20 milestones

Someone once told me that every mile you run is an accomplishment. Everyone runs for different reasons. As a heart attack survivor I run because I can.

Summer 2016 started with a dream. I was going to train for the Columbus Marathon in October. Of course I suffered an ankle injury which derailed those plans and sent me into a little bit of an emotional quagmire but that’s part of the journey we all encounter. The best plans are, well, just plans.

As a litmus test I signed up for the Columbus Running Companies Big Bad Wolf 20 mile race back in August.  Races are milestones that keep me honest with my personal care. And while I kept running through the summer after my ankle mended, it was more aligned with half marathon training than full marathon. All that aside I spoke with my cardiologist to determine if there were any risks in me jumping into the significantly larger challenge of a 20 mile run. He stressed the importance of hydration for heart function especially in endurance activities and to be careful not to push my body into an injury zone … but that I’d be OK and to have fun.

Arriving on a slightly crisp late September morning at Wolfe Park I was met by hundreds of other runners there for the 5k, 10 mile and 20 mile runs. The mood was cheerful and everyone was ready to put heels to pavement and enjoy the time spent together. If the day comes when I can’t run I have a feeling that I’ll either volunteer or at least go and cheer for those future runners. There is a lot of pure hope and joy to be found along the race course.

It came time to head out. I was wearing a new hydration belt and a larger hand-strapped water bottle. The hydration belt was a wardrobe fail however which ended up pantsing me. Embarrased I swung off to the side to fiddle with the belt and see if I could tighten it some. Ultimately, I just tossed the $50 piece of equipment, along with my reading glasses, to the side of the course. By this time the end pacer came up behind me and told me that if I see her again, and she passes me, that I’m out of the 20 miler. I got the point.

It was a beautiful paved trail to run. I aimed to keep my pace at  a steady 11.1 to 11.6 and heart rate around 146/8. That’s a nice maintainable pace for me where I don’t need to stop for walks … at least up to 13 miles anyway. As I learned yesterday however… that 14th mile reaches up and grabs you by the butt pretty directly. I felt my calves and feet begin to complain for the first time in a long time. They just got louder. So I slowed down. Took a couple self assessments and decided to keep up with my mantra “keep moving.” Luckily I still had not seen the final pacer yet so I felt a little safer.

heart-rate

There were a few dips on the charts below that indicate dropping out of my run and into walks. That was advice I had gotten from a colleague who is a very good runner. He had done half marathons splitting them into 5k’s. Going full steam ahead for him running a fast 3 miles and then dropping into a brisker walk pace for the next 3. His finishing time was pretty enviable. Remembering this I used it to finish the event. Parker, I owe you.

pace

And so it was that I was “dead fucking last” in my age group. I think next to the last person to cross the line. Looking back I should have held back and finished with her. Truth be told though it took me everything I had to break into a run for the last half mile. I don’t remember actually thinking at that point anyway.

finish-line

Now that I know I can run a longer distance I’m excited by the prospect of the next phase of my marathon training goal. My next race is the Brokeman’s Half this coming weekend, which was my first half… ever. I was motivated to run last year after my heart attack. Depending on how my body feels I may lay out the cash for the Columbus Full with the knowledge that I have a lot to learn about how to run that event. Or I may continue to train through Fall and Winter for the Rock’n’Roll Full Marathon in New Orleans in February… for my birthday. I’m leaning toward the latter race given what I took away from the Big Bad Wolf race yesterday.

I like to tell people that “running is a gift.” It’s how I feel knowing that one cardiac event, cancer diagnosis, bout of MS or any number of other life altering situations various people are facing everyday can do to a persons ability.

Running is a gift to myself, wardrobe malfunctions and all, even at the very tail end of the wolf pack. Because I can.

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We are our own Army

2015 was the year I became a statistic. Here are some of the ways I try to keep my head in the game… and the key is emotional support.

If I’ve learned anything by putting on running shoes, going vegetarian, taking medications religiously, sitting on the floor on a pillow listening to myself breath, taking a step back from being “busy” when I can it’s that I’m not alone.

I was not alone when I sat in the hospital room before being wheeled into the Cardiac Wing. Nor was I alone when they wheeled me out of surgery high on Valium whereupon I high-fived the surgeon, sigh that actually happened, after he told me I had a Widow Maker with very little damage.

The folks at Grant Medical Center and the Cardiac Rehab staff equipped me with the care and information I needed to get started. I soon found out that most of us struggle with very real emotional issues after having a cardiac event. I was not unique in that department. So it was that I found community and friendship on the American Heart Association Support Group site. Those beautiful conversations and friendships help me to redefine life with a chronic condition in a way that makes it feel less, well, finite.

I’m not here to tell you what not to do. I make plenty of mistakes even as a vegetarian. There’s mountains of info out there on why we take medication, the benefits of reduced sodium and saturated fat diets, daily moderate exercise, stress reduction and so on. Less easy to quantify is the subtle impact of support, friendship and connection. When you stand shoulder to shoulder with others in our shoes, care givers and health providers daily choices become easier to make and sustain.

I’m fighting Cardiac Artery Disease but I have an Army behind me. You are never alone if you face your fears, open your heart, don’t let your ego shade your choices with the prejudices of your old self. The funny thing about opening up is that you get a chance to redefine your life as those friendships begin to put the wind back in your sails where it belongs. This holds true for my good buddy who can’t walk down to the street corner without suffering strong chest pain to the younger guy in his 30′s, Mark Poniatowski, with the same thing I have who, incidentally, puts my running times to shame.

So here’s to marching in step, every day, with all our various battles against heart disease. It’s OK to fall. Don’t beat yourself up. Never be afraid to reach a hand out and ask someone to give you a lift back up off the ground.

We are our own Army.

Army

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And so I fell down

It’s hard work trying to stay in shape on a continuing basis. Work, family, friends, habits and whims pull us in conflicting directions. We all have our individual compass which uses our motivation like the North Star to guide us ahead. Until that motivation sputters and coughs.

There is a scene in the film called “The Conjuring” which reminded me of the function of motivation. The wife of this demonologist couple says of evil artifacts that you can “destroy the vessel but you can’t destroy the Evil.” All you can do is hold it safe for awhile to prevent it from causing harm now. The same can be said about heart disease in relation to exercise. Being active can help keep it at bay or at least slow the progression, inactivity will kill you.

IMG_2089.dng

I’ve been training hard for over a year now. Bringing everything I learned in Cardiac Rahab with me to every workout. I kept on track through Winter and Spring with my marathon training goals. Until I injured myself in three stages over the course of the Summer. During the Columbus 10k in June I was keeping up with the 8.5 pacer chatting about our various stories. He’d lost something to the tune of 50 lbs through running. I found an escape from anxiety in it. Toward the end someone encouraged me to push harder and lean into the downward sloping hill. While I ran at a faster pace I didn’t do myself any favors. It was later that week when I sprained my ankle on a training run which put me out of commission for a week. After I recovered I got back to my training. Marking the start of my optimistic marathon training program. Things were going well until July.

This part should be proof that no matter what age a man achieves … he can make really bad choices. So it was one of those moments on a Friday night where I was in the kitchen when my brain said “why not do some chest dips?” Did I have the equipment? No. But I did have a built in bar in the kitchen and a heavy island adjacent where I prep food and store a whole mess of cooking tools within reach. So I was doing chest dips. When the island started to slip away I remembered that the structure was built on… rollers. Needless to say I ended up on my ass but not before my weaker foot tried to catch some of the fall. THUD!

Men

For the next two weeks my ankle was swollen and angry about being twisted in an unnatural way. I took care of the injury with pro advice from a colleague using Rest Ice Compression and Elevation. During that time my activity level tanked. Running outdoors in the sun or summer rain is one of my great new pleasures. It makes me feel free and reminds me to center. You see I’d been thinking of closing my gym membership recently because I rarely use it anymore. But without the ankle I could not run. I know each skipped workout or bowl of kettle chips makes the Cardiac Artery Disease stronger. But I had lost the fight in me. Truth is I made it to the gym a grand total of three times in two weeks to swim and to use the rowing machines. Smack in the middle of July.

I underestimated the power of a simple sprained ankle over my motivation. It makes me think of the nature of motivation. Lifestyle in the face of life and death situations. Maybe not in the sense of immediately today but in relation to the nature of lifestyle. The everyday choices. A better way to have dealt with this would have been to acknowledge the situation and pivot. Switch to swimming 4 days a week which my gym offers. Or mix it up with rowing machine as that didn’t aggravate my ankle. As it stood, I swam twice and did the rowing machine once. Those are sad stats. But with all failure there is always a lesson.

The lesson is to be ever vigilant about thinking in fixed terms. Be flexible. Pivot. Don’t be hard on yourself for stupid choices. Acknowledge and move on and do better. Get help when you need it.

I had a pep talk with myself last week. Bucked up and got an x ray of my ankle. Everything turned out to be OK, no tendon or ligament tears, and ready to get back to the running trails. I plan to get back to the marathon training track this week. I’m going to make an effort to get back into forcing myself to workout indoors at the gym. Weights, swimming and rowing machines. It’s all about the balance of activity that has proven cardio-protective benefits anyway. I love running, but when I’m injured… I can’t let it stop me in my tracks either.

Ankle

Failure is a gift. Sometimes it gives us the lesson we need when we need it most. So here’s to stupid choices and looking optimistically forward.

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Magic Feather

Having sprained my ankle a few weeks back, story in the works, I was very cautious with my recovery as I still have some hopes that I’ll be able to enter the Columbus Marathon this fall if I’m lucky. I got an Xray by my orthopedic Dr and received the all clear to return to running.

A young buddy at work suggested using KT Tape which I used last night on a trial 4 mile slow run to test out the ankle strength. All went better than expected. I was even treated to a full downpour halfway through the run. The tape seemed to work well. I may or may not have needed it it but I felt a little safer using it and probably will for the next week or so while I get my confidence back. Magic feather in my case or not, it’s good stuff. You definitely want to shave or closely trim the area where you apply it to help the tape stick better and aid in easier removal. After EKG pad removal I have a phobia of the sensation of ripping hair out of my body when you remove whatever it is that is stuck to you.

I discovered one of my new favorite things last night. Losing my shirt during a summer storm while running… it’s one of those outdoor shower or standing under a waterfall kind of feelings. I hope to never forget that.

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Saying goodbye to my father in-law

It is said that during the process of death a person puts one foot in the beyond leaving one foot, momentarily, in the living world. Witnessing my father in-laws month long decline this week reminds me of this statement. The slow but steady change to his memory and physical stature all seem to support the idea that we dissociate from life as if we are preparing to leave.

My father in-law had four brothers and three sisters. One brother was the Bishop of Columbus and the other was a priest who was famous for being a champion of the poor and homeless. His sister Mary Lou was a free spirit and loved a good party. It’s rumored that she died with a cocktail in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Her post funeral gathering was the only true high spirited parties I’ve ever experienced. It was a mix of outrageous Opera folks, family and wild friends. It was a party that represented Mary Lou to the T. We were all there together as a family celebrating with her.

Uncles

There are parallels to my mother in-law’s stories of living in Linworth in the 60′s to living on Hunter Avenue with Eddie in the early ’90′s. Ed & Dee were a young couple starting a family back then. She spoke of the nights they’d party around the pick-nick table drinking beer with the neighbors talking into the late hours of the night. Waking up early to pick up the beer cans and clean out the ashtrays before the kids woke. Then there were our days in the crazy house on Hunter. It was a house divided into four shotgun style apartments. Over the course of 13 years we lived there so many of our friends became neighbors at various points that it’s hard to keep track of looking back. One thing was constant though, food, drink, art and laughter. From the moment I heard the Linworth story I had always wondered if it was some part of Eddie that he got from his parents. Living together with neighbors as friends. Good times.

Family

Other events we shared together at Hunter Ave include the whole family coming over for the Dooh Dah Parade/Eddie’s birthday. We lived on the route it took then up Second Ave.. Eddie’s nieces and nephews would throw water balloons at the parade. Running around our bohemian apartment having wild fun together. These soiree’s later morphed into larger scale outdoor dinner cookouts with cross neighbor participation. Mary Lou and her husband would attend some of these along with cousins and so many friends. It’s that kind of group. Not tight, but always orbital.

We moved on to Clintonville from Hunter Ave shortly after 9/11. We wanted more space so we got a house and proceeded to unfold into it. We continued the family party track there by hosting Thanksgivings in our big dining room along with Ed’s, epic, 70th birthday party just after his sister Julie died. All these events are vibrant still because we were all together to share those moments. Much like spending Christmas at Eddie’s sister Lorrie’s various homes. Those cozy days full of food, cocktails, kids and cold weather.

For those who think of Catholics as stodgy I have to say, you don’t know the Fulcher’s. They are humble to a fault and quick to lend a hand while sharing an infectious smile that usually morphs into a little laughter. It was with no surprise then that Eddie and I would often times end up going out on the town with Ed & Dee. We’d visit old favorite Italian restaurants of an earlier generation, pop into new hot spots in the Short North, or drop by a dive bar together and drink our fill as the evening turned purple then black. One night in particular we ended up at this place called Windward Passage. Famous for being a pick up spot for the senior crowd. It was a silver fox kind of place. Eddie called me at work while I was a sales rep for a wine company to meet he and his parents there one afternoon. When I was able to get there after my day I found all three of them lit up like lanterns but having the time of their lives. I caught up with them and had one of the best nights out in all my memory.

Of course looking back further into the days when Eddie and I had just met. Maybe a couple years into our relationship as he was graduating from OSU with an undergrad in Fine Arts. It was his thesis show called Suburb which dealt with, you guessed it, growing up gay in the suburbs, where I have my first memories of Ed & Dee (and Mary Lou). It was the early 90′s and we were all so young. But love and chance brought us all together.

Houghton

Some of what I remember through Eddie are things like Ed used to make the family breakfast on Sunday mornings when they were growing up. They’d listen to music by Johnny Mathis. Whose album covers gave Eddie some of his first love for modern furniture with Johnny sitting all hip and smooth as glass in a butterfly chair. That he faced a bankruptcy from a failed business and bounced back from it carrying his family with a strength that would not stop by working two jobs. And never tired, was there for his kids after his shifts for what they needed. Stories that he and his sisters still giggled about where one year, for whatever reason, Ed took the kids out for back to school clothes instead of Dee. They all came back looking Brady Bunch groovy and ready to rock the 1970′s school halls that year. The story of Dee saving the first receipt from when she served this young soldier in the restaurant she worked in as a waitress in Houghton Michigan. She still has that receipt… and the soldier today.

Mathis

We met Lorrie and our niece Lex at a Hospital on the West Side this past weekend to pick up Ed & Dee as they had decided to stop dialysis and proceed to hospice for the rest of his care. And while frail, suffering from what the nurses were calling “pleasant dementia,” and ready to bust out of there like it was a prison he showed his wife such tremendous tenderness that it brought tears to my eyes. After all that he’d been through, with his renal failure diminishing him, he still waited to help Dee to her chair. Making sure she walked first. Kissing her on the forehead as he helped her into her seat.

That’s love.

Love that even while you can’t remember your house, or wake up with some cloudy memory of a job interview you never had in your 20′s that you were somehow due for now in your 80′s and had to get dressed for, or when you start talking with long deceased loved ones as if they were there… you still feel that love for your wife at your base.

Then there’s that idea of having one foot in the living world and one in the beyond as we prepare to die. This collection of time encapsulated in scattered moments stored in the memories of three generations of family multiplied by all our corresponding friends, colleagues and neighbors are like lanterns lighting the way through the night in a persons absence. I wonder if we can somehow sense his foot lifting from the ground to join his other just beyond the light. With no small measure of dread for the loss of the man who gave us so much. But also with infinite gratitude for having been so fortunate ourselves to live with such a beautiful man to call father in-law, husband, grandfather, brother, neighbor, co worker and friend. The work Ed did in his life lives in all of us. It still does as I witnessed on Sunday when he was so tender with Dee. While he may have one foot in the beyond, he’s still very much here with us today even as he prepares for another place. If life is an illusion then let there be great lights, like Ed, along our path to mark the way.

Like so many parties he’s loved over his many years, we are all here to carry our various lanterns together in order to honor him and each other with laughter, music, good food, strong cocktails, keen style, devotion to those we love and simple fun. I think he would like that best.

Ed

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Gratitude for setbacks

So my ankle has been sore off and on since the Columbus 10k. I took some advice to push into the hill to run faster toward the end. While it didn’t hurt or feel injured I think I put some sort of new strain on myself. This has definitely put a cramp in my marathon training so far this summer. Still, I’m getting about two good runs in a week and only having recently felt sore enough that I needed to follow the R. I. C. E. plan to treat the symptoms. Hopefully this will abate and heal through the summer but I plan to return to swimming and weight training to keep mixing things up while staying as active as possible.

That’s the thing about setbacks though. They force us to get creative and be as flexible as possible. I’m taking mine as a reminder to not take anything for granted or fixed. Every day is a gift.

Today brought me to the farmers market where I picked up some heirloom tomatoes and made a killer sauce for pasta early this week. Note regarding the recipe, you can easily cut the oil to a fraction or eliminate it outright to make it very heart healthy. The peaches are destined for protein smoothies. It’s kind of cool to have a resource like the Clintonville Farmers Market to visit on a weekly basis through the summer months.

My meditation practice has begun to become a little more productive as well. I’ve been reading “Guided Meditations, Explorations and Healings” by Stephen Levine which has been a game changer. This weeks was the Loving Kindness Meditation. Of particular benefit was the visualization of another person to whom you project positive energy upon. I really enjoyed that mechanism a great deal. It’s the closest I’ve felt to prayer in over 30 years.

And then there’s the Ohio sunsets that roll out over Columbus in the late hours of the day. These remind me again to keep gratitude in my heart and hope for tomorrow.

Sunsets Ice Tomato Sauce

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Invisible Brother

One late Ohio Spring evening I was riding in the car with my friend Eric after picking he and his wife Vata up from the airport. We’d not seen each other in 23 years. I remember his last words to me over the phone back then were “I love you” as we were young men preparing to part ways. I picked him up at Port Columbus and was met with one of those enormous bear hugs. One where the other person sort of falls into you for either support or gratitude of presence. A great big wide armed full chest kind of thing. It was as if no lifetime had passed between our last conversation and now. But his mom had died and he was here from Florida to bury her and mourn with his brothers and step dad.

We knew of one another in grade school. Our mothers were friends. His mom asked him to keep an eye out for me as I was a year his junior. Maybe because I was from a broken home that had recently reformed and taken a new orbit. I suppose he was like some invisible brother.

Eric was cavalier with women and a prolific lover. Something like our town’s version of an amorous super hero. I was the classic introvert… turned in on himself still awaiting the ramifications that identity would later manifest. Afraid of myself and the world around me.

We crossed paths again as he was dating a friend of mine named Joy who worked on the same school paper I did. She was the editor in chief, I was some sort of editor hanging out with the cool nerds. Joy invited Eric, myself and another couple of our friends to spend part of the Summer at her parents cottage on a lake somewhere in Michigan. I was the fifth wheel as everyone in the group had paired off and were dating. This was just after High School graduation. Everyone was setting their individual compasses on what we thought were the horizons of our futures.

I still remember the the laughter. Wooded walks on the soft pine needles. Stars in the non urban night sky. Sound of the waves from the lake mixed with the memory of all the hope and promise of our lives ahead as if it were a pair of new shoes wrapped in tissue as they sat unused in the box.

During that trip we became best friends.

Fall term came. Eric and I had enrolled in the local branch of the State college to save some money by living at home while completing key foundation courses. We’d hang out at night watching films, smoking and listening to The Smiths, Sex Pistols, The Cure to name a few. I remember walking the streets of our dying home town after midnight. One time walking on thin ice of the pond at our college branch. Once is enough. The deep noise from the grinding and cracking sound of the ice under you just before it sends you into the water sealing off your exit route is more than chilling.

It’s unclear to me now whether we realized that we were telling each other our stories all those nights. Allowing ourselves to dream. Sharing a space together to grow within. One of those rare childhood gifts. A friendship that came into being back in Michigan and never ended since.

Eric’s mother was dead. The tangible loss I felt from he and his family made me think of our own friendship in relation to our mother’s. Beautiful symmetry. When I dropped him off at his family home before the funeral he gave me another hug. This time he leaned into me and I could actually feel the gratitude, joy and sadness he was holding inside.

Driving away, I realized that we make friends not all at once, but over time. Thinking back to our time on the lake… it turned out that the compasses we’ve been using happened to be these friendships.

Round

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Jaeger Run for Pride 2016

I had another opportunity to run with my cousin Chelssie this past Friday. It was a beautiful Friday night on the eve of the Pride March. We were treated to sunny summer weather with a nice breeze. While I don’t run for time I was pretty happy to be 6th in my age group and overall 71st of the 234 men and women who I ran with that night.

In the wake of the Orlando shootings last week one of the things I enjoyed most was the spirit of gratitude toward the police shown by nearly all the runners for keeping us safe. In retrospect this may have been one of my favorite runs to date.

Interval Time of Day Chip Time Chip Pace Gun Time Gun Pace
Start 7:00:27PM
Finish 7:27:53PM 00:27:26 08:50 min/mi 00:27:54 08:59 min/mi

Jaeger Run Jaeger Run Jaeger Run

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Invincible Summer

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer,” Albert Camus

I know, first hand, that none of us are invincible. But I love the spirit of what Camus said. It reminds me of the reasoning that went on in my head to take on a bigger goal than I’ve faced to date. To run a full marathon in October 2016.

After a lot of thought, and a couple Dr. checkups, I decided to throw my running shoes into the mix with a group of other folks who I’ll be training with through summer/fall. And while the goal is to run my first full marathon it’s also to stretch my arms out further and open up to more new experiences. While I’m realistic about the outcome either way I’m already excited about the journey. Running has taught me to both relax and let go of day to day activities that cause us to build negative feedback and stress cycles. Meditation is also doing similar things. It’s the subtle state of mind shifts that come with these kinds of activities that make up a lifestyle and, can over time, remap your brain.

So I’m excited to be signed up for the Columbus Running Company’s running clinic and I’m following the beginner plan starting this Saturday. It’s going to be interesting running with a group every Saturday through summer and the beginning of fall. Given that I love sharing stories I’m looking forward to meeting new folks and hearing what motivates us in general.

Beginner-Marathon-Plan

What motivates me? Surviving and living well for starters. The folks I have the honor to call friends, family and co workers who fill my life would be right up there as well. Lastly, the ability to workout, read and meditate toward maintaining both a calm mind and healthy body.

So here is where the trek toward running 26.2 miles begins. Along with this I plan to further “veganize” my diet and, with any luck, go completely plant based.

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Finish lines & conversations

It’s an amazing feeling to cross the finish line of any race. It can sometimes be that desperate push to the end of a grueling experience or like turning the last page in a favorite book.

I finished the Columbus 10k this past Sunday and with the pictures having been published I’m reminded of what a great experience it was to run alongside the 9 minute pacer and talk with him and the folks around us through the race. Sharing stories together while running… that’s the best part of the experience.

Columbus-10k

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Activity

  • Morning Run
    On September 25, 2016 7:59 am rode 20.16 mi. during 04:13:53 hours climbing 116.80 ft.
  • Lunch Swim
    On September 22, 2016 10:38 am rode 0.00 mi. during 00:30:00 hours climbing 0.00 ft.
  • Weight Training
    On September 21, 2016 11:19 am rode 0.00 mi. during 00:30:00 hours climbing 0.00 ft.
  • Lunch Run
    On September 20, 2016 11:23 am rode 4.10 mi. during 00:41:44 hours climbing 0.00 ft.
  • Lunch Swim
    On September 14, 2016 11:52 am rode 0.00 mi. during 00:30:00 hours climbing 0.00 ft.
  • Evening Run
    On September 13, 2016 6:02 pm rode 4.00 mi. during 00:45:31 hours climbing 39.37 ft.