168 races ago, I ran my first race, the 2012 Undy 5000 here in St. Louis. I had finished two surgeries less than 90 days earlier, curing me of colon cancer. I’ve been running ever since…
After a few weeks of furious fundraising, yesterday morning was when the rubber was to hit the road. It was really cloudy, and felt like it was going to rain all morning. The rain held off, which was a shame. I love running in the rain!
I started off the morning with coffee and an old fashioned from the Donut Palace of Ellisville. They were hosting a fundraiser for Backstoppers, and had uniformed officers serving doughnuts to the public. It was a fun time, and I was happy to donate to the cause.
Doughnut in tummy, and coffee in hand, I headed down the road to Forest Park. If you’ve read a few of these blog entries over the years, you know I have a love-hate relationship with running in the park. It’s not awful, depending the course the race directors select, but even the easiest course has plenty of up-and-down rolling hills.
I picked up my race bib, survivor shirt and undies, and got myself all dolled up in my colon cancer clothing. This is the first time I’ve worn all the freebies, but it felt right this morning, and frankly, it all fit, which is a plus.
As opening ceremonies began, Darla texted me to let me know she was on the grounds. This was a surprise, as I wasn’t expecting her to come by. We listened as Roche Madden — a CRC survivor himself — talked about the race and fundraising. As a group, we raised about $150k, and continued to be one of the largest Undy events, at about 1500 registered racers. Way cool.
I meandered toward the start line, playing “rebel without a clue” by putting myself closer to the front of the pack than the back. As it ends up, that was a great move, and let me pass some folks, and not get passed by quite so many. Running is a mental game, right?
About a third of the way through, some stranger tapped me on the shoulder as he was passing me, and told me I was doing great. I assume the “Survivor” emblazoned on the back of my shirt made him take the couple of seconds to say hello. I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it… I love the running community.
Darla made some new friends, and as I got close to the finish line, I could hear them all cheering for me. Man, that is such a rush!
I finished the race in what was a pretty good time for me. This race is more an event than a race, and while there are some folks that are in it to win it, there’s a lot of folks that are just walking, talking and memorializing folks that have been stricken by colon cancer. This usually makes my results look far more impressive than they actually are!
We stuck around for the awards ceremony, and listened to one survivor tell his tale. Seventy-six of us were brought forward, and received survivor’s medals for running the race. I’m always full of emotion at that part of the day, but it’s so cool to see so many folks who have fought the fight, and won.
Next year will be my seventh Undy, and I’m sure I’ll be there for it. I hope to have some folks come along for the ride next year!!!!
Last night, I took off on my first neighborhood adventure since returning from Gasparilla. And that wasn’t by choice. Over two weeks of being sidelined by the flu really took its toll. I knew I needed to get out last night — it was a rare 86° degree night! — but, I also knew I needed to take it easy, given what my body had been through since the beginning of the month.
After work, I pulled my running shoes on, and set out on one of my 5k courses. I was surprised at how easy it came — must be like riding a bike, eh? — and although it was definitely hotter than my comfort zone outside, I chugged along.
On this course, I have an option to take on a big hill on Clayton Road, or to turn around at the top of the hill, and fill in the missing distance by taking a detour on Wren Trail. I was feeling kinda froggy, so I decided on the hill.
I’m glad I did.
It’s so very easy to take the less challenging path. I mean, who’s gonna know? At the end of course, it’s still 5k, right? But yesterday, I had something to prove. I got kicked by this illness — hard! — and I needed to show myself that while I was down for a while, I wasn’t out, and I could once again take on these kinds of challenges.
I got to my turnaround point at the bottom of the hill, looked up the hill once, staring it down, and began putting one foot in front of the other. The next time I looked up from the sidewalk, I was almost finished climbing… and that was an awesome feeling!
And with the hill behind me, the rest of the course was relatively flat and easy. I finished up, with a slow finishing time — but speed wasn’t the point of last night. Last night was about finishing something I started, and continuing to fight for every mile I can!
At the end of the year, I always have a bucket of medals from virtual races that I just didn’t find time for during the year. This last year was particularly bad, with injuries, cold weather and me kinda falling off the wagon a little. This is one of those race. Prepare for more in the coming weeks!
I’ve been a Prince fan since Purple Rain was released. I’d heard of him before that, of course, and I enjoyed some of his later music, but there was something special about that music and that film at that time. It was a tumultuous era for me, with girlfriends and breakups, and me beginning to lay the foundation for who I’d become as an independent adult. I needed that music then. I couldn’t tell ya how many times I saw the film during its first run, nor how many times I lit up the CD. I think “a lot” comes to mind. 🙂
In fact, most of my runs start with the extended version of “Let’s Go Crazy” from the film. It’s eight minutes of fun, and is big, bouncy, and gets my mind in the right place for getting the miles laid down.
Friday night, after work, I decided I needed to get some miles in the books. This year has been abysmal, with no where near enough miles, and knowing that I was facing a half marathon on the near horizon, I had to get out.
Careful readers will remember that my last outing had me sporting some knee issues. Knowing that, I put my knee brace on, and even with the cold weather, I only had one slight twinge, and that was when my brace had slipped a bit. No biggie, and after a few minutes, I was on my way.
In truth, this was the best outing I’d had in a while, and has put me in a good frame of mind for my upcoming half in Mississippi. But, more on that later!
This past weekend marked two big anniversaries for me.
The first was the 31st anniversary of my entering the Air Force. I was a lanky, introverted 22-year-old that had never left home, and only had a couple of jobs under my belt. I barely had a work ethic, and certainly had never worked with any organization with the impact that the USAF had. The impact was on me though… Joining the military was the best career move I ever made, and taught me a ton of extraordinarily valuable lessons that would shape me into the person I am today.
And forever linked at the hip to that anniversary is the anniversary of the Challenger disaster. I can remember being at the MEPS station in Knoxville TN, watching the lift off of Challenger, and stepping away to the restroom, only to return to everyone in the room being stunned by what had transpired in those few minutes.
And then I was whisked away to Lackland AFB for basic training, and the obligatory blackout that (at that time) came with that.
None of us knew what had happened to Challenger. There were rumors running around that it was sabotaged by the Soviets (yes, kids, there was still a Soviet Union at that time!). Practically any rumor you could imagine was crawling among us newly minted airmen. When we’d go to classes, we’d ask our instructors for information about the investigation, but of course, there was much to say in those first few weeks.
And in the most chilling of moments, I remember the sirens accidentally being activated across the base while we were in the dorms. We quickly began scrambling to put mattresses in the windows to protect from whatever might be coming. That was probably the closest I’ve come to genuinely believing I was done for. Of course, we quickly heard that firing the sirens was an accident, and nothing was going on… but still.
So, with that as the backdrop, I selected the Captain’s Run to chase yesterday. Marvel has brought Captain America to life in the recent films, and he’s quickly become my favorite Avenger. He harkens back to simpler times, with a good dose of common sense, which, at times, seems to be missing nowadays. Why not run a race inspired by him? 🙂
I started out of the house, and it was a cold 35°, with a blustery wind that just didn’t wanna quit. Add to that a pretty good base of clouds, and it was obvious that some of the cold weather gear needed to come out with me. However, I didn’t put on my knee brace. Remember that — it’ll be important later.
As I usually do, I took the first half kilometer at a brisk walk to warm up, quickly deciding to stretch that to about thee-quarters km to make sure I was ready, and I started jangling my ungraceful self down the sidewalk.
And then my knee barked at me.
My left knee has been sore off an on for a couple of months. I don’t know if there was a specific injury that’s caused the pain — nothing stupid that I’ve done comes to mind — but from time to time, it’s painful for a little bit of an outing. The first time I remember this pain was at the turn around point for Flat as a Pancake back in September 2015. I was going around a pylon at the turnaround, with my left leg on the outside (as I remember), and I came out of that with horrible pain. It’s come and gone since then.
Wearing a knee brace seems to help, and with the cold weather, I should’ve worn my brace — in fact, I should probably be wearing it around the house. I didn’t, and I’m sure that’s why I noticed this pain yesterday. Note to self…
I got through my neighborhood course, though, enjoying the brisk temperatures, and just being outside in the showiness of nature (thanks Reverend Lovejoy!). It was glorious, and nice to be back out there again.
Seriously, I’m gonna do more outings more frequently. Really. Honest!
Here it is … the middle of January. And this is my first run of the year. In fact, it’s my first run in about five weeks.
And I’ve missed it.
Sometimes, life just gets in the way of running, especially this time of year. There are holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weather … and sometimes, a little too much real life drama. That’s what happened with me. Every day, I’d pledge that I was gonna go out on my neighborhood 5K tromp, and every day, something would eclipse that. As a result, I have a box of medals for virtual races I have not yet run. You’re gonna see some oldies that should’ve been run in 2016 float by.
But not this one. This one was actually on-time!
The Moon Joggers group is a crazy-supportive collection of runners from all over the world, and it was with them that I first started running these virtual races. The MJ’s are gathering in Utah this summer for the AF Canyon race (half marathon for me), renting a vacation home for a few days, and just reveling in the company of like-minded folks for a while. I can’t wait! This race was a fund raiser to help with some of the costs associated with the MJ presence at that race.
Like every other day for the last five weeks, I started my day with the best of intentions, thinking I’d go for a run at lunch, only to find myself staying indoors, taking in some chili. It was cold and raw at lunch, and that ended up being the deciding factor in staying in.
Though the afternoon, I’d seen one of my Facebook running friends having a struggle with her running, and I chimed in with some of my thoughts about life, the universe, and everything. And ya know what? All that inspired me to run after work.
Now, it’s wintertime here in Da Lou, which means the Sun sets pretty dang early, leaving precious little daylight after work for me to cram in five kilometers of distance at my pace. Immediately after work, I went upstairs, got changed into my running gear (including a rain slicker), and put myself outside.
It was sprinkling, and I’d intentionally gone out without music so I could listen to the world around me in the glory of the rain. I love running in the rain, but it’s pretty easy to miss all the nuances of a gentle rainfall with earbuds plugged in. I set out at a brisk pace, and just looked and listened as I went through the neighborhood. I could hear thunder off in the east, and wondered if I was gonna get drenched. (I didn’t, btw, although I did have a pretty good downpour for about five minutes.)
It was glorious.
Back on the road. Outside again after a long winter’s nap. And with an amazing sense of completion after so long away from the great outdoors I love so much. It was a great run with which to begin 2017!
Over the last year, I’ve run for the shooting tragedies in Paris, Orlando and Chattanooga. I’ve run to bring awareness and benefit to the folks suffering through a water crisis in Flint MI. I’ve run to raise money for colon cancer awareness, cures and support. And as always, I’ve run in honor of our military, and in remembrance of 9/11.
And now once again, I’ve run to help aid folks in distress. This time, it’s for the folks in the Smokies, who’ve dealt with the biggest wildfire tragedy in that area in a century.
The images and videos folks have posted, especially of Gatlinburg, have been heart-wrenching. It looks otherworldly. The mountains there are covered in fire, looking like something out of an apocalyptic filmmaker’s story. It just doesn’t seem possible that this is happening in east Tennessee.
When Vacation Races and Virtual Running Club sent out an email blast about this race over the weekend, I knew I had to sign up. I needed to do something to help. And with this race, 100% of the proceeds are going to one of four charities that are active in the area. I chose Dolly Parton’s “My People Fund”.
Saturday, I did my miles for this race, taking things slow, as this was my first time out on trail after my calf blowout in Tulsa. I followed my rule of petting every dog I saw, which kept my pace down. And although I felt a little tightening in my right calf, it wasn’t too bad. I believe I need to get out there more this week, and put a few more miles on my leg to see how I’m recovering.
And in fairness, that’s what east Tennessee is gonna do, too. They’ll assess what’s happened, pick up the pieces, and go right back out there, doing what they do. I know that the any resilience that I have came from being raised in that region. It’s part of the very air there, and I know they’ll recover, and be stronger for it.
Yesterday, I motored into Tulsa for a weekend of Route 66 races. However, before racing, I had some work to do.
I got into town around lunchtime, got checked into the hotel (painless!), and walked to the Cox Business Center, where the expo was being held.
First stop, the volunteer checkin table. This is the second year I’ve volunteered at the expo, and I really enjoy it. The folks at Route 66 really make it attractive too — for volunteering, you get a medal that’s as big as the 5K medal. That’s a huge incentive, and I’m sure that makes it easy for them to attract the almost 2000 volunteers that make the race happen.
After getting checked in, I went to pick up my bibs. Last year, this was a real challenge. I volunteered there last year, and I was a whirling dervish, running up and down the boxes of bibs, finding folks’ bibs. This year, they had separate kiosks broken up by bib number. In my case I had to stop three times to get my three bibs, but it really worked sooooo much better!
Next stop was my stint was at the Fan Zone table. We helped folks make signs to cheer on their runners — or strangers! In fairness, there weren’t very many people in the expo at that time, so it was pretty slow. After six hours of driving and three hours of being on my feet, I was ready to be done.
But, I wasn’t done yet.
For the second year, I participated in the Blogger’s Forum. This is always an odd thing for me. I’m just a guy who writes what’s in his head, tries to write like I speak, and do my best to keep things positive. Last year and this, there were big-traffic bloggers sharing the stage with me. And they’re pros, knowing how to market themselves and their art — there’s nothing wrong with that! — and there I am talking about this crazy little blog that gets a small amount of traffic. And just like that, something cool happens…
Man, that just makes it all worthwhile! I met Jeremy after the panel, when he told me he was gonna run the half next year because of what I talked about. Put that medals aside, that’s the real reward from this weekend’s events. I’m still blown away!
(Guess I’ll have to come back next year, and cheer Jeremy on!)
I walked back to the hotel after the panel, having all my non-race obligations completed, and started to think about dinner. This is when I discovered that the hotel doesn’t have room service. 🙁 However, I saw a place that deals in Coney dogs on my walk back. I’m a sucker for a good dog, so I crossed the street, and walked in.
From what I’d read on Yelp, the right way to do this was to order three of ’em, so I did. I got them back to the hotel, and they were crazy good. Their version of chili is a little different than mine, but that’s ok with me!
Fast-forward to this morning, and it was oddly, all nerves again. This is the third time I’ve run the 5k here, and I know it is a hilly mess, but for some reason, those hills had me nervous. I pulled up my big-boy underpants, girded my loins, and headed out to the start line.
For a change, I didn’t get to the start line too terribly early (I’m only two blocks away), and didn’t have to wait in the cold too long. It was 32°, and I was using today to figure out what I needed to wear tomorrow. As it ends up, I was able to do shorts, and be very comfy, so that bodes well for tomorrow.
After a short wait, the gun fired, and we were on our way. This race has a few really big hills in it, and the first is less than a kilometer in. I trotted up it like I owned it, enjoying the view of almost 2000 runners on the course. About two kilometers in, my calves started barking pretty hard — the worst in quite a while. (More on that later.) Around 4km in, my legs were doing pretty well, and from there, it’s downhill and then flat. I was in the home stretch, and pretty quickly had the finish line in site.
The Fun Run starts about an hour after the 5k starts, so I bypassed the treats and goodies at the end of the race, and found my way over to the starting line once again. This crowd was much smaller — both in numbers and stature. There are a ton of kids that run in this race, and it’s just a hoot to see them tackle this. Some of them make it, some get carried by a parent, but it’s a great, positive experience, and with them all getting medals and high-fives from costumed mascots, it’s something they’ll never forget.
By the time the Fun Run is over, all the food lines for the 5k are really gone, so I ended up with just a couple of sacks of cashews. However, the beer truck was still serving, and I had four coupons (two from each bib). I turned in my first two, found a bench, and started drinking my Michelob Ultra’s. I chatted with some other finisher’s, each of us slowly putting down our brews.
I’d asked one of the locals where they’d suggest to go for lunch. They rapidly came up with Caz’s Chowhouse, telling me it was comfort food. That sounded great, so I stood up… and found that my right calf was so tight that I could barely walk. I hobbled along, roughly in the direction of the Caz’s, and found that it got loosened up the farther I walked, so that was a good thing.
I got to the restaurant, and asked the guy setting up the chairs for outside seating about when they opened. When I found out it was just about twenty minutes away, I decided to wait it out. I asked about the menu, and he told me about something called The Big Nasty. The more he described it, the better it sounded… and then the phrase “chicken-fried bacon” fell out of his mouth. I was sold! The manager invited me in for a cup of coffee and to warm up, so I sat at the bar drinking my cuppa joe, and chit-chatted with her and her staff. As it ends up, she was from Knoxville, and a big UT fan. Perfect!
Once they officially opened, I found a table, sat down, and ordered a root beer, the Big Nasty and some fried okra. That, my friends, is comfort food. While I knew that this was described as being laid atop a “cat’s head” biscuit, I didn’t realize the cat they were talking about was a tiger! That biscuit was easily 6″ in diameter, and served open-faced, it was the foundation to a load of cheese fries, a piece of chicken friend steak slathered in gravy, two eggs over medium, and couple of slices of chicken-friend bacon. I’ve had a lot of really, really good things on my travels for these crazy races, but that by far is the best, most unique thing I’ve encountered. And it kicked my butt. I got through about half of it before feeling like I was gonna explode. I was told that I did pretty well with getting that far. 🙂
And as I exited Caz’s, I thought I had a couple of blocks yet to walk to the hotel, but I quickly saw that the front door of Caz’s was cattycorner from the back entrance of the hotel. Beauty.
So, in all a really good couple of days, but I’ve gotta admit, the tight calf is really worrying me for tomorrow. I don’t know if it was the cold, or if I overdid something on the hills, but something different happened today, and that’s unusual for me nowadays on 5K’s.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s attempt at the half marathon!!!
Today was likely the last tune-up before the Route 66 races in Tulsa this weekend. With the unseasonably warm weather (about 70° today, and close to 80° tomorrow), I’m pretty sure that anything I do is gonna feel weird when I get to Tulsa, and take on races where the temps will be closer to 30° when I start.
This was also the last of the Star Trek anniversary medals I had squirreled away. Much like the Back to the Future anniversary last year, I hung quite a few Trek anniversary baubles from my medal shelf. I’ve thought a couple of times about taking ’em all down — and that’s a HUGE effort — and grouping like medals together. Maybe some day!
It was a glorious day, with loads of sunshine, and several other folks out enjoying the midday break. I changed my route a little, and took the path down Wren Trail. It’s been a little bit since I’ve been on that stretch of pavement, and I’d forgotten how nice it was. At midday, there’s plenty of shade to keep you out of the sun, but still enjoy the breezes. It was really a cleansing, refreshing time spent out in nature.
I’ve been gathering up all my goodies for the races this weekend, and as I write this, it dawned on me to see how many events I’ve done between last year’s half marathon, and this year’s. And that number? Seventy-four. Seventy-four times over the last twelve months, I’ve laced up my shoes, gotten my stuff together, and headed out the door to put miles behind me, generally to the benefit of some group or another.
That may be a pretty normal cadence for more avid runners than me. For a kid that never put the word “run” in his vocabulary until he was 48, I’m thrilled that I can still do this, and that I’ve stayed interested enough to keep picking ’em up and putting ’em down, all in the name of good causes.
In theory, I was supposed to run this on Election Day, but I couldn’t pull myself away from the news of the day, so I ran this a couple of days after.
I set out after work, trying to clear my head of all the awful stuff I was seeing online and in the news — so much hateful rhetoric, from any side you can think of! With the return to standard time, the sun sets much earlier, and I was gifted with a crisp day on which to take a slow, contemplative walk.
With music in my ears, I ambled down my regular course, and really looked at what was around me. I stopped to pet an old dog that walks the neighborhood (Elvis is his name!), and chatted with his owner. I continued on around the neighborhood, seeing the triplet deer that we’ve been watching most of this year, and watching the Canadian geese soaring overhead.
And, ya know what … I found a little peace.
Whatever we silly ol’ humans are doing with politics — and you can make your own call about the impact of that — nature remains. I’ll still enjoy my quiet walks and runs through God’s glorious creation, and know that no matter what happens — ugly, awful, wonderful, righteous — it’s in His hands, and I’ll just keep on plodding along, one step at a time.
I’m now within striking distance of my celebration of five years NED (No Evidence of Disease), which is a glorious thing. Even as I revel in my wonderful outcome, there’s folks around me that aren’t so fortunate.
I belong to a running group called the Pathetic Runners. It’s a fun crowd of folks from all over the country, always talking about running woes and successes. I get a lot of inspiration from ’em. The guy that spun it up, David Johndrow, is a real inspiration, and has written a book about his journey called ICU to Marathon: Diaries of a Nearly Dead Man. It’s a funny and poignant read.
David’s fought cancer before, and is once again fighting, so he spun up this race as a fundraiser for several cancer charities. Given my journey, I couldn’t help but support David in his.
So Thursday, I put on my running shoes, and headed out.
This was my 56th event this year, and was the first one since spring that felt terrific. The weather was amazing, sitting in the mid-60s finally, and with another week-an-a-half off the trails, my legs felt really fresh. I took my regular ol’ path on the sidewalks of the neighborhood, and didn’t really push too hard.
You might say I walked. You might be right. 🙂
I’d been fighting a cold since we got back from the cruise, and had a slight injury on top of my right foot — the likely cause being the big ol’ feet of a certain “little” hundred pound dainty flower of a dog named Roxy. I didn’t wanna do anything to jeopardize my races in Tulsa in a couple of weeks, so I just ambled along at my pace, enjoying the great weather, the color of the leaves and trees, and thinking about how fortunate I am that my cancer diagnosis and treatment had such a happy ending.
I really am blessed to have had the support of family and friends as I fought my fight. And sure, my fight was nowhere near as tough as some that other folks have to endure — and I totally get that. I was lucky, and each day, each step, is a blessing and a gift. I never loose sight of that.