Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Let's dust things off...

            So I have been away…too long from scripting my thoughts. My duties as First Sergeant have had me busy, but much has happened since my last post. I enjoyed many miles of riding on the chopper. I joined up with the Sons of Mosby Motorcycle Association (NOT AN MC!!!) which is a groups of Rangers past and present that ride for the sake of camaraderie and brotherhood that is often yearned for upon departure from the community. I also have gotten my mileage back…sort of. Funny thing about what has actually has an influence on it more than anything has to do with something else I was secretly missing….more on that in a bit. I ran the Soldier Half Marathon with my good friend Doc Susan Fondy, and prior to that had made friends with Laura Allen who started to get me back on track asking ME for advice…lol. Funny… next business trip.

         Funny thing is that it is hard to explain to the ones you love how, or even why you would miss combat. RangerUp had a good piece on it and the basic summation of it is that you never feel so alive as when you are in combat. Let me tell you there is absolute truth in that. That environment also adds to the excitement when it comes to getting in touch with past passions as well. Running has risks, naturally it carries a level of risk that makes it exciting. After a debilitating injury it is difficult to get reinvigorated about running. Yet there is some sort of magic that occurs when you mix the natural risk, which truly is pale in with the risks of a hazardous duty area. For me, running re-gained its excitement…and left me wondering…what the hell is wrong with me? My miles are up…near marathon peak mileage, AND, I caught myself looking at marathons today. I have not forgotten my goals, and I feel so alive again to see that they are back in reach. Maybe this rekindling is because of another friend Jenny, who has had so many struggles and yet just overcame a few more. She has kick cancer in the nuts…twice…running 100 mile weeks through therapy and even ran 214 miles the week of the anniversary of finding out she had cancer the first time. When things get bad I think of Jenny, when I think of Jenny I think of D.H. Lawrence’s Self-Pity:

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

            Now for a small announcement. I will be redacting my earlier post with all my race reports and posting them here again. RWOL is trying to get themselves right and finally moving away from PLUCK for their forums. Because of this all old threads will be lost. Meaning I had to search to find them and save them. Hopefully my OCD will not get the better of me on this one….

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Break time is over...

          Enough time has passed. The end result and full extent of the injury was a fractured femoral neck and superior pubic ramus (pelvis). I am fairly certain that this occurred on a jump and that running the Soldiers Marathon exacerbated it. So the past 7 months have been recovering. I still have pain in my hip, but am back to running mid 20 mile weeks. I am not entirely sure if I will ever to be able to fully run pain free, but tenacity and the need for an outlet rule out.
          That may have been the largest lesson in all this. I found myself literally going from 0 to 100 over the smallest things. When I became injured I lost my one outlet, my one chance to vent, to think things through, the only time I could be alone and makes sense of all the overload I am exposed to day after day…and it took a little bit, but losing that outlet caught up with me and now I am playing catch up…
          I talked to our organizational professional and he recommended I find a couple other hobbies that I could dive in to when I can’t run. That conversation occurred AFTER I had purchased a 2003 American Ironhorse Tejas. This purchase came on the helms of a massive battle with severe depression, likely caused by the lost running, but also with some things from my professional life. My dearest wife does not like motorcycles, especially after our next door neighbor was killed on one during one of my deployments a couple years ago, but I think she realized that I needed something to focus on that I could envelop in and was passionate about. This hobby actually keeps me home as you can’t work on your bike while you are riding it. I think I like cleaning and tinkering with it as much as riding. It has also sparked me wanting to take the reins on this and to start building custom rides.
          So the miles are coming, and now we are starting to level back out…Once again, thanks to my wife, and thanks to the blessings that God has bestowed upon our lives…

Thursday, November 24, 2011

2011 Soldier Marathon – Lessons learned, a candle lit and an injury…

          The story of how this marathon came to be run is much more important than my events on race day. In August I assume responsibility of the Regimental Communications Company. Becoming a first sergeant in the Ranger Regiment has only been accomplished by four people in the history of the Ranger Regiment. It is an honor and the crowning achievement of my time thus far in the military. I give praise the God that it is in His providence to bless me with such a wonderful position and great responsibility over the most professional men I have had the pleasure of leading in my entire time in the military.

          When I took this position, as every leader does, I took a look at what the company was doing, where it may need some guidance and made adjustments to an already outstandingly efficient company. Part of this was realizing that some personnel were lacking physically and needed some personal mentorship to achieve Ranger standard and meet the Army height and weight standard. Now, I am sure that many are thinking, “how is it possible for someone to be in the Regiment and not be able to meet the standard, or more so….be OVERWIEGHT!?” There are many things that could lead to such an instance. First there are injuries, possibly from jumping out of perfectly good aircraft, or work/deployment related. These take time to bounce back from. Secondly, to perform at the level in which we have to it is necessary to carry a bit more weight than most to be able to have that strength “to fight onto the Ranger objective”. I myself am above the Army weight standard when my weekly mileage is around 30 miles a week, it is just a fact of life that we deal with.

          One of my young leaders was overweight and according to the way the Army makes its assessment he was over on body fat percentage too. We have a Bod Pod and he is within the parameters dictated by the Army according to it, however the Army does not recognize the Bod Pod as a means to measure body fat percentage. Near this time I was doing a little “homework” and came across the Hadd Post, which is probably the most useful piece of personal health information that can be applied across all spectra of exercise. Needless to say we got to work on making progress, increasing his volume and focusing only on running for our hour and a half workouts in the morning, then getting him in the gym to focus on strength in the afternoon. Sometimes we would throw a curveball and invert the schedule just to keep his body guessing. After 4 weeks of me taking over we were ready to start working our cardio solely along the Hadd Post guidelines. Within 3 weeks of him starting he had shed three minutes off his 5 mile run, scored 292 out of 300 on his APFT and told me he wanted to run a marathon. I recommended that he pick a spring marathon, however he elected to run the Soldier Marathon which was such a short time away (2.5 months). That being said, we remained on task with the Hadd Post and elected to lengthen his long days to ensure that he would get to the finish line.

          Between that time and the time of the marathon he shed 3% body fat according to the Army measurement system, 8% according to the Bod Pod. He lost 2 pounds, but improved his overall functional strength immensely. Having been steadily building our base according to the guidelines in the Hadd Post I knew that we both would have a great race until near mile 17 and it would then become exponentially painful, merely because we did not have enough time to build up our aerobic capacity to be able to crush a solid intensity marathon effort. I was anticipating being able to hold a 3:25ish pace through mile 17…then just mutter through the final miles knowing that a 3:25 or better is easily within reach so long as I remain disciplined and patient with building the base for at least a full 20 weeks before starting the true training for a race season.

        I made the conscious decision that I am going to run a marathon for each of our fallen Rangers from the Global War on Terror, a number that stands at 58 today, at the pack pick-up the evening before this race. I have run every race ultras, marathons and triathlons with the name is a Ranger, except for but a few…the thing is that I only have run three marathons that I received medals for completing for fallen Rangers. CPL Timothy Shea, my Ranger School Ranger Buddy and B Co. 3/75 Ranger, KIA 25 August 2005 – the Snickers Energy Bar Marathon 2009. SGT James Regan. C Co. 3/75 Ranger, KIA 9 February 2007 – the New York City Marathon. SSG James Patton, B Co. 3/75 KIA 18 April 2010 – The Soldier Marathon 2011. Once I complete this daunting task I will donate all the medals on a custom hanger to the Ranger Regiment as a token for observance that none of our men will be forgotten, that their families are in our hearts and prayers and that we will and do endure their pain with them.
Mile 2
Mile 5.5
          Given that lengthy intro I am willing to bet that all reading this can predict what the outcome was.  Yes, I am capable of attaining a 3:20 or better marathon. I was on pace to do so all the way through mile 17. I started falling off pace shortly before that, however, I lost the pace officially at that point. I hit the half split at 1:42:32 and felt as though I could have run a half much faster. This is my fastest half to date, since I have not ever run a real half marathon it is a solid 2 minutes ahead of my other half bar I had set years prior.
Mile 12ish

Mile 9

Feeling the pain at 24.5
Between miles 18 and 21 I was holding an ok pace but knew I had slowed considerably. From mile 22 through the finish my legs were in such great pain I was reduced to a walk/run cycle. I was not truly keeping track, I was just running as long as I could handle and then walking until I would get angry at myself for hitting the wall so bad. My hydration/nutrition strategy was solid as I took on water or Power Aid at every aid station and took in a total of four GU’s over the middle miles of the race. My pain I was in was solely because of my lack of base. I mustered a chip time finish of 3:44:57. Still a respectable time, but I lost 20 minutes on the return trip which frustrated me greatly initially.

This is NOT a smile
          After the finish I was in a large amount of pain and hung around the finish line to see my junior sergeant finish. He came through the finish chute a 4:04:37 which is awesome considering he had only truly “training” for this merely 10 weeks prior. He has already decided to put in the full 20 week base cycle and run one to improve his time to the 3:40 mark which I know he can easily do. This event is validation on why I want to become a coach and my first success story as a “coach”.
So worth it.
The day following the race my left hip was all but seized up. Today, over two weeks later, it is still in intense pain. Xrays show that my disk is bulging between my L4 and L5…an injury from when I fractured my back in 2005. It also shows degenerative signs in my right hip, go figure…that one does not hurt. I cannot take more than a step running and for the first time since I had my SLAP surgery in 2003 on my left shoulder I am on pain meds. I have an MRI scheduled for 14 December in which I pray to God that we are finally able to find out what is wrong and how to fix it…after all, I still have the run across Georgia coming up on Memorial Day next year…I want it…I want it BAD!

Pained expression, thank you Jimmy for your sacrifice, Rest in Peace my brother, you are sorely missed...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Is fall upon us?

     I sure hope so! Much has happened since my last posting. Selection went extremely well and long story short I managed to position myself in the upper 4 of our class physically (which is mice since I was one of the elder class members), and top 2 peer rating...the board went well and I was retained and moved into a position of greater responsibility. I was also fairly spent afterward, but definitely glad it was over. 

    The biggest reason of this post is to clear the air for myself. My brother asked me to do a half IM with him after I completed the Pinhoti 100 miler last year. "Sure," I thought, "I ran 100 miles, how hard can a half IM be? I have a solid amount of ultra experience, this should equate to a good workout..." WRONG!

     I did not prepare myself well at all. I thought going to the pool and swimming 1200 meters three times a week was doing something. I had trained well on my bike for a bit, but did not ride for 3 weeks prior to the race. Couple poor training with poor nutrition and you have disaster. I finished, and it being my first one that is usually the goal for any of my "firsts" get it done, and then expound upon it the next time  take a crack at it and try to shatter previous performances. 

     The swim, well, I had never swum in open water nor in a wet suit. I could not take a breathe in with the wet suit on so I had to swim with my head out of the water which slowed me considerably. I lost at least 4 to 5 minutes on that whole fiasco alone...

     Transition the bike was fast and efficient. The ride was going extremely well until the last 5 or 6 mile sin which I had begun to cramp. First in one leg, then the other once I got the first one squared away. So basically I looked like a clown the last 5 to 6 miles pedaling with one leg and holding the other straight out to shake the cramp...

      Another smooth transition and off to the run. First two miles were at an 8 minute mile pace and then I just ran out of energy, I would run between aid stations and walk through the aid station. The sun finally came out at this point and gave me one heck of a beat down. By the end I was reduced to running a quarter mile max and walking for  a couple minutes...

Overall finish time 6:14:32...not bad I guess...but I know I am a 5:15 to 5:30 half IM guy...therefor I will have to do this again...darn it! lol...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Keeping my job

So I sit here…knowing that no matter what I do today it really won’t help me any for tomorrow…however it could possibly hurt. Normal day-before-race-day questions…did I train enough? Did I recover properly from my injuries? Am I going to toe the line. Day after day for the next weeks and perform at 100% each and every day? I know the heat will effect me, I know I will be slower, I will be weaker…but will I be able to manage myself so that I do not become a heat casualty? The ramifications for failure in this next three week event are far more than any other event I have done over the past three years.
What is this “event”? It is known as Ranger Assessment and Selection Program II. The “II” is in there because I am senior in rank and it is more of a gentleman’s course than it is for the younger guys.  It does not change that the standard is NOT negotiable. Day one is a Standard Army APFT of 2 minutes push-ups, 2 minutes sit-ups, 2 mile run as fast as you can muster and as many pull-ups you can knock out. You must make a score of 80% for your age group in each event at a minimum. Not a big deal really it is all anaerobic and short in duration. I dislike anaerobic because it hurts, I have grown to love the aerobic game of ultra-running…but that is not the game that I have been training for or will be playing here. Day two presents us with a 5 mile run as fast as possible. It must be completed in under 40 minutes. Day three is a 20 mile foot march with all you gear and dry-weight 35 lb ruck. For insurance purposes most go with 40 to 45 lbs as if you are light you will perform this event again on day five. The remainder of the course is a surprise of physical events, some lasting all day, some structured to attempt to make your heart explode…
Then there is the mental aspect. Classes given to the students to teach them our ways of operating. Psychological tests and evaluations to ensure that we mesh and are of the kilt that the Regiment needs. Exams in history and standards, and the board. Likely the one part that everyone stresses the most about since this is the culminating event of the course and, well, from my last experience with it 7 years ago they find your weaknesses in the course and beat you to death with them. The day I got hired 7 years ago I felt like the biggest piece of trash that had walked the earth for three days. I should have been happy, I made it in, I became part of the best military organization in the world…however I gave it my all to get here and that day I knew that my all was barely enough. Their point was made though. You are being selected for service in the Regiment everyday and less than 100% is not acceptable.
100% it is…

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


          It has been some time since I have contributed here. Time spent questioning, re-grouping and this weekend relishing in the small successes. Big events occurred, such as where I was Co-RD for the Inaugural Operation Endurance on Fort Benning, GA on April 30th. My family and I had the pleasure of hosting John Pyle and his lovely wife Toni over the course of the event and for a recovery day the day after the race. John is phenomenal, and as an active duty service member I appreciate his efforts more than he will ever know for him running EVERY event with our national colors and keeping Ol’ Glory flying for us. I look forward to experiencing many more events with John and Toni and following his progress next year when he takes on the immense undertaking of running across the country from coast to coast and finishing this trek out with, in my opinion, one of the hardest 100’s in the country (because of the heat), the Key’s 100.
          In between I restricted my training to focus more on immediate tasks at hand that are work related. Faster pacing and less mileage…ailment after ailment has seemed to plague me. Crack a rib, plantar’s fascia that requires a sleep boot, pulled hamstring…all just annoying enough to keep my confidence off-center. Add in some weight gain of about 30 pounds of mass from my racing weight and it is like a dark cloud that I couldn’t get away from. I found out that I enjoy binge eating when I things aren’t going my way. Ironic, why have I not ever noticed this before? Could it be that with trying to deal with getting my life re-prioritized, training differently than my norm and feeling apathetic about it all is causing it? Chances are high that they are. Thankfully I know how to re-gain control and can put it all back in check. However, I am even more thankful for the awesome event I got to partake this weekend as it got me back into the “fight” mode. I want to run again, I am ready, it is time.
          Columbus State University (CSU) ROTC team recruited me to run with their team. To be honest I was a little worried that I would be able to hang with these youthful, some freshly Commissioned, some soon-to-be Commissioned Officers. I truly did not want to be the anchor holding the team back. We got started at 6am and I was the 5th runner of an eight runner team. Out of the gates everyone took off fast, every runner, on every team, and knowing what we had ahead of us there were a few of us that were raising the red flag before the 3rd leg was started to try to slow down because as the heat kicked in, it would crush the souls, and physical ability of the athletes. By the time I got to run my first leg it was already 82 degrees. 7.8 miles in 58:50 is fast, but really right in the window I wanted to be at. After my leg it appeared that the teams started to settle into the paces well.
          By the time of my second leg it was 97 degrees and the humidity was unreal. Ice in my hat was a lifeline and I was able to nail my 2.8 mile leg in 21:25. Right on pace again. I handed off to my relief and then went up the road to provide water and support as necessary for her leg. This is where I learned that there were a few runners on the team that refused to drink while running and one that wasn’t eating at all. I was also the only one that was using ice to keep myself cool on my legs. Time for a change of strategy…though some learn better through pain. Ahhhh…pain…the best and fastest learning curve tool in existence.
          My third leg was 4.2 miles and it was twilight when I started. Still 86 degrees out I opted to run it with my handheld bottle and roll without ice. Good call as I made is through this leg in 31:50. Everyone was falling in with a routing of solid nutrition, hydration and monitoring their state. Team rules such as “peeing twice before your next leg and reporting off-colored urine” were staple…take me to my fourth leg please.
          This leg was odd in so many ways. I ran without a shirt for the first time ever (it was 3am and I was not worried about being seen without it in rural Georgia at 3am. I started this leg at a Dollar Store. While waiting for my runner I was poking around and noticed the ice machine open, full of ice…and I was out of ice for my cooler. No cameras, no way to tell if I had taken the mere 1 bag I needed or not. My conscience could not do it though. Instead I went around and used the restroom in the wood-line and then went and grabbed my Ipod (which I NEVER run with unless I am on a treadmill). This proved to almost be a very painful mistake and had it not been for my handheld I would have been mauled by 3 very protective pit bulls about 3 miles from my hand-off. Thanks to my headlamp (which I also rarely run with) I saw the white one coming at me and then starting screaming “Bad DOGS! GO HOME!!!” while squirting my bottle at them and running backwards down the road to remain facing them. If I had stopped they would have surrounded me as the other two brown pits were already moving to flank me as I focused on the white one. Thankfully I made it through this 7.1 mile leg in 56:20. Then crawled in the van and went to sleep…
Quiz…what is the one thing I did wrong in the previous paragraph that would cause someone serious issues on a stage or relay race?
Answer…failure to eat…
          Yes folks…I made the rookiest of rookie mistakes. I did not eat before I went to sleep. I slept with my feet elevated and I drank my handheld plus two bottles of water but with no calories in and nothing to help keep the water I killed myself. My next leg was run right as with was warming up. I started off great, though I felt tight at first. Halfway through the 7 miles the bottom fell out. I HAD to walk. My sub 8 minute pace was reduced to a 9:30+ by the end of this leg and it was too late for me to do anything about it. After I stopped I started cramping unbelievably bad. I have dealt with legs, but knew the abdominal cramping was a huge issue. I spent the next 5 hours eating and drinking as much as possible. I knew I had no glycogen in my muscles for fuel and that my brain would continue to win, forcing a slow pace so I could fuel off fat, but that I could get some glycogen in my system and get my hydration up enough to hopefully fool my body for the last 4.7 mile leg I had…in the blazing heat of the day. BTW…leg 5 was 1:06:53.
          I was so thankful to finally get to the last leg but was worried about whether I would make it or not. The cramping had only subsided merely 15 minutes before I started it and it was once again 96 degrees or so. My awesome team knew I was hurting bad and kept me iced every mile. While I had to walk at times I muddled through this leg in 43:37. I was never so glad to get in the truck and drive down the road to help out the other team members on their leg as I was on this one.
          After some running around and linking up with both Abi Meadows (who we were privileged to host and send on her way on Wednesday as a solo runner) and my family we finally headed to finish line. At times the team had lost confidence, became apathetic, but the great thing about doing this as a team was that we could off-set each other and keep our heads up when the going got tough. The icing on the cake though, was that we took third place for the military teams. Very awesome for a first time team. I also got to experience the brutality of the shadeless course so I can better handle the trek solo in the future…next year??
          A special thanks to my team, Rowdy Pickles, which consisted of Freddie Connor, Jerry White, Loraine Solis, Nicolas Merva, Seth Prosser, Zachary Wiehi, Stephen Waynick for allowing me to be a part of this race and giving me the best, most memorable Memorial Day I have ever had. More thanks to MSG Moore for driving our team, Marissa Prosser for her outstanding crew support, Abi Meadows (aka the beerfairy) for the three beers I stole from her and the use of her vehicle to get us to the finish line. Lastly to my wife, for meeting us at the finish line and enjoying a weekend with me that turned out to be the best time I think we have spent together yet. I love you Amber…

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Watching it all slip away...

So after the reality of a shift in life priorities set in and the road to repair was made things began to physically slow as well. Last year I had stepped on a rock while barefoot and done damage to my plantar fascia. Being the hard-headed individual that I am I kept running on it thinking I could active recover it. The reality was given to me recently that this injury is not n injury that can be actively recovered. So…4-6 weeks off as per docs orders, I am 3 weeks in right now.
This morning I took a “fitness test” with my running calculator and the result was a little more humbling than anticipated. My VO2 max usually is between 55 and 57, depending on where I am in my training cycle…this morning…47. Ugh, that is a lot lost. I am now 212 lbs rather than my flighty 185 racing weight. Though it is muscle, well, most of it, it is taxing my system and I can feel it. So, to me (and my heart too obviously) the extra muscle does NOT make me a more FIT individual. I want to get out and run, I want to blast through an interval workout and feel euphoric at the end. I miss it dearly and I am worried that it is going to be really tough to get back.
Another issue is my left hip. Not sure if it is a hernia, or residual effect from the bulging disc which running usually kept in check for me, but my left hip has been killing me since ATY and now, without running, the pain is very localized and I can hit the point of trigger. When I do pain shoots down to where my Sartorius connects just above the knee. Comparing between the sides there are a few things that are not symmetric going on in that left hip. The musculature is much less that the right side as well. My PT says it is caused from the sciatica…but I am really questioning him on this one…though…the sciatica has killed my flexibility of my left hamstring, so he very well could be right.
Next weekend I get to focus on other runners and be a part of running as a spectator and supporter. I will be the equipment manager for the GRR 100 miler in Dawsonville, GA. Sure wouldn’t mind a trot through the woods, but beggars can’t be choosers right?