Tuesday, June 19, 2012

They said I’d never walk again…not without a cane at least

I sat on a bench being support crew at J’s swim race on Saturday and happen to glance down at my watch to notice the date…and then it struck me…around this date 13 years ago is when an Army doctor sat me down in his office and broke the news to me that due to my injuries, sustained during a training event while being assigned to the 1st Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment, my career and an Airborne Ranger Infantryman and soldier was over.
There is nothing "pimp" about canes
The quick skinny for the injury was during an exercise I turned the ankle about 100 degrees, inverted, in the wrong direction, making a horrendous noise in the process. The bone popping, crunching noise was so loud in fact that I was told later that one of my soldiers standing nearby vomited at the sound. Yes, terrible injury but every time I recall that story I laugh (ya, we’re not “right” people). Initially it was diagnosed as a Grade 3 Sprain (the worst you can have without breaking bone) and I went right into a boot…until the swelling came down…and then I started running again. First off, have you met me? Do you read this blog people? I'm not smart people. And secondly no one wants to look injured in front of their soldiers. Come to find out later, after the ankle never got better, that I had broken the Talus and the heads of the Tibia and Fibula, and had run on said breaks for almost 2 months (I apparently am not very smart and have a high tolerance for pain) and subsequently killed the bone tissue at the breaks because of the constant impact.

Flash forward to me sitting in the doc’s office, post medical review, being told me career was over. I was devastated. My world had come crashing down around me. The things I had taken the greatest joy in were now gone. Well, I do love food..so I immersed myself in pleasure through food. It wasn’t until I “blossomed” up to 245lbs a year later, having a difficult time just moving around and in constant pain that a subsequent trip to the doc revealed I ALSO broke L4, L5 and S1. When it rains it pours I guess… The doc broke the news that I needed to start using a cane, be prepared to use it for the foreseeable future and if the wear and tear continued that I should be prepared to get my back fused. Ya…NONE of the options were palatable. I went right to the web, looking for anything I could find about dealing with my back and found TONS of info on strengthening your core and all the muscles around the spine in order to keep it in line and pain free. Best way to do that is become ACTIVE and start to train and eat right. I found a chiropractor, a massage therapist, an acupuncturist, wrote myself a workout plan and got my fat butt back on the training wagon.

Flash forward to me standing by the water now, wishing I had swim clothes to race in and contemplating the route for my long run later today, bummed that I missed in opportunity for a double workout day, regularly racing 20+ events a year, training for my first Ultra and thoroughly enjoying being an ambassador for Polar Heart Rate Monitors and lululemon!

It has been a long, hard road but I’m always moving forward, trying to get better/faster/stronger and I’ll never quit. NEVER!

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Marborough Triathlon...my first in two years...

Ya, you heard that right. I couldn't believe it myself! I was so focused on Boston and doing as many Duathlons and longer distance run races last year that I didn't get in a single Triathlon!

What could bring me back the the event that includes my nemesis...(the water)? Well I was at Rev3 Quassy last weekend in support of J and seeing all my friends finish the line an hearing about their race and had the "and why the hell am I not here racing today?!" moment. So I did what any bone headed person would do...with no swimming or bike/brick training I found the closest triathlon to my house and signed up.

Look, if you've been reading this blog...you'd know I am not known for making the smartest training/racing choices. Of course, since I haven't been training, the best thing would be to get in a couple swim sessions before race day. The first was a pool swim which happened at the same time a USS and high school swim team were swimming and the lifeguard on duty was a swimmer. Imagine my deflator mouse-ness when I hit the end of a lap only to come out of the water with EVERYONE at the pool filled with tips for improving my stroke. Ugh.  The second swim session was an open water swim in similar lake conditions in a wetsuit to see how I'd feel. To be honest, I didn't feel any better about the choice to race...I actually felt worse. But I registered and I've only had one DNS (did not start) because of illness and I've never had a DNF (did not finish) so the only thing was to take a deep breath and do it. I mean its not like I've never done a Triathlon before.

So I show up on race day as the staff is setting up the race (um, I'm always that guy), met with Joe from 1BandID, (truly a great guy and an awesome product!) helped him set up, chatted a bit, got registered and got a rare joy as a racer...I was the first person in a porta-potty. I know it seems silly but normally when I hit the porta-potty its seen an Army, smells like a trash heap and is out of toilet paper! It really is the little things... you know.

This tri has a dual transition area, T1 is down by the water exit and you rode your bike to T2 for the run out. That was a little different and involved my engaging my less than powerful brain to figure out what needed to go where but my transitions were set up with an hour to spare (once again, that guy). The race was wetsuit legal (thank the Triathlon Gods) so I figured why not get in my wetsuit and go for a short swim of the course...which I realized as I entered the water... I've NEVER done before! I have no clue why I've never hit the water before the race but it was kind of nice. I calmed down a bit and got ready to race.

I kinda look like I know what I'm doing
500 yard swim -  10:30, 1:48 100 yard pace
My wave entered the water, 10 minutes after the first wave, and I figured I should move my way to the back of the group where guys are talking about "trying to not drown on the swim" so as not to get caught in the fray...only to look over my shoulder and realize there were twice as many guys behind me in the wave. Holy crap! Did every dude in my age group decide to race today? The horn goes off, we go and I find myself at the front of the pack! No need to worry about sighting because I could just follow the feet in front of me. We couldn't all drift off course right?! I actually swam over some guys! I focused on staying relaxed, breathing and using a long comfortable stroke. No, that isn't flying in the water but that's a pretty good pace for me. I actually exited the water with a grin on my face. Trust me, I NEVER smile when there's swimming involved! I exited the water 156th overall and headed on the long run to T1. For whatever reason I got a low number on was rack opposite from where I exited the water. To add to my joy, I actually beat J and some friends to my bike. Even they figured I'd be slower in the water! I got through T1 in 2:13. I had a pretty smooth transition but the long run from the water chewed up time.

That's like a legit race photo
15 mile bike - 49:07, 18.3 mph
The exit of T1 and mount point was at the bottom of a hill. A good sized one too that I would see 3 more times because the course was a 3 loop, 15 mile bike ride to T2. The bike course was hilly. Long steady climbs that really didn't have much time to recover before the next. There were two big down hills with hairpins turns at the bottom. I saw PLENTY of people pick bad lines and have to lock up the brakes to keep from overshooting. I picked a good line, stayed in aero and took the downhills and turns wide open. Come on people, that's a chance to pick up speed, time and get a little recovery. I'm disappointed with the bike time, I had hoped to be faster but to be honest I was redlining the whole ride. I did feel better that the guys in my AG that finished ahead of me only went 2 or 3 mph faster on the course. I entered the transition area 104th overall so at least I was catching folks. I got through T2 okay in 1:14. I set up a new pair of shoes with lace locks but forgot to lube up the shoe so I had trouble jamming my wet, sweaty foot into the shoes and getting them on. Took a swig of water and a deep breath and headed out of T2...right to the base on another long hill...sonuva!

3.3 mile run- 25:16, 7:40min
Remember when I said that the bike course was hilly? Ya, that stretched over into the run course too. It's just plain evil to start the run at the base of a hill you can't see the top of. I hadn't trained run/bike bricks so my legs felt like mush coming off the bike to face that hill. It wasn't the only hill on the short, 2 loop course either. Add in that the turn for lap two ran right by the finish...and up another hill. Sonuva!!! Into lap 2 my legs started to feel better and I started to get a better turn over just in time to run into the finish. I finished 1:28:17 (my swim wave started 10 minutes behind the 1st), 84th overall and 12th in my age group. Not a great day but not a bad day either. I was very happy with the swim and re-learned some lessons: bike/run bricks are key to length strength at a multi-sport race and you have to prep your gear in transitions. All are easy and fixanble. I wonder when the next local triathlon is?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I Reached the Beach...again...and it was even better second time.

For the unfamiliar, a quick primer: Reach the Beach is a 200 mile race over 24 hours, where you race as teams of 6 to 12, self supported. "Legs" are broken down by mileage/runner and the race folks set up and man "official transition points" where they note what runners are coming through and handing off the " baton" to the runner for the next leg. It has been said that RTB is less of a race than a 24 hour training run in a great environment with a bunch of your friends. I couldn’t agree more! This was my second, the first being the 2011 RTB New Hampshire which you can read about here, and even though I didn’t think it was possible, my 2012 RTB Massachusetts was 1000 times better. I owe that to my teammates, pictured to the left; Julia, Danielle, Jessie, Kelly and Ally. They made the 24 hours fly by and kept me in stitches the whole time.

My 1st leg, 7.53 miles, started at 4:45pm Friday afternoon. Living in the Massachusetts I didn’t think there are hills in the metrowest area of the state…ya, I was totally wrong about that! It was an extremely hilly course in the heat of the day. To be honest, I'm surprised it did it in 55 minutes (7:17 pace) because a couple of those climbs, especially the one where I was trying to look good for the photographer and blew by a runner only to take the turn and end up at the base of a huge hill, coupled with the heat literally took my breath away.

My 2nd leg, 8.2 miles started at 1:36am Saturday morning. As much as I wanted to get rest when our van came off our first set of legs I ended up doing stuff around the house (I live about 5 mile from our last leg in Hopkinton MA and my team ate and crashed there before our next turn) and only got about 45 minutes sleep before we had to hop in the van and head to the next set of legs. I was concerned that I didn’t get enough rest to do anything on the leg and then promptly went out and ran it in 1:17 (7:21 pace). I have to say though that I felt pretty good when I got handed the baton and took off. It was a chilly night with little to no wind, a few hills and it was quiet. All I heard was my footfall, my breathing and the 4 runners I caught and passed. I felt like a was running a lot faster but I’m happy with the pace. I handed off the baton and then the lack of sleep and adrenaline rush wore off…and I promptly racked out through the rest of my teammates legs and the drive to the “sleep spot” to wait for our last set of legs. Ugh.

My third leg, 3 "kills" so far...

My 3rd leg, 6.74 miles started at 10:50am later that same Saturday morning. I guess this is where the fatigue caught up to me because when I stepped off I felt like I was running in mud. Even for that early in the morning it seemed really hot. You had to run uphill about ¾ of a mile into the transition area at the end of the leg. To add insult to injury, that climb, in the heat, took runners right by a beef farm with open pits of silage. There is very little that makes me nauseous anymore but running wide open, up a hill at the end of 6+ mile run, in the heat, breathing heavy while being assaulted with the smell of cow crap and silage was a little too much for me. I don’t know who planned that leg but whoever it was…there are NOT nice people. I have to say that the only reason I didn’t puke on the side of the road was that I knew if I did, this run was gonna last even longer and I desperately wanted it to be over. Final leg done in 52:49 (7:50 pace) and now I can cheer on my teammates to the finish. On a side note, as good a time as I had, I could not have been more proud of myself when my bud Jordan came up to me after our legs and said that he saw me in front and tried to catch me but I was cooking and he couldn’t. He was probably just being nice considering he’s an Ironman finisher and a damn fast cat but I’ll take it as a very small victory for the old broken guys…

So another RTB is in the bag. After which I promptly went to sleep for 12 hours…bwahahahaha…see what I said about being an old broken guy? It’s funny when you realize later that day, and the days following, that the soreness, fatigue and runner’s gut was TOTALLY worth it because of the great team and experiences had. Now, I need to go look at registering for RTB New Hampshire in September…again…