Monday, December 22, 2014

Reminders and Progress Since my Crash

Five months ago to the day I was going for the podium in my second triathlon of the summer. My conditioning was in great shape. Earlier in the year, I broke one of my goals for the year in breaking "sub twenty" in a 5K. I "blew that away" with a 19:21. I knew my open water swim needed help this last summer and I spent a lot of time out at nearby Chatfield Resevoir working on the open water aspects of my triathlon game; remaining calm and swimming straight. The bike was the least of my concerns, but became my weakest link in my first ever "DNF" (did not finish) in any race in the Rocky Mountain State Games on July 19th, 2014.
Before my race

I had a good excuse for my "DNF" as a wicked downhill corner caused a "spill." Spill is a poor choice of words as this was a full-on crash. I remember looking down and seeing the corner of a highway cone that met my tire and caused my bike and body to slam onto the asphalt in the turn. I thought I had the wind knocked out of me. Later at the hospital, I learned that I broke four ribs and collapsed a lung. Two months later, when my shoulder still hurt worse than my ribs, I learned that I'd separated the right shoulder and torn my labrum. No surgeries were required, but it was the first time in my life where I stared at death. Sometime early Monday morning less than 48 hours from my crash, I was "unresponsive" and they administered Narcan which reversed the plethora of pain medications I induced on Sunday. This meant I was wrenching in pain more so than when I was admitted as I now had a garden hose stuck in my chest cavity to drain the fluids to help re-inflate the right lung.

In the E.R.
For those of you that have had broken ribs before, I'm sorry, and you can relate. I've heard stories of friends who have had bruised ribs or cracked one rib. Three of my four broken ribs were completely "snapped."I needed drugs...a lot of drugs to temper the severe pain. I'd have to go back to my hospital records to list all the drugs I had on Sunday, but it was a lot including the button I would push in my hospital bed to give me a boost of pain medication. I clearly took in way too much as it lead to my unresponsive state that early Monday morning. As I started to "come around" my pain was at it's highest point. The Narcan wiped out any relief. I needed to throw up. I think I did. I had the chills, but the worst was the look on the young nurse's face at Memorial Hospital. It scared the ever living shit out of me as she had the concerned look of a nurse who was losing a patient. I thought I was in Kansas City. I was not. They were screaming at me to calm down. I'd learn later that my blood oxygen level was at 50%. Google would tell me that anything below 80% is considered dangerous or life-threatening. My first conscious thought was my wife and daughter aren't here and I don't want to die alone.

Six months later, there are still more than subtle reminders that this was not a spill. While I have been "off" the hardcore pain meds for six weeks, I'm not "pain-free." Sleeping has improved as my official Boston Marathon training started this week. Swinging arms and pounding pavement for 40 miles in a week probably have something to do with that. I manage during the day with things pretty much back to a normal life. Nighttime still remains the worst time of the day as normal activities combined with training raise the pain level ever so slightly by the time I head to bed.
My first race after the accident. 5th in my AG.

Sleeping brings out the "worst" if I happen to roll over onto my right side where all the body-slammed injuries occured. My ribs will occasionally wake me up and I'm sore when I wake up in the morning. Training likely exacerbates the pain, but it has the benefit of raising my morale, getting me back into shape, and more often makes me more tired than I've been so getting to sleep seems to be getting easier.

Halloween weekend was the last weekend where I rode the "oxy train." Oxycontin is highly addictive and my regular doctor did not want to fill the last prescription he gave me, but "over-the-counter" meds did absolutely nothing at that time to help me get any amount of sleep. I went with a "cold turkey" plan and stopped taking oxy the first week of November. That week was hell as I was essentially going through narcotics withdrawal. I had three sleepless nights with "restless legs" where I paced the darkness of my house the entire night. I can honestly say, I have no desire to take another pill and drop back into that "abyss."

There are other physical reminders of the Rocky Mountain State Games Triathlon. I have a "hunk" of flesh about the size of a large fishing lure under my skin that's adhered to my lower right rib area. My "Google MD" wife labels it as "scar tissue." I'm sure it's harmless, but I subconsciously grab it throughout the day and it reminds me of the crash. I have road rash scars on my right hip and I look at the pneumothorax scar every day in the mirror along my rib cage where 10" of tubing lived in my chest cavity for ten days in the hospital. My right elbow has a small red scar that hurts when I glance my elbow against something. This is a long way of saying, I don't have the podium medal I was hoping for, but have plenty of reminders of my first DNF.
My longest run since the accident. Eleven miles last weekend.

With the injuries I sustained, running was out of the question for at least two months and biking was not an option as the thought of even tipping over while waiting for a red light to turn green would be bad...very bad. The later was not an option since my bike was totaled. This was the same bike I hopped back onto after I crashed and completed the first of three loops in the bike leg of the race. It was after the first loop that I pulled off the course just beyond the transition area and knew my day was done.

It's good to write these words and reflect on the accident as a reminder of how lucky I am. How lucky I am to still be able to do some of the things I love; running, swimming, biking (indoors,) and writing about it. While I'm still the same person I was before the crash, I am also different. I love my wife and family more. I love life more, and I'm beginning to train again.

Over the last four weeks, I have started to implement portions of the training routine I'd grown accustomed to; notably "pushing myself" at least two days a week. Part of that is speed work on Tuesdays. That's a bit of an oxymoron as I don't have the speed I had back in March when I set my
Getting back into the swim of things
PR in a 5k and grabbed 1st in my age group. My favorite speed workout are Yassos (1/2 mile repeats.) I have slowly increased speed each week initially starting out with five sets and "up'ed it" to seven sets this week. My running coach often layers on alternating speeds so I've done that with my Yasso's alternating between "fast" and "faster." This week that meant starting at a 6:15 pace and progressed (another one of her training aspects) to a 5:56 pace. Fast by some people's standards but not close to the 5:30ish pace I was pushing myself earlier in the year with much less stress. I have also started to go a bit further in time and distance on the weekends.

This last weekend I went the furthest I've gone which was eleven miles. Distance and speed still feel very "labored" to me mainly from a cardio standpoint. It scares me that the right lung that collapsed won't get back to where it was six months ago. I try and convince myself that I'm merely "ramping back up" on my conditioning and it will get there.

As I'd mentioned above, the hospital did not diagnose the separated shoulder, but I knew something was wrong two months after the accident and went in for an MRI which diagnosed the separated
shoulder and torn labrum. I have Steadman Hawkins Clinic and my physical therapist, John, to thank for rehabilitating my shoulder. When I went in for my first PT session, my right shoulder blade literally "floated" around my back and John could fit his fingers under the scapula.

I have been "religious" with my rehab which includes 20-30 minutes each day with a variety of exercise. I had tried to swim a month after my accident, but it was a disaster and filled with pain. A
Returning to speed and drill work
freestyle stoke and a separated shoulder do not go together. I have started to implement at least one day a week of swimming into my weekly training plan and I was surprised the first time I got in the pool that it didn't hurt and my swim conditioning was not that bad; in fact better than my run. I now have my standard routine of two 800 meter sets (one mile) each time in the water. I will continue to rotate one day in the water each week as part of my cross-training.

To give myself a morale boost, I had my first race since my accident at the end of November for a Turkey Day 5k. I knew this was not going to be a podium day. I had gotten spoiled prior to my accident as I'd hit the podium in 11 out of the last 12 (not counting Boston and Columbus Marathon) races. My race result was almost three minutes slower than the PR day I had in March, yet I came within eighteen seconds of first. I "pushed it" in the first mile, and throttled it back in the second mile on a somewhat hilly course. I was disappointed in coming in fifth in my age group, but knew this was an honorable time. The beer in the beer tent after that race tasted sweeter than normal.

While I was not hard on myself for the turkey run, I wanted to get one more boost of adrenaline before the end of the year so I signed up last minute as a walk-up registrant for another local 5k, the Santa Stampede. I flew home from Seattle the day before on Friday and had a late business dinner Thursday night so I crashed hard Friday night before the five kilometer race. My wife had a bout with allergies so my sleep was a wreck and Friday night pizza had my gut in knots Saturday morning. In other words, I was set up for a perfect race. I'd say I didn't have a time goal, but that would be a lie. I wanted to improve on the twenty two minute 5k from three weeks earlier and deep down, I wanted to taste the podium again (not literally.)

The weather was "crisp" and cold hovering the lower 30's yet I still opted for shorts and a singlet, but added arm sleeves and gloves. It was great to see many local run friends since I didn't really run into anyone at the previous Thanksgiving race. I warmed up a full three miles with one of my really fast run buddies from my 2014 Race Team, Working Class Athletics (Kevin.) I "dosed up" with some Generation UCAN and did a few sprint drills as well before the race. Like the previous 5k, I went out fast, slowed a bit in the second mile, and finished fast in the last half mile despite a perplexing windy route through some trees and packed snow (not as perplexing as the earlier leg through an apartment complex that ran through a huge patch of ice.)

I met both goals of improving my time shaving 74 seconds off my previous race and grabbing second in my age group. It was great to hear my name called out again and get a gift certificate from Runner's Roost which is my 2015 Triathlon Race team. Five days before Christmas and Santa delivered early.

In April I will race my fifth Boston Marathon. It's too early to set any goals other than "complete the training" and "toe the line" in April. If I had to guess at this stage, it would be a lofty goal to grab my eighth BQ. It might be a lofty goal to run 26.2 miles since the eleven miles I ran "slow" this last Saturday completely wiped me out.

Given all this, I have so much to be thankful for with Christmas coming next week. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday as a child and as an adult. Each year it's a time when I can finally
relax and not stress over work, sales quotas, or finances. My daughter came home yesterday from her holiday break of her sophomore year. My favorite Aunt Marge is coming into town. My boys are out
of school and are anxious to see what's "under the tree." My wife is happy she has a husband, and I'm happy to have all that and to say I've started training for my fifth Boston Marathon.

Footnote: My son raced the same day with his triathlon team. I thank the Barber and Oliva parents from Teens That Tri who helped me that day and for William for calling the Race Director to tell him about the severity of my crash. I still don't understand why they told him they couldn't contact me due to any potential liability. I contacted the same race director when I got home from the hospital to see if he would send me my brand new goggles that were left behind in the transition area to my home. He said he would, and never did. Not likely I'll give them my race dollars in 2015, but I will leave it behind me.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rudolph's Island of Misfit Running Toys Holiday Wish List

FAIR WARNING: This post may contain adult material unsuitable for children (which means at least one four letter word.) Read at your own risk.

Even though I've seen it dozens of times, Rudolph came on t.v. the other night and my channel surfing stopped to take in the Christmas classic. It's timeless and always takes me back to my childhood when I looked forward to seeing Rudolph, Frosty, and the Grinch once a year as my favorite holiday approached.

One of my favorite scenes is when Rudolph, Hermie, and Yukon Cornelius escape the clutches of the Abominable Snow Monster and land on the Island of Misfit Toys. Plenty of symbolism there, as Rudolph is a misfit himself as is Hermie and the more I think about it, so is Yukon Cornelius--do you ever wonder why he licks his pick after striking it on something? Talk about odd...

As I often do, my imagination started to run wild and I came up with my runner's version of the island. I have done my runner's shopping wish list blogs before, but far more interesting is Rudolph's Island of Misfit Running Toys Holiday Wish List. These toys won't make it to the popular running blog wish lists, and will likely remain on the island with the train, spotted elephant, "charlie-in-the-box," and "Dolly." With that, my top ten misfit running toy list.

1) Copper Mountain Chili Gel Pack. The energy companies continue to come out with new flavors to make you go the distance. They went too far and this makes you go in the wrong way. Cases never sold and landed on the island.
2) Free entry to the Axis of Evil North Korea Marathon. I previously wrote about why I'm not racing (HERE,) but I'm not the only one that doesn't want this in their stocking.
3) Hostess "Twinkie" fuel belt. Before Hostess went under and sold their assets, they tried to jump into the fitness energy market. Fuel belts equipped with Twinkies was their desperation idea that sealed their fate for good. Maybe after a race as a "cheat food" or reward, but this will guarantee projectile vomiting in a race.
4) DumbWool Racing Singlet. Wool socks make a lot of sense. Wool on the torso is an itchy hot mess.
5) Runner MILF on a Shelf. The mother of the mischievous and infamous "Elf on a Shelf" is equally mischievous and that's about all I can say about her.
6) Lee Nails Black Toenail Cover-Up kit. Right problem, wrong solution. Runners do not want to hide their badges of honor. One of many inappropriate Instagram posts of mine show off my ugly feet. Be black and be proud!
7) Shards of Fiberglass Compression Socks. Have you ever installed installation, or accidentally rubbed up against it in the crawlspace or attic? Attempts to compress and keep your legs warm went awry with this product gone bad. Combine with the race singlet and you're one itchy mutha.
8) Maximilist Lead Running Shoes. Minimalism in the running shoe market has a hot segment including the ape looking Vibram FiveFingers. Going the opposite direction, these shoes are the heaviest on the market with lead weights in the soles. Only fit for Hermie on Misfit Island or Jimmy Hoffa going for a swim.
9) Nipple Glue. An attempt to take market share away from BodyGlide, Nipple Lube was nicknamed Nipple Glue and never sold since they discovered that the lube combined with sweat and heat would adhere nipples to clothing. You wouldn't have the dreaded bloody nipples at the end of a race, but you would once you ripped your shirt (and nipples) off.
10) Sheer White Run Shorts. They look okay on the rack in the running store, but anything over ten minutes when the sweat starts producing and they magically leave "nothing to the imagination." If you've ever considered a nude 5k, but were afraid to, wear these and the matching top and you will have entered one accidentally by the end of the race.

Whatever your religious affiliation is this season (Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hannukkah,) here's hoping that UPS doesn't deliver any of these to your doorstep. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Turkey Hangover and Ten Things I'm Thankful For

Since everyone was hopefully "offline" either running in their turkey day 5k or indulging in football or the Thanksgiving feast, I've got my post-Thanksgiving "Ten Things I'm Thankful For" post. I had a lot of people I hadn't seen in awhile that I ran into over the long weekend. The most common questions were;

"Are you running again?"
"Are you all better?"
"Tell me about your accident?"
"Did you really meet Kate Bosworth?"

Yes, kind of, long story, and yes are the answers.

Last night, my ribs woke me up at 2AM and my sleep hasn't quite returned to normal. In terms of everyday life, I'm around 90%. In terms of running, I'm perhaps 70-80%, but working hard at it. Regardless, there are many things I am thankful for with my glass more than "half full." My top ten thankful list.

1) The gift of life. While I still occasionally "sweat the small stuff," I feel like I have a whole new outlook and appreciation of life. Nothing like waking up in the hospital with a "we're losing him" look on a nurse's face to have you appreciate each day.
2) The gift of running. While I've only been back at it for the last few weeks, I am thankful I'm able to return to the sports of running and triathlons.
3) A return to "speed work." I have only had two sessions the last two weeks respectively and have a
long way to go, but good to use the word "Yassos" (1/2 mile repeats) in my vocabulary again. I pushed myself to just over a six minute per mile pace. A far cry from where I was in July, but progress nevertheless.
4) My family. I'm fortunate to have lots of family in town and around the country that I'm very close to. I'm especially happy to have a phenomenal wife and three kids that deal with me, my range of emotions, and my obsession with this sport.
5) Kate Bosworth. Had to get number four in ahead of Kate. After a million miles on United Airlines
largely sitting next to smelly businessmen that don't know the rules around sharing of the armrest, I won the lottery on my last flight before Thanksgiving. Not only did I get the first class upgrade, but actress Kate Bosworth sat next to me. Far more beautiful in real life and crazy nice. I neglected the urge to say, "Aren't you that actress,?" and shared small talk, a flight of champagne, and hand holding the rest of the flight. Okay...I made up that last part, but she is crazy nice.
6) Thanksgiving Day 5ks. I love racing on Thanksgiving morning and have made it part of my holiday ritual. The problem this year, is I was nowhere close to being 5k "race ready" and I don't know how to jog, or "run for fun." My desire to put a bib on for the first time since my accident in July far out-weighed the fact that my body wasn't ready so I signed up for the local Highlands Ranch
Turkey Day 5k. I went out fast, settled in on the second mile knowing, that it wasn't going to be a podium or PR day, and had a "kick" the last half mile to give me fifth in my age group. If I knew first place was a mere 18 seconds ahead of me, I would have found a way to try and close the gap. This 5k result was a full three minutes slower than my PR set in March, but I'll take it. 22:39. Great to be back out there!
7) I didn't sink. I had to look this one up. When was the last time I swam a mile? My birthday on July 14th shortly before my triathlon crash. If you know anything about ribs and swimming, broken ribs are not a swimmer's friend. On Sunday, I took to the pool for the first time (upon recommendation of my physical therapist) and the (separated) shoulder felt great. The bigger surprise was my conditioning felt decent despite the long water layoff. I should "thank" Steadman Hawkins for helping rehab that shoulder to get me where I am now.
8) Team work. Right before the holiday, I was notified that I made the local Runner's Roost Triathlon Race team. I had applied before, but did not make the team. They must have lowered their standards (#sarcasm) as I made it this time around. Super excited about wearing their race gear and being an ambassador for the sport and their stores.
9) Close to pain free and off the pain meds. I'm not an expert, but my doctor hopefully is. He was reluctant to renew my last prescription for "oxy." I had no choice at the time as aspirin didn't cut down the pain at all, and sleep is a bit of a necessity. Weaning off oxy after three months is no trivial manner, but I went "cold turkey" (no pun intended) after Halloween. There were three "nightmarish" nights, but my desire to return to the sports I love again out-weighed any desire to take another pill.
10) My running and triathlon blogosphere. I have made some great friends over social media who have been a source of encouragement as I went through the accident, long layoff, and continued rehab. My blog surpassed 200,000 page views in the month of November which helps me maintain accountability towards my goals. Giving up is not an option, and I'm sincerely thankful for all that help motivate me with "Likes," "tweets," and the like.

Here's hoping your holiday was filled with running, love, and lots of good food. I look forward to continuing the journey in December as I start training for the April 2015 Boston Marathon here in a couple weeks.

About Me

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine