Half a year can be a lifetime

After my Iron attempt several things started going wrong with me. First I was exhausted and felt bogged down and it just didn’t seem to get any better. So after playing with diet and vitamins and everything I went to the Dr. and got some tests done. The following is an abbreviated list of things that happened over the next six months.

I was given the diagnosis of anemia, told to take some iron and come back in several weeks for a physical

At the physical a lump was found in my neck and a ct scan was prescribed (at this point I am training again for a marathon in October)

During the ct scan they found a massive sinus infection (I knew it was there but thought I would power through) So they put me on a massive dose of antibiotics

The antibiotics messed up my system so I would run a half mile and half to walk home due to debilitating cramping in my calves.

After getting off of the antibiotics I was feeling under the weather again and went in for more tests. This time they put me on another antibiotic for Lyme. This ended up giving me an esophageal ulcer and still kept me from training.

Before my antibiotics were up for the Lyme I was scheduled to have surgery on my neck lump which they thought was cancerous. Fortunately the whole thing went smoothly but put me out of it for a couple of days. It turns out it was not cancer but a gill that had not closed up while in the womb.  This wouldn’t have been too bad but it got infected and since I was already on an antibiotic for the Lyme it was a bit hard to get over. I had to get put on yet another dose of antibiotics in order to get it under control.

I then came down with another sinus infection which I was able to get through this time….I think.

So after all of that I finally managed to start training again, however after taking six months off I have lost a lot. It is incredibly hard, mentally, to keep going. I keep remembering where I was at only half a year before and it is incredibly infuriating. I just have to keep reminding myself that nothing stays the same and change is a constant.

So when you are in a tight spot or overwhelmed with life and the hardships you are going through. It could always be worse and it will pass, just hold on tight because it might actually get worse first.

Good luck

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Why

Teaching high school children can be difficult at times. But it doesn’t compare with my 4 year old nephew.  This kid is very inquisitive and wants to figure out how everything works.

I was trying to get him to pick up his toys a few weeks ago and he simply asked “why” being the mature adult I said “well because mom and dad like it when you pick up your toys”……”Why” he responded with “because then the house looks nice and it shows that you care about the toys that they have gotten you and it makes them happy” I was proud of myself, I felt I had a nice insightful moment with my nephew, I am good at this uncle stuff.

“why” he said after a few seconds pause. What…..seriously we are still on it…….crap I don’t have an answer….I cant get out reasoned by a 4 year old.

I forget what I said but this went on for a few more rounds before I said “I don’t know” finally I thought it is over. It was shortly followed by another “why”

I slept on it and then watched my brother race a 100 mile race and kept asking myself……why. But I never really thought about it more than that. A short few weeks later I DNFed my ironman and was lying on my back on a side walk in Louisville staring up at an overpass asking myself why.

Why do I run? Why do I teach? Why do I care what other people think of me? Why do I enjoy wood working?

Why is an amazing question, it peels back the layers of our most basic human motivations to find what lies at the center of who we are as people.

I run because I love feeling free and pushing myself to the limits of what I am capable of. I love that no one can tell me how good I am or am not because there is a black and white number that tells me exactly where I stand.

I teach because I want to help people have a better life through education, and that is why I picked trades that can actually be used to obtain a job out of high school, or help you later in life when you are on your own in the world.

Most of the time I don’t care what people think of me. I used to when I was in High school but I know who I am and if you don’t like me for me than fine its your opinion, keep it to yourself.

I enjoy wood working because I loose myself in it, like running an hour slips by unnoticed and with great ease. When it is all said and done you made something with your own two hands, and that is something many people don’t get to experience.

I could go deeper into each by asking why again but I wont. I have however been asking myself why quite a bit these past couple days and it is interesting, you become mindful of all of your actions and thought processes and how you get from point a to point b. All thanks to the innocence and wisdom of a 4 year old.

Try it it is pretty cool.

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Ninja Assassins

We spend so much time running, training, planning and recovering.  Planning recovery meals and making sure our running clothes are clean and dry for our next run and making sure our shoes are dry and in working order.  Yet and for all we are still susceptible to tragedies that strike seemingly without warning and with ninja assassin like precision and ferocity.

After my Ironman I was battling motivation to get out and run. Normally after triathlon training season I switch back to run training to spend the fall and early winter road racing.  With the start of school I figured it was just exhaustion from the race and work but I got a blood test done any way to test my thyroid levels as most of the time my T 4 and T 3 levels get all messed up after a summer of training.

I got a call from the doctor telling me that I needed to come in for a physical September 22nd and have more tests done. After a short discussion it was revealed to me that I was anemic. So that helps to explain a few things that have been happening recently, like the 5-7 cups of coffee of coffee each day needed to keep me going.

Now my runs have been short and slow with the team, and my speed training is non existent. I am eating egg and liver for breakfast, spinach salad for lunch, B-12 and Vitamin C quite frequently, snacking on nuts and seeds and trying to back off the stimulants.  I have been trying to get into the Mohawk Hudson marathon on October 19  but kind of feel like with anemia and a lack of training I am setting myself up for disappointment.

I was talking to a runner friend I work with who also spent his entire summer training  gearing up for Hudson Mohawk . He has been putting in around 120 miles a week which is typical for him when marathon training.  He runs in the low 2:30’s. However this time around he may have developed a stress fracture. He has throbbing radiating pain in his lower leg and has had to cut back his training quite substantially.

Another unfortunate runner is my brother who has recently been battling tendonosis as diagnosed by his doctor in Achilles tendon and told to take a rest for 9 to 12. Now he is battling the desire to train and plan for racing.

As runners I am sure how you can imagine how well we are dealing with these issues. On lunch duty we vent about running not children. My brother and I text back and forth about taking it easy and not going over board on ourselves and training through our issues.

I am no doctor and I am not a good example to follow when it comes to these things as I tend to over do it (so I am told) but I can say that we have to take these things one day at a time. Whether it is sports or life, don’t get over whelmed by the big picture, take it a day at a time. Play the training by how you are feeling, trust your body knows what is best. Continue your recovery regimen, stretch, hydrate and stay positive.

Staying positive is essential to any training or racing plan. Research has shown that how you act changes brain chemistry and helps play a role in how you feel. If you act defeated and drained you will feel defeated and drained. If you smile your brain chemistry changes and helps make you actually feel happy. Take two minutes sit up straight, smile, think happy and empowering thoughts. Do this for a week periodically throughout the day and you might be amazed at how well you are able to cope with whatever is bothering you. Never underestimate the power of a positive mind.

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Going fast

I love speed, I mean that feeling of things flying by, trees, signs and hopefully not cops. I have always had speed on my brain, motorcycles, cars, boats, bicycles you name it I try to get it going as fast as I can. Even through Ironman training a lot of my bike workouts were high intensity intervals. 

Now that Ironman is over for the season, and I have admitted to myself that I made the right decision in dropping out (aka defeat) I have decided to move onto fall road racing, and the marathon. So after a brief week off from training I did my first speed workout today in the trails behind the school after XC practice. 

The workout was 8 x 1000 at around 3:20 with 400 jog recovery.

The actual workout ended up being 5 x 1000 with 400 jog recovery and were 3:26-3:28-3:26-3:25-3:29

This is all after doing 5 miles with the team, I was a little annoyed with the times and cut it off after 5 because my hamstring was tightening up on me and I didn’t want to cause any more issues. 

Lets be honest looking back at your former training sucks. I recall a workout in high school where we completed 9 x 1000 with three minutes rest, and my slowest one on the day was 3:01 which was the first one. Now I feel like a slow old man. I want the speed back, I want to crush 16 minute 5k’s and thrash 10k’s like they are simply a lap on a track. But my stupid legs won’t move any faster

I just want to go fast! So that means more downhill sprints, more strength training and speed workouts designed to get my form and leg speed back to maximum efficiency. 

Sometimes self coaching is awesome because you feel so satisfied when you succeed. However self coaching feels so awful when your struggling because you feel like you need help or like you are missing something. I encourage you to get a coach they are worth it. I have been coaching for almost a decade now at the high school level and have continued to coach my athletes who go onto run in college over their summer vacations. If you ever want any advice feel free to ask we are all in this together.

You can also check out http://deadskunkracing.wordpress.com/

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Iron

“In order to succeed, you must first be willing to fail.”

For the last few months I have been discussing my training leading up to my first Ironman triathlon. The race took place this past sunday 8/25 down in Louisville Kentucky. Through my training I have learned a lot about nutrition and physiology, beyond what I had already known as a result of coaching. I ended some relationships, and forged new ones (my bike and I are very intimate now) I pushed myself in workouts and in ways that I have not experienced in a very long time. I took a holistic look at my life and geared everything towards this one goal; a spectacular Iron Man finish.

For the race I decided to fore go the wet suit and the tri top for this event to cut down on drag and arm pit chaffing. The race started at 7 am with the first swimmers entering the water at that time. However about 2500 people back I was waiting in slowly slithering snake of green swim caps sliding its way through the early morning light toward the water. I watched as hundreds of swimmers splashed by on their way to their destination 2.4 miles away.

When I finally hit the water I was more than ready and I was excited to prove to myself how far I had come in my training and how much I had over come to get to this point in the past several months and years. From the doctors telling me that I wouldn’t be able to train for distance events, or the girlfriends that told me I was wasting my time and that it was stupid. This was my moment, I eased along through the water passing hundreds of people along the way, picking my way through the teaming masses with ease. As I approached the exit I thought to myself, for the second open water swim of the season, and the longest open water swim of your life, that was actually very easy.

 

At the exit it was crowded and mobbed with people trying to figure out how to get up the steel stairs that had been dropped in the water that were clogged with swimmers and volunteers plucking swimmers out of the water. I made my to the changing tent after getting my bike gear bag from the nice lady at the transition area and moved quickly onto the bike.

 

The next 5:46:00 are ones that I will not forget for a very long time. I was cruising right along around 20-21 miles/hour for the first 20 miles, and it felt so easy, I kept telling myself to slow down but I couldn’t go any slower. Mile 20-30 included some decent climbing so my pace dropped but not by much. I just kept passing more and more people, and I kept going all the way to mile 60 when we started our second loop. I kept telling myself that I still had 52 miles to go and I should take it easy, so I relaxed but for some reason just seemed to go faster, it was at this point that I started to wonder if I could really keep this up and started to feel some self doubt creeping in. But I thought of a quote I had read in college while studying a specific soccer coach “In order to succeed, you must first be willing to fail.” My mind was made up, I was going for it. I wasn’t going to drop back to 16 mph to play it safe and go for a finish, I wanted it, and I was willing to put everything on the line for it. 

 

Around mile 70 we rode through La Grange a small historic village and I saw my parents among the blurr of faces in the crowd, don’t ask how I saw them I wasn’t even looking for them to be honest I thought they were out having a lunch date or exploring Kentucky. My father let out a cheer, it was incredible to feel that difference when someone you know, someone who cares about you is there supporting you and cheering you on. It really is a great feeling. 

Somewhere between mile 70 and 80 Mr. Sun decided to show up to the party. At this point the temperature was a warm, humid 80 degrees or so. I later heard that when the sun came out (about this time) the temp quickly spiked to 96, hot……and humid. Training in upstate New York had not prepared me for such conditions, After all the average temp for the last 4 weeks was probably 73 degrees.

At mile 90 I felt the familiar hatred of all things bicycle pounce on me like a Mountain Lion onto a piglet. I kept telling myself to just get through it and get off the bike. Around mile 105 I looked down and saw my pace had dropped to about 17 mph, But I got it done.  

The transition area took a bit longer this time, my legs were cramping at every time I tried to put my shoes on my legs would lock up and I would almost fall out of the chair. So by the time I had completed the swim, t1, bike and t2 I was at almost exactly 7 hours. My ultimate goal being a total time of 10:45. This left me a whole 3:45 minutes to finish the marathon, I can do this in my sleep! I thought. I was just going to ease into it and slowly get up to pace while working out these cramps. 

I trotted off and began the final leg of my journey, at least I thought it was the final leg. I was running when suddenly I couldn’t breath, I mean not short of breath, not racing heart rate, but no matter how hard I “pulled” in no air would go into my lungs. Surprisingly calmly looking back on it, I slowed down and was able to get a breath or two in before it happened again, after which I stopped and started walking, which this time did not help much and I started to black out.

Now forced to stand still on the side of the baking road way with my hands on my knees trying to not fall on my face and ruin 3 years of braces I realized I wasn’t just blacking out. My entire body had the “pins and needles” feeling you get when your foot falls asleep, my vision was pulsing (normal I have seen that lots of times) but it was blurry and almost wavy. My breathing was coming back but now I was trying not to vomit. I took three steps forward and two steps to the side, I trotted into a jog and couldn’t breath again. I stopped to walk and the dizzy got worse, I tried to sit down but couldn’t find the ground without feeling like I was diving out of an airplane. 

At this point a man with a bike rode by wearing a staff shirt so I flagged him down and said something to him that I never thought I would say, something that even now puts a knot in my throat and brings extra moisture to my eyes (its not tears BACK OFF!) 

“I think I need to drop out”

A couple of minutes later I was riding in a wheel chair, arms, hands legs, back all knotted up in full on cramps and a very nice and pretty girl names Rain pushing me toward the medical station. They took my temperature and got 95 degrees, I think the thermometer was broken. They also recorded my heart rate which was a racing 70 beats per minute. Then took my blood pressure which is notoriously on the high side, but this time registered as 70/50. After about 30 minutes of chatting with the medical staff and several glasses of chicken broth I walked out of the medical station under my own power toward the transition area and my parents car. 

15 minutes later I shuffled to the nose of the Nissan and plopped down on the curb resting my face on the cool bug spattered licence plate. My sweaty clothes were now on the hood and I was wearing almost exactly what I had started off the day with, minus the goggles and swim cap. After about 30 more minutes I got up to go find a cell phone to call my parents, however I realized after 15 minutes of walking I had not asked a single person for their phone. It was then that I got hit with a wave of chills, nausea, and dizziness so I lied down on the curb under an overpass staring up at the rumbling road above with my voice inside my head screaming “you dropped out, you dropped out, why, after all that why?”

Who knows how much longer I was there but when I came to there were 7 very nice faces looking down at me, all topping a yellow cotton t shirt that said “Chrissy support crew” the oldest man of the group said “don’t worry I called the EMT they will be here any time” to which I sat up real fast and said “oh no I am fine, but can I borrow a phone?”

After spending 15 more minutes in the back of an ambulance explaining that I was fine and my vitals had returned to normal I took up my post on the curb again by the Nissan alone with my thoughts and my failure.

I made an effort, I went for broke and well, I broke. However if I had never tried where would I be right now? If I had gone easier on the bike would I have finished? I don’t know the answers to these questions but I do know that now I have an even greater drive to conquer this thing, and confidence that I can do it in the 10 hour range. I am proud of my hard work and my commitment to something even though a lot of people discouraged me and things like injuries tried to stop me. I persevered, I dared to fail, and fail I did, but I came closer to success than those who have only ever dreamed of trying, and I learned a lot about myself through that failure. Much more than I would have if I had just breezed through it.

Embrace failure, it can teach you a lot about life and who you are. There is no greater failure than not even trying.

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Make a difference

I think most people would like to make a difference in the world, make it a better place so that your children or grand children will be able to live a life free of ____________ you fill in the blank. Often times I thought of this myself and tried to think of what I could do with my own personal skills and talents.

Looking back I can now tell you one thing that you should NOT do, and that is Triathlon. So why am I telling you not to do something that I love to do and talk so much about? Because triathlon makes you broke and here is a brief overview of how:

1. ISM Adamo attack bike seat $250 (I got it for 50 on sale with cash back bonus points)
2. Race entry fees 650 for Louisville Ironman (that’s just one race this season)
3. New tire and tubes because my tire exploded due to heat 4 days before the race $90
4. USAT membership which you need to do a majority of races $100
5. Second hand used Tri bike off e-bay $900 dollars
6. Books and training plans used to construct your own training plan $150
7. Gym membership for pool access $660
8. Triathlon clothing $150
9. Aero water bottle $50
10. Aero Helmet $90

That is 3100 dollars that I can remember off the top of my head, and aside from the bike is all from the last 8 months.

So if you want to make a difference in the world. Don’t do triathlon, save your money and give it to some charity. Heck that 3100 dollars could feed a child in Africa for about 10333 days, that is 28 years! So if you are thinking about getting into the whole triathlon thing, either take it slow or run away but know it is a slippery slope, it is kinda like a drug. If you are already into it I feel your pain lets try to be frugal.

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Trusting your training

I was making myself lunch yesterday when my friend Mike called. Now Mike is a college house mate, we played soccer together and had a lot of destructive fun over the years that I won’t get into right now. Mike is the reason I signed up for this Ironman, he pulled the old I’ll do it if you do it, and of course I signed up to drag him into it too.

We have different backgrounds, Mike is a bit taller than me and built differently, I have the endurance runner physique and he was a 400 runner in high school. So while I have taken on the training in one manor he has chosen a different methodology. Which is awesome, I love learning and hearing about new training tactics and seeing how they work in the real world. Most of his workouts are cross fit type workouts where as mine are sport specific. I spend a lot of time working on drills and efficiency stuff. I tend to spend more time on the bike doing longer rides or longer workouts. I have not lifted a weight in quite some time. Part of that is due to the elbow issue.

Prior to this phone call Mike had sent me a few text messages asking if I was freaking out yet. After a second of brief introspection I realized the race was in 7 days, and I am perfectly comfortable about the whole thing. So when he called he asked what was wrong with me and I told him the following:

1. No workout you do now will greatly improve your performance on race day, but you can destroy race day performance with the wrong workout. (I know proper workouts and peaking will help efficiency and motor coordination on race day but you wont gain much physiological adaptation from a workout this close to race day)

2. You have to trust your training. Everything that you have done up to this point is to get you ready for race day, focus on those workouts that you walked away from and feeling like king of the world. For example a few weeks ago I did 2 x 5k repeats with 3 minutes recovery jog between, my mile splits were 6:06-6:02-5:55 followed by 5:57-5:50-5:41, or how about the 21 mile run I did on a whim without food or water and did it in 2:33 with the first 18 miles at 6:57 pace and then having my muscles lock up on me from dehydration. These are things that come race day you remember and think I can do this. you have to let the bad workouts go and focus on the good things you have done.

I was later sitting reading when I came upon the words of Jesus “Oh ye of little faith why are you so afraid?” now at this point Jesus was talking to a bunch of guys in the middle of a sea in a hand made boat in a pretty bad storm. That is reason to be scared. But I realized this can be applied for all of life’s problems.

Mike is scared of the race, the pain, the unknowns of what lies ahead of us. Maybe it is because I have been coaching for so long and watched so many good athletes freeze up, or maybe because I have had so many opportunities to train and see that when I am dehydrated and in a lot of pain I can still muscle out 8 minute miles. Or maybe it is due to over training and adrenal fatigue that my fight or flight instinct has not kicked in yet. But I would like to think that it is I have faith in myself, in my training, and that God has my back.

So I encourage you in whatever you do, be it a job interview, raising a child, or asking a girl/guy for their number when you find your palms sweaty, your heart rate rising and your mind racing. Take a moment for a few deep breaths and ask yourself “….why are you so afraid?” and have faith in yourself and your abilities you might be shocked at what you can actually accomplish.

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