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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Devastation

It happened with terrifying speed.

We'd finished a performance of our show and settled in for a low-key evening of wine and guitar sing-alongs. Then my stomach started hurting. That kind of cramping you get when you've eaten a lot of crap. I told everyone I had to go home and got into the car to drive home.

Halfway there, I pulled over. The pain had intensified so much that I threw up. I tried to continue on my way, but three miles from home, I couldn't work the clutch anymore. I called my wife, gave her my best approximation of my location, and waited for her to give me a ride to the emergency room. I had realized that it wasn't my stomach that was the problem.

If you know my history as a runner, you might remember that I had bilateral hernia surgery just before starting college. At the time, I was training for my first marathon (Columbus 2002), which I was going to do with my mother and brother. A physical for college showed the hernias (I didn't know what they were, and they didn't bother me), which meant that I needed surgery before I could go to college, which meant no marathon. I stopped training. Within a few days, I was moving into college, and a couple months later, I ran the marathon anyway. Who needs training, right?

(By the way, everyone needs training. My legs didn't work for two weeks after that race.)

My hernia was back. Only one this time, but it was different from anything I experienced the first time. It hurt. Something was severely wrong. My incredible wife came and picked me up (at 2 in the morning) and drove me into the emergency room. They confirmed everything I was thinking and immediately got me prepped for surgery. No problem, I thought. I've done this before. I'll recover.

Four hours later, I was in surgery, and a few hours after that, I was awake in the hospital room. Last time, I'd been sent home pretty much as soon as I woke up, but this time, they wanted to hold me for a bit. Some of my intestines had been gangrenous and needed to be removed, so they needed to keep me until it was clear that everything was working. My big concerns at the time were, in order, 1) they'd have to cancel industry night of our show, and we'd have to re-block the scenes where I jumped up on the table, 2) what pace would I have to do in order to complete the Austin Marathon in two weeks, and 3) I guess I'll have to watch the Super Bowl between my least favorite team in the NFL and the team coached by the Emperor from Star Wars.

The next day (or the day following, things get a little hazy for me here), I was feeling extremely bloated. They decided to do a CT scan (I think, they terminology escapes me), which meant drinking this contrast dye. I made it halfway through and everything went wrong. I'll spare you the details of what was happening to me, but when they got me down for the scan, they found out that the gangrene had been far more widespread than they realized, something had burst, and I was septic. Again, I think this is all accurate. I'm not a doctor and I was on painkillers.

The next five days or so are a blur. I went back into surgery and this time got a nice big scar right up the middle of my torso. I got a drain in my side. A line into my arm that fed me. A tube in my nose. I got moved to whatever the step below ICU is. And I spent night after night fighting bad dreams, pain and a complete inability to regulate my body temperature. All told, I was 9 hours short of spending two weeks in the hospital.

For the outside world, it meant that they had to recast my role in the show. It was too late for me to cancel my registration in the Austin Marathon, so my wife got my packet, but I missed the race. This also meant that I failed to complete the Austin Distance Challenge for which I had spent so much time and money over the previous four months. Boston is now at risk. Complete devastation.

So, what now?

I've been out of the hospital for about three weeks now, and things still don't work quite the way they're supposed to work. I get stronger every day, but I lost a lot of weight and muscle, and it doesn't seem to be in a hurry to return. I've got my (hopefully) final follow-up appointment with the surgeon this morning, and I hope to be released for everything. I have no idea if I'll be anywhere near physically ready to run Boston (but you can bet I'll be there).

The truth is, I have no idea what now. Some days I'm full of energy and positivity, and some days I don't want to get out of the bed. The immediate plan is to get stronger on days when I'm able and rest on days when I'm not. I've removed myself from most of my commitments to decrease stress, both physical and emotional. Any progress is good. Any setbacks are to be expected.

With everything that's happened, I feel like there's a lesson to be learned, and here's what I've come up with: I'm not a kid anymore, but I'm not anywhere near done yet. I've spent my life surrounding myself with incredible people, and they were there for me when I needed them most. I've married an incredible woman who has cared for me well above and beyond what could have been expected of her. All these years have added love and friendship to my life, but also wear and tear to my body. I need to move more carefully now, which gives me time to enjoy what's around me. I need to watch for warning signs and take them seriously, because I'm not invincible.

And most importantly, I cannot stop moving forward. If I wasn't as strong as I was, this could have been a lot worse. If my circle of family and friends weren't as incredible as they are, it could have been a lot worse. For all I've done wrong in life (I am human after all), there are innumerable great things in my life. I haven't been able to enjoy some of them for the last month.

So I think it's time to get strong again.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Short, Quick Steps Up the Long, Slow Hill

"I came ten miles just for this high five!"

It startled me, to say the least. Nine miles into the first long training run I've done in more months than I'd like to admit, my brain was starting to get hazy. Nothing new, really. I've only got enough brain power to keep myself from tripping and stay out of the way of folks heading in the opposite direction. When reasonable, of course.

And one such person was on his way, a bicyclist who had moved out of the road and on to the sidewalk. I dutifully moved to the right of the sidewalk and out of sheer determination kept my eyes up, trying to keep my focus ahead of me and keep my feet moving.

Then he shouted at me. I turned my attention his way to see a huge smile on his face and a waiting hand in the air. I raised mine instinctively, and we shared one of the loudest, most satisfying high fives of my life. It was exactly what I needed at that moment.

Sometimes luck is like that. You get exactly the thing you need at exactly the moment you need it. It doesn't happen often, of course, because then it wouldn't be amazing when it did, but every now and then, it turns out all right. I was thinking about how completely lucky this moment was for the following mile, but I realized I might be thinking about it in the entirely frame of mind. True, there was no way I could have known that person would be at that spot to give me an emotional boost, but I was hardly there by accident.

First, I had to get myself out the door, which has not been an easy task for me in recent months. Combined with runs I did on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I have completed more training miles than I have done in either of the last two months. Still, I've got a half marathon on the horizon - well, honestly, it's more like around the corner, with just four weeks to race day. I just did the Run for the Water 10 miler and realized fairly definitively that I can't just go out and do those anymore. So I needed the miles. I needed the distance and the endurance. So, despite the three of four efforts of my brain to the contrary, I made it out the door.

Then, there's the mileage. I need to do some double-digits, and get used to working for 90+ minutes at a time. In the first couple miles, I considered peeling off and doing 9 instead, still a decent workout, but not what I really needed. And then I decided I didn't care if it hurt. I didn't care how long it took. I was doing 12.

But let's be honest, of course I cared how long it took. I kept my pace reasonable, but not easy, a bigger challenge after my turnaround point where my course goes from downhill to uphill. Honestly, it started to suck, and I remembered what I've learned before. Shoulders down. Head up. Short, quick steps, maintaining effort, not speed. And speed followed. And for all the correct choices I made, I was rewarded with a killer high five at just the right moment.

I've got a long way to go before I'll be "back." The Austin Marathon is three months away, and Boston is only two months after that, with a couple half-marathons and one 18 miler in the lead-up. I'm not as fast as I can be. I'm not as strong as I will be. But if I can keep taking those short, quick steps, I'll be back before I know it.

And it won't hurt to get a few knock-out high fives along the way.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Three Out of Four Ain't Bad

I can't seem to keep anything going these days.

It's been a year of transitions so far, and not all of them have been good ones, to be entirely honest. I do my best not to make my personal struggles the fodder of the internet, as I'm sure there are any number of other social media outlets that you can check for that, but it's the usual things. Money, employment, personal control of the future, etcetera.

Friday night, I went to a lovely night of theatre with Present Company's production of Much Ado About Nothing on the rooftop of the Whole Foods flagship store downtown. We went to have drinks with the cast afterward, and when we got home late, I looked at the time for my work in the morning, and recognized that there was really no chance that I was going to run before work. After 9 1/2 hours on the floor, I drove home in 93 degree weather and knew it wasn't going to happen then either, so all of three days into May, I've already missed a day of running.

Oh well.

Considering how many times I went up and down two flights of stairs yesterday, I'm not overly concerned about the loss of fitness from one day, and it wasn't like I was sitting around the house eating potato chips.

Honestly, I'm okay with having a few "cheat"days here and there. My concern isn't with the overall product, but with my personal mindset. I tend to be an all-or-nothing personality. It's much easier for me to get out and go for a run first thing in the morning if I've gone thirty days in a row and I don't want to break my streak. It's easier for me not to have a beer if it's been a really long time since I had one. And often, when I break these streaks, I often hit the "nothing" side of things pretty quickly.

I ran today, though, which is something. It helps to have someone waiting for you when you need motivation to get out of bed, so my Sunday morning runs are extremely valuable for that reason. At least it gets me out the door.

And even though I won't have run every day in May, 30 out of 31 is still good. As is 29 or 28. The point is to do more, and I believe I'm well on my way.

If I can keep it up.

Friday, May 2, 2014

My Left Foot

My left foot is a jerk.

Despite what I seem to do for it, stretch or relax, rest or work, ignore or treat, it always hurts a little bit when I wake up in the morning, and about an hour after I've been using it, whether that's from a run or from a long day on the floor of a restaurant.

When it first started being a jerk, I just worked through it. Even in situations where I've just woken up and I hit the road for a few miles (like today), it would only hurt for a few minutes and then relax. So I tried stretching it beforehand, which seems to have done nothing more than slow down my morning routine. With that in mind, I took to the magazines and internets to find treatments. The best lead I had actually came from my mother, who sent me a boot for plantar fasciitis. Again, some help, but not enough to make me wear a plastic shoe to bed every night.

So I tried resting it. I haven't run much in the last six months. A few miles here and there, usually very easy. Nothing too strenuous. And as a result, my left foot always hurts a little bit when I wake up in the morning and about an hour after I've been using it.

Jerk.

I'm sure any number of doctors will disagree with me, but as I see it, this leaves only one course of treatment. The silent treatment. Shut up, foot. You're fine. Get running and you'll feel better in half a mile or so.

This was what I did this morning when, a little later than planned, I headed out the door for an almost seven-miler. I put on my new shoes (more to come on those soon), and started running, and for the first minute, thought I'd made a huge mistake. The second through fifth minutes were difficult, and by minute six, I realized I had to slow down or I'd never finish.

My foot is currently silent. I'm sure I'll hear from it in an hour or so.

Jerk.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May: No Maybe

Having options can be dangerous.

We all value the freedom of choice, to be sure. Do I want Coke or Pepsi? Will I be a doctor or a lawyer? Should I stay or should I go? It's nice to believe that you've got some control over the road that lies in front of you.

But sometimes, say at around 6:00 in the morning, having choices can be detrimental, unless you're programmed to make the right one. I'm not. Yet.

So for this month of May, I've decided that I don't have a choice. I must run, every day. Done. It's decided. No question.

Now for today, this wasn't hard for me. I worked from 10 - 3, and then had nothing planned for the rest of the night, which meant that I got to run when I got home. Sure, it was 80 degrees outside, but I burned through three miles with a new best-in-a-while time. It's tomorrow, and then next week, when it starts getting more interesting.

See, tomorrow night, I've got things to do, and starting next Wednesday I go back to the world of 8:00am start times. Not gonna lie, that'll be a little rough. But, rough or not, I don't have a choice. This month is May. Not maybe.

See what I did there?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Other Considerations

Well, I figured I probably wouldn't make it through the whole year.

A late night, mixed with a midday rehearsal and no one else to let out the dogs led to my decision not to run today, so I suppose I'll have to be happy with 10 days in a row. And I am. Very happy.

I still did my burpees and my pushups, but I spent the rest of the day resting and recuperating. And eating.

In addition to all the other things on which I've been trying to focus, my unreasonably-skilled cook of a brother recently reminded me that my kitchen is a downright privilege to own, and it's not fair to the rest of the world if I don't use it to its full potential. Now, I'm certainly not the world's best cook, but I'm anxious to learn and impress my wife whenever I can, which is why I made fajitas the other night and attempted to create a reduction sauce a few nights after that.

The natural requirement of making amazing meals is, of course, that you have food in the house with which to create said meals. We've had a bad habit of buying lots of ingredients for things and not actually getting around to making them, wasting more food than I'd like to admit, so we're more careful about what we buy these days. The downside is that, whenever I decide to actually cook something, it means a trip to the grocery.

So, that was the other big part of my day today, which will (if all goes according to plan) lead to the creation of my first baked ziti tomorrow, after which the leftovers will likely get my through lunches in the coming week.

Each step of this life overhaul is going to take some getting used to, so I have to be okay with the days that I don't actually get out the door and put in the miles. I'm not training for any particular race at the moment, so I have that option. I'll still be up and out early tomorrow, so all is not lost. Today is not a failure, and tomorrow will almost certainly be a success.

Whether I'll succeed a baking ziti is another matter.

Day 11:
No Running
Burpees/Push-Ups

Friday, January 10, 2014

Runch

I really ought to make myself get out of bed in the morning.
 
In recent memory, I’ve only managed to do this once, which was this past Monday. And it was magnificent. I woke early, got my run in before the sun came up, and found myself with all kinds of energy flowing through my veins. I packed a lunch, wrote a blog post and had breakfast before there were any other sounds in the house.
 
More than that, I got out the door on time (for once), made it to work super early and sat down at my desk with all the energy and optimism of my first day. The fact that events throughout the day beat all that optimism out of me is purely coincidental.
 
The important part was the jumpstart at the beginning of the day. It’s so easy to do, really. All I have to do is make the choice that, when my alarm goes off in the morning, I will not hit snooze. I will, instead, get out of bed, wander over to my shoes and lace up for a workout. Easy, right?
 
Well, it’s not. There’s something in my brain that just doesn’t let that happen. Could be laziness, which seems like the most obvious answer.
 
Whatever it is, it showed itself again this morning, though my late night probably had an effect as well. Once more, I slept until the last possible minute this morning, barely leaving time for a shower before I had to get out the door. I realized, however, that my schedule this evening would not allow for a run after work, which left me with a major predicament. Could this be the first day of 2014 on which I did not run?
 
Nope. Runch.
 
A self-appointed connoisseur of made-up words, I’ve hardly done my best work with “runch,” and I’m almost positive I’m not the first person to call it that. It’s simply using your lunch hour to get in a workout.
 
This would actually be ideal for me, if only I had a shower here in the office. I hate getting up in the morning, and very often have commitments after work hours. However, I generally eat very quickly, so using half of my lunch hour to do the short workouts I’ve devised this year would be perfect, if it weren’t for sweat. Obviously it would be more of an issue if I were to try this in the summer, but the schizo weather of central Texas winters is just as likely to leave me a red, sweaty mess, even in shorter distances.
 
Still, today I had no choice. I brought a change of clothes and a bar of deodorant to work, and I got in my run. And yes, I was a red, sweaty mess by the end, but at least I made it happen, along with the burpees and push-ups. The rest of the core can wait until I start my real rotation tomorrow.
 
Of course, that’s assuming I wake up early enough to get it done.