Sunday, December 24, 2017

True Definition of Teammate

Something happened on my run this morning and I felt it deserved a little mention. It is not necessarily what happened that is the part that I wanted to publicize, but the person that initiated it. It was just another example of how a little, tiny thing can make someone's day and it was a great example of what being a teammate means.

I was in the 2nd mile of 7. This 7 was going to be my second longest run since October 1 due to my nagging injury. I don't know that I have mentioned that injury in past posts, have I? I will make sure I dedicate more posts later to my hamstring. :-)

Anyway, back to my run. As I came around a bend, a familiar face was running towards me. Now, if you know this person, you know the exact face I am talking about. Because no matter how long she has been running or how hard she has been running (it can be in the middle of a race), she always has the biggest, shining smile when she sees you. It has the power to instantly dissipate any and all anxiety, stress, and bad moods. It did its work again this morning.

But it is not her smile that prompted me to write this post. It was her actions as she passed by. How great it was for my soul to get a big "YEAH!" when she passed. It was that kind of "YEAH!" that I could feel came from her knowing how much I have been struggling with my injury and from her knowing how much it lifts my spirit to be out running, no matter the pace or the miles. It was that kind of yell that was genuine; she was truly happy for me.

That, my friends, is the definition of a teammate. It is not worrying how many races someone is running, their race times, how many miles someone is getting in. It is knowing their struggles, knowing how much it means to them to be back out there, and genuinely celebrating for them and with them.

It does not take much to be someone's teammate. While this person is my teammate both on the Huntsville Fleet Feet Racing Team and with RunningLane, she is more than that. She is a teammate in life, in getting through life's struggles and celebrating whatever victories can be found in this messed up world. And she is a teammate not by any grand actions or big shows. She is a teammate by her smile, by her wave, by her heartfelt "YEAH!" because she knows and understands. That's all it takes, folks. Trust me, that's all it takes.

So no matter what you are doing or where you are, be the best teammate possible. Be the best co-worker, the best athletic teammate, the best spouse, the best parent, the best child, the best boy/girlfriend, the best family member, the best fellow human you can be. Smile, wave, hug, but better yet, give that word of true celebration and encouragement that lets your teammates know that you listen, that you understand, and that you are truly happy for the little achievements over whatever struggles they are trying to put in their past.

So, thank you for being my teammate, Lauren Mitchell. And thanks, once again, for your beautiful smile and your "YEAH!" this morning. But more importantly, thank you for reminding me what it means to be a teammate.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Blessings From Being Injured. Wait... What?!?!

 Many of my posts over the last year or two have either been focused on or have mentioned my struggle with my injured hamstring.  It has kept me out of serious training for a while now and having a long term injury like this can be more mentally draining than anything it does to you physically.  I have found it very easy to become borderline depressed.  Not only am I somewhat mentally depressed because I cannot seem to get back to some level of regular training, but running is my stress release and is what I turn to when I need a break or when I need to sort out life in general.

 Sitting here this morning sipping my second cappuccino, I decided to focus not on the lowlights of being injured and those effects that struggling through an injury brings into one's head, but on blessings that have appeared in my life during the time I have been injured.  So here goes.  Some of these blessings I can put into words right now, some I cannot.

  • The biggest blessing that has been reinforced during this time has been my wife.  Time and time again, I realize and am shown that Elizabeth is probably the biggest blessing that God has given me in my life.  When I cannot run and spend the amount of time training I would like, I get to spend more time with her because I am not going to bed as early. I get to just hang with her more in the evenings and just be.  I offer up and go on more dates with her, even if it is just a date going to the grocery store to shop together.  When I do get a run in, they are shorter and slower, so she is more willing to ride her bike with me when I run.  Just more time I get to spend with her!
  • A blessing related to the going on more dates with Elizabeth is that I am more prone to hanging out with friends more often since I am not staying home to get to bed early.  Without that early morning training run calling, I can relax when we are out visiting with friends.
  • One thing that I have done over the many years I have been running is efficiently train my body and mind to be an early riser.  So, even when I am not training, my mind still is expecting to get things going early in the morning.  During an injury, I use this fact to get in to work early before most of my fellow workers get in.  I get so much done during this time that I feel less stressed during the rest of the work day.
  • Not being able to run has opened up my mind to engaging my body in new and alternate ways of exercising.  Yoga, cycling, strenghtening, walking the dogs - I now look for ways to get some form of exercise in to keep myself sane.
  • Meeting new people and establishing and reinforcing relationships with those professionals who are helping me recover from my injury and helping me in general.  While it is not good as to why I find myself in their office or talking to them, it is always good to establish these connections and develop new friendships and solidify those already established.  From all of the folks at Results Physiotherapy and SpineCare that I enjoy talking with and working with to looking into cultivating a coaching relationship with Will at Running Lane, I find that my sphere increases of those that I can turn to when I need help and hopefully, I lend some blessing into their lives as well since my main job here on Earth is to pass along blessings I receive to others.
  • Another blessing I have realized/rediscovered is the quantity of folks out there supporting me both in person and online. Their support does mean something to me.  Just the simple mention that they empathize with me and are rooting for me lifts my spirit on those days when my mood takes a hit.
  • In the view of my job being to pass along blessings, I have found more opportunities to connect and commiserate with others in their injuries and life struggles.  Just as others raise my spirit, I look for ways to lift theirs.  I look for ways in a simple text, a simple comment, a simple wave, a simple smile to pass along a blessing to someone else.  In some cases, it may be reflecting back a blessing that they gave to me in the past that they may not even realize they gave me. 

  I am sure that there are plenty of other blessings that I have been given during this time that I don't even realize I was given.  That's how life works; blessings wash over us and you would think we would recognize them and we don't.  Some are big, some are small, but they all weigh the same.  They all work to raise us up.  All of my blessings work to show me what I should truly focus on.  In this day and age of complaining about everything that happens in this world, or taking everything as a personal attack against one's self or one's beliefs, or attacking everyone that does not believe the same way or have the same values, I choose to focus on blessings, both received and given, and to focus on how I can take more of the blessings I have been given and reflect them back to others.  Just as my spirit is lifted by the hands of all of those that I personally know and by those that I don't, I want to be that extra set of hands that lift others up.  Being injured has shown me how I can be those hands.  I urge everyone else to think about life in the same way, be the light of support, not the darkness of complaint and affront.  Use your periods of injury or struggle to recognize blessings in your life.  When you start focusing on these blessings, your struggles have a harder time establishing a stronghold in your mind and you will have no choice but to pass along blessings to others.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fall in Love with the Weather

I am recently injured, again.  As it seems to be in the past years, my injuries that sideline me always occur right in the transition to wonderful Fall weather.  It kills me when I walk outside in the morning to take the dogs out and I feel the cool, Fall temps and breezes, the low humidity, and the general wonderfulness that fall weather brings.  Fall weather, true Fall weather is my absolute favorite.

I was able to get some walk/run time in this morning with the temps in the 50's, a nice morning sun covering me with just enough warmth to keep the full-blown chills off, but not so much to make me sweat or overheat.  A slight breeze blew, rustling the turning leaves on the trees and blowing the few that had fallen already across the yards and down the street.  How could one not be out in this weather?  I caught myself grinning, no, full scale smiling, as I walked and jogged in my neighborhood.  Something just felt absolutely perfect about my time outside.

This kind of weather, true Fall weather, does not appear for very long here in Alabama.  Typically we are afforded a couple weeks, maybe three in some years.  It is way too short for this boy since it is my favorite season.  The transition from heat and high humidity to a time of low humidity, cool breezes, and mid-range temps gives this old man some extra pep in my step.  It will be all too soon before the weather moves into the lower temps where extra clothes, hats, gloves are required and the rainy season and dreary weather of Winter move in.

While Spring brings cool temps as well, it is the transition heading toward Summer, so the humidity in Spring is rising as opposed to Fall's lowering humidity.  Given this, while I enjoy Spring, I know the overwhelming oppressiveness of Summer is coming so I cannot enjoy it as much.  Also, don't get me started on the Spring pollen season here in Alabama either!

Random Fact: Cappuccinos taste better in the Fall so it has that going for it as well

So, you may understand a little more my frustration with being injured during this brief window of the year.  I only have a limited time to get my fix of Fall weather and I am being limited once again.  Given this, I will not get my fill this Fall and will have to suffer through the other three seasons until I once again feel the humidity dropping, feel the temps dropping, and see the leaves dropping in a cooling breeze.

What's your favorite season and why?  Do you enjoy the transition seasons of Spring and Fall better or the full-blown Summer or Winter weather?  Whichever you enjoy the most, make sure to soak it in when you get the chance.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

This Road Looks Familiar. Too Familiar.

Three weeks ago it happened.  Again.  Hamstring cracked.  This time was pretty bad.  I was trying to just get back to the end of the run as slowly as I could without doing major damage.  About a quarter mile from the end and I felt it from the top of my hip down to below my knee; like a rubber band that suddenly stretched to its limit through the middle of my leg.  Knew then I was back to square 0 on my next road to recovery.

The problem was that this isn't a new road to recovery; it is one that I am quite familiar with, too much so,  and have grown bored with as far as scenery.  I don't want to travel this road again, but I must.

When I say I must, I am being literal here.  You see, I have no choice.  There are those out there, like some in my family, that always correct me when I say I have to go for a run.  They try to correct me by saying I don't *have* to go run, that I choose to go run.  That is just not the case.  I truly have to go run.  And to do that again, I must travel this same road, no matter how I hate it, how I hate the potholes in it, how I hate the overgrown grass on the side of the road.  My mind and my body do not allow anything else.  Running is part of me and dwells deep in my soul, attaching itself to every fiber of my life.  Others may think that after the past couple years of traveling and re-traveling this road that I could just give up running and take up other activities.  That is not possible.  I can't.

And so I find myself back at mile 1 of this road.  I am hitting it hard with PT and with their help, I will figure out the weaknesses in my body that contribute to stressing my hamstrings.  I am hitting it hard with  activities that I can do without causing undo stress on my hamstring while I strengthen it and the rest of my body.  I am looking into hiring a coach that can help guide my training once I get back to the point of a regular running routine again.

So after three weeks, I was given the go ahead by my therapist to try some walk/run this weekend.  Nothing too ambitious. Just jogging very slowly for 1 minute, separated by 5 minutes of walking.  This morning I hit the road to do this.  While I would like to say that everything was great, that isn't so.  I had some low grade pain from my hammie, but nothing sharp and nothing escalating.  We will see how it feels later today and into tomorrow.  While it was not perfect, it was another step down this road.

One day, I am planning on dragging out the "Road Closed" sign and placing it and some concrete barriers in front of this road so that I never have to travel this way again  Until that day, I will toil down this path making the best of it that I can.  I have some great people helping me along the way and I am finding additional great people that are helping smooth the road even more.

My prayer for all of you reading this is that you do not find yourself on this same road, or if you do, that you pass along it quickly, never to return.  Trust me, when this road becomes familiar, it is no fun.  I am not revisiting its path because I want to.  But given the hand I was dealt 3 weeks ago, I must.  There is no option for me.  And so I plod along, slow step by slow step, focusing not on the all-too familiar scenery this time, but on the small dot at the end of this road, my ultimate goal of strong and pain-free running.

I have no choice.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

I Can't Believe She Let Me Make It To 25 Years

Been a little while since my last post.  At last report, E- and I had just become empty nesters as both M- and R- had gone to college.  The next big thing in our lives just happened less than a week ago.  E- and I hit the 25th wedding anniversary level of our own real-life video game.  In reaching 25 years, I figured I would impart my wisdom to all of you on what it takes to get to that milestone.

Before I get to that list, I just want it to sink in a little more, mainly to me as I am still not sure I fully comprehend, that starting now I have been married to E- longer than I have not been married to her.  More than half of my life has been blessed because she said yes.

Now back to my wisdom in the form of a list of what it takes to get to your 25th wedding anniversary:

Number 1: Find someone who puts up with you and your antics and lets you stick around for 25 years.

Number 2:  There is no number 2.  Number 1 is it.  My wisdom ends there as number 1 is the sole reason I can think of for why I am still married to E- after 25 years.  It is nothing I have done other than love her.  It is all related to her ignoring me when I am being stupid, or better yet telling me I am being stupid and that I should stop.   It is all related to her loving me no matter what happens or what I do.  At least, I think she still loves me.  Hopefully she still does.  Otherwise, I don't know why she still puts herself through it.

Don't get me wrong.  I am sure there are plenty of days when E- does not like me at all, but I think she still loves me even in those times.  It is the only explanation for 25 years.  I do know and can easily state that I love her.  She is my life.  She is my joy.  She makes each and every day better.

Aside:  It is no coincidence that as I was typing the last paragraph, blink-182's Home is Such a Lonely Place came on. The lyrics "Home is such a lonely place without you.  Home is such a lonely place." describe how I feel when E- is away and not at home.   There is no "home" without her.  It is a house.  Each spot there is just a room.  It is a place to sleep and exist.  With her there though, it becomes a home.  A place that is safe.  A place that surrounds you in warmth and love.  A place that I never care to leave.

Done with the aside (but not blink-182).  Back to my list of one.  My advice to my kids and to others out there is find that someone that you know will put up with you.  I am sure E- has her own list, but this list of one is all I could rationalize as being worthy, from my point of view, of passing along.

If E- is willing, maybe I will be able to post 5, 10, or even 25 years from now with some additional items for my list.  Even if I get to those milestones, I am thinking my list will still just be this one item though.

Here's to 25 more

I love you, E-.  More than I probably convey to you or that you know.

PS:  After some deep thought, I have a Number 2 for my list of infinite wisdom.  Number 2:  Make sure that person in Number 1 is E-.

Sorry guys, I am the only one that can achieve Number 2.

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

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!

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.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

This Time It's Personal

As some may know from my past posts or rants on social media, my hamstrings have been giving me fits and starts for some time now.  I have, in the past, taken time off, gotten PT, and have done exercises given to me from my Doc, but I have never kept them up once healed, which is probably the exact reason why I have never fully healed.  I have gotten better to the point where I could race and run a marathon, but somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I knew I wasn't getting myself fully healed.  Thus, since the end of June 2016, one or both of my hamstrings have kept me sidelined.  Yep, you read that correctly, it's been 8 months; no serious training, no races, just soreness.

I have not been pleased with my hammies for some time now.

About a month ago, I had a mind shift.  I am not young like I used to be, and there are no quick recoveries anymore.  There likely are not going to be any more PRs in my future either.  I cannot stick with the status quo of training and injury recovery anymore.  So hammies, this time it's personal.

I have, for a long time now, thought that I should be doing more to increase my flexibility, upper body strength, and core strength.  Yoga always interested me because it would address all of these items if I gave it the time.  But the problem was I never gave it the time.  I have told myself that I should buy a trainer and ride more.  But the problem was I never followed through.  I gave up whenever I would tell myself to start doing either of these things.  I made excuses about not having time, when really, I had plenty.

So, part of my mind shift and attack on my hammies has been introducing yoga and core strengthening exercises as well as cycling on my trainer on days I don't run.  I have been doing these consistently over the past month.  Given I am still not back to running every day, I have been performing yoga in the early hours (usually with my two yoga buds Amy and Lacy).  I have been cycling after work on the days I don't run.  I have been doing my exercises and yoga in the evenings while watching hockey.  I have been paying more attention to keeping my pace slower when running even if my legs are not achy or sore because I know they are still healing.

My Yoga Buds

It is working.  My sly assault on my hamstrings appears to be paying off.  They are less achy and sore every day.  I am able to do yoga positions deeper than when I started.  My Doc, Dr. Houssain, recently made the comment that he was able to stretch my hamstrings farther than he has ever been able to since I have known him.  Mind you, those that are truly flexible would laugh at my tightness, but to me, there is a definite change.

My Assault Weapons

More importantly, by making exercises and yoga a priority, I am finding that I enjoy my time on the mat.  I look forward to it.  I find that my yoga sessions are getting longer and I am trying new positions that I would never have considered a month ago.  I bought a mat for at home and for at work.  I find it relaxing just rolling out my mat, knowing what is coming.  I grin slyly at my hamstrings because they have discovered that, indeed, this time it's personal, and they are scared because they know they are under attack from all angles.

Are you injured?  Are you looking for something to help with flexibility or core and upper body strengthening?  Are you tired of a particular part of your body hurting?  Then have a mind shift and find something that you have been wanting to do but keep making excuses that prevent you from doing it.  Attack whatever is holding you back.

Make it personal.