The Adventure Continues

Let’s begin with a quick refresher for those that do not know my past. Just over 4 years ago I traded a life full of heavy drinking and smoking for running. It was just that easy and it wasn’t just that easy. I told myself I would use running to help relieve the stress of not smoking, turns out it also helps relieve the stress for a great many other things. In a short time I found myself completing marathons. Although I wasn’t a speedster at it, I did cover the ground at the pace my body would let me.

That pace was around 5 hours. I went from couch to marathon in 200 days, so I figured fitness might have something to do with it. Press on, train harder and things should improve. I did just that and things didn’t improve, not for not training that’s for sure! I’d read much material via the internet and the trusty Runner’s World. There is an abundance of information for the novice to acquire. I did on occasion suffer an injury or two from running and would sit out the prescribed time for the injury to heal. When in the down mode, I’d read and learn more about running.

After two and half years and 6 marathons I was still not improving. At that point I decided to change up training as well as trying to not run a marathon for a while. I’d figured at this point that maybe I’d bitten off more than my body could handle. I whoa-ed up on the marathons and was trying to keep my base at half marathon distance. All was proceeding as planned in my maintaining base and not running marathons. I did however run a half marathon a month for 6 months and then started my full training. Now I have to state that I’d started running well more walking than running, but still I was covering a 5k loop in my neighborhood. As I gained strength with that I just widened the circle to increase miles. With that said, I’d figured in this training I’d slowly build up to some 20 milers and get stronger at those distances. 20 miles is where I’d been having all my troubles in marathons, so this type of training should help. As the training progressed I slowly noticed I was having trouble with breathing and heart rate during my runs. I chalked it up to pushing the body and creating a new endurance level.

Fatigue was becoming a player as well, again at the level that I was training I thought nothing of it. It wasn’t that fatigue was hitting me everyday, it would show up in training when normally I should have started feeling stronger. I altered the schedule to now only have one 20 miler. That in itself was struggle. The first attempt was just down right brutal, a tired I’d never experienced hit me during the run. I lost control of my breathing and the heart was racing uncontrollably. I gave credit to the warm summer day that happened upon my run, shake it off and try again. I did try again with not much success as the first time, I did however start earlier in the morning, but still lost control of breathing and the heart rate. Next up was my marathon.

2 weeks prior to the marathon I started not feeling well. Dr gave me meds to fight a sinus infection, not good news 2 weeks out. I’d also lost a lot of weight during the taper, not common in my past marathons. There was a lot going on, but not running the marathon wasn’t an idea. I ran the marathon weak and out of gas. It was a miserable grind that allowed me to get a severe case of bronchitis. More meds and more doctors. Things just continued spiral out of control. I did keep running throughout all of this, maybe not as much but did keep running.

While fighting what seemed to an endless supply sickness I kept training. I’d go to the doctor and I’d get diagnosed with something, handed meds and go on about my business. Problem was, I wasn’t getting better. Running was becoming more and more of a grind. Recovery days were not enough. I adjusted my schedule so I could continue to run by dropping my cross training activities. I would often think I was dieing of some sort of illness that was flying just under the doctors radar and wouldn’t be discovered until after my death.

Death, although I thought I heard it knock, never did make appearance. After 11 months of misdiagnosis there seems to be a valid diagnosis of Grave’s disease. Hyperactive thyroid for the most part. A new journey begins within my new journey. This thing could have been popping up its head off and on through out the last 7 or 8 years of my life and I just didn’t know it. When I was drinking and hungover I would have never considered this bad feeling to be anything but a hangover. I then quit smoking and started running. The thought of when the bad feeling did show up was, its either from transition to this new active life or just muscle ache and bad feeling from marathon training. Only until it got completely out of hand did it get the attention it needed.

I still run and its not comfortable like it once was or that I know it to be, but I do run. I’m hoping with treatment that my running will once again be pleasant and productive. This revitalization of my blog will be a chronicling of this new adventure within my new adventure. Even though at times I felt I could not physically go on, some how I’ve managed to continue. Must be the marathoner in me. No matter how bad the pain or suck, if you just keep moving it will get better.



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Ocala Marathon

       Catching up a bit from the first marathon. My first marathon was in Ocala Fl in Jan of 2012, I’d been running just over 6 months at the time. That’s the same amount of time I’d put down my addictions  and picked up running. I was partly inspired to do a marathon by my brother being deployed to Afghanistan.

       I thought it would be cool if we ran a marathon together prior to his deployment. I’d read about other brothers doing such in the Runner’s World magazine. I assure you it wasn’t an idea that I would have come up with on my own. The day I decided that I would try this feat was the day after I’d run my longest distance, that was a 10K. My goal in the 10K was break an hour, I’d done that and I guess I thought I could do anything because of that. At the time I do think I was too ignorant to know that maybe this wasn’t the best idea. I found a 16 week training plan and started out on my way.

        Early on wasn’t bad, it was a rookie plan and the first couple of weeks were more like training for a 10K and I’d already run one of those so confidence was solid. 4 weeks into training is when it started to get interesting and troublesome at the same time. In just a short 4 week period I’d gone from running 16-18 miles a week to well over 20. It felt good to see my weekly mileage ramp up, which helped fuel the desire to keep going.

         As I continued into the 6th week of training my brother let me know that due to prepping for deployment he wouldn’t be able to train for the marathon. I was 2 weeks away from a half marathon and wasn’t going to let what training I’d done go to waste. I’d decide after the half if I would continue training for the full. As it worked out the half fell on the same weekend I scheduled to run 13-14 miles anyway. I’d been training at almost an 11 minute pace and was thinking the half would be a training run.

        I completed the half in just over 2 hours and can’t really describe how great that felt. I can tell you I didn’t feel like doing much else the next couple of days, but followed the plan and did my recovery run and cross training as scheduled. This is point that I noticed it started feeling better to run after a hard run to eliminate soreness. Soreness is loosely defined at this point due to the fact the 3.5 months prior I was a couch riding, beer drinking smoker. My entire body stayed sore, again my ignorance allowed me to keep going.

          I would keep going after asking my brother if he would be at the finish line if I signed up for the marathon. He agreed, I signed up and found that mileage above 15 would become a wall. 3 attempts to run 15 miles before I conquered it and that 3rd time I ran past 15 and logged 17. Perseverance was the only option I had. As I was training in those long lonely miles there was a lot going on. I was leaving behind me a life that had a grave rapidly approaching me and my brother was giving up a year of his life for our country away from family and friends. The least I could was run a little bit.

        Run a little bit I did. I fought many demons in that training. I wanted to have run a 20 mile long run in training and that would be thwarted by a chest cold that had set in on me. Another reward from 29 years of smoking. After not getting that long run in and beginning the taper, doubt appeared from every available place possible. I kept going through the motions of training but doubt ruled the last 2 weeks. An experienced runner friend of mine became my support those last few days. She talked me into continuing more times than she will ever know. As the date rapidly approached I viewed life with much optimism.

         The night before I was to depart optimism would disappear and be replaced by fear. After many years of abusing alcohol lets say after 6 months without i,t things can get interesting. I viewed things in a very negative way and decided to not go. I worried so much about the decision I couldn’t sleep and felt it would be best to drive to Fl and see my brother off and just not run.

        About 4 hours into the drive to Fl, recollecting all the struggle during training the fire to run was reignited. I continued on to Fl tired mentally but ready to take on a marathon. Mentally prepping for the marathon I was hoping to finish in 4.5 hours, I ran a half in just over 2 hours, why not 4.5 hours for a full? Onward to Ocala with renewed enthusiasm.

              As I approached Ocala I was beginning to get scared at all the flatness. I live in the foothills of NC, flat is an incline either up or down. Onward I went finding more reasons to doubt the finish again. Luckily as I drew nearer to Ocala the rolling hills of central Fl appeared.  Confidence returned slowly, but did return. I referred to ignorance several times and will here again. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I knew I’d trained best I could, I had support from everybody but me at times. All you have to do is just run, get the medal and celebrate. How hard could that be?

               Really hard! I felt great until mile 14, I’d been pacing at just under 10 mins a mile. Lets say training at 11 and running at 9:45 might not be the best approach for a runner running their first marathon at 200 days of running. Yea, I know all sounds crazy when you read that way. It was all real to me. Again, I didn’t know that this couldn’t be done. Mile 16 is when I found out about managing energy for the long run.

               Mile 16 is where I started the walk run, still optimistic at this point. I’d read about people having to do this. My ego was suffering a blow because my goal was to run the whole thing through. Forward I went struggling through the miles. When I got to mile 19 I had reason to celebrate, I’d never covered that much distance before. After a quick woo hoo there was a spark in my legs and I was able to run some more.

                What also helped in my running was the fact that my brother and his family were moving around the course to give me support. As I approached each hill I kept thinking they’d be just on the other side of it. I would jog up the hills and once seeing they weren’t there would get my walk in, yes I would walk the down side. Backwards, but remember I do not know that I do not know how to do this. At mile 23 one of the volunteers told me all I had left was a 5K, at that point 5K and 100K had the same mental distance. Really, really far away. For the next 2 miles I looked at every police car, ambulance, and volunteer vehicle that was going the same direction I was and thinking all you have to do is get in and end the pain.

                 Dropping out and ending the pain was persistent and when at a 15 min pace those thoughts are loud and often. With 1 mile to go I really wanted to just stand there. I had covered 25 miles and only had been running 6 months I was good that. I was exhausted. A woman passed by me and said “Come on! If we continue we can get a sub 5!” It was if she owned my auto pilot at that point. No other thought entered my head except to follow her. Again quitting seemed to be the left step thought and finish became the right step thought. With 1/4 mile left I figured I would show my kick, after all that I’d just done I thought I still had some left in the tank.

              What I had left in the tank was enough to continue to shuffle along at what I thought was a running pace. I’m not sure my feet were even getting of the ground. Across the finish line I went and pain disappeared to be replaced by joy and invincibility. Yes after all those miles of wanting to stop, I’d just become invincible running/crawling my way to a 5 hour marathon. I was afraid to sit too long for fear of locking up. It wasn’t a large marathon and I was 131 out of 176 so the crowd had already moved on to the refreshments and entertainment. That was fine by me, because my brother and family were at the finish line and that was our deal.

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