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Will I Outlive my Parents?

I do not really enjoy running; I never have.  Sure, there are aspects of running that I enjoy such as the beauty of nature, the solitude and the camaraderie.  But the act of running itself, not all that much. Running has, for the most part, been a means to an end, outliving my parents.

My parents died very young.  My mother died in 1986 at the age of 41.  She appeared to be very healthy, always well, exercised and was not overweight.  She died of some yet unknown heart ailment while taking a shower.

Whereas, my father was diagnosed with atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries, when I was very young.  I recall a time when my father and I were supposed to play catch one sunny summer afternoon and he began to cry.  He said, and I will never forget these words, ‘it is every father’s dream to play baseball with their first born son and I will never be able to do that with you…’  These were very hard words for a 10 year old to fully comprehend.  Over the years, I would watch my father continue to decline and go through bottles of nitroglycerin pills, nitroglycerin pills are used to dilate the arteries and help offset or stay a heart attack and/or angina pain.  My father used to walk a 1/2 mile before needing to stop and rest and maybe take a nitroglycerin pill, to towards the end, having to stop and rest and take multiple nitroglycerin pills only after walking 20 or 30 feet.

My father died of a massive heart attack outside the back of the house while using a hoe to remove weeds in 1989.  My father was 47 years old.

This year I will turn 50; I will outlive my parents. But by how many years? That thought is never far from my mind.

As a result of the unexpected death of my mother and watching the mental and physical decline experienced by my father, I started to run.  It was this continuous observation of my Father’s pain and increased understanding of heart health that led me to begin running my freshman year of college, 1983, at University of Kentucky.  That first semester I discovered a group of guys who liked to run.  We would get up at 5 am run 4 or 5 miles, shower and hit the breakfast lines!  It is funny, looking back at how much you can eat at that age, not to mention how much alcohol you can drink, but I digress.  This was a ritual that I continued, more or less, through my years attending graduate school at  Louisiana State University and beyond.

Skipping ahead a few years, I continued this routine of pounding the pavement, not getting up at 5 am mind you, but running 4 – 10 miles a days three to five days a week for about 25 years.  I would run the occasional 5K or half marathon, but nothing more.  For me, running was a way to help prevent the early onset of heart trouble and not something that I necessarily enjoyed.  From the beginning, I never appreciated road running and/or racing.  I found road running to be, well, boring.  As an aside, I could never quite square that I was running to improve and/or maintain my health well at the same time inhaling carcinogenic car exhaust?!?!.

Fast forward to 2004.  I am now 39 years old and have been taking statins, drugs used to control cholesterol levels, for nearly 6 years.  Although, my cholesterol was always within the ‘normal’ range my cardiologist felt that because of my family history that I should take all necessary steps to reduce plaque build-up in my arteries.  It was this year that my cardiologist suggested that I undergo a relatively new, non-invasive, technology, Electron Bean Tomography (EBT).  EBT, also known as Ultra Fast CT Scan, was being used to quantify the amount of hardened plaque, calcium, in a persons arteries surrounding the heart.  Although, I was scared, I agreed to the procedure.  Within a week, I was presented with a wonderful surprise…..a calcium of ZERO and a diagnosis of ‘No identifiable atherosclerotic plaque. Very low cardiovascular disease risk.’  Happy days!

Since the EBT scan in 2004, I have undergone two Dynamic Stress Tests.  This, like the EBT is also a non-invasive procedure which is used to measure how well your heart muscle is working to pump blood to your body. It is mainly used to detect a decrease in blood flow to the heart from narrowing in the coronary arteries.  This procedure involves the patient walking then running on a treadmill that can reach a 40% incline!  Let me tell you, that is a ‘tough row to hoe’!  The tests performed in 2008 and 2012 concluded with a finding of ‘Adequate stress echocardiogram by the heart rate criteria.  High workload achieved.  Normal blood pressure response to exercise.  No ischemic ECG changes. Exercise was stopped due to target heart rate reached. No echocardiographic evidence of ischemia.’  Yay!  Happy times!

My days of testing will continue as will my days of running (or as my good friend, Frank Pagliaro says, power hikinig).  I am however, happy and at peace knowing that I am doing all that I can prevent the scourge of heart disease.  However, that fear is never far from my mind is provides my motivation. Let us be thankful of our health.  Let us enjoy each day.  And most importantly appreciate our friends and family.

Why do you run?

Just What in the Hell Am I Doing??????

Enjoy the festive music above by clicking the ‘Play’ button.

Well, we are going on thee months since my successful completion of the Pine to Palm 100.  Since that time I have been taking it easy and just running fun easy miles.  However, with spring fast approaching, I need to mentally, and physically, prepare myself for the races that I will obligate myself to complete in 2015.

After Pine to Palm, I needed a break!  I took it!  I ate what I wanted!  I drank what I wanted!.  Screw training, schedules, veggies, tofu, vitamins…… To hell with it all!  During this break, I have indulged like no other time this year!  For example, my diet has been meat free.  But during this ‘mental recuperation’ phase, I have not been able to get enough meat!  I’m not sure what it was, but meat never tasted so good!

So, given my lax training, poor diet and copious drinking, I have added a few, shall we say, non-muscle pounds.  Sure, the extra weight is useful during the downhill jogs; we all remember those high school physics classes and something about potential energy changing into kinetic energy, right?!  But alas, it is a detriment to the uphill the proceeds the downhill…..

The ‘potential energy’, poor diet and consumption of great wine almost every night (thanks to FranksWine.com) must come to an end.  The end of my Henry VIII lifestyle will be timed to coincide with the Western States 100 Lottery this coming Saturday, December 6th!  Although, I am not holding my breath as WS has calculated my chances of being chosen at a little greater than 4%…. Regardless of this weekends outcome, I will begin to wean myself off of nightly wine, candy bars, and meat!  I am ready for schedules, Flora protein shakes and muddy Hoka’s!

Let us all enjoy the holidays but keep an eye towards 2015!

Pine to Palm – The Next Challenge!

Hit the ‘Play’ button above, turn up the volume and enjoy the read!

The day is fast approaching.  That day is Saturday September 13th, the start of the legendary Pine to Palm 100 Mile Event.  I’m calling it an ‘Event’ and not a race as it is most assured that I will not be ‘racing’!

Today, as I begin pulling together both my gear and my thoughts, I wander back and forth, between exhilaration and fear.  I say this because the thought of not only attempting, but being counted amongst those who will not only survive, but complete this challenge is exciting.  However, on the other hand, I am also fearful knowing that three injuries have not allowed me to train as hard as I would have liked.  Therefore, my goal is to FINISH and to beat the aid station cut-off times!  Just ponder this elevation chart for a moment!

p2p_100_elevation_1

The course is a remote and rugged classic point to point course traversing the Siskiyou; Mountains Range in Southern Oregon. Starting in Williams, OR the course winds it way east to Ashland, OR on a mixture of single track trail, dirt road, with less than 4 miles of pavement. The course boasts over 20,000ft of climb and 20,000 ft of loss with 3 epic climbs to 7,000ft and fantastic views of Mt Shasta and Mt McLaughlin.

As I prepare for this event, am a little saddened that my wife, Caryn Lerman, will not be there to cheer me on.  During my first 100 mile last year, it made my day to see her smiling face at the  aid stations waiting and cheering for me!  This year, I will have a great back-up crew to both support and pace me.  They will be tasked with not only to encourage, but to also nudge and harangue me to the finish.  I want to give a huge shout out to Erin Fitzgerald and my cousin, Dan Roed.  Thank you so much for volunteering your time and energy for me!  You are much appreciated.

Let me also add, that I will, till he decides to leave me behind, be running with Gene Dykes.  I met Gene a few years ago stumbling through the Susquehanna Super Hike.  Gene is an incredible runner and will work hard to pull me along.  Gene already has us planning next year’s run!

Sorry, before I forget, let me go over my gear list……

Gear Check-list:

  1. Suunto Ambit 3 Peak
  2. Garmin 910XT as a back-up
  3. Hiking Poles
  4. UD Scott Jurek Vest
  5. Three water bottles
  6. ChicaBands for cooling
  7. Two head lamps
  8. Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning – get his autograph
  9. Three drop bags
  10. Three pair of Hoka’s (one pair of size 13 to wear later after my feet begin to swell)
  11. Several pair of socks, shorts, and t-shirts
  12. Hat with neck protection
  13. Light toboggan hat
  14. Light gloves
  15. Long sleeve running shirt
  16. Light wind breaker
  17. Mylar blanket
  18. Batteries
  19. External battery charger for charging watch on the run if required
  20. Sunglasses
  21. Compression Sleeves
  22. Nipple Guards
  23. Roctane salt caps
  24. Body Glide
  25. iPod with great tunes (Metallica, STP, Garbage, The Offspring, Chili Peppers, Rob Zombie, etc)
  26. iPhones, iPad and various chargers and cords
  27. and oh yeah, boarding passes!

Gear

Have I forgotten anything??????  Forgive me for digressing…. Ugh!

I am also looking forward to the camaraderie of the Ultra community.  Living here on the east coast, I am always in awe, and may I also say, envious, of the Ultra community found out west.  Here in Philadelphia, I am aware of one other ultra runner, Nick Ferrera,  an exceptional ultra runner.  However, we do not live very close to one another and therefore have never had the opportunity to train together.  Whereas, it is not uncommon for me to see Face Book postings of organized and/or impromptu group runs from those of you in the mountain west and west coast.  You are lucky and I am jealous! 

Lastly, I am somewhat giddy to finally meet a great ultra runner in his own right, Chris Jones.  Chris is an ultra runner extraordinaire!  Since May of this year, Chris has completed four 100 mile races (DRTE, Tahoe Rim, Angeles Crest, and Cascade Crest) with Pine to Palm to be his 5th.  It is my goal, at least initially, to draft Chris…  I’ll let you know how that works out!

Ok, that is it.. Time to begin packing….

You can follow this race via Ultralive.net and then click on Pine to Palm.