Monday, December 9, 2013

I am Falling Apart

Since my last race in October, I have been dealing with a couple nagging injuries. First I developed a pain just below my right rib. Since my surgery this past summer, I have been experiencing side cramp frequently during normal runs. I just thought it was due to not running in July and I thought I was just a little out of shape. But as the pain became more and more regular and once it started bothering me hours after running, I decided to go to the doctor. The doctor thought I was dealing with some scar tissue from my surgery and it was causing layers of muscle and tissue to stick together more than normal. He recommended that I take a break for a couple weeks and see if it got any better.

Fast forward a few weeks and I was able to start running again. I started with some easy runs on the treadmill, planning to increase my mileage gradually over the next few weeks. At that same time I began planning in a basketball league organized by my company. I think the combination of running again and making some lateral movements in basketball, I developed a pain in my heel. When I would get up in the morning, I could barely put any weight on my right foot. The pain would gradually get better as I loosened my foot through the day. But each morning and short 3 and 4 mile runs, my heel was very sore.

After doing a little research online, I came to the conclusion that I have developed a little plantar fasciitis in my right foot. All the all the recommended treatments for plantar fasciitis began with rest. Since I was just getting back into running, I really do not want to take a break. But to ensure that my foot problems didn't turn into a chronic issue, I have decided to take a few more weeks off from running. I had already signed up for the Peaks of Otter Christmas Classic 5k on December 7th, so I would try to run that race at a comfortable pace and start my rest after the race. I will use this time away from running to get in some mountain biking and weight training. I will pick back up running in January and see how my foot responds to slowly reintroducing a few miles a week running.

2013 Anthem into the Darkness Night Trail Race

This past weekend I had took part in my second ever night trail race. It is actually the second time I have ever trail ran in the dark, period. I took part in this same Mountain Junkies race last October and I had a lot of fun. After last year, I promised myself that if I ever ran a night race again, I would invest in a better headlamp. Of course after 12 months, I still didn't upgrade my headlamp. At least I splurged on some new batteries (even if they were Family Dollar specials).

I was very happy to find out that Jennifer (Overstreet) Abbott and Catherine (Saunders) Abbott would be running in this year’s event. After finding out that Anna and the boys were going shopping in Roanoke before the race, I ended up bumming a ride with Jennifer and Catherine to the race. Jennifer led us on a very scenic route, but we got to Explore Park with plenty of time to spare. I will not elaborate any further about Jennifer’s navigation skills, she may hurt me!

Once we got our race packets and I put my racing bib on as straight as possible (crooked numbers drive me crazy), we were off to the pre-race meeting. I really should have taken some time to warm up prior to the race starting. The next thing I knew, we are lining up at the starting area. After remembering that I forgot to start my watch last year, I was sure to start it sooner this year. I had a strong satellite signal and my headlamp was on when the starting horn went off.

The first 1 of the race is downhill on a half paved, half gravel road that snaked down to the edge of the Roanoke River. Once at the river, the trail started but it was pretty wide and flat for a while. During this first section of the race, you can really separate into different paced groups. I was determined to get out as quickly as possible this year. I had taken it easy the previous year and ended up behind some slower runners later during the single track portion of the race. My plan worked just as I had hoped and I got through the first mile in less than 7 minutes.

I probably should have planned my strategy a little better. By the time I made it to the top of the first hill climb, I was spent! This hill climb was no joke. It was up a very steep hill with lots of large, loose rocks and leaves. The trail was also very washed out during this section and it was very difficult finding a solid place for each foot step. By the time I got to the top of this hill, I realized that this course was going to be a lot more difficult that I remembered from last year. It was also at this moment that I tried to remember the last night I was on a trail. I don’t know why I didn't train more on trails for this race. I had not even run on a trail since before my surgery in June. I definitely was not as prepared for this race as I should have been.

The next couple of miles went by pretty fast, considering how tight my legs were feeling. I think the combination of no stretching and spending the majority of the day at the pumpkin patch with my family had taken its toll on my legs. Even though I didn’t break 10 minutes on any of my remaining miles, I felt like I was running a lot faster than I was actually traveling. Since I was spending a lot of time watching each foot step, the grounds seems like it is flying by you at a much high rate. Also, since you really can’t see anything too far away, you cannot pick something off in the distance to stare at while you are running.

I knew the course was just over 4 miles, but since there were so many switchbacks on the course, my watch’s measured distance was off. So when I popped out of the woods just after my watch said 3.5 miles, I was pleasantly surprised. I knew that once I was out of the woods, there was just a short run on the paved road to the finish line. At this point, I decided to finish with a final kick to the finish. I really pushed myself during this last section. When I got to the finish line, I didn't feel too good! It was at this point that I thought I was going to puke! I heard Anna and the boys cheering at the finish line. They had met me at the race, following their shopping trip. I decided to walk away from Anna and the boys, so they didn't have to watch Daddy throw up.

 After gaining my composure and pulling myself together, I made my way over the see Anna and the boys. I ended up running about a minute slower than I ran this course last year. Considering how spent my body felt during the middle of this race, I was very happy with my finishing time of 37:12. We hung out at the finish line to cheer on Catherine, Jennifer, and the other runners. Congratulations to Catherine and Jennifer on completing their first trail race! They did awesome! After getting some dry clothes on, I helped myself to some good food and a cup of coffee. The Mountain Junkies put together another great trail racing experience. All in all, it was a great evening of running in the dark! I look forward to my next race, whatever that may be.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fleet Feet Pub Run at Wasena City Tap Room

Anna and I have been wanting to take part in one of Fleet Feet's Pub Runs for months. Fleet Feet Sports is a running store located in Roanoke and they organize a lot of local events promoting running, as well as socializing as a community. These pub runs take place on Tuesday nights at 6 pm. The locations alternate between the Fork in the City and Wasena City Tap Room restaurants. Runners can choose between 3 or 5 mile runs on the nearby Roanoke River Greenway. The runs conclude at the restaurant, where there are food and drink specials.

Having just wrapped up Eli's fall soccer season, Anna and I were finally able to find a Tuesday night to take part in a Pub Run. Since I work in Lynchburg and we live in Montvale, just making it to Roanoke by 6pm is an adventure in itself. I made it home just in time to hug the boys, change my clothes and hop in the car with Anna. It makes me a little sad to not spend the evening with the boys, but Anna and I need to make an effort to do some sort of "date night" sometimes. I would like to say thanks to my Mom and Dad for watching the boys for us, so we could have a date night.

We made it to the Wasena City Tap room with plenty of time to spare. The run didn't start at exactly 6pm, so we had a few minutes to relax before we ran. A very nice gentleman saw my Mountain Junkies shirt and came over to talk with Anna and me. He was friends with the Mountain Junkies' organizers and actually takes pictures at their races. He asked if I was going to take part in the Into the Darkness race this coming weekend, which I am. So he told me to make sure to not look at the camera when I am running. Since the race is at night and flash will temporarily blind you! Meeting new people is what these pub runs are all about. It is nice to get outside and enjoy the beautiful evening while getting some exercise with people who also enjoy running.

Anna told me to do the 5 mile run and she could just run the 3 mile course, but this was our date night and I enjoy running with Anna. So we both ended up taking part in the 3 mile run. As usual, Anna put in her ear pods (to prevent me from talking her head off while we run). I don't mind Anna listening to her music because it allows me to take in the scenery without running my mouth the entire time. Plus, I caught a hint of "Paradise City" by Guns N Roses while running a section of the course!

The run went by really quick. It always love running on the Greenway. Not only were there a lot of people taking part in the Pub Run, but there were a ton of other people out running, walking, and biking. It is so night to see resource like the Greenway getting so heavily used. The people of Roanoke are blessed with beautiful scenery and wonderful parks to enjoy the outdoors!

Once Anna and I were done with our run, we got a table at the Tap Room. It was our first time at the restaurant and we were very impressed. Not only was the inside beautiful with all its brick walls and exposed ceilings, but the employees were so hospitable. We got a sausage and green pepper pizza and a couple draft beers. The pizza was awesome and we are definitely going to come back for a follow-up date night!

So, if you live in the Roanoke area and you are bored on a Tuesday evening. I would highly recommend taking part in one of these Pub Runs. It is hard to beat a good run, with awesome people, followed up by awesome food and drinks! Also, if you have never been to Fleet Feet in Roanoke, check them out. You will not find nicer people to help you get the running gear you need. Anna and I enjoyed our first experience at a Pub Run and we will definitely try to make it back another one soon.

**Some of the pictures used in the post were borrowed from Fleet Feets' Facebook page.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

2013 Virginia 10 Miler – To Pee or Not To Pee?

I had been looking forward to September 28 for quite some time. Not only would it be my second ever running of the Virginia 10 Miler, it was my target race for my post-surgery training. I had spent the past two month building up my weekly running totals, as well as my running distances in order to be able to finish this tough and hilly course.

I found out a couple weeks before the race, that I would be without my favorite cheerleader. Anna was going to Baltimore with a friend to see the Orioles play the Red Sox. I was glad she was getting to have a girls’ weekend. As much time and energy she spends taking care of her three boys, she was well deserving of a weekend retreat. Her absence was going to throw some few logistical issues in the race weekend though.

With Anna leaving town Friday afternoon, I was going to have to keep the boys by myself for the first time over night. Since I had needed to leave the house before 7 a.m. on Saturday morning, I recruited some help. Grandma and Papa were eager to lend a helping hand. My Mom and Dad came up to the house Friday afternoon and watched the boys until I got home from work. After eating dinner and taking part in our normal weekend “Movie Night”, I laid down with the boys.

The morning came around very quickly and it was a good thing I had my parents over. I sleep very soundly and Anna is usually my alarm clock. Since I had to rely on an actual electronic device, I decided to set my phone as well as the normal bedside clock. My phone’s alarm when off around 5:50 a.m. and it woke my parents up a few doors down the hallway before I ever heard it. I am sure I would have heard the second alarm because it was set much louder (at least I hope I would have). My Dad woke me up after my phone had been going off for a few minutes.

The original plan was that I would leave early and my parents would bring the boys to Lynchburg a couple hours later. I gave them the option of just staying at home and playing with Grandma and Papa, but Eli really wanted to come to the race. I know how difficult it is to get the boys up, fed, and out the door. I felt bad about putting that burden on my parents. So we ended up waking the boys up just after 6 a.m. and in the car. We had to drive separate cars because we could fit in one. So they were going to McDonald’s to eat breakfast and I was off to the starting line.

I thought I had left with plenty of time to spare, but I didn’t account for some traffic in Lynchburg. Traffic stopped dead on Lakeside Drive, well before Lynchburg College. I had planned to park at the Plaza, so I had about another mile to go. By the time I got to the Plaza and found a parking place, I had about 15 minutes before the start of the race. I decided that I would warm up by running from the car to the porta-john farm near E.C. Glass. I always like emptying the tank before I run. I found myself about 30 people deep in a line for a stinky portable toilet. After waiting in line for about 10 minutes, I was half way to the front of the line when they started making the countdown to start the race. I had to make the executive decision to postpone my prerace ritual.

I knew there were going to be a lot of porta-johns along the race path and I really didn’t need to go that bad. So, I was able to make it to the starting area just as the gun went off. Since there were several thousand runners and walkers at the event, it took me around 3 minutes to make it to the actual starting line. With no time to wait around for the race and get nervous, I was off. My prerace plan was to take the first few miles very easy. I was going to run at a very comfortable pace and not pay any attention to my watch. Having the weave around slower runners for the first couple miles, I really didn’t have a lot of time to look at my watch anyway. I made myself take the time to look around at the scenery. It is not every day that you get to run straight down Linkhorne with no traffic.

With all the adrenaline flowing early in the race and with the first two miles being downhill, it is very easy to start this race too fast. I made myself look around at the scenery and take the in the sights, as an attempt to slow myself down some too. It is not every day that you get to run straight down Linkhorne without the threat of being hit by a car. It was during this portion of the race that I saw several friends and a cousin too (great job Jennifer!).

After the two mile downhill portion of the race, we had made it to the rolling hill section of the course. This is the 1.5 mile section that goes “up” and “down” on its way from the Farm Basket to Rivermont Avenue. I think this is one of the more difficult sections of the race. The constant changing of elevation can really do a number on your legs. I have been doing a lot of training on hilly Lynchburg streets in 2013 and I really think it has paid off. This section ended up not being as bad as I had remembered from last year. By the time I made it to top of the last hill approaching Rivermont, I could feel my legs tightening, but I still had a lot of energy.

The 1.5 miles up to the turnaround in Riverside Park was not too bad. There is a slight uphill climb, but the elevation gain is very gradual and not too noticeable. It was also during this section of the course that I started seeing all the leaders heading back to the start line. It is amazing seeing how fast those men and women are. They are definitely blessed with running great running ability.

It was also this section of the race were you really start to realize how many race “cheerleaders” there are at the 10 Miler. There were tons of volunteers stretching the entire race path and each one did a great job of cheering the runners on as they passed. I believe a lot of them were college students and I greatly appreciated them getting up early on a Saturday morning to give us some extra boost. I am sad to say that I don’t think the college aged Ryan would have been getting up at 7am to cheer a bunch of running strangers.

Once I had made it to the Riverside Park turnaround, I felt great. My pace had steadily improved over the first half of the race and it was then that I realized that I could still finish with a pretty decent time. I couldn’t remember my exact finishing time from 2012, but I thought it was somewhere in the 1:26 range. Doing some quick math in my head, if I pushed it harder in the second half of the race I could possibly beat that time.

After 50 minutes into the race with about 4 miles to go, I grabbed my Gu gel packet out of my pocket and began to slowly consume some extra calories. I have found in the past that any runs under 50 minutes; I don’t usually need any other than water. But anything over 50 minutes, my body reacted better to getting a shot of gel. It was about this time in the race that I started contemplating about using a porta-john. I decided to wait as long as possible and hopefully wait until after I ate my gel packet (they upset my stomach sometimes). I decided that I would just keeping running until I really, really, really needed to go.

During the return section of the rolling hills, I was still feeling pretty strong. But in the back of my mind, I was still second guessing my current pace. I was definitely running faster than I had the entire race and I knew the last 2 miles were going to be that awful hill climb back to E.C. Glass. Those thought consumed my mind during this section of the race. By the time I got to the base of the hill, just by the Farm Basket store, my legs still felt pretty strong. I tried to attack the hill with everything I had left. After about ¾ of a mile, the hill starts to decline in slope some. But by that time, my legs were pretty tired. I found a comfortable pace and tried to think happy thoughts for the last mile.

As I got close to the finish line, I could see my time was close to 1:29. So subtracting 3 minutes for my chip time, I knew I was going to be close to last year’s time. I crossed the line at 1:26:18. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I spotted my Mom and Dad with Eli and Coy. It was great to see them. I felt great for just finishing the race and I immediately knew I could have done better. But that was not my goal for today. This was a race that I had picked out two months before, when I had to start running all over again. My thoughts drifted back to those early days of July. I was struggling to simply walk laps around the backyard without getting dizzy. My body had done its job healing my wounds and I put in the time training for this race.

This feeling of satisfaction is the reason I love to run in races. I love setting a goal and working towards that goal. It is really good for my self-esteem to be able to accomplish goals. My parents, the boys, and I hung around the post-race area for a while after the race. We got some food to eat and relaxed for a little while. I was able to catch up with a few friends afterwards too. I was nice seeing Jennifer, Catherine, Missy, Samantha, Coach Cutler, Kevin, Travis, Holly, Shannon, and Mary Carter. I hope I didn’t forget anyone.

After a quick visit to Bedford’s Centerfest and eating a yummy jiro, I was able to go home and look up my previous year’s time. I found that I had actually run 13 second slower than last year. I was pretty happy to finish so close without really trying this year. I felt much stronger during and after the race this year. I know, God willing, I will really be able to push for a PR next year. I was really pleased when I looked at my splits from this year’s race. My slowest 3 miles were miles 1, 2, and 3. My fastest 2 miles were miles 8 and 9. I had finally stuck to a race strategy and it had actually paid off.

  My 2012 Splits
(ignore my final time, I forgot to stop my watch)

My 2013 Splits

Since I felt so good running this difficult 10 mile course, I think I am going to try and get a half marathon in before the end of the year. I can just keep on training until then, so that I don’t lose my current level of endurance. Other than that, I am just planning to run in a few 5k races to close out an interesting 2013. I am sorry it took so long to post my race recap, but sometimes I get too busy living life (and watching Breaking Bad on Netflix!).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Training and 10 Miler Prerace Thoughts

So, it has been almost three months since my appendectomy and about two months since I started running again. I have pretty much stuck to my initial plan for getting from the couch to the 10 Miler. Each week I have been stepping up my weekly mileage, as well as increasing the length of my weekly long run. The only planned run I missed was when we had a surprise trip to Blacksburg to watch a Tech game. I didn’t get my long run in that week and it caused my weekly total to dip for that week (week 36 in the graph below).

Weekly Running Totals (weeks 26-38 of 2013)

Overall, I am very pleased with my progress. I have not tried to push my pace too much during these runs though. I was more concerned with getting miles in and now on my tempo. So going into the Virginia 10 Miler this weekend, I am going to run comfortably. I am not going to try and beat my last years’ time of 1:26:05. I would like to finish in less than 2 hours. But other than that, my main goal is to finish!

If you are not familiar with the route of the 10 Miler, the first 1 ½ miles is downhill. It is very easy to overdo it early. Since last year was my first time running this race, I made this mistake of starting to fast. I am going to try very hard to start slowly. I am going to use my watch to make myself slow down for the first few miles, when my adrenaline is making me run faster than I know I should. Hopefully, by setting a slow pace early, I will have much more fuel in the tank at the end. I really would like to attack the last 1 ½ mile hill to the finish.

No matter my finishing time on Saturday, I am very happy with my current running ability. It is hard to believe that just a few months ago; Anna had to help me out of bed in order for me to go to the bathroom. I remember taking those short walks down the hospital hallway, pulling my I.V. cart along beside me. These walks, just days after my surgery, would leave me lightheaded and completely drained. So when I cross that finish line on Saturday, I am not going to be concerned about my time. I am going to smile and thank God that he has blessed me with a healthy body again.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Couch to 10 Miler Plan

Due to my surgery at the end of June, I went 28 straight days without running. This doesn’t include the week leading up to my surgery that I didn’t run my normal schedule. When I started back on July 24th, I walk/ran 1.5 miles. At this point, I decided that I needed to come up with a strategy to get back to where I was before my appendicitis. My company is a sponsor of the Virginia 10 Miler, which takes place in Lynchburg. I ran in the race last year and really enjoyed the experience. My company pays the majority of the entry fee for its employees, so it made a good target race for several reasons.

I knew I was going to have to be dedicated, in order to be ready to run a 10 mile race at the end of September. I sat down and planned out all my runs for the 9 weeks leading up to the race. To limit my soreness and to reduce injury, I concentrated on three areas; distance of each run, distance of longest run for each week, the weekly distance total. I wanted to be sure to slow step up each of these categories as the weeks progressed, but not a rate that could cause me a setback.

I am a dork and I like spreadsheets. So, of course I had to make one for my 9 week running plan. Here my final plan. All numbers (minus the percentage) are mileage totals for each day, as well as weekly total mileage. I used the weekly total distance % change  to help verify I wasn’t upping my total mileage too much.

Here is my actual mileage chart so far. Since I have been feeling good during most of my runs, I let myself add a little more distance with each run. But I limit it to only a ½ mile extra.

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Appendicitis Story

About two months ago, I had one of the more scary experiences of my life. Although, I didn’t quite realize how dangerous the situation could have been until it was over. In hindsight the outcome could have been horrible for me and my family. For the most part my life is back to normal now, but it was far from normal during last few days of June.
Anna and the boys had travel to Douthat State Park with her family on Thursday, June 20th. Since I had to work on Friday, I stayed at home and made the trip up on Friday evening. After a couple days of eating junk food and sleeping on a small air mattress with Anna and the boys, I began to have a stomach ache. I thought it was just my bowels causing me some discomfort or possibly a weird sleeping angle had caused my stomach muscles to be sore.

Sunday morning I got up and went for a run. I thought that running would help align my body. Running has always made my digestive track speed up (to put it discretely as possible). The pain didn’t go away during my run though. I could actually feel the pain in my stomach with the impact of each foot. I didn’t think anything more about it. Again, I just thought my stomach was just upset from the weekend of camping.

Monday came around and I went back to work. My job consists of sitting behind a computer for the majority of the day. So my body is not physically taxed a lot. My stomach was still bothering me. But I thought that since I had not had a good bowel movement in days, my pains were due to a “back-up”. I even tried to go for another run on Wednesday. I ran 3 miles on the Treadmill before work. This exercise still didn’t seem to get my body back to normal though.

I put up with my stomach issues for a couple more days before I decided to take some medicine. The pains I was having were very similar to gas pains. So I thought taking some Gas-X would help. After taking several doses of Gas-X, there was no change to my condition. So, on Thursday I decided to take some Miralax. This did allow me to go to the bathroom with a little more success, but I was no wear to being on my normal schedule. Thursday night, I told Anna that I thought I should go to the doctor in the morning. Not only was my stomach upset, I was developing a very tender spot in my lower right stomach region.

Since I had been having stomach issues for 8 days and I did not seem to be getting any better, I decided to make an appointment with my local doctor’s office. I was seen early on Friday morning. The Physician’s Assistant that saw me didn’t think my issue was appendix related. Since I was not nauseous and I was not running a fever, it was unlikely that I was experience an infected appendix. She didn’t want to make me get the large dose of radiation that comes along with a CT scan. She ordered x-rays to verify there was no blockage in my bowels.

She told me that I didn’t have to wait around for the results and that she would call me when she was able to read the results. So I went on to work. I worked all day and didn’t hear back from the PA until I was driving home around 5 p.m. She told me that there was no sign of blockage and that there was not a lot of fecal matter in my bowels. I found this news very strange, since wasn’t using the bathroom much all week. She told me that if I developed any additional pain, fever, or nausea, to go to the emergency room as quickly as possible.

Saturday morning I woke up and the pain was almost gone. I was very excited and I thought I was on the road to recovery. I spent the majority of the day doing yard work. I mowed and weed-eated. I took all the trash cans and recycling bins to the dump. Then later that evening, we went to the Bucannan Fair. I spent the next few hours walking around the fair and watching the boys ride some of the carnival rides. I even went down the three story slide with Eli and Coy. Anna’s mom joked that if my appendix hadn’t burst yet, the slide down would probably do it.
We got back home and had a normal night getting the boys to sleep. I was pretty tired from my long day of yard work and fair fun. I went to bed and fell to sleep pretty easily. I woke up around 2:30 a.m. with stomach pains again. I could not situate myself in any position so that the pain would go away. This was the first time I couldn’t sleep due to the pain. After an hour tossing around in bed, I woke up Anna and told her that I was in pain. I got up to get some water and I started getting the shakes really bad. I think it was a combination of being cold and having anxiety about my stomach that was causing my body to shake so bad. Anna called her mom (she is a nurse) and I put on some pants and sweatshirt.

Anna’s mom told us to go to the ER and she came over to watch the boys. We decided that we would make the trek to Lewis Gale in Salem. We have always had great experiences at Lewis Gale and it was not that much farther than the other hospitals. We got to the ER around 4:30 a.m. and we were immediately seen by a PA. Since I still wasn’t running a fever and was not nauseous, they didn’t think it was my appendix. But to be sure, they ordered some blood work, another x-ray, and a CT scan.

The blood work came back fine. My white blood count was normal, so my body didn’t seem to be fighting off an infection. The x-ray didn’t show anything abnormal. Next they put in an IV so they could put the dye in my blood stream for the scan. Also, I got to drink a wonderfully delicious drink that helped my digestive track show up in the scan results. A nurse showed up and gave me morphine through my IV. I really wasn’t in a lot of pain and I told Anna that I didn’t want any pain killers. I really wanted to know if my pain was getting worse and by taking pain killers, I figured I wouldn’t be able to keep track my pain level.

Anna talked me into, saying that “you may be having surgery today”. I laughed and said, I don’t think so. So, the morphine was injected and I felt like an elephant sat on me. I was pinned to the hospital bed and I definitely had less pain. Anna thought I was pretty funny during this time period. The PA came back and said that since my blood work was fine and I was not having any other appendicitis symptoms, that after the CT scan they would probably send me home and call me a wuss!

So, I was wheeled into the radiology department and I got to slide in the slide in the CT scan “donut” a few times. Once I was wheeled back to the ER room, Anna and I found it hard to stay awake. We had been up for most of the night and it looked like nothing was going to be found during this visit. It seemed like hours before the PA returned. He said, “You are having surgery today”! He said that my appendix was ruptured and abscessed. He said that my lymph nodes were very swollen in that area as well. He said that there could be a possibility that some else may be at work, like cancer.

No one likes to hear the “C” word. It really hits you hard when you start thinking about what might be going on inside your body. My thoughts instantly turned towards my family. Anna and the boys are my world. The thought of leaving them without a husband and father devastated me. I tried to be positive and not think about the worst case scenario. After talking with the surgeon, she informed me that it was standard procedure to send the appendix to pathology for testing. The results would take 4 week days to complete though. So I would not hear anything back until at least Thursday. She said the main thing they needed to be concerned with is getting the appendix out and having my stomach cavity flushed of any toxins.

From this point, everything started moving fast for me. I was wheeled up to the pre-op room to fill out some paper work and to meet the anesthesiologist. Anna was able to come with me during this process. She stepped outside to talk to her Mom on the phone and caught a glimpse of her crying. That was the one time I felt myself getting emotional about the surgery. I think it was more due to seeing Anna upset, than any fears related to the surgery.

They started giving me my anesthesia through my IV, and they started moving me to the operating room. I had to say a quick good-bye to Anna and got a quick kiss. Once in the operating room, I had to move to the operating table. I just remember it being cold in the room and the table was less plush than my hospital bed. Once I crab walked over to the other bed, they began strapping my arms down to the arm part of the table, which darted out at a 90 degree angle from the table. I also remember the number of people in the room. I don’t know why that stood out to me, but it made the a bit worried that this was going to take so many people. Maybe I had downplayed the severity of the situation.

The next thing I remembered was waking up in the recovery room. I was shaking violently and it was freaking me out. I asked the nurses, “why am I shaking!” and they told me it was due to the anesthesia. I do not like not being in control of my body and to lie there while my body was jerking around was not pleasant. I was not in a lot of pain, as long as I was not moving around. I asked the nurse if my wife could come sit beside me and she told me no. I couldn’t understand why Anna couldn’t come see me. I knew that just seeing her and holding her hand would calm me down.

After some time passed, my trembling subsided and I was able to relax some. They told me that all my vitals were good and that there were just going to wait a little bit longer before moving back to my permanent room. It felt like hours, but it had to only be a matter of minutes before they started wheeling my bed to my new room. As they came down the hall to my room, I saw Anna, Doug, Mom, and Dad. I felt so good to see some familiar faces again. I knew Mom and Dad were on the way to the hospital when I was going into surgery, but it was a pleasant surprise to see good ole Doug there. Once I got into my room, I had to crawl into my new bed. That was when I discovered just how sore I was.

The surgery was laparoscopic, so I only had three small holes in my stomach region. There was one just above my bellybutton and two on my beltline about six inches apart. For such a “minimally invasive” surgery, I was extremely sore. I felt like I could not use my stomach muscles at all to sit up and I felt very bloated. Come to find out, they actually fill my stomach cavity with air so they can easily separate my organs and get to the appendix. So, I think the majority of my discomfort was due to the air and having my intestines shifted around.

The worst part of the first few days was getting up to use the bathroom. Since I receiving fluids through an IV, I had to go to the restroom a lot. Anna must have helped me to the toilet 100 times over the next few days. The first day, I made myself walk down the hall a couple times. I figured the quicker I could get up and move around, the sooner I would start feeling better. It was amazing how tired I got by walking 30 feet down the hallway, very slowly. I went from running 20 miles a week, to not being able to walk down the hall without using the railing.

I told Anna that I had a new respect for her after my surgery. I was in a lot of pain because I had something the size of the tip of my pinky removed from my stomach. She had surgery twice to remove 6 pound babies from her belly! Once again, I realized why God chose women for child birth. They are definitely stronger!

Since my appendix had ruptured, I had to have a drain tube. This tube was attached to one of my beltline incisions. I came to really despise this little contraption. Although I understood it was necessary, there was no way to move around without that tub shifting and hurting!
The first night, I ate some jelly for dinner. I really didn’t have an appetite, so it didn’t really matter. I was getting pain medication through my IV for the first day. The nurse told me that once I was able to eat some food, that she would switch me to some oral pain medicine. I had not slept too well the first night. From having to get up every 2 to 3 hours to use the restroom, my leg cuffs filling with air ever other minute, and nurses coming in to take vitals, I had a lot of broken sleep.

On the second day of my stay, I was able to get some more food in my stomach. So they switched my medicine. I still had to have an IV for the antibiotics, so that was going to have to stay attached for a couple more days.

My surgeon came to talk with us the second morning. This was the first time I had spoken with her since before my surgery. She told me that my appendix did not look too good. She said that when she tried to staple it off from my large intestine, that it just crumbled apart. She was able to suture the opening closed, but they thought for a little while that there were going to have to take out part of my intestines in order to get the whole closed. Also, since I had taken ibuprofen the day before my surgery, it took an extra hour for her to stop my bleeding. She told me that appendix was sent to the pathology department and that it would take four days to get the results. For her tone and the details she gave us about how everything looked, we were very worried.

In my head, I just kept thinking how my appendicitis was so atypical. I didn’t have signs of infection. I was not running a fever. My white blood cell count was normal too. There had to be another reason why my appendix was having issues. I remembered the day before when the PA was talking about my lymph nodes being so big. After the surgeon left the room, Anna and I were emotionally shaken. This was the lowest point of my entire stay in the hospital. I couldn’t get thoughts of cancer out of my mind. Every time I thought about Eli and Coy, I cried. Every time I thought about Anna, I cried. Even though I tried to be strong and not let Anna see me getting upset, at this point I couldn’t avoid it.

A few hours later and after talking with the infectious disease doctor, we felt a lot better. I decided that no matter the outcome of the tests, I was going to beat it. Mopping around and feeling sorry for myself, was not going to make anything better. I told Anna that I was going to not think about the “what if’s” until I knew for certain what we were facing. Plus, the boys were coming to visit for the first time since my surgery and they needed to see us strong. After our visit from the boys, our spirits were pretty good for the rest of the day. I can’t even express in words what if felt like to have the boys hug on me. It was so nice to just see their smiling faces. The combination of seeing the boys, moving around more, and eating more had me feeling a lot better by the end of day two.

On Tuesday, day three, I decided that I was going to take stop taking my pain medication. I was still in a lot of discomfort around my stomach area, but I thought the medication was one of the main reasons for my fatigue. I hated getting tired for just walking to the bathroom. I needed to start getting better and I needed to start as soon as possible. At this point, were getting cabin fever. Anna stayed by my side 24/7 the first few days. My parents and I made her leave the room for a little while and get something to eat, but we even had to talk into that. At this point we had watched too many episodes of Friends, Seinfeld, and Everyone Loves Ramon (my three favorite shows of all time). I guess since I was laying the bed, Anna let me watch my shows! Anna talked me into taking some pain medicine before bed Tuesday night, just so I would get some better sleep. I gave in, but it would be my last pain medication in the hospital.
One of the main reasons I wanted to slow down on the pain killers was that I needed to have a bowel movement before the doctor would release me to go home. I was determined that this was going to happen and I learned from the nurses that the pain killers cause constipation. So on Wednesday morning, after eating a country omelet and some coffee, we had success! Now, nothing was going to stop me from going home on Thursday. I am sure if you are reading this, you don’t really care to hear about these details. But it was too important of a topic to leave out.

So after one more night in our temporary home, Thursday July 4th, I was cleared to return home. I finally got the IV out of my arm after over 4 days. I didn’t get to lose all of my new attachments though. I found out that I was going to have to keep the drain tube in for another week. I didn’t care at this point. I just wanted to go home. After a long walk to the car on someone shaky legs, we were on our way home. This was the first time I had been outside since earlier Sunday morning. I remember feeling the sun on my skin as I walked outside. It is amazing the little things in life that you don’t even realize you miss until you don’t experience it for a few days.

Mom and Dad were keeping the boys on Thursday and they were waiting on the front porch when we got home. It was so great to be at home with my all the people I love. The boys had even made a sign that was hanging on our front door, which read “Welcome Home Mom and Dad”. Even though I was well enough to come home, I still got tired very easily. I would say that was the worst complication of my whole experience. I would spend the next few days stuck on the couch in the living room. I found it was more comfortable sleeping while propped up some pillows on the couch, than in my bed.
Thursday was the day we were supposed to get the pathology results back, but since it was the 4th of July, the surgeon’s office was closed. So, I had to wait another day, now knowing if something more was wrong with me. Not knowing was starting to take its toll on me. It was hard for me to not think about the worst case, while I was sitting around the house all day. I tried to not let it show too much, but I am sure Anna knew what I was thinking about during those quiet times. Friday morning, I called the surgeon’s office, but all of the doctors were out of the office on vacation. The assistant I talked with on the phone said only my doctor could read me the results. So, I was going to have to wait until Monday.

That made for a long weekend. Finally Monday came around and I called the surgeon’s office again. My surgeon was actually in surgery, but this assistant was able to give me my results. The test came back negative! It was only appendicitis! This was the best news I had received in a long time. A huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I feel for those individuals and families that are fighting cancer. Just the thoughts having to start to fight something so hideous just about wrecked my nerves. During my follow-up visit with my surgeon later in the week, we found out that the results actually didn’t come back until that Monday. The pathology office did extra tests on some of the surrounding tissue and that made the results delayed. The surgeon told me that the first radiologist that looked at my CT scan had really thought cancer was involved. This is why the doctors seemed so somber when they were talking with me in the ER and the first day after surgery.

So after getting this great news, the only thing left was to keep healing my wounds. Two of the three incisions healed up very quickly. Because I had the drain tube in the other whole for an extra week and a half, it was taking longer to close. They couldn’t stitch it closed either because it had to heal from the inside out to reduce the chances of infection. I started walking laps around the back yard to make my legs feel better. I was on the road to recovery and I was looking forward the challenge. I will talk about my steps to getting back running in a different post. This post has gotten too long and I wanted to keep this one more about the actual procedure and hospital stay.
I just want to everyone that helped me over the past month. Thanks all the doctors and nurses that helped me while in the hospital. We have had so many good experiences at Lewis Gale. I would recommend that facility to anyone needed medical attention. I would also like to thank everyone that came to visit me in the hospital; Anna (she never left), Mom, Dad, Eli, Coy, Barbara, Doug, James, Brad, Emily, Ben, and Tim. I would like to thank my co-workers for sending a fruit basket and cards. Also, thanks to everyone at work for being so understanding while I was out of the office. Thanks to Tim for the basket of food and bag of stuff to keep me busy in the hospital. Thanks to Mom and Dad for taking care of my flowers, mowing my grass, and taking my trash to the dump. Thanks to my parents and in-laws for keeping the boys while Anna and I were at the hospital. Thanks to Eli and Coy for being so understanding when Daddy’s “tummy” was hurt.
Most of all, thanks to my wife. She is definitely my better half and she gave me strength with just her presence at the hospital. She helped me to the bathroom, helped me clean myself, helped me dress, and even changed my sheets while in the hospital. She fetched the nurses when I needed more medicine and she sat through hours of classic comedy sitcoms! One of the worst parts of this experience was being so dependent on other people. But she everything possible to make the situation the best it could be. I am so blessed to have such awesome people in my life. May God bless you all.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Anna’s First 5k

A few months ago, Anna mentioned that she would like to run a 5k sometime. I jumped at the opportunity for her to start running. I really liked the idea of going on runs with Anna. She is my better half and I love spending time with her. So by getting in involved in running, we could have the ability to hang out and still getting in our mileage. Also, having both of us as health as possible is a bonus for our whole family. There is no telling how many calories Anna burns by keeping up with the boys all day long. But I thought that by running, she could help herself by relieving some of the stress that comes with being a full time Mommy.

So we looked for some local 5k races that were going to take place in the next few months. After discussing a few possibilities, she decided that she wanted to run in the Gallop 4 the Greenways 5k on May 11th. I thought this would be a great first 5k course, since it was relatively flat. Also, Anna liked that there was a kids’ fun run before the 5k and a beach party following the race. The Gallop 4 the Greenways 5k is an annual fund raising event for the Roanoke River Greenway, a network of pedestrian and bicycle trails in Roanoke.

Having a target race day scheduled, Anna wanted me to put together a simple running schedule for her to start. Since she had not being running at all, I built a very informal running plan to slowly get her running for longer durations of time. I believe the first few weeks had runs/walks of around 20 minutes. Week by week, these runs worked up to 30 minutes sessions with longer periods of running. Anna was very dedicated with getting her runs in. I told her that she should plan on making each of the runs on the exact days scheduled, due to our crazy family routines. I didn’t want her to get discouraged if she missed a run here or there.
So when I would get home from work, Anna would get on our treadmill while I entertained the boys. On days that she could get on the treadmill at that time, she would get her run in after the boys were asleep. Having made some post-10:00 P.M. runs on the treadmill myself, I knew how horrible those runs can be. But Anna did awesome! As the race day got closer, she began to stress that she wasn’t going to be able to run the entire race. Anna is very competitive and she wanted to do the best she could possibly do in the race. I tried to reinforce the fact that she didn’t have to run the entire time and that is was perfectly acceptable to walk for periods of the race. Anna continued to get her runs in when she had the free time. I was so proud of her dedication!

As race day arrived, Anna started to have more anxiety of the race. Even though she didn’t talk about her anxiety, I could tell by the way she was acting. She was nervous about her first race, which was totally understandable. I still get nervous before every race, so I don’t think that is going to stop after she gets past her first race. This race was a little different than ones I have run because it started at 5 o’clock in the evening. We got to the race at about 4:30, but we had picked Anna and the boys’ race numbers up the night before. So everyone was ready for their runs. After hitting the bathroom a couple times, we made our way to the starting line.

The kids’ race was about ½ a mile and the starting line was the same as the 5k race. The course was a simple down and back format, so the finish line was back at the starting point of the 5k race. Since Anna had to be ready to start the 5k, I had to run with Eli and Coy. I knew Eli was going to be much faster than Coy and I, so I told him beforehand that he needed to stop when he got too far in front of us. I didn’t want Eli to get out of my sight during the race and not knowing whether or not Anna was going to be able to be at the finish line, I didn’t want to lose Eli in a crowd of people.
The boys both did great. They both ran the entire race and Eli did a great job of letting Coy catch back up to him. Once we got close to the finish line, Eli decided he had enough of waiting for us and he sprinted to the finish. I got a little scared when I saw Eli running into the crowd of people at the finish line, until I heard Anna’s voice say “Go Eli”. I knew she would keep an eye on Eli, while Coy and I finished. The boys were so cute running there race. I love how they get so excited to run in a race. I hope they will always find running and exercising to be fun.
Just after the kids’ race was over, the 5k race started. I was able to spot Anna in the crowd of runners as they went by starting line. I was very strange watching a start of a race not taking part. Anna has been such a great supporter of me during numerous races, I was happy to stand on the sideline and cheer for once. As soon as all the runners had made their way past us, the boys and I went to the playground across the street to kill some time. After about 15 minutes, I rounded up the boys and we headed across the pedestrian footbridge and to the finishing area. We picked out a spot where we would be able to see Anna as she crossed the bridge and the finish line.

After 10 or so minutes, I spotted Anna coming across the footbridge. With only 50 yards left in the race, she looked very strong. I pointed her out to the boys and they both cheered and waved to their mommy. It was a very exciting moment for everyone. I was so proud of Anna. She had been so determined in her training for her first 5k. She had worked very hard to get to this point and she was about to accomplish her goal she had set months earlier. She crossed the finish line was a very respectful time for a first time 5k race.

Most of Anna’s family came out to cheer for her. So she had plenty of supports to greet her after the race. It was a great evening of racing. I was so proud of Eli, Coy, and Anna. They had all done so well in their races. It was nice to sit on the sidelines and be a supporter for a change. I owe it to Anna, since she has been so supportive of my running the past couple of years. The best news to come out of this race experience is that Anna wants to run another 5k! I was hoping she had a good enough racing experience that she would want to do it again. I look for to possible completing a race with my wife very soon.

Anna’s family all went home pretty quickly after the race was over. Anna, the boys, and I hung around to listen to some beach music and take in some of the festival that followed. The festivities were short lived though. Some very ominous storm clouds formed overhead. After a close lightning flash and crack of thunder, we headed to the parking garage. We had about 300 yards to make it to the covered garage, but we soon realized that we were not going to beat the downpour. Since the land is so flat and open down by the river, we could see the rain coming for about 30 seconds prior to getting wet. All the sudden the wind started gusting at about 30 miles per hour and the rain started. I was running with the both boys in the stroller at this point. Coy was terrified and was crying. I tried to pull down the sun shades over their seats, but the wind was blowing the rain sideways so it didn’t really help. By the time we made it to the garage we were soaked. The boys were in a state of shock. Anna was the only one of us with extra dry clothes. We had to strip down as much as possible for the ride home, but not before we stopped by Chipotle for some well-deserved burritos.

What a great day (minus the storm)!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2013 Trail Nut 10k

I have always heard that it didn’t really matter what you ate the morning of the race, as long as you ate something that wasn’t going to upset your stomach in the next few hours. I have read that what you put in your body the day before a race is far more important. So in the past, I have always tried to drink plenty of water and eat a high carb dinner the day before races. For some reason, I decided that my pre-race dinner this time would consist of fried catfish at Mama’s in Montvale. This turned out to not be the wisest decision I have ever made (mistake #1). I will explain this more when the time comes.

I was looking forward to the Trail Nut race this year, just because I enjoy running on Bedford trails and I really like Falling Creek Park. Having run this race last year, I would have the opportunity to compare finishing times. This race would be my 5th Mountain Junkies race of the year and the last RNUTS race I would take part in this year. I am going to skip the last RNUTS race at Carvins Cove in June. The only race distances for that race are 25k and a full marathon. Having backed off my long runs over the last few months, there would be no way I would be able to get ready for distances like that.

So, I started my morning with my usual bread and banana breakfast. Although my Nutella was out of date, so I had to use peanut butter on my bread. I chased that down with a nice hot cup of black coffee and some water. Once I was showered and dressed, I headed to Falling Creek Park. It only takes me about 15 minutes to get to this park, so this is one of the closer races I will run this year. I got to the park about 20 minutes before race time. I had just enough time to do some light stretching, listen to the pre-race talk, and head to the starting line. I probably should have run a little bit to loosen up my legs because later in the race (mistake #2). My legs would began to tighten up later during the run.

After giving the half-marathon runners a 10 minute head start, the 10k runners were sent on our way. Even though I live fairly close to the park, I had not run on the trails there since last year’s Trail Nut race. Somehow, the course was still pretty familiar in my head. I had decided to push my pace early to get in front of some of the slower runners before we got into the wooded single track portion of the race. So I had about 200 yards to make a move. Once we ducked into the woods, I joined a group of runners moving at a pretty good pace. I wanted to average sub 8:30 minute miles for the entire run and after glancing at my watch, I realized I was going much faster than I had planned. The first 3 miles went by quickly while I was running in a group averaging around 8:00 minute miles (mistake #3).

"don't puke, don't puke, don't puke..."
After mile 3, I began to get very nauseous and my thighs started to get really tight. This is about the time I realized I had made mistake #1 and #2! I had to back off the pace I had set in the first few miles to try and make my stomach and legs feel a little better. This did improve my legs, but my stomach would never improve. It was the sickest feeling I have ever had running a race. At one point, I started looking for large trees to hide behind while I puked. I tried to concentrate on the trail and the next turn, in order to get my mind greasy fish sloshing around in my belly! I told myself that if I stopped, I probably would still feel awful. So there was no use in stopping at this point. The damage had already been done.

During the two miles of my worst issues, I clocked 10:00 minute miles. This would really hurt my goal to average sub 8:30 miles. Although at that point, I was just happy to not see my dinner again! Before I knew it, I was passing the 6 mile marker and I knew the last 0.25 mile was going to be a climb out of the woods. So I pushed myself to the finish in order to shave a little time off my time. Once I popped out of the woods, there was a nice 50 yard trot downhill on a grassy surface. I spotted Anna and the boys up on the hill cheering (that always makes it easier to finish strong). I came across the finish line with a time of 56:20.48. Since the course was actually 6.5 miles, that made my average pace 8:40 minutes/mile. So, I didn’t make my goal, but I did beat my last years’ time of 58:59.43 (9:26 minutes/mile).

After eating some food and drinking some fluids, my stomach and legs started to improve. This race turned out to be one of the more mentally challenging races I have run, due to my stomach and legs. I am definitely lying off the fried foods for pre-race dinners and warming up better next time. As I mentioned before, I am not running in the last Mountain Junkies RNUTS race this year and I do not have any scheduled races in the near future. I think I am going to run in the Lynchburg 10 Miler in September and I would like to run another half-marathon in the fall sometime. I guess I will figure out those races after I enjoy the summer with my family.

This coming weekend, my beautiful wife will be running in her first 5k ever! I can’t wait to stand on the sidelines and cheer her on for a change. I am so proud of her for putting in the difficult treadmill runs late at night, in preparation for this race. I will be writing another post that will cover Anna’s race, so stay tuned.

2013 Mill Mountain Mayhem 10k

This is an another post for a recent race. This one took place at the beginning of April at Mill Mountain. I really need to get better about writing these race follow-up posts sooner. I guess late is better than never...
The idea of running to the star on Mill Mountain and back down made me nervous. That is the basic layout for the Mill Mountain Mayhem 10k race (6.35 actual miles) that the Mountain Junkies put on every year. Since I do not live too close to the Mill Mountain trail system, I had never run any of these trails. So I was definitely going into this race blind.

Anna and the boys were going to the race with me that Saturday morning, so that always adds to the stress of getting to the race. I love having them at the finish line for races. There is no one else I would rather see than their smiling faces after a long run. But in order for that to happen, we have to get the boys up, dressed, and in the car by 7:30 a.m. Since Anna stays home with the boys now, we do not have a lot of practice in these exiting procedures.

On this morning though, everything went pretty smoothly. After we got on the road and making the 40 minute drive to the trails, I continued to stress about what shoes I would wear in the race. For the past few months, I had been taking all my trail runs in my New Balance MT10 minimalist shoes. But not having run on these trails before, I wasn’t sure how many rocks would be out there. I had some thicker shoed road running shoes in the car too. But by the time we had made it to the race meeting area, I had decided to just stick with what I had been doing and use the New Balance.

Since the boys hadn’t eaten breakfast, Anna just dropped me off at the starting area and took the boys to get something to eat. I didn’t have a lot of time to warm up. But after the pre-race talk, the runners had to hike up a ½ mile trail to get to the starting line. So, this walk was enough warm up for me. This course had over 1,300 feet of elevation gain and I was going to need all the energy I could keep. The first mile was up a paved section of road. There nothing like starting your first mile with a hill climb. This paved section had me concerned with my choice of shoes, since I had not run with these shoes off the trails at all. I was surprised how comfortable they were during this part of the race though.

After the first mile, the path turned into the woods and onto a single track trail. Just a little while into the trails, I realized that I had made the wrong shoe choice. The trails were littered with thousands of rocks, ranging in size from gravels to basketballs. This would not have been such a big deal if I wasn’t trying to go as fast as possible. I had to carefully pick my foot placement to avoid sharp corners of rocks and having to concentrate on every step definitely slowed me down. I really believe my New Balance have strengthened my legs during my non-race running. Maybe I will get more used to racing in them, but now they seem to slow me down a lot.

So after a grueling 4.5 mile climb, back and forth up Mill Mountain, I finally reached the star. The views of Roanoke from a top the mountain were very impressive. I had a great sense of accomplishment when I made it to the top of the mountain. At this point, I knew that the remainder of the race was going to be most downhill (although I didn’t realize how downhill it was going to be). It took me 46 minutes and 39 seconds to climb the 4.85 miles to the top of the mountain, but only 14 minutes and 20 seconds to cover the 1.5 miles to the bottom. The 1.5 mile track to the bottom was through some of the rockiest terrain on the course. There was a constant struggle between my feet, rocks, and the laws of gravity (the rocks won!). My jarred body finally pasted the finish line with a time of 1:00:59.

I don’t know if it was because of being on a new trail or the uniqueness of the elevation gain, this was my favorite Mountain Junkies race of the year. I am definitely going to run this race again next year and I can’t wait to try and better my time. I have already been searching for some better “rock” shoes, so I will be ready for next year!

Friday, May 3, 2013

2013 Montvale 5 Miler

It has happened again. I have totally been slacking on my blog posting. I am getting ready to run in my third race since my last post, so I decided to start writing about my past few races. Here is my race recap for my second Montvale 5 Miler that took place in March.

I have been looking forward to this race for quite some time. Not only are these trails practically in my backyard, they are also the trails I run on the most. When I decided to race all of the Mountain Junkies’ RNUTS races, I had planned to run the longer of the possible races at every event (except for Carvins Cove). But as the weeks lead up to the Montvale race, I had not been able to get as many longer runs as I needed. I was really stressing about running the 10 miler for several days leading up to the race day.

I got up and ate my normal pre-race breakfast of a banana, as slice of wheat bread with Nutella, and a cup of black coffee. I was still worrying about completing the 10 mile trail race and still being able to enjoy the rest of the weekend. I had no doubts that I could finish race, but I was really starting to worry that I would be so tire and sore afterwards, I would end up not being able to enjoy playing with the boys. So, while in the shower (yes, I take pre-race showers for some reason) I had a moment of clarity. I started running to improve my physical health while at the same time improve my mental health by reducing stress and anxiety. Why was I letting myself be stressed out about running? I knew I would be disappointed with myself for not sticking with my original plan, but it wasn’t worth the extra stress. So I decided that I would show up a little early to the race and switch to the 5 miler.

I was sort of glad that I decided to change my race distance because it would give me a chance to compare my time to last year’s race. Even though I have raced quite a few races over the past two years, I have only repeated one race. So I do get an opportunity to better my course time too often. Once I made the long 1 mile trip to the race, I was able to switch distances with no resistance. I had a little time to go for a short warm up run. Although I run on the Montvale trails right often, I usually park in the lot off of Quarterwood road and run the top portions of the trails. Since the race starts near the 460 entrance to the park, I was able to take a warm-up lap to the creek. There has been a lot of work done to the creek area. Thousands of trees had been planted and each one had a protective plastic casing protecting the small saplings. It was a very surreal sight to see all of these plastic tubes. The area resembled a graveyard more than a nature trail.

Although a lot of work had been done the surrounding area, the bridge was again the biggest obstacle. Recent storm flooding had once again washed away the small footbridge. So, in its place was a large log cut in half lengthwise. The bridge had a lot of bounce to it, even with only one person walking across it. I could only imagine how it would perform with several people running across it. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about that for a while. The race started on the other side of the creek and the crossing was encountered during the last 0.25 mile of the race.

Once all of the runners had made it across the bouncing log bridge, the race was about to begin. After giving the 10 milers a 10 minute head start, we 5 milers were sent out our way. I knew the first 0.25 mile was on a wide access road path, so I took advantage and ran faster than my planned pace to get in front of some of the slower traffic. Once on the single track, there was not a lot of room for passing, so I settled in for the next few miles. I was surrounded by a group that was running at a good pace; therefore there was no need for me to risk passing anyone. It was nice actually racing on trails that I am familiar with. I knew exactly what was around the next turn and I could plan accordingly.

After making up to the top of the main hill at just over 2 miles, I knew the last 3 miles were going to be mainly downhill. So I let gravity take over and just tried to maintain my foot turnover rate. The next couple miles were really uneventful and passed by fairly quickly. The next thing I knew I was approaching the bridge. I was all by myself at this point, so I didn't have to worry about the extra weight bouncing across the makeshift bridge. I took my time and tipped toed across with no issues. The last 0.25 mile was on nice soft grass, so I tried to use my last bit of energy to finish strong. I made it to the finish line in 43:58.55. I was very happy with my finishing time. It was my fastest average pace for a race longer than 5 miles and it was almost 1 ½ minutes quicker than last year’s race (45:26.55). I later found out that I was second in my age group, although I think most of the faster guys ran the 10 mile distance (but I will take it).

 Overall, a great day of racing in the great metropolis of Montvale! Since the race was so close to home, I was still able to go to a neighborhood Easter egg hunt that with the boys. This was another reason I wanted to run the shorter race. I would have still been in the woods running the second 5 miles otherwise. So until next time, keep on runnin’.