Saturday, May 20, 2017

Blessings In Disguise

No one taught me how to run. I don't think there's anyone who needs to be taught, but I could be wrong. Once you start walking as a toddler or like I did at 7 months old(according to my mom), you develop the uncontrolled forward fall with your legs moving fast and awkwardly trying to keep you upright. Try to imagine the pure joy you had when you were that age of learning how to walk or "fall" forward. For the parents out there, try and remember your child's face as they would do that toothless giggle as they trotted forward. That's running. No one taught us how to do it, we just get up and fall forward.

Once I rediscovered running, I had people help guide me along on "proper" form and coach me, helping improve my endurance. I've done some research on my own, watching and studying people, athletes, runners. In doing so, I've developed my own style that works for me. Every single person I've ran with or trained with has told me "stretch." Coach Frank would give me the disappointed look if he knew how little I stretch, but the truth is, I barely do. He would say "listen to your body." He would preach taking care of your body in recovery to help prevent injuries. Basically, look at the big picture. When I show up for a run, I don't think I leave myself with any time to stretch before or after. Excuses.

Up until recently, I've been gambling when I run both before and after the run because of how little I stretch. I would go run long and hard, take a shower, drink some water and go to work. Not too long ago, maybe a few weeks, I went for a run like I normally do. I took a new(ish) route and PR'd on the way back to the trailhead. My legs felt sore, but nothing to worry about. I thought it was your normal post run soreness, but I was wrong. The following day, I went out for a run. I set out, limping, for about 100 yards before I stopped and turned around. One thing I've always heard and practiced was, as long as nothing mechanical is going wrong, I can continue to push through the pain. This pain that caused my limping felt as if my hip was popped out of socket and the bone was trying to get back in, rubbing on my pelvis. It sucked. I wasn't able to walk right and my heart sank knowing I wasn't going to be able to run that day or perhaps the next few either. Looking back at the run that perhaps caused it, I don't recall stepping wrong or twisting anything. In fact, I remember finishing the run thinking to myself how great that felt. The following days were painful.

Sleeping wasn't easy because of the pulsing pain my hip/groin area was experiencing, and being on my feet all day at work wasn't helping. My "injury" made normal activities difficult. Two days passed and I couldn't take NOT running anymore, so I went and tried to push through the pain. The run started out difficult, but eventually it all but went away. It was a weird feeling. It's almost as if my leg got warm and the lactic acid built up was breaking away with the constant mashing of my feet on the ground. The lateral movements were helping break up the "lump" or whatever. I finished my run, went to work and felt fine. My leg was never injured! Nope, I was wrong. The next day, my leg hurt even worse. It got to a point where I was going to make a doctors appointment. Anyone who knows me knows how severe that is if I have to make an appointment.

I believe in self healing for the most part. I believe that for the pain I was experiencing, there was a natural way to heal. The most obvious would be staying off my feet. So I decided not running was the best most logical way to start this process. Being on my feet for 10 hours a day at work wasn't going to help. So I started taking Ibuprofen which is terrible for your kidneys just to help ease the pain. I truly don't like relying on any medication to make things better, I wanted to be done with the pain and heal up fast.

Not running sucks. My mood and patience starts to dwindle. I was in such a great spot with running that pausing was such a buzzkill. I was tired of starting over and I didn't want to loose my run fitness. I was getting stronger, faster. I was able to run further, sustaining a more consistent pace. Taking time off from running was stressing me out because I have a race in a few weeks. This rapid drop in my mood was killing me. But I remained positive maintaining my philosophy of "everything happens for a reason."

I believe god puts in situations to learn. There was a reason I was not being allowed to run for an extended period of time. "Why is this happening?" The answer or answers were very clear. First, the obvious one was that I don't stretch. I need to take care of my body in hopes to keep running for a long long long time. Stretching is so easy and feels so good, why don't I do it more? I need to. 5 minutes before and after and before I go to bed and be mindful of my body talking to me. The second reason I was not allowed to run was a little more clouded, but once I understood "why" it became very clear. For a while there, I got caught up with analyzing my stats on Strava. I wanted to be faster on segments than everyone running the loops I was running. I was running to be faster than everyone and though I enjoyed running, I wasn't appreciating it which in turn made it less enjoyable. Basically, I stopped running because of my love running. Instead I was running because I felt I had to.

Running is humbling, wonderful, hard and painful. I love every second of it. I don't run for anyone, but myself. It's a tool that allows me to be the man I am today and gives me the ability to be the man I want to be. I love running early in the morning, on trails I've never been on, in the middle of the day in the summer here in Arizona. I love running to the top of a mountain and sitting there thinking or staring aimlessly out among the valley bellow. I feel healthy, spiritually sound, content, and free. I stopped smiling while I was running for a bit there, not anymore. To recap my seemingly endless rant, I need to stretch A LOT more. But I truly believe the most important thing that'll help keep me running for years to come is that I need to appreciate running and the ability to do so.

In closing, I've been humbled and I am grateful for the learning experience that this nagging injury put me through. Namaste.

Friday, April 28, 2017

For Me

I'm never able to control what I think about while running. Often times, my mind is blank, thinking about nothing and everything all at once. And times, I'm not able to shake a certain subject that just sneaks its way into my train of thought. When this happens, I fall into a groove that allows me to focus(I have no choice) and dwell on said thought. Over the course of the run, I think deeply and learn why it is I'm forced to think so deeply. Here's one of those thoughts.....

Why am I doing this?

Testimonials from runners across the globe will say, "I'm doing this for the kids, my family, my friends." I'm not so sure I share the same view of a sport/activity that requires you to spend hours and hours away from said people. In all reality, it's a very selfish thing to do.

I'm doing this for me. Being a better father, husband, friend are all things that encompass my need to run far and long. My desire to be the best person I can be is what drives me, I do this for me no one else. People in my life are extremely important and it would hurt me to know I've let them down. No, I'm not going out on the trail for hours to get away from my chosen life. No, I'm not going to risk life and limb flying down the mountain just for anyone other than me. I do it because it helps me be a stronger, better person than I was before.

I don't expect everyone to understand, but running is me, it's for me. It's my church, my religion, my chance at greatness.

End rant....

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Finding Myself

The past few weeks, months, days(not in that order), have been a struggle finding my rhythm. Plagued with inconsistency and trouble finding zen. I've found myself making excuses more often than not. It feels as if I'm blaming work, but I wonder if that's what it is. The more I think about it, the more I realize my mind has won this battle. How do I overcome?

Truth is, I'm not too sure. I feel stuck in the valley, climbing a never ending mountain. The top seems so far away, and I've been here before. Let me just say, I'm not in a bad spot, but I'm not where I want to be. Running means so much to me and is crucial to my well being. It's therapeutic, it is very spiritual and quite frankly, it's fun. Those who run, no matter the distance, push their minds and bodies through painful situations and consistently return over and over again.

I want to experience the high, the zen, the complete peaceful mindset. In order to reach any sort of spiritual transformation, I have to travel through the valley, up the hill and that in its own right is going to hurt. Pain needs to be embraced and respected. Understanding that the journey is going to have mountains and valleys is going to help propel me to the top. Move forward, but don't forget to stop and enjoy the sights, listen to the flowing water of the river. All the answers are right there for the taking, I just need to dig deep and find the strength within. I can, and I will find myself. I know where I want to be, I know my true potential, I know it's going to be hard work, but one foot in front of the other and I will overcome.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Listen

Everything happens for a reason. There's a plan for all of this, everything going on in your life at any given moment. As confusing as it can be, things happen and maybe it's time we stop trying to decipher the reason.

A revelation of sorts happened yesterday.

For a while, I've struggled with maintaining consistency when it came to my craft, the run. I'll run on my days off, and perhaps jog early in the morning after sending the kids off to school. There hasn't been much running outside that. And the runs I do on my day off are way below my capability, but I struggle to complete them. The only thing I can think of is my level of commitment to my craft.

With running, comes sacrifice both physical and emotional. There are some things I refuse to sacrifice and other things that come easy. Also, I find some things to be a bit of a struggle. There must be a sense of balance and I believe I've found the answer.

First off, family time is one thing I will never sacrifice as that time I get to spend with the wife and kids is something special. I hope that the kids will grow up with pleasant memories of me being around instead of running which could be construed in a negative way by those who don't understand what running does to me. Luckily, I have full support from my wife who not only supports me running, but also encourages me to do it by helping push me.

Part of my struggle has been why Why do I run? Well, I feel I have explained that in depth many times over, but maybe I'm looking at why in the wrong way. Let us look at my accomplishments. I've attempted many ultras and finished only a handful of them. In failing to reach the finish line in some of those, I have still been able to cover quite a bit of distance. Distances that others cringe at, viewing this activity as a sadistic way to torture myself. Those distances, maybe I look at them in a hey I've already done them so I don't have to do it againsort of way. Maybe, since I'm no longer chasing the 100k distance, I feel I don't need to try. What about the 100 mile? What about Badwater 135? All are undeniably hard accomplishments that take a dedication to another level, but maybe I need to look at the deeper meaning here.

I'm not chasing the trophy. The accomplishment is enough of a trophy, medal or belt buckle. But maybe I need a race or two so that I can truly enter those levels of mental fatigue that comes with the sacrifice of training. A goal of sorts, an end game.

Running has and always will be a struggle to maintain balance and consistency. To continue to run even after experiencing lows that come with self doubt, discouragement that is the result of failing to reach your potential, is a feat that can not be explained. Why do I continue to do something so painful? I don't think there's a solid answer to that. To be honest, I think it's a search, a journey, an adventure of self discover and to find meaning in life. Running has been and always will be a spiritual thing, but I'm starting to understand why others race.

Everything happens for a reason and it's time I stop trying to figure out the meaning behind every little thing. I believe it's God's way of communicating to me and it's not up to me to know why this is happening, but to entrust God to take care of me. I need to give blind faith that those little annoying things that happen have a reason behind them and that reason isn't for me to know at this given moment. Looking back at those little things that have happened to me(not receiving my ATM card has sent me to new levels of frustrated), I realize or perhaps have connected them to not running enough. I have faith that since I haven't been outside as much as I should be that I'm in a way starting to lose touch with God. The trails are my church, running in a way is my religion. And I need to get back to my spiritual ways and really give my life to what I believe. This doesn't mean ignoring things that happen in life, but it does mean to take care of myself.

Running gives me peace, serenity, gives me a sense of purpose. Running helps me make sense of life and helps me be a more compassionate person towards all living things. I am thankful for experiencing everything life throws at me and though I am weakened spiritually when I am not running, I know that God will always be there for me. It's time that I stop giving in to the temptations and run with my heart and soul. My buddy Ben once posted "If you're tired of starting over, stop quitting."

My posts are often going to sound redundant. I may repeat myself over the course of several posts, but I think they're just reminders to myself why I run. This blog I run is more of a journal, but also serves as a way to communicate to others that may share the same feelings or thoughts as myself.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Why do I run?

Why do I run? Why do I constantly push my body to its breaking point? Why do I insist on doing an activity that causes my knees to hurt, my feet to swell and my mind to question my own existence? Why do log in countless miles across seemingly dangerous terrain? Why do I bring my stomach to points of wrenching agony? 

"To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering." Friedrich Nietzsche

I find life amongst the constant suffering when running. Running brings not just joy, but it also continually brings out newly discovered personality traits about myself. The views are stunning and beautiful. I've seen places, wildlife, climbed mountains and trekked through areas people don't normally get to experience. I run because it helps me feel free, helps me feel like I'm living. It gives me a healthy reminder why I am here on this earth for such a brief time in our worlds history. I run because it helps me breath new life into my lungs and it helps me battle self doubt. Running isn't a way to prove anything to anyone, but it is a way to prove me wrong because I know I can. I know I can be so much more than I am right this second. I know I am capable of greatness and running has given me the knowledge, the power, the self confidence, the tools to succeed in my dreams and aspirations. Running has given me purpose, it has helped me reach forward when I didn't feel I could. This strenuous sport has given me peace and has helped achieve a level of clarity that I never knew was possible. I feel zen when I am running, like the world and all existence seemingly stops for a brief moment. My lungs will take in more air and instead of just breathing, I feel thankful for each breath. I can actually feel the air fill my lungs like new life entering my body. 

So I ask the question again, why do I run? I run to live. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Nodules

The first thing that comes to mind when a nurse comes in and says "I'm sorry to bother you, but I have something to tell you regarding one of your ct scans," is that something is fucked up. My curiosity is at an all time high and my heart rate boosts to levels you only have while running. To make matters worse, the nurse says "we found a nodule in your lung." I'm not one to pretend I know what she was talking about, and by no means am I an accomplished english scholar, but within the context I was able to decipher what she meant. "What's a nodule?" I asked myself.

The nurse had this way about delivering the news to me that made me feel as if this kind of news wasn't generally welcomed by the receiving side. In this moment, my brain was forced to absorb possible life threatening information and seeing someone nervous about delivering not the best news in the world. Again, my thoughts were truly bouncing around the walls of my head. "Cool," was my response. Yes, "cool." What else am I supposed to say? There's not much I can do at the given moment so there's no sense in stressing over something that's not within your control. She delivered the news the best she could and I felt though she's done this several times over, but I am different.

I'm able to take news, whether bad or good, and maintain a positive outlook towards things. There's always a silver lining to what's going on. Sometimes, it's hidden in plain sight. I chose to take the high road and move forward, no sense in dwelling on the "nodule." I asked, "how does this affect the kidney donor process?" Which led to the possibility of more tests, including another CT scan. I'll talk about that in a bit. She was a little shocked that I took the "news" so easily. "There's no sense in stressing over something that I have little to no control over. Life happens and I have good faith that god will take care of me and has a plan for me. I have no doubt this nodule is benign and is nothing to worry about."

See, this is so easy to grasp, this philosophy that I have in life. You put negative energy out in the world, you get negative energy in return. The same is true for positive energy. You must maintain a positive outlook and eventually you'll get positive results in life. I could have easily focused on the fact that I had no knowledge of what a nodule was and freaked out, but what good would that do? None. This process is a very nerve racking journey with a lot of waiting and the unknown. There's no room at all for unwanted stress that could, now that I think about it, cause my heart rate tests to jump, spike and mess up test results. Heck, my blood pressure was skewed when the doctor and I were talking about the possibility of having more kids. Not going to happen!

There's a song by the band Good Clean Fun "You Gotta Stay Positive" that really is the embodiment of my philosophy in life. No matter what life throws at me, I try my hardest to remain positive. It doesn't always work out that way, but I try my hardest and that's all anyone could ever ask of me.

A few more tests were needed so that the donor team would be able to present my information to the surgery board. Along the way, we would need a lung specialist to look at my scans and determine the next course of action. Standing in the room while looking at my images, he says "we could do a PET scan, or a biopsy on the nodule. But first we need to have another CT of your chest to ensure there aren't anymore nodules within your lungs or anywhere else." The first scan was only focused on my abdomen so it makes sense. Luckily I wasn't required to do the contrast in my veins again, not that it would have mattered, but who wants crap injected in their body? I don't, that's for sure.

We would have to wait until the results were examined to determine the next course of action. The idea of a needle in my chest, possibly puncturing my lung, was lingering in my thoughts, but again, the bigger picture was/is the possibility of helping provide a better quality of life for someone. The reward is worth the risk(s). The results came back with enough evidence saying that the nodule was benign. That's a sigh of relief.

Look, this roller coaster is no different than every day life. There are highs and lows. Sure, sometimes the lows seem like a constant downward spiral of emotion leading to depths of despair that you never thought were humanly possible.

A wise man once said, "the good feeling won't last long, the bad feeling won't last long. Get comfortable being uncomfortable." I believe that once you've mastered the fact that life won't always go as planned, you will be able to overcome so much adversity. There's no telling what you'll be able to achieve. This goes back to a simple rhetorical question, "how bad do you want it?" Never give up, never give in. GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

I Eat Plants

It took Scott Jurek 46 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes to travel the length of the Appalachian trail which is 2189 miles! Most people would never even fathom doing that trail in on solid go in the amount of time he did and most people didn't think he'd be able to do so with a diet consisting of plants. Someone even was quoted in saying that he would need some real food. Since when was a banana not considered real food? Think about that for a second because it's not uncommon for people who consume the standard american diet to look at unprocessed, raw vegetables as faux food.

My thought process on the matter is people argue what they are afraid or unsure of. They feed into what the media and government tells them they should eat and go with it. Most of the time, they pick on people who live a plant based diet proclaiming "you need more protein." It appears that people automatically become a self proclaimed expert on the subject of nutrition without fully understanding what they're talking about, belittling compassionate living in the process. For as long as I've lived even a vegetarian lifestyle, I've heard every joke, wise crack known to man, rehashed in so many ways, that when someone starts talking to me after learning how I choose to eat, I have almost a 6th sense and know what they're going to say. Sure it gets old, but I pick my battles and roll with the punches so to speak.

In the not to distant past, I embarked on a life changing journey, not just for my own physical life, but someone else's. A short version of the story is, I'm donating or in the process of donating my kidney to someone. The reason I bring that up is, that I'm learning more about myself, physically, than I would have ever imagined. My labs (my blood is being drawn with each visit) come back almost laughable in that they're so "perfect." My cholesterol is beyond low, and I wish I knew what the rest of the numbers meant. Going back to the process of donating my kidney. Part of my many many many appointments was to meet with a Mayo Clinic Nutritionist. She looked at my labs and laughed saying, "You're easy," in regards to my test results. Apparently it's more common for them to have to coach someone on ways to eat properly stating "you need to eat more vegetables and fruit, grains and nuts." Well, that's the basis of my diet. She asked what I eat on a daily basis. "Yesterday I had 4 bananas with chia seeds, and a bag of frozen fruit, blended in a smoothie with water. Lunch, I had half a watermelon. Dinner we had BBQ bean burritos with grilled peach salsa and avocado." I also added in how much water I consumed. She said, "well that's why your blood work is so good." By eating unprocessed foods, I believe and I have the backing from a doctor, that is the direct cause of having healthy kidneys, organs, blood, body and mind. My body doesn't have to fight to break down highly processed "foods."

Now, I'm not perfect, but I do my best to maintain a healthy body. I see sick people every day, complaining about their weight, their health and so on. I look at their food and shake my head. It's like a pack of cigarettes with a warning label on the side of the pack stating how horrible they are for you. What if you could eat food that cures you of ailments? What if food was your medicine? What would a world be without the need of medicines that "are poison to us, but we use for their side affects?" Seriously, the meat, dairy and pharmaceutical corporations would have a shit fit. There are so many signs pointing fingers at them stating how they're hiring lobbyist to cover up any true facts regarding healthy living. Pharmaceutical businesses want us to be sick, if we weren't they'd be up shit creek. It's truly frustrating to me how sick our country is and yet the solution is so simple. Eat clean(er) and life will get much more enjoyable and healthy.

Why people choose to eat like garbage is either they don't know any better and are poorly educated on health and nutrition or they just frankly don't care and or don't want to know what's going into their body. People tend to enjoy being plugged into the matrix. Why would someone eat something they can't pronounce?! Raw food eliminates having to read the labels because lettuce is just lettuce, tomatoes are just tomatoes, watermelon is just watermelon. You get the picture and I hope you can understand my frustration here. Again, I'm not holier than thou, and I am not the cleanest or healthiest person in the world. I'm not the poster child for healthy living, but I truly believe a healthy diet coupled with consistent exercise could possibly lead to a peaceful mind and body.

Please, for the love of god, educate yourself on what you're putting in your body before you are pushing up daisies. When I have doctors telling me they wished more people had labs similar to mine, it leads me to believe more people should wake up and eat with a piece of mind. Educate yourself! Eat like you give a fuck!