Run Safe

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rock Cut 15k Race Report

On Saturday February 18th I took a trip to Rockford, Il. with some of my fellow Midwest Misfits to run in the Rock Cut Survival Trail Run.  The race is put on by a great group called the Rockford Road Runners.  It's a series of trail runs that span from Dec to Mar.  If you successfully complete all of the races (5k, 10k, 15k, 20k) you receive a survivor shirt.  This was my only run in the series so I won't be receiving the cherished shirt, however there were many lessons learned from my first real trail race.

I say real because I had previously run a 5k trail race but nearly half it was on paved roads and the rest was flat!  Rock Cut State Park was anything but.  It was a gnarly up and down course with plenty of "obstacles" and challenges along the way.  As an inexperienced trail runner my expectations in the race were few;  Finish & pass more than I was passed.  I accomplished both of these goals and finished my 15k in 1:27:30.  But more importantly, I learned several insightful lessons about the world of trail races and how they differ from the road races I've grown so accustomed to.

First-  Watch your Step!  How many times have you heard or even said that in a road race?  You come across some obstacle in the road; a pot hole, uneven pavement, trash, etc.  We're always good about warning our fellow runner.  That is not so much so in trail running.  It's not because people are uncaring or rude.  It's because if you said watch your step every time you came across a hazard on the trail, you'd say it a million times!  On a trail race you have to watch every step.  Looking away for even a moment, can be costly.  And yes, I learned this first hand.  Within the first mile of the race I caught my foot on a rock that was protruding from the ground.  Immediately after it happened I started to wonder if I'd be able to go on.  But I did (obviously).  I don't think it's anything too serious but its swollen up pretty nice and is a lovely shade of purple on this the day after the race.

Second- In a previous post I had suggested YakTrax for winter running.  I was shown something way cooler.  Prior to the race we screwed 3/8 inch hex screws into the soles of our shoes.  They were highly effective.  You definitely knew who had screws and who didn't when we got to the icy patches of the trail.  I still managed to fall 3 times (About once every 5k).  But I'm sure it would have been more had it not been for my pre-race screwing.  My third fall was by far my grandest.  It was a face first slide through the mud.  I made enough noise, as I hit the ground, that even the guy in front of me turned back and asked if I was ok.

Third-  The start line.  I've gotten away from always needing to be at the front of the pack, when the race starts.  I figure if you're faster than me you should be in front of me and if I'm faster..start where ever you want because I'm gonna pass you at some point.  Trail racing, at least single track trail racing, seems to be a little different.  There were many times when I would have to wait for an opportunity to pass someone.  There was just no where to go.  I don't think it slowed me down too much but lesson learned.

Fourth-  Unless you're competing.  Trail racing is more laid back.  There is not as much crowd support but I don't think you need it.  There is so much to take in and appreciate about your surroundings. This combined with the added focus on ground the miles seemed to fly by.  Many runners chose to walk some of the steeper hills, although some you really had no choice.

The start for this race had a count down clock.  When the clock hit zero, it started.  No on your mark, get set....just pay attention!!  This race was not chip timed, instead you received a color coded tag which was pinned to the back of your shirt.  Once you crossed the finish line the tag was removed and immediately taped to a board.  Instant results!  You knew where you placed and who was in front of you.

Some highlights of the race included several steep hill climbs.  One so steep that they had a rope tied off to a tree at the top of the hill to assist runners in scaling the hill.  This hill was strategically place about midway through the course (or, just after my first fall but prior to my second).  The first hill we climbed had a sign positioned at the summit which read "Mt. Larry" (affectionately named after the race director).  The race had a net elevation change of -619 feet.  The first mile was all down hill and then most of the inclines and declines were about 100 feet.   The course was pretty muddy and icy in spots.  Rocks and tree roots were waiting to catch the inattentive runner, all along the course.  I especially liked the section of the course that was lined with tall pine trees.  It was amazing how quiet it was in this area of the race.

Me nearing mile 6

The peaceful, Enchanted forest
My fellow Misfit Stan in Black

My fellow Misfit Al decided after the race "Maybe the screws would have been a good idea"

The super stud couple & fellow Misfits Kristen & Al
Misfit Katie sneaking up on 2 unsuspecting runners

One of many hills
More mud

Trying to avoid the mud

Random Mudness

I can hardly wait for the next one.

Happy Running

Monday, February 13, 2012

It's For Your Own Good

Remember when you were a kid and your parents did something mean?  Or maybe you've found yourself doing this as a parent.  You know, when you won't let your kids watch an R rated movie or play Grand Theft Auto like "everyone else's" parents.  You're so MEAN!  We know that sometimes we have to do things not to be mean, but because it is what's best for our children.  And just like our kids, we didn't always understand the reasoning.  Now here comes my weird logic and how I tie this into running.....

When I was out running the other day, in 20 mph winds, I was reminded of the love/hate relationship that I've developed with this act of mother nature.  I've always contended when it's at my back I love the wind and it loves me.  It pushes me along and makes me feel much faster than I know I am.  However, when it's in my face, I HATE it!  It hurts, it slows me down and it makes me want to quit.  But on this most recent run I started to look at it from that parenting point of view.  Maybe, just maybe I've got it all wrong.  Maybe the wind is blowing in my face because it does love me.  It's challenging my will and determination and forcing me to try a little harder.

In Dr. Jack Daniels (not the late night version that helps you sleep) book  Daniels' Running Formula he discusses the affects of running in the wind.  He states "The fact is, the energy required to run a 6:00 mile against a fairly strong headwind (about 15 mph) is the same amount of energy as required to run at 5:00 pace in calm air.  He also contends "Although headwinds can slow you down significantly, a tailwind of equal velocity won't speed you up to the same extent."  Without getting too deep into the science of it his example concludes a tailwind of approximately 17.9 mph would only reduce your VO2 by -10%.  Conversely, a headwind of the same speed would cause your VO2 max to rise in access of +20%.   What is VO2 max?

So the next time you elect to stay inside and run on the treadmill because it's too windy perhaps you may want to reconsider.  It seems running into the wind could serve as a useful training tool.  Probably not to the same degree as hill training but somewhat similar.  After all it's for your own good.

Happy Running

Friday, February 10, 2012

In The Blink Of An Eye

The only thing I can imagine worse then finding out someone you care about has cancer, is finding out that person is your child. 

Atypical and Histiocytes.  Those were the two words my wife had written down on a piece of paper as she was crying, on the phone, with our family doctor.  The results had come back from my 12 year old son's mole biopsy.  I didn't know what either word meant but a quick google search (I know, bad idea) lead me to the same was bad.  We were instructed to follow up with a dermatologist as soon as possible and got an appointment scheduled for the following day. In the blink of an eye our world had just been turned upsidedown!!

The mole, which started as more of a pimple showed up about a year ago.  It was on his waist line and was removed more because of its location.  There was never any concern expressed by the doctor that it was anything more than that.  A similar mole had appeared under his chin about the same time but it was decided, at that time, this would not need to be removed.  We tried to keep things in perspective but the fact the doctor had called us directly, could not be a good thing.  I told my wife we couldn't over react and we needed to just keep our cool until we got a little more information from the dermatologist.  Of course, I did the thing everyone knows you should never do...right back onto the internet.  I spent hours reading and evaluating the possibilities in my own mind.  Thank God the next doctor's appointment was only a day away.

The dermatologist certainly didn't make us feel any better than my elementary google search.  The one medical term the doctor through out was LCH and that one I remembered reading about, Langerhans cell histiocytosis.  I recalled there were different kinds of this disease and knew some of them included cancer.  At that moment it took every once of will power to keep myself from throwing up right there in the doctors office.  There was no way my kid had cancer!  He's healthy, F'n way!  I tried to keep a calm and confident look to reassure my son but I knew he was reading through it.  The doctor told us we would need to see a hematologist or an oncologist for further testing.  He offered us the choice of going to a hospital or University since this condition was "so rare".  He even told us "I'm not going to go as far as to say it's cancer, but at this point we can't rule anything out."  They asked to remove a second mole that had appeared around the same time as the first and explained it would be biopsied as well.  That car ride home was one of the toughest 30 minutes of my life.  The mix of emotion, fear,  trying to find the right words to keep my son's spirits up all while still trying being honest and realistic with him was nearly unbearable. 

Two days later we got in to see the Oncologist.  Walking into the pediatric cancer unit was surreal.  It was something I'd only seen on t.v. or in pictures for fund raisers.  To not only be in there but to also have the realization that we were now a part of it was indescribable. A little girl who couldn't have been more than 3 was in a room receiving Chemo, or so I thought, as we passed on our way to our room.  On our way out a dad was on the phone explaining his child's condition.  There are not many things that get to me but that day in that hospital changed me, forever.  I will never allow myself to forget they way I felt that day.

Once the doctor arrived, he asked a battery of questions and gave my son a thorough examination.  His conclusion was Reticulohistocytoma.  In simpler terms, it was a benign cousin to LCH but it was not LCH.  He felt it was isolated to the first mole that was removed and no further treatment/testing would be done at this time.  At that moment I had a harder time controlling my emotions than the prior doctor visit.  My eyes welled with tears, tears of joy and relief.  The doctor explained we would still need to wait for the results of the second biopsy, to determine where we go next.  Two weeks later those results came back the same as the first.  Despite the fact had these elevated histocytes in two locations, two doctors have said they believe both to be benign and at this time he will not require any further testing or treatment.

We have a follow up appointment in two months.  And probably a few more over the next year or so just to be sure there has been no change.  But for now, it appears my son will be fine.  Thank God!
I don't know what my family has done to deserve this grace of God but I can promise you it will not go unnoticed.  I've told my family, I believe this was our proverbial kick in the balls, our eye opener.  Life is precious and it becomes so easy to take that for granted.  Without even realizing it we get caught up in the day to day nonsense of life that we loose sight of what really matters.  We need to appreciate our health and utilize the abilities we have been given, whatever they may be.  I want to make sure that I acknowledge this experience in a way that matters, in a way that I can pay it forward.  Just being ok with our outcome seems selfish.  There are way too many people fighting this ugly disease everyday.  

On April 22nd, 2012 I will participate in a St. Baldricks head shaving fundraiser.  My goal is to raise $1000.00 for this event.  I've looked at many very worthy charities but have decided on St. Baldricks due to their national reach in working with hospitals around the country.  I would be extremely honored if you would consider making a donation.  You can do so by clicking here.

In the words of Kris Allen- "So if your life flashed before you, what would you wish you would have done?  Yeah, we gotta start lookin at the hands of the time we've been given.  If this is all we got, then we gotta start thinkin If every second counts on a clock that's tickin.  Gotta live like we're dying."

Even you are unable to support my cause do me a favor and give your kids an extra hug today. Or, before you decide to get angry about something decide if it really matters.

Happy Running