Vegan Ultra Runner

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

Archive for the category “Lifestyle”

Officially Committed

I am now fully committed to 50 miles. I’ve registered for the Carl Touchstone Memorial Mississippi 50 Trail Run. On March 2, 2013 at 6AM I will be headed out for what will probably be 11 hours of running. It’s a little intimidating just seeing it in writing. At times, I start to think that maybe I have lost my mind (that’s what everyone who knows me thinks). Luckily, I’m finding that there is a lot of support in the ultra-running community. Runners who I have heard from on this blog and other sites all say I can do it. Maybe that’s because they have all accomplished 50 miles and more. They all know what it’s like to be driven to accomplish something that seems extreme to so many people. So as I start to ramp up my mileage, I want to thank everyone for the support, and say stick around. I’m going to need you.


4th in Age Group

Parker, Janet, Rachel and me holding Zuzu in the background.

No not me. The only way I’ll ever win my group is if I live to be 95. Even then there will be some 102 year-old man who will still beat me. My son Parker placed 4th in the under 9 age group at the Dog River Ghost Chase 5k with a time of 27:56. I’m very proud, but also embarrassed to say that his time is faster than any 5k I’ve ever run.

It was a very close finish. By close, I mean he could touch the 3rd place runner at the finish. It was quite a battle, but when I asked what he thought of the finish, he said “I was trying to pass Elvis, and got him at the end”. It was a Halloween run after all. Next week, we have the Senior Bowl 10k, and he says he’s going for the podium.

The kids that ran were all very good runners, even when compared to the adults in the race. The winner of Parker’s group was a 7-year-old boy who finished under 22 minutes. No that’s not a typo. 22 minutes. He was in the top 10 overall. Amazing.

I also need to congratulate my wife, Janet, for running in her first 5k. She finished under 32 minutes. A great time, especially when you consider that it was over and back a steep bridge, with a very cold wind. A tough initiation into running, but she is already figuring out how to run it faster next time.

Congratulations to my family and all the other runners who braved the cold last night.

Awaiting Chemo….

No, I’m not sitting in the lobby of our local cancer center. I’m not in the car heading to treatment. I’ve not even scheduled the first treatment. As a matter of fact, I’ve not been diagnosed…yet.

Here’s my situation. For almost thirty years I’ve used tobacco in one form or another. From sneaking off to the park to smoke my first cigarette at age twelve, to”dipping” tobacco through high school, all the way to smoking a pack a day, this has been my life since I was fifteen. I can’t make excuses, or blame RJ Reynolds. I know the damage tobacco does, and I’ve chosen to smoke. What makes matters worse is that for the last twenty years I’ve worked in the medical field. You see, I’m a nurse and a paramedic. I know exactly what is happening in my body every time I light-up. I’ve watched people die, and I’ve watched people live with cigarette related diseases. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is worse.

Whoa, now wait a minute man. Is it twelve or is it fifteen? Your math is all wrong. Well, I smoked my first cigarette the summer between sixth and seventh grade. We (I can’t even remember the kid’s name) would run to Hook’s Drugs, spend seventy cents on a pack of Kools, and then hide on the trails of the local park and smoke. Of coarse, neither one of us could take the pack home, so we would smoke, and smoke, and smoke, trying to smoke as many as we could before going home. After seventh grade, we moved and my trip into the glamorous life of nausea, bad breath and washing the smell off in the creek, was over…until fifteen.

At fifteen, I began “dipping”. If you’re not from the good-ole south, then you might not know what dipping is. It’s where you take a finely cut tobacco, and “Put a pinch between the cheek and gum”. According to the commercial, it was that easy. What the commercial didn’t show was the constant spitting, or the persistent little spot of tobacco spit that hung on the end of my chin, or the stain on my car seat from where the spit-bottle turned over. I wasn’t good at it, and it showed. (Sorry to every girl I ever dated in high school). Later in high school, dipping began having to share my time with smoking. By college I was just smoking, and I have been since.

Fast forward through four kids and fifteen years into my second marriage, and here I am, feeling every light-up, every puff, and every flick of the ashes. If you’ve read my first post, then you know that I’ve made some drastic lifestyle changes due to a sky-rocketing blood pressure and high cholesterol. What I didn’t mention was the shortness of breath and occasional chest pain, that like most medical professionals, I chose to ignore. Well then, how do you run? Yes I am a runner. My wife laughs because I’m the only runner that she knows that has cigarette burns in my running socks. Running is easy, though. You just have to run slowly. I can run long distances, as long as I don’t get my heart rate up. When the heart is asked to put in a little overtime is when the problems begin. My wife talked me into going to a spin class that literally killed me. Obviously, it didn’t literally kill me, but I was pretty dizzy. It’s bad enough to have to show up at the fire station where I work and tell the guys that I went to a spin class, but to tell them that I only lasted fifteen minutes before I had to sit down, was death by a thousand snickers (firemen don’t actually snicker, they hoot and holler).

This brings us to where I am today. As you may know, in June, I gave up meat and challenged myself to run a fifty mile trail race. When I finally told the guys at work, their first question was “Why?” (actually the first question was “What the f**k?”). So, I began explaining how studies have shown the relationship between animal proteins and heart disease, diabetes type II and some forms of cancer. As I finished up my impromptu lecture I could tell that they were puzzled (mainly because “What the f**k?” was asked again). At that point I should have seen it coming. “Have you stopped smoking?” “Well…Um…No…Not Yet”  So, here was the simply truth. I could give up meat because it may cause cancer, but not smoking. (Now I had to ask myself  “What the f**k?”) So, in July, I quit smoking. Quit is an awfully strong word. “Fighting smoking” is a better phrase, because that is what I’m doing. It is a constant struggle. A struggle that I find myself losing on occasion. To see what a true hypocrite I am, you have to know that I smoked while writing this post (sorry Honey). It is what it is. I’m not proud of it, but that’s what happens. I fail, then I start again. I don’t know any other way and untill there is a magic cure, that is what I’ll do.

So why did I call this “Awaiting Chemo…”? I’m not trying to sound flippant about such a serious subject. As a matter of fact, I hope that if anyone reading this is or has gone through cancer treatment, that I haven’t offended you. I’m not trying to make light of the issue.  I was a little concerned about the title of this post. Maybe it is too casual. Sounds like I’m waiting for a bus, or waiting in the car-pool line at my daughter’s school. The truth is that cancer scares me. Chemo scares me. RADIATION SCARES ME. When I say that I’m “awaiting chemo”, it just reminds me of the sad fact that cancer treatment is probably in my future. I hope not, but these are the choices I made. If I develop cancer one day, I can’t really be surprised about it. These are the choices I made. I can’t blame anyone else for the damage to my lungs. These are the choices I made. Now, I started to change the title because I sincerely feel for anyone struggling with this disease. I don’t want to come off as being insensitive. In the end, though, I decided to stay with it. You see, this blog is about dealing with my health. It’s about the journey of trying to turn my life  around. It’s about being honest and accountable for the decisions I’ve made, and the ones I’ve yet to make. If the title seems insensitive then I am sorry, but at this point in my life I feel like I am “Awaiting Chemo…”.

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.

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