Saturday, August 19, 2017

Next Steps In Life

I knew this day was coming for a while now, but somehow I was still slightly caught off guard.  Internally, I had prepared myself by going over what I believed to be all outcomes so that no matter which one came to reality I would be ready, but somehow I must have missed a subtle nuance.

As of last Tuesday, I am officially an empty nester.  Both of my children, now adults, are off to college.  So at least for 9 months, E- and I will be alone in our house with our two pups.

Both Rebbie and Matthew off to school

Given that Matthew is a junior this year, I have experienced a child leaving for school for several years now, but this year Rebekah is also in college.  It was both of them leaving that I had tried to prepare for.  While Matthew leaving during the school year was one thing, Rebekah leaving brought a whole new facet to it.  

You see, Rebekah is the spirit in our house.  Matthew, E-, and I all have brains that direct us toward the logical, mathematical side of the spectrum, like all the way to the end of that spectrum.  I truly believe that for us, we do not have a left and a right side to our brain, we are all left.

Rebekah on the other hand, while having all of the mathematical and logical talent that we have, has a right side that is very well developed.  She is our free thinker, our artist, our extrovert, our creative genius, our talker, our spirit.  When she is not in the house, it is eerily quiet.  As E- put it after Rebbie had moved to school, "The house feels strangely quiet tonight. Our passionate, creative, smart, talented, entertaining person left three engineers behind and we aren't that exciting without her."

Scientifically correct annotation of our brains

So with both of them off to college this year, I have not only lost a scientifically-directed person to sit and talk to, but I have lost that voice of creativity. 

I thought it would be easy.  Both E- and I are ready to be empty nesters, not because we want our kids to leave, but because we are excited for them.  We want to see where their plans and goals take them.  We are excited to see their successes and accomplishments as they continue their journeys.   Because we are so happy for them, I figured being at home without either of them would be pretty easy.  I was prepared.  I had this in the bag.

And I did.....  Until I went into their rooms to get the sheets off their bed to wash and to vacuum.  The quiet overwhelmed me even with the roar of the vacuum.  Let me tell you, there is a huge difference between your children not being at home overnight because they are staying at a friend's house and your children not being at home and knowing they will not be coming home in the morning.

My logical brain tried to figure this out.  What had I missed in my planning for this moment?  I went back over all outcomes and I had covered everything.  Then it dawned on me.  While my left side let me know that it was no longer as strong as usual because it had lost two key sources of input,  the puny right side of my brain that is usually hidden and strangled by the dominant left side, poked its head out to let me know that it no longer had its life support system that we call Rebekah.  I had not taken that into account over the last year or so of preparation.  I had failed to fully prepare myself for the definite hole left in my soul that has the exact same shape as Matthew and Rebekah.

Rebbie and her roomie
I am still not sad and I never will be.  I miss them terribly and I always will.  There is a difference.  One can miss someone with all their heart without being sad, but instead being happy and excited, and that is exactly how E- and I are right now.  I have always and still thank God for entrusting two wonderful, witty, smart, and enjoyable human beings to E- and I.  However, I have always known that neither one was truly "ours"; they belong to God, they are His children.  He allowed us to help raise them as best as we could and help prepare them for exactly this time in their lives.   I just hope that He feels like we did a good job.
The two Freshman (R and M's dog, Toby)


It is on to the next steps in our lives, whether that is becoming empty nesters or that is going to college and following dreams and setting goals.  I love you both Matthew and Rebekah and I always will, just as I will always miss you.  Do great things and make yourselves proud when you look back at your accomplishments.  

You have already made me proud to be your Dad.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Relearned Lessons

Warning:  This post is somewhat long.  Sorry. I culled things out, trust me.  I just have so much to say about the following.  If you want more info, see the link at the end or contact me.

Those that have been around me for a little while know about my family's and my involvement with Royal Family KIDS.  Royal Family KIDS is a national organization that supports week long camps across the country and in other countries now, for children ages 7-11 in the foster care system.  The week long camp is a chance for these campers, many abused, to be kids and hopefully forget for a little while of the pains and hurts that they have gone through in their short lives.  It is a week for those working at the camp to show the campers unconditional love and support for at least a brief timespan and create positive memories that they can hold onto in their roughest moments that may lay ahead.

I am a part of several teams in running, Fleet Feet Huntsville Racing Team, Team Nuun, FitFam, and the group of folks from my church that come together to run this camp is no different - we are a team with the goal of winning except, in this case, the definition of winning is that the campers have a wonderful week.  Just like any other team, there are fits and starts, but, as our camp director noted on Friday night after we had come back from the camp, at some point during the week usually about mid-week, the staff gels into one organism, moving and operating as one, fluidly filling in spots that are empty and need to be filled, usually without words or signals.  That organism protects, cares for, and loves the campers.  Being a part of a team is a wonderful thing, and every year I relearn that again at RFKIDS.  By the end of the week, I am proud to look around and see how well my team has done.  My wife and I are the Aunt and Uncle at the camp and by the end of the week, I actually feel like the campers' Uncle, but I also feel like the Uncle to the staff.

This was the first year, out of the 13 annual camps we have held here in our county, that our camp was actually a camp - held in the woods, sleeping in bunks, showering with critters in the bath house, walking on the trails, and canoeing, among other things.  Given this, it was almost as if it was being held for the first year again.  Everyone was a little hesitant of how the camp was going to go and on edge about ticks, stinging insects, injuries, and the weather, since a lot of the activities would be outside.  I do not believe that anyone else worries about things quite as much as I do.  I worried about sleeping accommodations, about how I was going to get up early and get ready before the kids were awake so I could see them first thing in the morning, about what I was going to do if it was rainy and muddy.  Internally, I was worried about everything.  Elizabeth, my wife, would say that much of that was externally shown and vocalized as well.   Even during the week, I worried over and over again about big things and about the smallest of things.  It is a wonder I don't have an ulcer at this point.

However, as I sit here two days after getting back, it hits me that also over and over again, I was shown by God that I need not have worried.  I was worried because of my limited thinking that I had to make sure things were taken care of, when in reality, God had it covered.  Looking back, I see how He had prepared things in advance and how He took care of things during the week.  I tried to make a list of those items that had been prepared in advance and a list of the little items that I did not need to worry about.  The lists are by no means all inclusive.  There are items that I did not even notice during the week that should be on these lists and my puny brain has missed many, but to give a hint of His awesomeness, I wanted to at least get some down on paper.

Those items that are more than coincidence to me:

  • Nuun donated water bottles for the campers (Thank you, thank you, thank you, Nuun) as we were going to need to make sure they stayed well hydrated.  I had asked for 24 because we would have 24 campers.  When I got the box, Nuun had sent 25.  That was okay, because usually we have one lost and so I would have a spare as a replacement.  Just before we went to camp, we found out that we would have 25 campers.  You don't understand the meltdowns that could potentially happen if all but one camper had received a bottle.  Since, for whatever reason, Nuun sent the extra bottle, every child had one.
  • Fleet Feet Huntsville donated hats for the campers (Again, thank you, thank you, thank you, FF).  Again, I had asked for some for the campers.  Dink and Suzanne let me know I could come and get them from the store and when I got there, they had laid out way more than I had asked for.  I went ahead and took two bags of them just in case they might be needed by the staff.  Once I had handed out the hats to the campers and to those on the staff that wanted one, I was left with only 5 unused hats.  Incredible.
  • Packing for this camp is an adventure every year for me.  I not only worry about making sure I have everything I need but I also help Elizabeth figure out what we need to take for the kids.  As I went through the days of packing (yes, you read that right, days, since I go over and over what I need to take and what I might be missing), there were several items that I kept debating whether to take or not.  In particular, there were two items that I had put away or crossed of the list that I felt like I wouldn't need and they would just take up space.  In both cases, I put them in our bags at the last minute.
    • Tegaderm - those that have wrecked on your bikes or taking a spill on a trail may know what Tegaderm is.  It is a type of adhesive bandage that completely covers burns and scrapes and keeps out dirt and water, yet allows the wound to breath and heal quicker.  At the first day at camp, one of the boy campers didn't think they were going to be able to swim (we swam 4 out of the 5 days by the way).  He had wrecked on his scooter and had a big fresh scrape on the back of his shoulder. When he told me and showed me, I went to my bag, pulled out the tegaderm, showed him what it was for, and told him we would put one on every day so he could swim.  The biggest smile came on his face as he realized he would be able to swim.  Right there was the reason for the last minute grab and pack of the Tegaderm.
    • Our single roller Addaday massager - Again, debated taking something like this to massage the campers legs.  Last minute, we threw it in our bags.  Turns out that there were several campers that the only thing that would settle them down was to lightly massage their backs.  This became a major tool for Aunt Elizabeth over the week and prevented several episodes.

Those worries we had that we need not have had:

  • Ticks, bug bites, chiggers, poison ivy, oh my: So, so worried about all of these with the campers.  Turns out, other than one or two, the campers had none.  Many on the staff on the other hand took the brunt of chiggers.  We had no reports of ticks that had actually bitten.  The fact that none of this impacted the campers was nothing short of a miracle.
  • Injuries walking on the stone paths, down steep hills, and on the trails: Not. One. Injury.  Why had I worried?
  • Rain and Heat.......  Let me start with the beginning of the week.  It rained all Sunday night and then stopped before the campers arrived.  Monday was cooler and overcast.  Tuesday was the only day of full sun, but not terribly hot.  Wednesday, the day for being on water in canoes, turned out to be cloudy and breezy.  Wonderful weather.  Little did we know at the time (we do not have electronics with us during the day) was that the remnants of Tropical Storm Cindy was heading our way.  Wednesday night is when we throw the kids a birthday party.  We do this because many have not ever had the chance to have one.  Our party this year was a luau party at the pool with some inflatables.  We were very worried that the heavy rain would get there and put a halt to the party.  As TS Cindy approached, someone looked at the radar and the rain was splitting just to the south of us so that, for the whole evening, we essentially stayed dry.  Not only that, but the rain didn't start until we were all back in the bunks and going to sleep.  For Thursday and Friday, we had no storms, had cool weather, and were able to do the remaining outside activities with no issues.  Praise the Lord!

So, given all of the above, what were the items that I relearned yet again?

I relearned not to worry about things I cannot control.  I worry.  I need not.
Teamwork moves mountains.  Rely on teammates to fill the spaces that need filled when you cannot.
If you think you will get tired, when giving unconditional love, you will never be tired.  You will be able to run and not grow weary.

Again, you do not realize how much the thoughts and prayers helped this past week.  Like the above, there were countless little examples where, when we look back leading up to the camp and during the camp, where it is blindingly obvious where God's hand was at work parting the waters and protecting the campers.  Having a prayer army behind us and in front of us did not go unnoticed during the week and gave us all peace during the times when we needed it the most.

Why do I support this camp?  While the campers may not be as well behaved as children that have a loving, stable family to develop in, their hearts are full of love and joy - it is just very hard to get them to let some of it out due to their mistrust and fear.  When it does peek through a little bit, it is as beautiful as the sun shining through the rain clouds and storm.  To see these moments of sun rays in their lives is worth it all.  For the last couple of nights, all I have dreamt about were the faces of the campers.  While this camp can exhaust you and impact your emotions, the days after, for me, are full of dichotomies.  I am tired, yet fully refreshed.  I am sad, yet joyful.  I am depressed, yet on cloud nine.  I am doubtful of their future, yet I trust.

If there is one thing I want to leave everyone with, it is the following.  Every chance you get, love and be nice.  You do not know what that person, that workmate, that family member, or that child has gone through leading up to when they were placed in your path.  They may be right in front of you at that exact moment to hear that word of encouragement, feel that hug, or see the love in your eyes that will turn them around and begin the process of getting out of the valley that they may currently be traveling through.

I truly love these campers and just hope they hold onto the memories from this year's camp.

If you would like more information on the Royal Family KIDS camps, please visit http://royalfamilykids.org




Saturday, May 13, 2017

Thoughts on my Mom

Tomorrow is Mother's Day.  It will be the second Momma's Day that has gone by since my Mom passed away in April 2016.  Thanks to Facebook memories, a post from my sister in 2013 popped up yesterday.  It was a picture of my Mom and she was wearing the James Clemens XC shirt that we had given her back when Rebbie was running cross country.  Seeing that post again, and remembering the great woman that Mom was, got me thinking about her and what she did for us over the years.  The following is just a small sample of random support and serving that Mom gave over the years.  If I tried to list everything, the list would be too large and I would inevitable forget a whole lot.  So, on this day before Mother's Day 2017, I am honoring my Mom with this.  I love you, Mom.


  • Teaching us to clean the house.  Not just to make us have chores, but she taught us that if we worked as a team, each doing our part, the job was done quickly and the job was done better
  • Letting us help cook even though I now know it slowed her down and made her job harder
  • Mowing the yard with us.  She didn't have to take her turns, but she did.  The whole team thing.
  • Bringing us out a nice cold glass of ice water when we were mowing
  • Teaching us to garden, along with Dad.  Also, teaching us how to graze in the garden (yum) :-)
  • Staying in the kitchen to cook dinner, some meals, while the rest of the family ate until we were all done.  Then she would sit down to eat.
  • Pitching to us out in the yard so we could practice baseball
  • Letting us have pets when we were growing up
  • Loving our pets as much as we did
  • Always knowing what to say to break up sibling fights; usually by telling us to go outside if we were going to fight.
  • Not getting too mad when we wrecked her cars
  • Playing board games with us a lot.  She was so much fun but, yet, competitive
  • Putting puzzles together with us
  • Reading her Bible every morning and leaving it out on the kitchen table so that we could read it when we got up to eat breakfast
  • Passing along her love of flowers and her love of cardinals and hummingbirds
  • Being an example of living a healthy life by walking every morning or riding her bike
  • Passing along the joy of listening to music
  • Passing along how good it feels to laugh, especially the laughs where you can't stop and you can't breath
  • Helping us study for tests
  • With Dad, always making sure we had what we needed without us being aware that we didn't have a whole lot of money
  • Making us feel special by having us take turns going to get groceries with her and letting us pick out a special cereal when it was our turn to go
  • Going to almost every sporting event, band concert or parade, theater event, or awards banquet that we had
  • Sitting in all sorts of nasty weather or hot weather to cheer me on in track and cross country
  • Being my "statistician" by keeping my splits for every race I ran in track and giving me the little notebooks that had all of this in them (I still remember going to pick out a nice stopwatch with her that she could use)
  • Coming to my jr high and freshman basketball games even when she knew I would likely never see action on the court
  • Passing along her excitement for the Christmas season and Christmas morning
  • Passing along her ability to go through all of my brothers' and sisters' names, and sometimes the pet's name, before getting to mine when she was calling me down from upstairs
  • Agreeing to buy me a drum set when I was in high school even though there would be the known consequences
  • Giving me my love for ice cream
  • Giving me my love for popcorn and how to properly make it on the stove
  • Teaching me how to be fiscally responsible no matter how much money one has
  • Teaching me how to joyfully serve others and how to help those that need help or support
  • Being a prime example of how to be a parent so that I could try to be the best Dad that I could be
  • Being hard on me when I needed it the most
  • Always letting me lay my head on her shoulder or lay in her lap
  • Always giving me kisses
  • Always telling me that she loved me
  • No matter the circumstances, no matter what I did, no matter how much I rebelled, no matter how rude I was to her, no matter the decisions I made that she didn't agree with, always being my Mom....
I love you, Bonnie Lou

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Mid-Life Crisis or Just Following Through

As some may know, I am getting old.  While many don't consider getting close to 50 as getting old, others likely do.  Around this time is when many folks go through their "mid-life crisis".  While this may actually be a thing, I think it is better described as a feeling of wanting to do something that one has always wanted to do rather than a crisis.

For instance, for a long time, I have wanted to get a tattoo.  I am adverse to needles and adverse to pain and doing something that involved both of these was a very hard thing to convince myself to do. My brain wanted it; my body, not so much.  Part of the procrastination in following through with getting a tattoo involved my indecisiveness with what to get for a design and worrying that I would not be happy with what I ended up getting.

Did I mention the pain part, too?

For the longest time, I would tell my family that when (i.e. if) I got a tattoo it would be the Warner Bros roadrunner, you know the one that Wile E. Coyote can never catch and the one that can run through painted on tunnels.  This tattoo would combine two of my passions, running and Warner Bros cartoons.

Fast forward to 2017.  Here I was 49 years old and closing in fast on 50.  Still no tattoo of roadrunner or of anything else.  I had had enough.  Call it a crisis if you want, I call it finally following through.

Back in Feb, I got my first tattoo; a trial run for the one I really wanted that was going to take longer to get.  My first one was a pretty quick one, took maybe 45 minutes at most.  It combined two of my passions as well, God and running.  It is a "painted cross" and I have my favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 40:31, as well as my marathon PR.   The pain, while there, was not as bad as my imagination had determined it would be.  It was pain, but in a weird way.  My mind couldn't quite place it.  Felt sort of like I was being cut, but yet I wasn't.  Odd.  I relied upon my mind's ability to relax and disassociate that I had honed over years of marathon training and racing, and quite honestly, I think it worked.  At least I didn't immediately cancel my appointment with Victor, the artist that was going to do my "main" tattoo, let me put it that way.

So, that brings me to yesterday.  It was the day.  The day I was getting the tattoo that I had wanted since I was in college.  While I was still getting a roadrunner, my earlier running persona that wanted the WB version had given way to my later running persona that wanted a more realistic version of a roadrunner.  This one was going on my calf and would consist of the roadrunner as well as the words "And when I run..." which is the first part of my favorite running related quote from the movie Chariot's of Fire, "And when I run, I feel His pleasure."

3+ hrs later and many mind games and much disassociation later, Victor from Blue Rose Tattoo had transformed my mind's vision into a true work of art that I get to carry around with me.  (Aside: if you are thinking about a tattoo, seriously, go see Victor @ Blue Rose)  I am not going to post a pic right now, I want it to heal and then I will post one.  I want to do it justice.  I am doing everything I can to make sure it heals properly so that I can show Victor's work off like it deserves.

So here I sit, my calf feeling like it was the only part of my body that was left out in the sun too long. My mind is still worrying that I won't like it even though I have already seen it after it was finished.  My mind is still worrying that I will do something to it while it is healing and will totally mess it up.  But I have finally followed through with something that I have wanted to do for a long, long time.  I am sort of proud of myself.  Did I mention that I am still worried I am going to mess it up?  Welcome to my mind...

So, if this is my mid-life crisis, so be it.  As E- has mentioned, it is better than blowing a lot of money on a sports car or buying a motorcycle and attempting to kill myself on it.  If this is my mid-life crisis, then I will take it.  However, it is not a crisis to me; it is giving in to something that I have wanted to do for a while.

Are any of you approaching your "mid-life crisis" point?  Anything you have wanted to do for a long time, and have just been putting off or talking yourself out of?


Friday, April 28, 2017

Random Musings

I haven't been doing any running since Boston yet.  Giving my hamstrings some rest, while still continuing my exercise ball and yoga workouts.  My brain hasn't been resting though as I have been having a lot of thoughts lately, some about my running and its future, some random, or so it seems.

The ones on my running future dominated my life in the week after Boston.  I was still on that "I finished Boston again!" mode and, unlike what I thought might happen, I was not disappointed in my time.  I think I had prepared myself as best as I could have to be happy with the experience and the finish because it was BOSTON!!  I have to give credit to my family and friends, and my extended running family and Fleet Feet Sports and Team Nuun family.  Not one of you complained, at least to me, about my posts and blogs related to my struggles with my hamstring.  Quite the opposite happened.  You all were so supportive and positive.  When I posted about considering taking my camera with me during Boston to get some pictures so that my family could see snippets of what I got to see during the marathon, I received so many positive comments along the lines of "Yes!  Do it!".

I received notes and talked to several people who said that my posting and openness about my injury struggles helped them with their struggles because they knew, then, that they were not in it alone and that there were others out there dealing with their own personal nemeses.  It is a humbling thing, especially to a person with introverted tendencies like myself, to have someone thank me for my transparency in my posts and tell me that it gave them peace in their struggles.  It is hard for me to accept such positive comments; for some reason, it makes me uncomfortable at the time, but just know that I appreciate it and I am glad to know that someone out there received some solace and confidence from my ramblings on my hamstring and my journey to Boston.  Also know that while I was running Boston, one of the main reasons I made it to the finish line was because I knew my family was waiting at the corner of Hereford and Boylston and I knew my running family was out there and had been following along in my struggles.  I couldn't let anyone down by not finishing!

Back to my "running future" thoughts.  My self-absorbed proudness over getting to Boston and finishing re-sparked my internal fire to train and actually race another marathon.  Over the past year or two, my desire for the hard training required for truly racing a marathon had been waning.  I believe it was mainly due to being injured and the frustration that I have had for close to a year now, but I wasn't sure that was the only reason.  Maybe it was my mind and body telling me that they were tired of the concentration and dedication needed for the rigorous training.  Maybe it was age creeping up on me.  In the week after Boston though, something had been stirred that has lit my drive to truly get healthy and then plan and execute a marathon racing cycle.  I feel the excitement again just thinking about racing a marathon to see if I can get another sub-3:00.  I know that I won't be able to get close to my PR, but maybe another low 2:50's is achievable or even another sub-2:50.  The point is that I haven't been having those thoughts much the last year or so, and it is nice to welcome them back.  I have to work on that "fully healthy" part first...

Now to the random thoughts. Most of my random thoughts have been about my family, specifically my Mom and Dad.  I was talking to my brother the other day, and he mentioned that Dad had been out working in the woods picking up limbs.  My sister told me that he had done it two days in a row.  I should mention that my Dad is close to 89 and has been through a lot both physically and mentally over the past years.  He went through treatments for colon cancer, leading up to having to have his colon removed.  He had spent the last many years helping to take care of my Mom, who had Parkinson's and Lewey Body dementia.  When she first started having issues, Dad took care of her at home until it became too hard for him to handle by himself.  Even after then, Dad spent a lot of time taking care of and visiting his one true love.  Mom passed away a little over a year ago and Dad has been dealing with that as well.  I must say this: as noted by friends of the family, Dad is a worker.  Always has been.  He worked hard to support a family of 6 kids.  He came home and worked hard at home.  He volunteered where he could as long as it was work!  Over the past year, he had spent more and more time inside and less outside working, so hearing that he had been back out working in the woods, his place of calmness, was great news.  My thoughts here, though, were of his dedication and work ethic.  While I am not going to sit here and say that I have his same work ethic because I am nowhere in his league, I do think that my ability to stay dedicated to training for marathons comes from his genes.  I appreciate him more and more every day and I wish I had given him more respect when I was a teenager than I did, which as many teenagers go, was almost none it seems.  I guess that is part of life and growing up.  When you are growing up, you don't realize how a simple misplaced word or mistimed snippy remark likely stings to a parent.  When you are a parent, you definitely realize it.  When you are grown up, or are at least at an age where you should be "grown up", you realize everything that your parents did for you or how much friends of the family and relatives did for you, and you wish you had told them thank you more often when you were younger or given them more hugs.  So thank you Dad, for being an example of what it means to love someone or something.  It means you will work hard, you will be dedicated, you will strive to make sure that they have what they need to achieve their goals.  You worked hard because you loved us more than anything.  I realize that now and I love you more for it.

Dad wasn't the only one that I have been thinking about though.  I have been thinking about Mom as well and the attributes she passed along by her example.  Like Dad, she worked hard at everything she did and made sure we had what we needed.  Even though she was as busy as Dad, she was always there at our sporting events, or church and school events.  She was not only her children's biggest fans, but she was other children's biggest fans as well.  She may not have been my friends' biological Mom, but she supported and rooted for them just the same as if they were.  I find her in me when I do the same for M- and R-'s friends or for JCHS soccer teams.  It makes me smile knowing that piece of her lives on in me.  In addition, her fight and her defiance for many years against the diseases that plagued her have driven me over those years.  While not even close to being the same battles, I have pulled from her that confidence and that never give up attitude and used it in my injury fight.  If I have half of her strength, I will make it.  Thank you Mom, for not only being an example of selfless love toward everyone, but being that example of perseverance and strength in the face of things not under your control.

These seemingly random thoughts about Mom and Dad are not quite so random, I am thinking.  Given that they are occurring more these past two weeks since Boston and given that I have that feeling that my fire is being rekindled for training, I think that my mind is trying to remind me of my roots.  It is telling me to remember what all my Mom and Dad have done for their kids and for those things that drove the fire in them.  It is telling me to pull from their work ethic, from their drive, from their strength, and use it in my life.  It is telling me that, while I may not have always earned it, I was given a great genetic gift from Mom and Dad, and I need use it like it is meant to be used.

What gifts were you given by your parents or from those in your past?  Are you using these gifts like they were meant to be used?  Are you drawing strength from those in the past and applying it to your life right now?

Oh....   And have you thanked your parents or those that raised you lately?  Have you told them you love them more than anything?  If not, I encourage you to do that.  Let them know they did a great job.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

I warned you Boston!

So those of you that taken the time to read my last couple of posts know more than you wanted to about my issues with my hamstrings.  You took the time to follow along with my fight back in order to make it to the starting line of Boston 2017 and, hopefully, to cross that famous finish line for my 5th time in 5 tries.

After struggling about whether to spend the additional money to make the trek back to Boston, I last left off deciding that I was going to go for it.  The plan was to run a slower pace than normal and nurse my legs to the finish.  I knew it was going to be one of the hardest marathons I have run in the 35 or so that I have entered just given the mental and physical strain related to my hammies and the severe lack of training that I had been able to do over the last 10 months.  But my mind had been made up, I was going to do it.  Whether my body would allow it is another question.

Old North Church
Before I get to the race itself, I need to ramble a little on Boston itself.  My family and I love Boston and going there to visit and see the sites.  My kids are the whole reason I signed up this year as they wanted to go back again.  I did too!  This was our first trip back since 2013 and the bombings.  Boston, once again, you did not disappoint.  We had another great visit.  This year we got to celebrate Easter at a service at the Old North Church!  Are you kidding me!!!  How awesome to sit in the same church where so much history has occurred and get to celebrate our risen Lord!  Lauren and Michele joined us, along with Lauren's cousin, and we had a really nice time.

Stayed at The Bostonian again
Of course, we spent the couple days leading up to Marathon Monday walking the city, but I didn't mind.  I was taking everything in as if it was my first time there.  Note: Of course we had to hit Mike's Pastries and Regina's pizza whenever we could.  And we put a hurting on a coffee shop in the North End called The Thinking Cup.  If you get a chance, go there!

Saturday, we hit the Expo and then I caught the end of the Team Nuun tag up.  I wish I could have made it earlier to the Nuun event, but the lines at the expo were ridiculous this year.  One great thing was that when we first got in line, Shalane Flanagan was standing right there!!  I was waiting to get a pic with her, next to another guy, when that other guy turned to me and said "Hi."  My response: "Hey, Ryan!"  Guys, I was standing right beside Ryan Hall!  He talked with me a little and I was able to get my pic with Ryan and Shalane!  How cool!
Ryan!
Shalane!



Our pic







While we were there, we had to hit the finish line for some photo ops also.  My kids and I reproduced our pic from previous Bostons.  It has become something we just have to do!  I love my family, did I ever tell you that?


Here is a little tidbit before I get to marathon day.  On Saturday morning, I went out for a little shakeout run.  I always run from the hotel, through the Commons and down to the finish line, and this year was no different.  I ran a couple blocks past the finish line and then turned around to go back.  I did not expect what happened next.  When I turned around to head back I saw the finish line structure and *everything* about 2013 came flooding back.  Tears instantly came to my eyes.  I probably looked like an idiot out there tearing up and it wasn't even the finish of the marathon yet.  While I think about 2013 quite often, I never expected it to hit me like a sledgehammer like it did.  To make matters worse, they were holding a service at the site of the first bomb and the Boston PD started playing bagpipes.  Jeez!!!  My insides were jelly.  I knew then that this was going to be hard, but that I needed to do everything I could to get to that finish line on Monday. That's right when I saw Kevin Rutherford, the Nuun CEO.  I went over and talked with him a little before heading back to the hotel and that calmed me back down a bit.

My boys, Daniel and Tim
Fast forward to Monday.  It was here.  I was so nervous.  I met up with Daniel and Tim and we headed to the holding area in Hopkinton.  It was hot! Well, relatively speaking it was.  In the 70's for the morning and going to be that temp and sunny the whole race.  I was glad that I wasn't planning on actually trying to race hard this year as those temps would have put a dent in those plans.   In my state of mind, I just wanted to get going on the road back to Boston.

Here's the neat thing about pre-race.  After waiting several hours, it was time to make the walk to the starting corrals.  When I got there, about 20 minutes before my start time, I looked over at the Korean Church that houses the elite athletes prior to their start.  Stretched across the front steps of the church, they had a banner telling the runners good luck.  On that banner, they had placed Isaiah 40:31, my favorite verse, and part of the verse was written out, including "...will run and not grow weary."  When I saw that, it was as if God immediately took away all of my stress, all of my worries, all of my negative thoughts, and replaced it all with calming peace.  I am sure that banner was not there for just me, but at that moment, it was.  It might as well have said "Don't worry, Jim.  I am here."

Bang! We were off.  I started off a little faster than I wanted due to the downhill first couple of miles, but I knew that would be okay.  I can't say that I felt good though.  Essentially, my quads were not feeling well from the first step.  So tired feeling.  At Mile 4, my legs were already feeling like they start feeling at about mile 21 in a normal marathon when I have had good training coming in.  This was not going to be easy....

One of the things I wanted to do this Boston was try to take everything in as much as I could.  I had even taken my phone so I could try to get some pictures as I ran so I could share them with my family and friends.  I have talked about the course so much, I wanted to share some of it.  Let me say one thing here:  taking pictures and videos while running a marathon is way harder than I was thinking.  I didn't get as many pictures as I wanted to due to this, so sorry to those wanting more.  About half way through, I decided that every once in a while, I was going to stop and ask a spectator to take my picture so that I could get the other runners or other sites behind me while I spread my arms as if to take it all in.  I wish I would have thought of this earlier as I would have done this at the start.  I wish I had a picture of that banner at the church in Hopkinton!!

So, back to the race.  I was at about mile 9 and my current thought was, "How am I going to make it 17 more miles...."  At that point, I tried to replace those thoughts with two things: 1) I knew Nuun had a tent somewhere between miles 17 and 18 and I just had to make it to them, and 2) My family was waiting for me at the turn onto Boylston and I could not let them down.

On I trudged....

The miles started to go by quicker even though my pace was slowing some.  I did realize that the little breaks I took fumbling with my phone to get some pics or videos gave me enough of a break from concentrating on the run to realize I could make it the next couple of miles, and that cycle continued...

Mile 17 approached and I started looking for that Nuun tent.  I made a pit stop at a medical tent to get some moleskin for a toe that was starting to bother me and then continued on, sweeping the sides of the course for that tent.  I passed where I thought it would be and started to worry that somehow I had missed it.  I will say one thing - if I had indeed missed it, I think I would have dropped out of the race sometime soon after that.  Honestly.

About that time, I saw a blue tent to the left of the course and I saw the Nuun "N".  Relief immediately swept over me.  I stopped, trying to smile, but likely not being too successful at it.  I asked them to refill my bottle I had been carrying with more Nuun Performance, which they did so without question.  For those that don't know, Performance is their new product for endurance events and it saved my butt this race with the temps.  I was worried about my legs and my hammies, but not once was I worried about my hydration or fuel since I carried Performance the whole way along with my Gu.  To all of you at the Nuun tent:  THANK YOU!!!  You literally saved my day at that point in time.  Jason, one of the Nuun folks there, was a smiling face of peace when I needed it most.  I spoke with him a little while I waited for my bottle of performance goodness and it was just what I needed to talk me off the ledge.  Once I had my bottle, it was back to the miles.

For the last 9 miles, it was periods of taking water cups and dumping them on my head, stopping every so often for a pic, and thinking about nothing more than getting to see my family.  I just had to get there, not only for myself, but for them.

Seeing the Citgo sign in the distance, which marks around the 1 mile to go mark, was one of the greatest sites I had seen while running Boston besides seeing the finish line itself.   At that point, I was certain I was going to cross the finish line; it might be by walking, but I was going to make it, and I was ecstatic.

After some more trudging, there it was.  The right onto Hereford, the slight uphill to my family, then the left onto Boylston and the run down to the greatest finish line I have had the pleasure of crossing.

I found my family and ran over to give them my bottle before I went down the finish stretch.  My daughter later made the comment that this was the only time I have come by them at Boston with a smile.  She was right; I had a big, goofy grin because my last 5 months of pain, stress, worrying were gone and I was finishing my 5th Boston!!!

I had done it.  It had not been easy before or during the race, but I had done it.  While my slowest marathon at 3:26:38, it was the most rewarding finish of them all.  This race had taken more out of me mentally and physically than any in the past.












What have I learned from this:

  • Patience is indeed a virtue.  It took patience for me to decide to run.  It took patience to get to the starting line.  And it took patience to get to that finish
  • Take it in.  I enjoyed taking pictures along the way and talking to some of the spectators.  I wasn't worried about the 5-6 minutes of time I probably lost in doing this.
  • You can do more than you think.  When it comes down to it, your body is amazing.  It will do what is needed when you ask it to.  Don't doubt it.

Thanks to everyone for putting up with my complaining along the way.  Thanks for being a sounding board.  Thanks for being that support.  Maybe you got something out of my journey that will help you in some struggle or unexpected life situation that you are facing or will face in the future.

It was personal, and I warned you Boston, that I was coming!  You threw your best at me, and I was able to take it.  You have once again taught me that, even at age 49, I am stronger than I think.

Friday, March 31, 2017

It's Still Personal (Yeah, Boston, I'm Coming For You)

  Those of you that read my last post know the warfare that I announced against my hammies.  Wanted to follow up to let all know how the battle is going and also just to voice my attack again in case my hamstrings missed it the first time.  Yeah, hammies, it's still personal.

  I continue to employ all of my tactics that I talked about last time, easy training, yoga, stretching, strengthening, Trigger Point therapy, visits with Dr. Houssain, playing with my dogs; you know everything I can think of.  It all continues to progress nicely.  I still have minor pain and some achiness now and then, but for the most part, my training continues.  More on that later....

  One thing I mentioned last time is how the last 9 months fighting my legs has introduced me to something that I have been wanting to try for a long time - yoga.  Yoga continues to bring me more joy than it probably should!  I am to the point that even if my legs are not hurting but I am feeling a little tired or a little anxious or a little stressed, I do a quick 10-15 minute sequence.  It amazes me how refreshed it makes me feel after a short 10 minutes on the mat.  It is becoming ingrained in my life.   I truly regret not finding the time for yoga earlier in my life.

  One new development has been that our Y has recently started BOGA classes - you know, essentially yoga on a floating board (think SUP).  My wife and a good friend of ours wanted to try it so we signed up for a 4 week class.  I could not make the first Friday's session due to my soccer announcing obligations, but did make it the past two weeks.  Oh my!  So hard, but so fun!  I now know that I have many more muscles than I thought because I had muscles making themselves known that I had never felt before.  Amazingly, the first week I went, I didn't fall off once - well, until at the end when we were practicing tree pose.  Yeah, I can barely do that on solid ground, let alone on a floating paddle board.  My tree pose practice consisted of trying to lift the one leg, followed by awkward moments of trying to catch my balance without falling off, then followed by my splashing into the pool.  I definitely see BOGA evenings with my wife more often.  The last class of the series is tonight and I am not going to be able to go, again, due to soccer announcing, and I am going to truly miss it.  If you have not tried a BOGA session yet, find one close to you and go.  You won't regret it.

 Now back to my training that I promised.  As you might recall, my 5th Boston has been on my radar, but my hamstrings just weren't cooperating.  Up until last weekend, I was pretty sure that it was not in the cards to go.  I was really bummed and I felt like I was letting down my family as they have been looking forward to going back to Boston for a while now.  It was really them that talked me into going again this year.  I was also bummed because I was not going to get to meet up with some of my Nuun HQ friends at Boston.  Oh, and yes, I was bummed about not getting to run Boston again.

  I kept putting off the final decision for as long as I could.  I had told my family that we likely would not be going.  I ran a local 10 miler a couple weeks ago just to see what it would do.  My plan was to run it "gently" and then try to add in 5 immediately afterwards to get 15 and see how my hamstrings felt.  During the race, which truly was a training run with a bunch of other friends for me, I had to really watch my pace and back off when my hamstrings would start to bring up that they were there.  I got the 15 in but it gave me no real confidence that I would be able to make 26 miles without a complete meltdown.  I pushed the decision off another week (agonizing the whole time) with my plan being to run an 18 miler the next weekend.  That next weekend came quickly and I set out on my long run.  I felt great until about mile 8.  From then until mile 14, it was a game of running until my hamstring started barking and then backing down for a while until it stopped.  Each time it barked, it barked a little louder and slightly longer.  Truly on the verge of tears during one of the worst episodes, when I had convinced myself that I needed to take a right turn off the greenway and head for home, I internally cursed at my hamstrings.  Yes, being honest here about being close to crying and about the cursing.  It is humbling when one realizes how much being able to freely run without injury means to one's self.  As I came up on the sidewalk where the turn for home would occur, and where my trip to Boston would officially cease to be, I had a weird sensation in my leg.  Weird in that the soreness and achiness immediately disappeared.  I can't explain the feeling exactly.  I do know that it was different.  So, instead of taking the turn, I convinced myself to keep going to see what might happen.  From that point, which was around mile 14, until I finished my run, I had zero soreness.  I ended up not only making the 18 miles, but I felt so good and so free that I tacked on 2 more miles to get me to 20, with the last 4 miles around 7:00 pace!  This long run, especially the last 6 miles, will stick in my mind for a long time.  By the end, I was again on the verge of tears (for anyone that saw me, it was the wind making my eyes water, I promise ;-), but this time from pure joy.

  Now, I didn't immediately make a Boston decision after this long run because I wanted to see how my hamstring responded over the next couple of days.  I would be lying if I said it has been fine and dandy since.  It has not.  It is more achy than it had been.  I have backed down on mileage, not that it has been real great for the last 9 months, and have been taking extra care with my legs.  However, based on my hamstrings' response, my confidence in going to Boston has gone from about 2% chance up to 98% chance at this point!  At this point, as long as a complete seizure doesn't occur in my hamstring, I think I can make it 26.2 miles and get to once again enjoy the pleasure of seeing the Boston finish line for a fifth time.  I have some options if I need to drop out, but I am sure hoping I do not have to use them.  We are going to Boston!!!  It will likely be my slowest marathon to date, if I am able to finish, but I really don't care.  I just want to toe that starting line and see the finish line pass beneath my feet.  If I can do that, I will be ecstatic.  That will be my victory at this point.  And, yes, there will be tears, just telling you now.

  How are your own personal struggles going?  Sticking with your warfare?  Having to adjust your tactics any?  Finding things you didn't know you would love so much?  Trying new things?

  Keep it up, no matter what your struggles are.  Don't let your struggles define you or stop you from fighting.  Toe that starting line with the plan being to cross that finish line.