the company, easily, maybe even the top 5%."  However, that lame justification didn't ease the embarrassment I was still feeling.  My 1st Sergeant called me fat!

I was 5'9" and weighed 203 that day.  Not the heaviest I've ever been but close.  I went home and talked to Heather about what had happened.  I did some internet research and found that swimming and running were two of the exercises that burned the most calories.  I had run cross country a little in high school.  I had run for about a year before joining the Army and so I settled on running.  It really sucked...a lot.  I was persistent though, at least for the first three weeks.  At the end of three weeks I was still feeling sore and achy and so I missed a day or two here and there.  It was at this point I realized that things were only going to go downhill from there as I had done this several times before.  I started, ran for a few weeks, and then slowly, or sometimes quickly, fizzled out and then quit entirely.  I knew I need more motivation than the fact that my boss at work thought I was a lard butt.

Somehow I got the crazy notion in my head that I could run a marathon.  I started researching for a marathon about a year out and found the Marine Corps Marathon: the people's marathon.  It was set for the end of October of 2008, and it is held in Washington D.C., one of my favorite cities to visit.  With one year to train, I thought that was plenty of time...right??   To keep the motivation at maximum I decided to run one road race each month in preparation.  First I would run 5ks in Jan, Feb and Mar.   Then I would go for 10ks in Apr, May, and June,  1/2 Marathon in July, Aug and Sept and then the big one in Oct.  I thought my plan looked pretty dang good on paper. 

I trained diligently and ran my first ever road race on 1 Jan 2008.  A 5k up in Raleigh.  What kind of looney bird got up a 6am on New Year's Day to run 5k in the freezing (literally) cold?  It was a great race.  Each month I saw improvement in my times.  Each day I decided I didn't want to run I realized I had already registered for a race that was just a couple of weeks out and I needed to train for it.  Some races I started too fast and other races I started too slow.  By June I finally found a pace that I could stick to the whole way through a race, just in time for the Army 10 miler on Fort Bragg.  That was a gut check.  That race was my first real challenge and it was my first major victory.  I ran 10 miles and I hit my target time, and I did it in the heat and humidity of Fort Bragg, NC!  

I finally made it the Marine Corps Marathon.  I finished all 26.2 miles.  I never walked, except for the water stations to get water and food, but that was part of the plan and it worked out.  4 hours and 29 minutes of pure running.  I finished it though.  There was a time in my life I thought that running a marathon was impossible.  I was also 20 lbs lighter, weighing in at 183 the morning of the marathon.  I felt invincible after that race.  I felt like I could do anything I set my sights on, it just required a goal, a plan to accomplish that goal and the determination to stick to the plan.

I learned in that year of training that running is my self esteem booster.  It allows me to feel good about myself, it takes out a bit of the guilt out of eating an entire large pepperoni pizza.  It helps me to enjoy the outdoors, the quiet, and helps me to clear my head and put things into perspective.  I've had some great ideas while running.  I've burned off steam, frustration, and irritation while running.  Running makes me nicer.  It has also become a metaphor for life.  Any problem in life can be compared to running in some way, shape or form.  Running is motivating.  I love to read stories from people whose lives have been changed, improved or pulled out of the muck by running.  I love to read the stories of people who overcome seeming insurmountable obstacles and used running to do it.  If a blind guy can run a marathon then why can't I?   If a guy with no legs can run a marathon then why can't I?  If a 65 year old heart attack victim can qualify for Boston than why can't I.  If a guy that never ran a day in his life picks up running at 55 and becomes a Master's running champion then why can't I?   Hearing those stories strips away my excuses and then I can think back to the day when I crossed the finish line right by the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington D.C.  And I know that there is nothing I cannot accomplish if I just start plodding along, one step at a time, until I get there.