27 February 2015

FBF: MdS 2000

Today is a flashback to the first time I did Marathon des Sables....my very first ultramarathon. I was pulled off the course by medics during the 50-mile day, day four, so this remains an unfinished task for me. It has taken 15 years, two careers, two children, a near-death experience and the full disintegration of everything I thought my life would be for me to get back to this point. I am not sure what it is I will gain from this race, other than the satisfaction of knowing that I wanted it badly enough to get back to the start. I will find a way to make it across the finish line.

Below is the documentary on the 2000 race, the 15th running, and you'll find Lisa & Jay Batchen as well as Mike Wardian and Cathy Tibbetts, among the many athletes who ran the race. I'm there briefly in the beginning with the Americans group photo as well as around the 35-minute mark, limping along. Mike is just as fun and funny now as he was then (and without the beard!). Also, if the athletic prowess of the Ahansal brothers does not leave you in awe, well, you should just stop reading my blog now.

Check out the shoes and clothes we wore, as well as the jerry-rigging for my water bottles on my back pack. I do remember the heat, especially on dune day. On the 50-mile day, we had a sand-storm that just filled your mouth. If you watch the start of the 50-mile day, you'll see two of the Spaniards who are in the pics below. They helped me treat my feet every night and took some of the photos below. (I also met several others who have become lifelong friends, including Gerry D. from Scotland, who helped me make it through 2013 and who has been a devoted friend over the past 15 years.)

Some of the Americans, yes, that's Cathy Tibbetts next to me, then Mike with a sweet do-rag. 
Me & Mike after day one. Our hair is awesome. 
Day two. 
Mike & Jordi 
My daily foot treatment! 
This was taken as we emerged from the dunes on day three. 
Dune day. 
A view of the desert. 
One thing I know about MdS is that it parallels my life's experiences: it's not always about being fast or being first, it's about persevering, it's about getting past the doubt and fears and finding a way to keep going, through our heart and our will. And I will. 

25 February 2015

Blood, toil, tears & sweat

At the risk of being a quote-crazed blogger, here are some mid-week thoughts that speak to the events of my life right now. I couldn't find any by my favorite stoic, Marcus Aurelius, that fit the mood but you'll make do with the others just fine, I think. 

Image: Andy Won via Photoree
And, yes, you'll be seeing a bunch of desert imagery from me over the next month as I wrap my head around the memory of utter solitude that was my person under the endless span of a desert sky when I last did this race. I know what it feels like but I can't fully remember. 

22 February 2015

A tender ache

It has been a few days since I've posted, I realize. I've been held in the grip of a small dolor due to this nagging peroneal tendon and inability to run at any pace other than frustrating. I'm also now in the waiting game stage with my law school applications and a creeping incertitude about gaining admission slinks about the periphery, gloomy and negative, and I can't seem to dispose of it, even knowing there is little more I can do to affect the outcome. In a word, blegh.

After an intense session of cross-friction and point release massage on my right ankle and calf on Friday, I was hopeful that the micro-adhesions still causing inflammation and discomfort would be soothed and the tendons and muscles slide smoothly across each other as intended, allowing me to return to a normal gait and my training regimen.

Saturday, under a shifting grey sky, I endeavored my first long run since my last race - a 12-14 mile run. The route was an out-and-back asphalt trail, with rolling hills and just enough unpaved shoulder to run on. This micro-trail provided softness underfoot as well as subtle unevenness of terrain which gave both a reprieve to the normal pounding while engaging the secondary support muscles and tendons in my ankle and foot. I completed 12.85 miles, which, added to 3 miles completed earlier with my No Boundaries training group, gave me 15.85 for the day.

During the run, I had plenty of time to reflect, to think about what was next for me, while appreciating my environs and each step I was able to complete. More on those thoughts another day.

After the run and a round of ibuprofen, I waited to see how the tendons responded to the work. Today, there was almost no pain, just a slight soreness around the base of my ankle, not even the actual area where I had originally tweaked the peroneal. I'll take it. Onward.

18 February 2015

...at the Y-M-C-A

The munchkins and I are members at the city's YMCA. I've been a member there since we bought our house in town, before the Pumpkin Noodle was born and before that, I was a member of the YMCA in downtown Berkeley, before I joined the Corps. As I kid, I attended summer camps and afterschool programs at the Y, and it was where I learned to play soccer and swim. The munchkins also learned to swim at the Y, and it has been a place where I go not just to exercise, but to be a part of the local community.  (On their FB page, the tagline says, "We are more than just a building, we are the Y.")
The entrance....
There are lovely volunteers who greets members as they come through the door; there is a little container by the card swipe full of positive thoughts for the day, cut into fortune cookie strips, for people to take as they walk in; the CEO's office is right by the entrance, where he can be seen most days; and the staff never seems to have a bad day and to truly enjoy their jobs.

I love the amenities the Y offers for exercise - everything from two lap pools to TRX & barre classes, yoga, spin, pilates, a true weight room, with jump boxes, cages, and a real pull-up bar, and of course, the cardio areas, but the reason I love the Y more than anything is for the role it plays in the community. It has a swim team, youth sports leagues and targeted classes for healthy-living, as well as a family-oriented race series, with everything from obstacle racing to triathlon - and usually in support of a charity cause. It has afterschool care and summer camps. Above all, it is a place where people come to see friendly faces and connect with one another.

On the night of 7-8 February (the Saturday of the ICY-8 race), there was a fire at the Y, which started in the men's sauna on the second floor and then spread to the roof, causing extensive damage. Thankfully, and most importantly, no one was hurt. The fire was ruled accidental; however, due to the structural damage, as well as the smoke and dust which permeated the space, the Y will need significant repairs before the building can fully re-open.

Other gyms, clubs, and churches in the area have opened their doors to Y members and to host Y youth & adult programs, for which I am grateful, and of which I will avail myself.  It is not the same though, and not simply because of amenities - but because of the people who are the heart and soul of the YMCA. The Y facility is great, with continual upgrades and improvements based on member feedback, but it is its mission of giving and supporting the community, driven by the staff and volunteers that make it more than a gym, and I for one, can't wait for our family's community center to open its doors once more.

Until then, I guess we'll make do seeing our Y friends at swim lessons and at the Beach Dash (on March 7th) - and if I need to pick up a broom or paintbrush, I am game!

16 February 2015

Presidential fitness

In honor of President's Day, I did some research (ok, Googling) on our country's presidents to see who made the list of the fittest. Some you may know, others, maybe not.

According to Professor Tim Blessing, who has studied presidential fitness since 1972, "Presidents fixate on exercise for a number of reasons. It’s a source of stress relief for the man holding down what is arguably the world’s highest pressure job. It helps elevate the mood. It can make those doing the exercising appear sportsmanlike, i.e. strong and presidential. Or, like Clinton’s designation as the fast food president or Obama’s fondness for pickup basketball, it can project the image of an everyman."

Not to mention that the pure routine of regular exercise has kept presidents steady over the years. Says Blessing, “It wasn’t so much that they were doing exercise so that they’re better in the office — rather their lives are so organized that keeping fit is like another box they check off. For them, exercise is just something they should be doing and they do it.”

He also notes that few of the United States’ 43 presidents have been out of shape. The exceptions? William Howard Taft, weighing roughly 350 pounds, who got stuck in the White House bathtub more than once. Grover Cleveland didn’t exercise and was a heavy smoker. And Franklin Pierce drank too much.

But most have incorporated physical activity into their daily lives. Thomas Jefferson famously said, “Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading.”

So, who're the top five fittest presidents in our nation's history?

1) Gerald Ford - A standout football player at the U of Michigan, he was courted by the Green Bay Packers to play pro. While in office, he swam every day (in a pool he had constructed on the White House grounds for that specific reason). Whoa.

Ford in his college days. 
2) Teddy Roosevelt - In addition to his avid big game hunting and widely-photographed horseback riding, Roosevelt also hiked, wrestled, boxed, fenced, rock-climbed, played tennis and was taught jujitsu (while in office, no less)! All of this after being an asthmatic child and rather sickly in his youth.

The consummate sportsman.
3) Ronald Reagan - Reagan grew up playing football and swimming—saving a total of 77 people throughout his seven summers as a lifeguard in Illinois. He made fitness a priority in his presidency as well, although it was said he worked out more for fun than to maintain a specific level of fitness.

A perfect-looking lifeguard, for 1927. 
4) Barack Obama - His love of basketball is widely known and the White House games are apparently intense enough to warrant a mouth guard. In addition to his daily workouts (usually for an hour, and if it's not hoops, it's circuit training with weights as well as sometimes boxing and running), he also has a clean diet, much more closely monitored than that of his predecessors.

5) George W. Bush - He played baseball and played rugby while at Yale; by the time he was president, he was a regular runner and mountain biker, running four times a week. He also routinely cross-trained with swimming, free weights and an elliptical trainer.

Props to W, rugby is not for wimps.
Not so good for the face punch, though.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, here's a list for fittest Heads of State globally from Health Fitness Revolution.

15 February 2015

A pain in the a.......

Actually, it's my right ankle, more specifically, the large peroneal tendon, and even more specifically, the point just below the talus bone where the peroneal sheath crosses over and holds the tendons in place.
I aggravated the strain (which I did almost just over two weeks ago, tripping over my daughter on the living room rug) during the ICY-8 race and am now nursing myself back to health. It is not lost on me that most of the injuries I've incurred during the course of this have come mostly from my own klutziness (save the torn calf muscle at the MCM). 

I did get permission from my PT to actively recover, so I am being smart and going slow (and by slow, I mean taking almost an hour and a half to go 6.5 miles earlier this week, on the treadmill). Hopefully, by the end of this week, I'll be back up to some measure of normalcy and can get back outdoors and on the trails. Until then, I am doing everything to keep the swelling down, including adding chilis and turmeric to my foods, cross friction and ice and even putting these on the area, a remedy I used back in the day, (and which I got from Chinatown in San Francisco back then!):

Yes, a patch with chilis in it. It's totally working...
Or maybe not......

Thank you to those who've been subject to having to go slow with me, and for your patience as I've hobbled about a bit. Back at it soon! 

13 February 2015

FBF: 16-inch guns

Here in Wilmington, like many littoral cities, we have a warship. Ours is appropriately, the USS NORTH CAROLINA.  The battleship is moored on the Cape Fear river, as if keeping watch over downtown Wilmington, her 16-inch guns pointed upward in steadfast repose.

During World War II, NORTH CAROLINA participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific area of operations, including Guadalcanal, Luzon and Iwo Jima, and earned 15 battle stars. all in all, NORTH CAROLINA carried out nine shore bombardments, sank an enemy troopship, destroyed at least 24 enemy aircraft, and assisted in shooting down many more. Her anti-aircraft guns helped halt or frustrate scores of attacks on aircraft carriers. She steamed over 300,000 miles.  By war’s end, the Ship lost only ten men in action and had 67 wounded.

And, of course, the Marines were there: “The Marine Detachment was in the Gunnery Department. The Marines stood lookout watch and in battle manned 20mm and (provided officers in two) 40mm mounts. (They also manned a 5-inch mount early in the ship’s career.) In port the Marines were responsible for the security of the ship.  All Marines were trained in ship to shore operations, so we were prepared to be a landing force. This was necessary near the end of the war when all Marines in our battle group transferred at sea to attack transports and went into Yokosuka, Japan.  The Marine officers also stood top gunnery watches, officer of the deck and junior officer of the deck watches, and regularly assisted in summary and general courts martials acting either as the prosecuting or defending officer.” - Captain William Romm, USMC, Marine Detachment
The Marine gunners. (photo: Battleship NC/USN Archives)
The Marine Landing Force (photo: Battleship NC/USN Archives)
After serving as a training vessel for midshipmen, NORTH CAROLINA was decommissioned 27 June 1947. In 1958 the Navy decided that it did not need the NORTH CAROLINA in the fleet. The ship was going to be sold and the new owners could melt down the ship to make other things like razors and cars. The citizens of North Carolina decided that the ship should be saved because it would make a wonderful memorial to honor the North Carolinians who died in service during World War II. A statewide campaign successfully raised $330,000 to purchase, dredge and prepare a site and have the Ship towed from New Jersey. On September 6, 1961, during a formal ceremony in Bayonne, New Jersey, the Federal Government formally handed over the 35,000 ton Battleship to the State of North Carolina. She opened to the public on October 14, 1961. (info from BattleshipNC.com)

September 2006
I have visited the ship many times, started and finished running races in its shadow and watched fireworks burst over its form. It is an important part of not just naval & military history but American history, and if you are in the area, I highly recommend a visit. (pics below are from my very first visit - click for full size)

Bwahhahaha - electricity!!
Just a little more torque.....
Hanging out in the galley....
Maneuvering the guns.
From the ship's photo archives. (Wait, what?)

11 February 2015

Call on your spirit

After feeling disappointed in my race performance (which I realize is seriously unwarranted from a rational perspective), I spent some time reflecting on why I started all of this. Here's what I came up with:

(Photo: CAREPhysicalTherapy)

10 races done, 2 to go. The adventure continues....

08 February 2015

My chosen frozen: The awesome & the ugly

Let me start this race recap just over a week ago, with me being my usual klutzy self and wringing my ankle outward in a weird position while awkwardly stepping over my daughter, who was lounging on the living room floor. Ice, ibuprofen, no harm, no foul. Or so I thought.

Two days later, there was a 15-mile run, seven miles of which included me wondering why the area under my right outer ankle hurt so much. Ahh, I strained my peroneal tendon and then aggravated it with the run. Awesome. So, I took the next week easy, rested, and prepped for the ICY-8.

I drove up to Virginia on Friday afternoon and stayed in a cabin at Lake Anna State Park, graciously hosted by Alex P., the RD, just five minutes from the start. Had a pre-race meal of lasagna, garlic bread and super veggie salad (prepared by the Robertsons!) and curled up cozy to sleep until morning.

It is hard to overstate the amazing work that Alex and the volunteers do for each race in the Athletic Equation Race Series. The thoughtfulness, from venue choice, to trail selection to food and medical care, is evident and this was no exception. A big thank you upfront to Alex and everyone involved, especially the HBCA crew! In addition, Alex donated the proceeds from the sale of race shirts that day to my fundraising efforts - humbled and grateful.

Alex is in the black shirt and jeans in the center.
The 2015 ICY-8 shirt. Yes.
Temp at the start was about 29F and it was chilly. I was layered and my ankle was taped, ibuprofen consumed and fingers crossed. Runners had the option of running an 8-mile or a 4.7-mile loop or a combination thereof. I had originally intended a 2 short/1 long alternating but with the sore ankle, chose to stay on the short in case I got into trouble out on the course.

Yes, this was part of the race course, which was well marked
throughout, if not always discernable through the leaves. 
Going for it. 
My average pace through the first 20 miles was about a 10:20, which had me on track for 9 laps of the short course for a total of 42+ miles, which I knew I was capable of with all the training I had done. At the start of the 5th lap though, the pain ratcheted up intensely, and I slowed to a 16:15 pace. I decided that I would push on laps 6 & 7 and go for 8 laps instead. I held onto that until 2/3 through lap six when I just couldn't push off my right foot. It just felt like a hot poker stabbing me in the ankle with each stride, and radiating across my heel. Which was truly frustrating and, oddly, the first time I have felt any real frustration during any of my races thus far.

I reassessed and decided to make one more loop, walking slowly. I had just under two hours to complete it. As I was departing the CP, Alex looked at me and asked, "Are you ok?" I cheerfully replied, "Nope!" I was forced to take my time, stepping gingerly and remembering my purpose in being there. I also had a little fun and took some photos of the course.

One for the Commandant, one for the Corps, and
one more for Chesty.

Nonetheless, I was happy to be done after 7 laps. After I hobbled up the hill, I got a little lift across the finish, courtesy of volunteer Peter O. (who was also at the 24-hr ATR last May)!

The other really neat things that occurred were the repeat sightings of other runners, some from the May race, and the best for me? Scott M., who I met in Sept out in ID at the YT50, driving down from Ottawa (yes, Canada!) to run this race, accompanied by a friend. We all had dinner that night, with two other dear friends who live in DC - fantastic - and are scheming our next rendezvous race! 

Scott M. halfway through the day, an inspiration and a great guy. 
Yes, that is Garrett "Rainman" H. on the right! Boom.
MARSOC Foundation in the house.
Bryan, with whom I ran several loops during the 24-hr ATR.
(Oh, and I finally found my lip balm, Bryan!)
Oh, and the ankle? This is what it looked like when I got back to the cabin. Physical therapy, a little help?

Super puffy and swollen below and around the ankle bone,
 even with the compression sock plus K-tape. 
All in all, I can't complain about a 50K+ performance on a jacked ankle, and I am happy to report that the only thing that hurts is my ankle - nary a sore muscle - which makes me confident in my training and what I'm capable of rested and uninjured (meaning, stop tripping on the carpet). Other bits from the race:
  1. I got a raw nose from wiping away the runny nose shmeetz with my gloves.
  2. I switched to my long sleeve shirt, then forgot when my eyes watered, and got nose shmeetz in my eyes. Perfect. 
  3. I fell three times on the trail, saving myself from injury with both the break-fall and the combat roll. #militarytraining #bruisedmyshoulderthough
  4. I saved myself four other times, which didn't help my ankle any. #shouldveusedthecombatroll
  5. Grilled bacon and cheese sandwiches. Pierogies. Pickle juice. Always the pickle juice.