Thursday, March 19, 2009

A little background

Finally getting around to setting up a blog. This is primarily about running and fitness but there's no telling what else I'll post about.

I've always tried to be a fit person, for as far back as I can remember. I was very active in sports when I was young. I played football, basketball, baseball and ran track. I was fairly successful and a good athlete, then at the end of m
y 9th grade year I was taking down decorations from the end-of-the-year dance.

I was on student council, so that was part of my duties. Unfortunately for me, as it turns out, we had hung decorations from the rafters of the gymnasium over 20 feet in the air. This required a scaffolding-type ladder to reach. I would take down a decoration and then some other folks
would push the ladder to the next decoration. We were almost finished when the wheels on the ladder got hung up and the ladder fell over with me in it.

I was very lucky to be alive, but that event would change my life forever. I broke my right hip completely, requiring three 5 1/2 inch screws to repair. I also shattered my right elbow, which required six pins and screws to fix, broke my left elbow as well but not as severe, and suffered a major concussion. I spent six days in the hospital and over six months learning to walk again, albeit with a limp.

At that point it was obvious I would never be able to perform the athletic activities I was used to. The doctor ruled out football right away but said I might be able to play other sports at some level someday.

I worked hard to rehab. My left arm healed first and I tried to learn to throw left-handed. I became a fair thrower but knew I would never be happy with it. Eventually after a year or so I was able to start activity with my right arm. I worked on throwing a baseball and shooting a
basketball. My competitive spirit drove me to be able to compete in some sort of activity. I worked hard all summer and decided to try basketball again. I still could not run very well and what little I could run was with a noticeable limp. I still decided to join the sophomore team.

I worked throughout the fall and got a pretty decent shot back and got better at running up and down the court, but I was not able to be real competitive. I only got in a few games and scored very little. In reality I still was
n't really healthy enough, but I started to focus on baseball.

Baseball was always the sport I excelled at. Even at a younger age I felt I would one day play college ball. I worked my right arm hard and eventually got my full throwing ability back. I had a great three years of baseball, even starting on two all-star teams at regional tournaments. But it would go no further, other than playing some recreational softball. I started working when I turned 16 and began to focus on being able to go to college.

Throughout most of my college years I did little fitness activity, because, frankly, I was
working full-time and going to college full-time. There just wasn't any time left over. I also had the screws in my hip and elbow removed, so I had to do mini-rehabs again. In '92 I moved to an office job and over the next few years gained 30+ pounds. It was sad. Then one night I was watching Dateline and they had a special on weight and low-fat foods. For some reason it clicked with me and I became a health nut. I started eating nothing but low-fat foods, so much so it drove my wife crazy because I had to read every food label.

I also started working out and eventually playing racquetball. Like everything I do, when I start something I go completely overboard with things I like. Eventually, I was playing five times or more per week, sometimes multiple times in a day (at lunch and after work). I sta
rted losing weight like crazy - so much so that my family got worried about me. I dropped somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 pounds. I looked too skinny but I felt great. I was 145 pounds and 11% body fat.

Racquetball was perfect for my hip because I only had to run short distances. I got mixed in with some other racquetballers and started playing in a league and eventually in tournaments. I got good enough to get sponsored by Ektelon and then Wilson. I certainly wasn't the best but I won and placed highly in several tournaments.

After a few years
some people in the tournament "scene" really ruined the sport for me. There were some up-and-comers and over-zealous parents who basically ruined the sport for me. It got bad enough that I stopped playing tournaments and eventually stopped playing altogether.

After racquetball I wanted to continue my fitness, so I started lifting and doing some cardio - running, steppers, etc. For about the next 10 years I was fairly consistent. I did have a few periods where I wasn't diligent about it, but I always got back into it.

I also got into wakeboarding and ATV riding and golf during this time period. I was golfing 2-3 times per week, wakeboarding at least twice a week and ATV riding one or two days. I eventually gave up wakeboarding after I moved to Dallas, because I didn't have anyone to go with. I did get more into ATV riding, though. So much so that I started motocross racing. I really loved this. The adrenaline kick from flying over jumps was just unreal. Unfortunately two emergency room trips after a few years of riding and racing and I decided to give it up.

Sometime around 2004-05 I started running a bit more than I had been. I would make it a point to run 3-5 miles after every time I lifted. I started a job where I was in NYC quite often and took the opportunity to run in Central Park. WOW! It's purely amazing to run with the crowd there.

I changed jobs in late 2007 and some of the guys I was working with were serious runners. They had multiple marathons under their belts, including sub-3 hour times. On one business trip where we all had to meet, I decided to do a morning run with them. December in Chicago with a fresh coat of snow, no less. The wind-chill was around 5 degrees and we ran for 45 minutes from downtown to the Navy Pier and back. It was exhilirating! That's when the bug hit me.

When I got home I started running more times per week. Still maxing out at 5 miles. I research the heck out of anything I get involved in or buy, and as I mentioned earlier I go full-bore into everything I do. I found the forums at and soaked in everything I could. I decided to buy a Garmin Forerunner 305 - a GPS unit that tracks distance, speed, routes, and many other things. I've always been a bad judge of distance, so I figured this would keep me honest on my runs. I went to a local running store and got a gait analysis to get proper shoes.

After a couple of weeks running in January 2008, my competitive spirit caught me again and I decided I would try to run a half marathon - the Hogeye in Fayetteville, Ark., very near where I live. I used the Smart Coach on to design a training plan and I follwed it to the letter. I even started getting up at 4:00am to do my runs.

I ran my first race in February 2008, a 10K. It was a very hilly and challenging race and matched the farthest distance I had ever run. I did run a 4-man relay in the Hogeye in my 9th grade year, shortly before my accident as it turned out. I was young and running track at the time and didn't even train for that race. We just decided to run it. Anyway, this 10K hooked me on races.

I didn't race again until the half marathon. I really didn't know anything about pacing, so I just tried to run under control but on the edge. This course is extremely hilly and tough. The first and last three miles are all hills. I finished in 1:47 and was exhausted and in pain but felt great!

This was the beginning of my new love - running. I started running every local race I had time for. Lots of 5K races mainly and one other 10K. I was always a pretty fast runner when I was young, but not really a sprinter - more of a middle distance guy. Before the accident I ran the 800 and mile-relay in track. I won the conference championship in the 800. I don't even remember my time. That reminds me, I need to go find my old ribbons for nostalgia sake.

Anyway, I made that point to make this one. The 5K seemed to be a good distance for me. My early races were in the 21-22 minute range. I was pretty happy about that. As I continued to run more and more my times got better. I eventually ran two races under 19:40, with 19:31 being my best time. For a 36-year old just getting into running I was very pleased.

Before my half marathon I had said I didn't have any interest in doing a full marathon. Well, once again my competitive spirit took over and in July I decided I wanted to run a full. I initially wanted to run Chicago, because research showed that it is very flat. Unfortunately, I was way too late and it was already full. I researched more and eventually decided to run the Tulsa Route 66 in November. I developed a training plan with the help of a local expert and began my training.

I'll post a separate report on that, but suffice it to say I did complete the race and that brings me to today. If you read this far, God bless you.

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