Vegan Ultra Runner

Can a middle aged, slighty overweight smoker run 50 miles…Did I mention I was vegan?

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Not a Triathlete

Okay. I am not a triathlete. I am in love with the idea of mastering three sports, but I’m not sure that I will ever have the determination, motivation, or commitment to fulfill such a long term goal. I just can’t seem to stick with goals. My wife thinks that I may suffer from ADHD. I prefer to think that I just have many interests that might change at any moment and without any notice. There is one interest, though, that remains fairly constant in my life. I’m a runner. Not a particularly good runner, but a runner all the same. I won’t ever win my age group, or qualify for Boston. I’m just a middle-aged, former smoker that likes to get out there and aggravate every dog in the neighborhood as I slowly plod through a few miles every day.

Now as much as I love to run, I still find the need to set goals that keep me honest about my mileage. After all, it’s easy to tell the wife that I’m going to run 5 miles, but sooner or later she is going to want some evidence of what I’m doing out there for an hour or so. Now, I have made several significant life changes, which include training for a marathon and a 50 miler. Most of the time I’m just happy to make it from point A to B, but this time I have decided to follow a set training plan. Today I had an off day and decided that some cross-training might be good for me. Swimming of all things. You know, maybe master the swim, get a road bike, and finish my first Tri next summer. How hard could it be? Well…okay, so I may not always think things through before I jump in, but in I went anyway.

Now to truly enjoy this picture you have to see my swimming set up. I don’t have a pool large enough to swim laps. We have one of those 18 ft. above ground pools for the kids, or what I like to call our “bag of water”. This could discourage all but the most determined, but not a problem for someone with a little ingenuity, too much time on his hands, and little to no shame. It’s actually a pretty simple fix. I tied a long strap to my shop, which is near the pool. The other end goes around my waist and off I go. It’s my cheap version of a never-ending pool. If it weren’t for things like this, my wife would have never married me. Of course she probably wouldn’t make fun of me nearly as often as she does, but that’s marriage.

So it’s seven in the morning and I’m waist-deep in a pool with my nine-year-old son’s swim goggles on and this strap tied around my waist. Luckily I have a tall privacy fence, so the only witness is my Labrador, Callie. It’s at this moment that I hear her laughing at me. This is not one of those little dog giggles that you hear so often. This was one of those howling laughs. Now Callie is a pretty strange dog, so if you knew her, you would see the irony in her, of all things, laughing at me. She spends long hours in the hot sun guarding the patio so that no bug shadows will invade her private space. She doesn’t mind the bugs, just hates those evil shadows. I know that when she’s looking at me like that I should probably rethink my plans.

Anyway I take off with my best attempt at a free-style stroke. I’m not an expert, but I doubt that the splashing from a good stroke should wake the whole neighborhood. Here I am though, working as hard as I can, not moving an inch, but at this moment I am a triathlete. Not one of those sprint distance guys, or even a 70.3 finisher, I am a full blown Iron Man! I have joined the ranks of athletes like Reed and Potts. So I’m swimming and concentrating on my stroke. I’m making sure to turn my head to both sides when I breathe, making sure that my hands finish close to my side, but don’t cross my centerline. Basically, I’m tearing this swimming thing up. Piece of cake! I’m ready to accept my medal and start doing magazine covers. “44 Year Old Man Comes From Nowhere to Defeat Pros at Kona.” That will be the headlines. People who have never heard of triathlons will even stop and take notice.

Finally I stop. My record breaking swim has come to an end. I hit the stopwatch button on my ten dollar watch, only to find that I managed 30 seconds of swimming. 30 SECONDS! No way that could be right. I have filed a protest with USA Triathlon and I’m still waiting on their official ruling. Until that is resolved, I guess I’ll have to live with that time.

I realized though that living with that time won’t be too difficult, because I found that I’m thankful. I’m thankful for being a horrible swimmer. I’m thankful for being a slow runner. I’m thankful that even though I can’t keep up with my kids, I can still get out there with them. At times when I stop being thankful, I think about the people who once had that lifestyle, and due to no fault of their own can no longer enjoy it… the biker now confined to a wheelchair because someone thought that their right to text while driving was more important than a persons safety…the woman facing a death sentence after being diagnosed with ALS… or the man so weak with cancer that he can’t go out and play with his neurotic dog. Sometimes we get so caught up in our lives that we forget that it can be taken away in an instant. We should focus on the blessings we have, and not on what we don’t.

I haven’t given up my dream of being a triathlete. God does work in miracles after all. Maybe after my arms recover I’ll try again and make it a whole minute. Maybe I will get a road bike and brave the not-so-bike-friendly roads. Don’t count me out for Kona just yet. I might still win my age group one day…maybe…if I live to be 105 and have the group to myself.


Running with Zuzu

Here’s 3 out of 4. It’s like pulling teeth to get Jesse in a picture.

I finally got to run today. I’ve been sidelined for the last week due to pain in the ball of my foot. More on that later. Today I got to get out there with my running partner Zuzu. For those of you that don’t know me you might think Zuzu is my dog. I do have a black Lab mix named Callie who loves to go running. As a matter of fact, if she sees me leave with my running hat on, she howls like some old coon dog untill I get back. But no, Zuzu’s not my dog, she’s my two-year-old daughter.
Zuzu’s name is actually Zoey. I tend to just call her “God’s little sense of humor”, mainly because everyone said that “Oops” was an inappropriate name for a girl. I mean, we are in our forties and surprises do happen. My other daughter came up with “Zuzu” from “Zuzu’s Petals” in It’s a Wonderful Life. So when she’s being sweet, it’s Zuzu Petal. If she’s in a playful mood then it’s Zuzu Monkey and if she’s mad then it’s Zuzu Monster. If you hang out for about half an hour, you will get to meet all three of them.
Now Zuzu is not my only child. I have three other kids, but they aren’t around during the day. My oldest, Jesse (20) , doesn’t live with us. He just started EMT school and tends to be pretty busy. Rachel (13) is in seventh grade and Parker (9) is in fourth. My wife Janet (age not spoke of) is a teacher, so on the week days they are all gone. I’m pretty lucky because I work for 24 hours and then I’m of for 48. During my 48 hours off, Zuzu stays with me and we have a pretty set routine. Either we’re out running, or we are watching Dino Dan….endlessly!
If you don’t have small children, then you are probably lucky enough to have never set eyes on this kid named Dan. Dan is this 9 year-old boy who apparently is not only delusional, but suffers from hallucinations. Dan sees dinosaurs all over his town, and nobody seems worried that he is the only one that sees them. This all seems to stem from the fact that his dad, a paleontologist, has abandoned Dan’s family. His mother says that he is away at a”paleontologist seminar”, but it’s been 8 episodes and we haven’t seen him yet.  Apparently his friends and teachers feel so bad that they let him live this fantasy. Well, at least that’s how I interpret the show. Zuzu sees it a bit differently. This is her favorite show, and so we watch…and watch…and watch some more.
So, I guess that since this blog is about running, I should probably get this ship back on course. As I mentioned, I haven’t been able to run for the last week due to metatarsalgia. Don’t worry, I’m an RN and I can’t say it either. Basically, it’s pain in the metatarsal heads, better known as the balls of your feet. It’s probably caused by either doing too much, too soon, or too many road miles in minimal shoes. I love my Merrell Trail Gloves, but I’ll have to save them just for trail runs. After a week worth of rest, My foot was feeling pretty good today. I taped it up with a mole skin pad and some Kinesio tape and it did alright. The secret is to place the pad just behind where it hurts, and not directly over the tender area.
Zuzu kicked back in her stroller, and we set off for an easy 5 miler through the neighborhood. Where I run is usually determined by whether she is with me or not. If we’re running together, then we run either in the park or in the neighborhood. I don’t trust drivers enough to get her out on the main roads. If I’m by myself, then I will either go run the University of South Alabama trail system, or I’ll just take off down the road. For any one in the Mobile, Alabama area that is interested in trail running, I highly recommend the trails at South. The local mountain bike group does a wonderful job maintaining them.
Now if you have stuck with me hoping for some exciting story about getting chased by wooly mammoths, wild baboons or even some of those feisty slugs we have, then this is where you will probably be mad. It was a nice run, but nothing exciting. Zuzu fell asleep within the first 5 minutes, although she did occasionally wake up and yell “Dino Dan” for no reason. The temperature was fairly cool, not like the 95 degree and 150% humidity days we had last month. My feet and legs felt pretty good after a week off, and I idled a little closer to my 50 miler. Tomorrow I’m off to the trails where I hear that a band of vicious koala bears have been heckling the local mountain bikers. Stay tuned.
For anyone interested in following my progress, I’ll post my Garmin GPS data on my Training Log page.

Can a middle aged, slighty overweight smoker run 50 miles…Did I mention I was vegan?

What do you do when you’re a 44-year-old husband and father of four and find that you have to make some drastic lifestyle changes?  You’ve smoked for almost 30 years and your blood pressure has rocketed to 180/117. You’ve inched your way to being 20 lbs overweight and your cholesterol levels are in a such state of denial that even Lance Armstrong and Pete Rose are telling you to come clean. What do you do? You do like all the other middle-aged, mid-life-crisis, superhero-in-your-mind men do. You swear off meat, and sign up for a 50 mile trail race. Seems obvious to me.

So first off, it’s time to be completely honest about the name of this blog. I’m not actually an “ultra runner”. Not yet anyway.  As a matter of fact the longest race I’ve completed is a 10k. The longest run I’ve ever made was 10 miles, but that was two years ago. So what makes me think I can run 50 miles? I want to run 50 miles. I’m going to try to run 50 miles. I don’t know that I truly believe I can run 50 miles. That’s something I hope to discover over the next few months.

The other thing is that term “Vegan”. In June I decided to give up all animal products, in my diet at least. I’m not sure why I initially gave up meat. I was probably just desperate to stay off the medicines that the doctor has tried to get me on for years. As I began reading things, such as The China Study and Forks Over Knives I began to see the health benefits of a plant-based diet. I also read things by super human athletes such as Brendon Brazier, Rich Roll and the GREAT Scott Jurek. Obviously I’m a big fan of Scott’s, although my wife says that Rich Roll is my “man crush”. I don’t think he is…I don’t have a man crush… well… maybe… I mean… Look at him! So anyway, I’m really about 98% plant-based. I still have to have cheese on pizza, and my wife’s wonderful lasagna, which she started making with spinach just for me.

So this is the wacked out veggie trip that is part of my life right now. I plan to document it, even if it is just for me. I hope to come out on the other side as some type of super-human running machine, or at least still be able to walk. I’m guessing the odds are about 50/50 either way. So whether you’re the type of person that believes in the greatness of the human spirit, or just a sadist who likes to watch people fail miserably, stay tuned. There should be enough for both.

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