Saturday, September 12, 2015

Good on ya old man!

I haven’t been running. I didn’t stop running because I didn’t want to run. I stopped running because I couldn’t run. I ran The Maze on the last Saturday in March. Then I ran very little the month of April and May because I knew I needed the rest.

When I decided to start back I felt fully recovered and nothing hurt so threw myself in to running as if I had never taken any time off. After five days of running and a hard day of work in the yard my left knee told me that enough was enough.  I went for a run on a Monday morning and my knee hurt each time my left foot hit the ground. I thought “no big deal. I will take a couple of days off and be just fine. But that was not the case. The fleshy part in the back of my knee hurt. I tried mixing in running with walking. I added a knee brace when it didn’t get better. And then all I could do was walk. My knee didn’t hurt went I was not running but any impact at all caused me to stop in my tracks.

After a couple of months of struggling and making no progress towards healing my knee Andrea told me, “What advice would you give someone else? You would tell them to take ibuprofen, wear a good brace and take time off.” She is the smart one.

So I took off with no running at all for almost a full month.

On September 3rd I put my knee brace on and had high hopes that everything would be okay and I would be able to run like the wind. I took my first steps out of the driveway and walked to warm up and then I tried to run. It was not pretty. The pain was different but there was still pain. And I sulked. The further I walked the more disappointed I got. There were other people running that morning and I was just mad at them. Why is it they get to run and not me?

An older man ran by across the street from me and I secretly wanted him to trip. If I can’t run nobody else should be able to either. I started thinking how stupid I was being. At least I can walk. And I should be happy for the old man. So I thought “Good on ya old man!” as the Kiwis would say.

For the rest of the walk I thought about maybe never being able to run again on a regular basis. I knew it would come someday but not when I am only 48 years old. Why would I miss it so much?

While I was off I lifted weights. I would do 20 second repeats of 18 different exercises in rapid succession to try to keep my cardio up. I did push-ups, pull-ups and planks. So what was the difference? Why wasn’t that enough?

Strength training in my garage was about staying in shape, which is good. Running helps me stay in shape. But when it comes down to it the thing that draws me to running is that it is an adventure. It is a journey every day. There are some places we have either visited or lived where the journey is much more fun and the adventure is more grand but even in a subdivision in Pearland there is enough journey and adventure to make me want to come back to run as many mornings as possible. To run on the golf course and look across the man-made lake to where the thin glow on the horizon is a sign that a new day is coming is enough for now.

Since September 3 I have gotten out every other day and my knee feels better. I am still walking and running but I can tell that my knee is healing. I am going to try to be patient and get my adventure back. Then someday a random younger person will tell me “Good on ya old man!”

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Mount Taylor 50k

Jakeb got me into this mess. He told me that we had to run a trail race. A 50k. So we looked and looked. We had to find a race that happened in the fall but it had to be before October because a baby is coming. We found a race in New Mexico - The Mount Taylor 50k. It was at the right time. It is a 50k. It is run completely on dirt, in the mountains, all over 9000 feet elevation, over Mount Taylor at 11301 feet with 7000 feet elevation gain overall. So we signed up and started to train.

Very early on in the training Jakeb hurt his foot and could not run the race. But he told me he still wanted to come along. I flew to Lubbock and then together we drove to Grants, New Mexico for the race.

Race morning was awesome. Jakeb and I stood at the starting line and the weather was cool, the sky was clear and there were more stars in the sky than I have seen in a long time.

Pre-race instructions were given through a bull horn. I hugged Jakeb and someone yelled “Go!”

We ran downhill for a really short distance and then headed uphill immediately toward La Mosca Lookout. Running was not an option. It was a power hike all the way up the hill. The idea is that you will top the hill as the sun comes over the horizon as the Navajo tradition is to run to meet the sun. But by the time I got there the sun was well over the horizon so I met it but I was just a little later than the Indians.

After topping the lookout at over 10000 feet the trail went down and then started rolling for the rest of the loop back to the start finish at mile 16. The Continental Divide Trail is part of the course and it is soft single track that was fun to run when I could and walk when it was too steep.

Leaving the start finish aid station I knew I would have to climb up to Mount Taylor but I had no idea how brutal it would be. I ran/walked the trail to the Gooseberry aid station at mile 21. Trader Joe’s was responsible for the aid station set-up and they had turkey, cheese and mustard wrapped in a tortilla. I was grateful for something savory because Gu, fruit and candy was getting old.

Leaving the aid station at mile 21 the course immediately sloped up. A mile and a half later the course breaks out of the trees and goes straight up. I would walk 10 or 20 steps and have to stop and rest. After hiking this way for what seemed like forever the trail turned into a series of switch-backs that provided some relief but not much. I was in a foul mood. Who designs a course that makes you run (and walk) 21 miles and then sends your worn-out self straight up an 11000 foot mountain? Someone who is sadistic – that’s who.

After toping Mount Taylor I was able to run down to the Caldera Rim aid station. There were veggie tortillas with avocado at this aid station and they were awesome. Then the aid station volunteer told me I had to run a four mile loop through Water Canyon before I could run the 2 miles to the finish. This didn’t make me any happier and I mostly walked the loop. It was three miles down, which I probably could have run but didn’t, and one mile up. So needless to say the one mile up was crazy steep and again brutal.

Once I finished the loop I only stopped at the aid station long enough for them to record my number and then mostly ran the last two miles.

I finished in 8:34:22. My only goal was to finish. The time I ran reflects the training I put into this race. Could I run it faster? I am sure I could. Will I try? I don’t know. There are other races to run so I may not come back to this one. If Jakeb decides he wants to try it I may come back because it is worth it to hang out with him. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mount Taylor 50k Pre Race

I am arrogant.

Sometimes I am over confident. That is not always a bad thing but it can be. As I approach the Mount Taylor 50k I am confident I can finish. Maybe over-confident. I will not run it fast, in fact I will not run it all. There will be a lot of walking involved because I am not trained for a fast 50k. But I am trained and I am pretty sure I can finish.

I am insecure.

There are times when I have run a long run during this training cycle and have been so tired and have thought to myself "you are never going to be able to run 50k at altitude in the mountains. You are not a good enough runner. You are getting old and slow. How stupid can you be?”

These two scenarios play themselves out in my life over and over. As a Christian. As a husband. As a dad. As an employee.

I’ve got this. Everyone around should be so lucky to even be in my presence. I don’t need anybody but me.

I wonder if I am smart enough. Man enough. Strong enough. Wise enough …I don’t think I can ever do this on my own.

I need balance. The balance that comes from seeing myself as I really am and not as either a super hero or a nobody.

Mount Taylor 50k is on Saturday. I hope to have fun running in the mountains of New Mexico. And if I finish then great but there is a chance I don’t and that’s okay too. It really is …

 Because of the grace allotted to me, I can respectfully tell you not to think of yourselves as being more important than you are; devote your minds to sound judgment since God has assigned to each of us a measure of faith. Romans 13:3

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Stop this Train

I ran this morning and listened to music and thought. That’s what I do when I run. I think.

John Mayer’s song “Stop this Train” came on and I listened … and thought. He sings about how the world isn’t always the most ideal place, especially as you get older and watch the generation ahead of you get older. And I thought. And I agree.

The world is not an easy place and the longer you live the higher the chance that you will experience something that is hard. It is hard to watch your parents grow older or even to lose them. It is hard to know and experience that you are not always the awesome husband or father or friend or employee that you thought you were. It’s hard to watch people around you suffer. It is easy to look around and read the news and listen to people talk and know that the world is a messed up place. All of it makes me want to sing “Stop this train. I want to get off and go home again. I can’t take the speed its moving in. I know I can’t. So honestly won’t someone stop this train.”

And then the song takes a turn:

Once in a while when it’s good
It’ll feel like it should
And they’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound.

There is the hope. The world is messed up. Heck I am messed up. But at the worst there are still glimpses of how it is supposed to be. How it is getting fixed even though I can’t always see it. At my most broken is where redemption has the most potential. It can be fixed and made new.

I know that redemption won’t be fully realized until the other side of time. But somehow I know it can get better here too. And that is my hope. To be redeemed. To be made new. To be a part of that process and not just hope it happens without my participation.

If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation, old things are passing away and all things are being made new…

In other news I am training to run Mount Taylor 50k. It is a race in the mountains outside of Grants, New Mexico. The entire race is above 9000 feet and tops out at 11,305 feet at the summit of Mount Taylor with 7000 feet of elevation gain.

I haven’t run anything longer than a half marathon since my last marathon in Singapore in June of 2013.

What am I doing to train for altitude? Nothing really, just running miles at sea level.

What am I doing to train for running up and down mountains? Nothing really, just running miles in pancake flat south Texas.

It may sound clich̩ Рbut really, my only goal is to finish. And I am looking forward to the race very much.

Friday, June 21, 2013

When Running Might be Unhealthy and a Memorial to a Great Place to Run

My plan for a long time has been that on my last morning in Singapore I would run the trails around MacRitchie Reservior. It is without a doubt mine and Jakeb’s favorite run in Singapore and I’ve written about it quite a bit here already.

The problem though is that for the last couple of days Singapore has had a haze problem. “Haze” is really too benign of a word for what we are experiencing. Farmers in Sumatra Indonesia have been burning fields to prepare for planting palm trees for the palm oil business and the smoke from those fires are washing over Singapore. The government is issuing health warnings and saying to wear a mask and stay indoors. Walking around outside is like walking in the smoke of a campfire. It is horrible.

So should I run or not? That was not even a question for me really. I had to run MacRitchie on my last day here. I had the trails mostly to myself like when it rains. I saw seven people and only two were runners. I think my oxygen uptake and my carcinogen uptake were probably equal. But I see it as a gift. I got to run MacRitchie almost alone. It was a good morning … and kind of coughy.

At the end of the run I sat at the trailhead and took off my running shoes. I unlaced the string from a couple of holes and tied them together at the ends. I stood knee deep in MacRitchie and slung them up in a tree as high as I could. There is a pair of Brooks Pure Flows with a little more than 300 miles on them hanging from a tree over the lake as a memorial from the running Stunzes.  

Goodbye Singapore.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Sundown Marathon is done – It’s time to go to Texas!

Jakeb and I spent all day Saturday trying to figure out how to act. How do you prepare for a Marathon that starts at 11:30pm? We’ve always run morning marathons. When do you eat and what? How much do you sleep and at what time?

I ate ceral for breakfast, pasta from Dan Ryan’s for lunch and beef hor fun for dinner at a little before 7pm. I slept for about two hours from 2 – 4 pm; otherwise the day was pretty normal.

Andrea saw us off at about 9:30pm and graciously volunteered to pick us up when at the finished if we couldn’t find a taxi. As we walked out of the condo to catch a taxi to the race my friend Procosh pulled up beside us in his car and asked if we would like a ride to the marathon. I said “sure.” He works downtown and planned to park at his office and walk to the starting line so we went along for the ride.

We checked in our bag told Procosh “good luck” and waited around for the start. When the start chutes opened we lined up near the four hour pace group and were only a few yards from the starting line. The fastest pace group at the race was four hours. This is not going to be a fast crowd. I am normally in the very center of the starting chutes at a marathon with as many people in front of me as are behind. But not at a Singapore marathon where much of the crowd is planning to go much slower.

Beforehand Jakeb and I decided not to try to stick together. He wanted to hang with the four hour pace group as long he could. I knew I didn’t have a change at anything near a four hour marathon especially since we had trashed our legs two weeks earlier climbing Mount Kinabalu.

The gun went off and I told Jakeb “later” and off we went. I started at what felt like an easy pace but I checked my watch at the first mile and was running a 9:10 pace which would be a four hour marathon. So I slowed down and tried to stay in a comfortable zone. And pretty much that is how the whole race went. I ran almost the entire way with the exception of the last 4 kilometers where I mixed in some walking but mostly running.

Jakeb finished in 4:20:39 and I finished in 4:41:52. It was Jakeb’s slowest marathon and my second slowest. Singapore is a tough place to run a marathon especially if you want a fast time. Jakeb finished in 360th place out of 6389 finishers (top 5%). I finished in 709th (top 11%).

In my opinion the Sundown Marathon is better than Standard Charter. This marathon is more of a runner’s race than Standard Charter. The start finish area has more for the runner. And the course is better with well planned water stations some with bananas and gels. Much of the course is the same as Standard Charter but the night time views are cool especially when you run across the bay from downtown and the flyer. And the best part is the course doesn’t go over that bridge at the finish in the searing Singapore heat. Obviously the weather is milder at night.

We were spent when it was over. There were taxis everywhere on the streets near the finish so Andrea got to stay in bed. I hit the pillow at 5:30 am and didn’t get up until 11:30 am.

That was the last big thing on my personal Singapore list. Anna needs to finish 8th grade. There are still places we need to go eat. Jakeb is on the schedule for another tattoo while Andrea has hers touched up. We need to say some “see you laters” to some people. But for the most part it is time to go home. Andrea, Anna and I have been looking forward to June 22nd for what seems like a very long time. Texas here we come!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sundown Marathon – most unorthodox training cycle ever and why I CAN

The Sundown Marathon starts Saturday night at 11:30 pm. Today I started carbo loading. It’s weird because Andrea and I have lessened our starchy carb intake recently so eating rice noodles for breakfast and rice for lunch has me feeling heavy. Our change in eating (which you can read about here ->link) makes me feel much better but I know I need the fuel for the marathon and really don’t know any other way to get it other than eat potatoes and rice. I plan to skip the bread and pasta though.

My training for this marathon has included a 30k race called The Maze. The weeks following The Maze I mostly took off from running while we worked on our house in Texas. Then I came back to Singapore and ran an 18 mile, a 20 mile and a 19 mile long run followed by a back off week of 12 and then I climbed a mountain with Jakeb. For the last two weeks I have been recovering from the climb and have done very little running. Jakeb and I ran MacRitchie on Saturday for eight miles. I had no fuel in my body and the run was horrible. Three days from now Jakeb and I will run a marathon for which I don’t have high expectations as far as my finishing time goes.

As I read that last paragraph I am struck by the reason I CAN run marathons (and climb mountains). One reason is because God has given me a healthy body and I work hard not to take that fact for granted. But another major reason is that I have a wife in Andrea who supports this craziness. Andrea from the beginning almost exactly 20 years ago has not just endured my running but has encouraged it. We go to bed early so I can get up before work and run. She hangs out without me for hours on Saturday morning so I can run long runs. Just now we changed our plans to eat Peaking Duck because I need a more starch heavy meal the night before the marathon. And she agreed. And we both really like Peking Duck. I love Andrea for a bunch of reasons and one of them is that she is a big part of nurturing my love of adventure and the everyday journey that running is. She has even run and walked races of her own. And I believe as a result we’ve passed on that love of adventure to our son.