2018 Michigan Ragnar Leg 1

When you complete a high-intensity race that you have trained months for, you find yourself wanting to talk about it for months.  Unfortunately, most people are only willing to listen to a few minutes and you can not really blame them.  I have a blog, so I can just put everything up here instead of making my wife suffer through yet another Ragnar story.

Once again, my team of 11 former fraternity brothers committed to run the Michigan Ragnar Relay.  In short, it is a 200ish mile relay race from Muskegon, MI to Traverse City, MI that will take about 27-29 hours for us to finish. Each person will run 3-4 legs totaling 13-24 miles each.  The guys in my Van will run legs 1-6 before Van 2 runs the next six legs and the vans will continue to rotate until the 36 legs are complete. Last year we were under-prepared, a weird combo of experienced runners and guys who just started running, and had not idea what to expect.  Somehow, we ended up finishing 13th out of 240ish teams and 3rd in the Masters Division. This year, people have committed to training and we know what to expect.  CLICK THIS to read about last year and learn more about the race.

As I drive to meet my team, I reflect on how much better trained I am. Last year, I was dealing with an injury and recovering from a nasty virus that practically eliminated my training.  This year I am more prepared. Well, maybe prepared isn’t the word I am looking for because 45 minutes into my drive to meet my teammates I realize that I left my sleeping bag at home. I make panicked phone calls to the guys who live closer to our rally point. Fortunately, I catch Ryan before he leaves and he throws in an extra sleeping bag for me.

Image may contain: 10 people, including Peter J Emery, Mark Tenhor, Brian Dykhuis, Erik Eldred, Lloyd Webb Dunlap, John Delcalzo and Peter Martin, people smiling, people standing and outdoor
Rally Point before race

After the team meets up, my van goes to the start line and the Van 2 guys go to kill some time before driving to the exchange point after Leg 6.  Last year, we started in the last wave at noon.  It took us almost ten hours of lonely running before we started catching teams. This year, we get a 10:30 start and will be around more teams much earlier.

start line
Van 1 Runners at Start Line

Van 1 is going to run the exact same legs as last year.  The only difference is that Ryan changed to Van 2 and Moby joined us.  I have known Moby for years and am fine with the swap.  He will be fun. Unfortunately, I am wrong and Moby shatters the peace at Exchange #1.  Blood is spilled.  Sitting in the back of the van, Moby blatantly states the filled donuts are absolutely disgusting and makes gagging noises. I vault over the seats and begin to give Moby the worst beating he has had since college.  Fortunately, Mark and Marty are able to drag me off of him before I turn him into a puddle of jelly-filling.  I have known Moby for over 20 years and had no idea that I was friends with an Anti-Donite.

Exchange
Starting the 5th Leg

Order is finally restored and I get ready to run Leg 5 which is a relatively flat 6.0 miles. Marty tags me in and has set me up for an easy kill.  You record a “kill” when you pass a team.  Marty reeled a team in and I am able to get my first kill in only about 50M.  The first five miles of my run are pretty uneventful.  Last year I was so nervous about my health, what Ragnar was going to be like, and my injury that I barely remember this leg.  At best, this leg is vaguely familiar.   What I do remember learning is that Ragnar is not quite as physically grueling as one would expect.  I will get about 7-8 hours of rest before my next leg and with only 3 legs to run, there is not much point in holding back, so I push it.

With about a mile left I have set a pretty fast pace and am paying for it. I have four kills and there is one more in my sight. She has a pretty good lead and keeps glancing back at me.  She knows I am hunting and does not want to tell her teammates that she got killed. She is not fading as fast as I had hoped and I really have to push. The last half-mile is just enough uphill to hurt. When reaches it, she give me one last glance, smiles and starts to sprint the hill. My lungs are burning but I finally kill her at the top of the hill with about 50M left and sprint it in just to make sure.

As I tag Moby in, I feel my stomach rolling from that last mile and duck into the bushes to donate my lunch back to the land.  Mark quickly snaps the picture below and sends out a group text stating, “It’s like we are back in college!”  I hate my friends.  After I recover, the woman I was chasing walks by and says, “At least I made you work for that kill.”  I reply, “You made me puke for it.”  She yells “Yes!” pumps her fist and high-fives me. Runners are weird.

yak

Ultimately, I shaved 33 seconds off of what I ran this leg in last year. It is not a ton, but let’s be honest.  Once you turn fortsexty years old, any time you do not get slower is a win.

Van 1 drives to the van exchange point to meet Moby and tag in the Van 2 runners.  Most of the exchange points are in parking lots, parks, or overlooks but the Van Exchanges (every 6th leg) are bigger, have music, vendors and a lot more life.  Last year when we hit the first van exchange point we were one of the last ten teams to arrive. Nobody was there and the volunteers were breaking everything down.  With the earlier start time, there are actually a ton of people there and everyone is having a good time.  Marty is mostly excited that we are actually seeing hand-sanitizer in the Porta-Potties.  When you start in the last wave and spend hours trying to catch 240 teams of twelve runners, you encounter a lot of Portas that are in dire need of attention.  Not the case this year.

Perhaps the biggest difference comes as Moby finishes for Van 1.  Last year, the volunteers were tearing things down and it was empty.  This year, the DJ calls out, “Team 141’s runner is coming in and this guy is flying!” After Moby finishes, the DJ yells at me, “Hey, what wave did you start in?”  When I tell him that we started at 10:30, he gets back on the microphone and announces, “Keep an eye out for these guys! Check their finish tomorrow!  They are fast.”  Yup…last year was fun but things are going so much better this year.  We still have about 170ish miles and probably 22-24 hours of racing left, but it is a good start.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky and outdoorCheck back later to read about Van 1’s second set of legs. Teaser.. it involves night running, a potentially major error and 2:00 AM yoga.

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Youth Soccer Players – Knock it off!

I was attending my son’s U14 soccer match last week. After about twenty minutes I had seen two players rolling around on the ground grabbing their ankles before jumping up to take a free-kick. Two others clutched their heads in anguish after getting knocked down but were miraculously healed by the sound of a whistle.  So when one of our players cracked an opponent with a pretty heavy (and admittedly late) tackle, I rolled my eyes as the kid thrashed around on the ground clutching his leg.

He stayed down and a parent asked me, “Erik, do you think he’s hurt?” I shrugged and said, “That’s the fifth kid that’s grabbed his leg and the second time that one’s stayed down. I doubt it.”  However, he stayed down. Their coach came to the field and started to check him out. When he took the shoe off, the kid slammed back onto his back, started slapping the ground and screamed.  The place went silent. A parent whispered, “Oh my God,” and I felt like a jerk.  A few seconds later, the player arched his back, leaned his head back and screamed again. I start scanning the the parking lot to see where an ambulance could most easily get access to the field as I assumed this was a broken leg. I swore to stop being so cynical and was embarrassed by the thoughts that went through my head when somebody’s child went down.  However, two minutes later the young man hobbled off the field. Four minutes later he checked back into the game. He played another 30 minutes with no sign of a limp.

Youth soccer players – Knock it off.  This is not about “looking like a man,” changing soccer’s image in America, toughening up, sportsmanship or anything like that.  It is about not scaring the hell out of your parents and the adults charged with keeping you safe.  The faking, or dramatizing, injuries has to stop. This was just an example, but I swear I have seen more kids thrashing on the ground and/or holding their heads.  Their are three people who can stop this.

Players

I know you see the professionals doing this act every night and want to be like them. I get it. I really do.  Professional players reactions are not going to change. I wish they would, but they won’t.  Here’s the thing though.  You are not professional players.

I know you see Neymar, Renaldo, or Mbappe rolling around in anguish in front of tens of thousands of die-hard soccer fans who are glancing up at the giant replay to see if the player has a sliver or has, in fact, been smitten by one of Zeus’ lightning bolts. Those fans get the “drama” of professional soccer. Your parents do not.

There are not tens of thousands of fans. There are maybe 20-30 parents.  There is no Jumbotron for them to see what happened to you.  Most of them are sitting 50-80 yards away in lawn-chairs with impossible sight-lines.  They do not get the “drama” of professional soccer. In fact,  most of them do not even truly understand the off-sides rule. They do not see a multi-millionaire laying on the ground selling the foul. They see their son or daughter that they once rocked to sleep laying in the grass in apparent agony.  It is terrifying.

I am sorry but your parents are probably not die-hard soccer fans. Even if they have a good view of your foot getting stepped on, they may not have been watching. The odds are that Mom was talking about Book Club and Dad had his face in his phone trying to manage his fantasy football team when they heard the whistle blow.  They did not see your foot get raked but looked up to see you crumpled on the ground holding your head.  It is 2018 in America. They do not see an expression of agony. They see a potential concussion and it freaks them out.  Please stop grabbing your head when your ankle is twisted.

Your parents love you and have committed an enormous amount of time, money, and energy to your sport.  Your safety is their number one priority.  Do not toy with that. If you are the 0.1% that makes it pro, go ahead flop around on the ground. Until then, remember you are somebody’s child.

Coaches:

I get competitive advantage, especially as kids advance through the higher leagues.  Players are going to dive. They are going to flop for fouls. Some of you teach/encourage it.  If I am being honest, when I played I had no problem going to ground if I thought I could get a free kick from it.  Like it or not, it is going to happen.

However, there is no need for children to fake or dramatize injury.  Players will need to leave the field when they get banged up. That’s sports. However, if you have someone acting like they are hurt, make them sit for a period of time.  If they are screaming to the heavens, do not put them back in the game.  Again, I am not asking you toughen anyone up or make anyone learn to play hurt.  I am asking you to help stop the stuff the scares parents.

Kids are going to be kids. They are going to panic when something hurts and may need to come off the field. That is no big deal.  You talk to them about concussions.  Tell them from Day One that you take head injuries seriously and anyone suspected of a head injury will not play.  That’s common sense and league policy. Personally, I would tell them that if they are grabbing their head for drama, I am going to treat it like a head injury.  Maybe I am wrong.  You can set the bar for acceptable behavior.

Parents:

We are the ones that can stop this.  We can end it. This is a very simple conversation and one I have had it many times with Ben.   We have talked about “hurt vs injury” from a very young age. He knows that if he thinks he is injured, he is to stay down and I am fine with that.  He also knows that he is never to fake an injury or to engage in injury theatrics.

Ben knows that if he has to check out of a game and re-enters later, I am fine with that. I trust him and his coaches.  He also knows that if he fakes an injury, I will not let him back on the field. I am not doing the “tough-dad” act, but we have had conversations and he knows that if he fakes an injury I will walk across the field and insist that the coach does not let him re-enter.  He knows that if he thrashes around holding his head and pops back up, I will ask his coach to treat it like a concussion and remove him.  It has nothing to do with playing hurt at all. It has everything to do with not cheapening the concern for and the reaction to the next player who might actually be injured.

As parents, we can stop this. We can let our children know that our families do not engage in these behaviors. We can make those rules and we can enforce them. It can be stopped.

As we drove home from the last game, I talked to Ben about the player who was screaming. We talked about how we do not act like that, how it’s bad for the game and just how ridiculous it was. We discussed how there is nothing wrong with being hurt but making sure your respond appropriately. I said, “Beyond looking foolish, can you imagine what the player’s mom and dad felt like when he was laying there screaming? I felt horrible for his parents.  If that was you, I would have been terrified and probably would have climbed the fence to get to you.  Please, do not ever do that to your mom and me.”  He gets it.

We can stop this if we do not accept it.

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Parent to Teen Dictionary

As summer has moved on and I have spent more time with my sons I have come to better understand the communication difficulties that plague parents and their t(w)eens.  Many of our miscommunications occur simply because my boys and I have different definitions of words and phrases.  In an attempt to improve communication between the parents of the world and their t(w)eens, I have done my best to provide a list of parent phrases and how they are defined by children according to Webster’s Teen Dictionary (WTD).  Let us begin:

“Immediately”

WTD: At your earliest convenience. See also; When your Fortnite battle has concluded

“Literally”

WTD When used by teen: used to stress importance.  For example, “I am literally the only person in my school without unlimited X-Box time.”

WTD When used by parent:  Maybe they mean it, maybe they do no not. Example. “This is literally your job and your job alone” translates to “It would nice if you did it, but someone else will probably take care of it if you do not get to it.”

“Consistently”

WTD: Frequently enough to avoid getting caught by random spot-checks

“Turn off the video game at 9:30:”

WTD: Make sure to start a new game at 9:28 and I will gladly listen to your complaints about not being allowed to “finish this game up.”

“Do this task to a quality you will be proud of:”

WTD: Since you literally do not care at all about this task and pride will only come by completion, you need to complete this as quickly as possible with complete disregard for quality.  Oh wait, you do undestand how to use “literally” correctly. You better keep that quiet.

This phone is to communicate with us.”

WTD: Use this phone to know instantly when any of your friends are online and available for gaming. Please disregard any texts from us.

“In the Dishwasher:”

WTD: Within 100 meters of the dishwasher

“Judging:”

WTD: To limit what you want to do; To be held responsible; To define right vs wrong.  Example, “That half-completed homework is fine. You can’t judge me for that!”

“I just need a little break”

WTD: You should increase the intensity and frequency of your demands so that I cave in quicker and can get a little peace after you get what you want.

“I need you to take this seriously:”

WTD: Focus really hard for 9-13 seconds and move one.

“Clean up:”

WTD: Push everything to the side of a room, go to your bedroom and begin the sacred ritual to invoke the Spirit of Cleaning (aka, someone else)

“Without Complaint:”

WTD: As long as you do not verbally complain you are fine. Feel free to roll eyes, sigh in exasperation, scowl, shrug your shoulders, and stamp your feet. As long as you do not complain with sentences, I will be happy.

“We leave in 15 minutes:”

WTD: In 14 minutes and 59.76 seconds, you should begin to consider what you need to have ready before we leave. 0.24 seconds is plenty of time to get dressed, eat breakfast and pack.

“Gimme one second:”

WTD. You should wait one literal second before repeating that exact same question. Oh crap! There’s that “literal” term again!

“We need to set some rules….”

WTD: Prepare thyself for the Shackles of Injustice

I hope that I have provided all of you with a useful tool that will help you communicate better with your loved ones this summer.

**Disclaimer:  I am sure that I will hear about how I have now “Teen-Shamed” my kids, perpetuated negative stereotypes about about teens, marginalized the efforts of those heroes devoted to writing real dictionaries or have broken any number of  number of known or unknown, social mores.  The fact is, I have two incredible young men of whom I am extremely proud.  This is meant simply as a chance to laugh at parenting and have a little fun with it.  If I have I offended in any way, shape, or form, I literally (WTD) offer my most sincere and heartfelt apologies.

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Me No Run So Smart

As I am waiting for my half-marathon to start, I am reminded that two things always annoy me at races.  First, “That Guy” is always there.  That Guy wears nothing but a super skimpy speedo or some other ridiculously tiny peace of race gear.  Today’s version of That Guy is wearing super short, baby-blue print shorts that look like they may be tiny pajammy-shorts.  That Guy’s girlfriend/wife/friend is wearing a matching outfit. Irritating.  As usual, That Guy needs to strip down and make a giant production of rubbing suntan lotion all over.  Of course, this is done in a very conspicuous area in the middle of everyone.  He also has to yell at someone way off in the distance at that moment. That’s right, That Guy, we all heard you  and looked over to see your 90% naked body getting oiled up.  By the way, That Guy is always ripped.  I hate That Guy.

Second, I am a nervous pee-er. Before every race, I am running into a Porta-potty every 15 minutes.  I swear that the door is hardly shut before I start thinking, “Uh-oh, I may need to go again soon.”  I’ve trained really hard for this race and really want a PR (Personal Record for you non-runners) which means the Pee Factor is in full-effect.  With half-an hour to start, I again feel the urge but the lines are at least 40 minutes long. There are almost 3,000 runners here and nowhere to duck out. I decided that this is a good time to get over my neuroticism and just deal with it.  I am really focused on breaking that PR and I know that I really do not need the bathroom and am just nervous. I can be such a head-case.

The gun goes off, I get a quarter mile in and realize it’s not just nerves. I have a full blown Bladder Buster situation going on here. The first mile is along desolate roads and with all the trenches to the side and overgrown shrubs, I don’t think I can dash off anywhere. The last thing I need is to roll and ankle and end up laying in some field peeing myself.  Fortunately, I know there is a Porta-Potty at the 1.5 mile mark.. Just as a reach it, a fellow nervous-urinator bursts out of the outhouse.  It’s time to pull a Daytona 500 Piss-Stop.  Time me.  Forty seven seconds later, I explode out of the blue-plastic door and start trying to make up some time.  Go ahead and remember that number.  Forty sevan seconds.

Four miles into the 13.1 mile race, my foot starts killing me.  It’s been a mess since Ragnar (Read me and notice That Guy was there too) and getting worse.  At mile five, it’s starting to become a real issue and I decide that this is my retirement race. I am frustrated with the foot and just upset with the realities of aging. I spend the next mile mentally writing my retirment blog.  I’ll need to talk about the physical benefits of running  but also all the fun times I have had.  Gotta mention the people too. The running community is really cool.  By mile 6, I am about 70% certain that I am running on a broken foot or at least some type of stress fracture.  This half-marathon is on a beautiful course along a stunning bay in Northern Michigan. I pull over, break out my phone and take a few pictures of the view. Definitely need to put those in the retirement blog.

I slog through the next 2 miles and stop again at the 8-mile-marker. I let myself walk for about forty seconds. I’m not spent, just frustrated and lacking any competitive drive. I make sure to thank a couple veterans that are watching the race.  I don’t care what your politics are, those men and women gave up big chunks of their lives and saw things that nobody deserves to see.  You are not compromising your beliefs or politics by saying “Thank you.” They deserve at least that.  As I decide to get it going again, I hear a spectator mention some buff-dude in tiny pajama shorts running with someone in a matching outfit.  That Guy is out there and That Guy is close.  That’s all I needed to hear. I am going to wreck the last five miles

By the 9.5 mark, I am right behind That Guy. I am having so much fun reeling him in.  That Guy is fading big time and dumping tons of water on himself.  His soaked shorts are now pretty much transparant and there is no way I am staying behind that. I pass him right at the 10 mile marker and know that there is no way I will let That Guy catch me.

The rest of the race is awesome. I spend a good chunk of it laughing at myself.  I can be such a petty little jerk but stuff like that keeps me going on my races.  Honestly, I really needed the opportunity to bury someone who annoyed me.  Maybe it’s wrong, but it helped shut out everything else and keep the legs moving.

This course hooks up with the marathon course that I have run a couple times (Yeah, I hit my goal and I ain’t ever doing that again) and I enjoy seeing some landmarks from my marathon.  Hey, there’s the mailbox I had to use to stand up after my legs went out.  Oops, that’s where Hip Tattoo hit the ground. I wonder what happend to her. Here’s where the race-official threatened to pull me off the course because I could not run/walk a straight line.    Good times.  It is pretty nice to be able to cruise through areas that were marathon-hell.

As I hit the last quarter mile, I realize that I have been so distracted with my bladder, my foot, and That Guy that I have barely paid any attention to my watch. I round the last corner and see the clock.  I have missed the PR I trained so hard for by 20 stupid seconds.  That is 1.53 lousy seconds/mile.  I literally pissed away my PR.  I immediately rage-delete the stupid pictures I stopped to take.

A lot of people have asked me why I did not just pee my shorts and keep going. Simply put, that is disgusting.  Maybe if I have a scholarship on the line.  Maybe if I could win some big money. Maybe if my kid’s life depended on it.  The fact is, I’m just a fortsexy-year-old man trying to stay in shape and beat some personal records.  Nobody but me cares at all and that is not worth running 12 miles in pee-soaked clothes.  Never considered it and never will. Frankly, I am surprised so many people have asked.

I guess I am OK with how it went. When I was actually running, I actually crushed my PR but it does not count. Poor pre-race/race management blew it. At least, it was not poor training or just being unable to hit that pace anymore. Me just no run so smart.

My foot’s not broken. The podiatrist’s quote was, “You beat the shit out of that foot.” I have taken a few weeks off and will ease myself back into training.  I do not think I can live with missing my PR because of bathrooming and pouting.  I will give it another shot if my foot holds up. I think it will.

At least That Guy didn’t beat me.

 

Swimming

A few weeks ago was the birthday of a friend of mine who passed way too young. I have also had a number of conversations with people who are struggling this month, so when my Facebook feed showed that I had posted the blog entry below, I felt like I needed to follow up on it. Go ahead and click on that first.

https://theaccidentalselfie.com/2016/04/03/one-year-crazy/

Basically, two years ago I wrote about my decision to take medication to help control anxiety issues and depression issues. That blog was largely about that decision and the positive effects.

Where am I at?

Two months after posting that blog, I felt like I had figured things out and stopped taking the medication.  I continued to see a counselor for another year after discontinuing the medication because I wanted to make sure I really did have my stuff together.  Last summer, I told him “Have you noticed that what we have talking about for the last year is not even close to the reasons I came in here two years ago? I think I’m done.” Basically, I took Lexapro for a little over a year, but have not touched one of those pills in over two years.  I’m fine.

What’s different?

I am better at distancing myself from work. I’m a school psychologist. Most people find it hard to believe, but the job is mentally brutal. The average career of a school psych is extremely short. Do not quote me, but I believe it was around 3-5 years the last time I checked. We turn over psychs at an alarming rate and the number of school psychs on anti-anxiety medications is staggering.  Basically, it is not me. It’s a mentally damaging job filled with conflict, isolation and frustration that breaks many many people at some time.

Here are three quotes said to me this year that would have crushed me in the past. “You made that call?  F**K you, man!”  “I just want you to know that I think you f*****g suck,” and finally, “Don’t as Erik. He’s just collecting a paycheck.”  Sadly, those came from staff with whom I work. Imagine what I get from parents and students. In the past, I would have lost sleep or tried to find ways to reconcile the problem or frankly, get the person to like me.  Now, I go home and go on with my day. I am actually really good at my job. I know that. People get mad, people get angry. Whatever.  Maybe they really do think I suck. Maybe they were frustrated and blowing off steam. I do my best and move on. Of course, I do collect a paycheck as well, so that kinda helps. A nice big fat public-school employee paycheck.

I have really learned who I can depend on and it is the people who were there for me when I was a mess and when things are great. When I posted that blog I got bombarded with “What’s the matter?” “We should get together and you can fill me in,” “I am always here, what do you need?”  I struggled because when I posted it, I was through everything. I did not need anything anymore. I wanted to yell, “I’m fine. Where was this twelve months ago when I needed it?”  In fairness, most of them had no clue. Some I had flat-out lied to. Perhaps others, I wasn’t direct enough with when I tried to reach them. I am certainly not blameless but what I have learned is that people love riding the big red fire truck with sirens blaring to spray water on the inferno, but fewer people like to spend time quietly checking smoke alarms.  Those are the people I can depend on and I have them in my life. You know who you are and I love you.

Chicken or Egg?

In my professional life, and in my person life, I see countless people basically say, “I need to find out what I have so that I understand why I think/act like this.”  When I started in therapy one of the first things I said was, “I do not believe there is anything wrong with me. I think I am depressed and anxious because I think certain ways and have certain patterns that I need to break.  I do not think I ‘have something’ that is beyond my control and causes me to do this.”   Some people have genuine disorders that they can not help. That is a fact and I am not discrediting that at all.  For me, that was going to be my last resort, not a starting point. I wanted to change everything I could before saying, “I have X.”  It may seem minor, but I do believe that if I had walked in and relinquished that locus of control I would not have been as successful.

People will still occasionally make a comment about by “mental illness.”  Initially, it infuriated me.  Not because there is anything wrong with mental illness, but because I do not consider myself mentally ill.  I had a tough spell, took some pretty serious steps to correct it and feel like I am back on track.  If I blew out my ACL, had surgery and went through a year of rehab, I doubt people would refer to me as “physically disabled” three years later when I was walking and running around. Again, something that I would have stewed on years ago, but now am much better about letting it slide.  Who knows, maybe someday I will have another “mental-injury.” It is possible, but I am not overly concerned about it right now.

In Conclusion 

I am as happy as I have been in a long time. In a weird way, I am almost glad I had that bad stretch.  I feel more insightful, resilient, and content. Mostly, I feel more grateful. I just felt like I needed to give some closure to what I put out there a couple years ago.  Two final things.

First, take care of your friends and family.  Check in on them. Say something if you notice them struggling. Listen to them. Check their smoke alarms. Do not wait until it becomes a blazing fire and then try to throw buckets of water on it. Stuff is already burning at that point. You will never regret touching base or checking in.  Even if you meet resistance, or even lies, your gesture will be appreciated on some level.

Finally, if you are struggling. Get some help. If your loved ones say you are struggling,  you are struggling. Get some help. It does not mean there is anything wrong with you and any help does not need to be permanent.  I will close with this analogy.  It was like I was spending my life slogging on the ocean floor and drowning.  On the good days, I could swim twenty or thirty feet above the floor and say, “Look at this. This is not bad. I am well above the floor. I’m swimming”  However, after spending so much time on the floor, I’d lost perspective and did not even realize that even though I was twenty or thirty feet off the floor, I was still 100 feet below the surface and drowning.  Getting counseling and meds was like tying a life jacket on me and shooting me to the surface.  Once my head got above water, I thought “Wow, I had forgotten this is where I am supposed to be. I need to relearn to swim.” As I swam stronger, I untied the life jackets.

As of today, I don’t even know where my life jackets are anymore.

 

 

Worst Running Experiences

I have written a lot about running. I have only been running for about five years but have managed to go from having to walk after a quarter mile to having finished four marathons in that time.  I am now able to to generally place in my age-groups for shorter races and have had generally very positive experiences.  If you scroll down you will see that I have written quite a bit about many of my great experiences and the positive impact running has had on my life.

Today, I thought I would share my worst running experiences.  I have had a few injuries, run in some nasty weather and dealt with the same issues as most runners.  Nipple-chafing is horrible. Chafing in general sucks. My body has shut down on me (Click this) I have had inattentive drivers almost hit me. I’ve literally had to dive out of the way of three. One person came so close that their mirror hit my hand. There are still jerks that swerve their cars at you just to see you jump to the side. I have fallen on ice. I think most of these are pretty typical.  Below, however, are my least favorite.

Dogs

First. I love dogs. I am a dog guy. The bigger the dog, the better. I am not necessarily a dog fan while running.

I’m running through my neighborhood with headphones in.  It is one of those freezing cold, snow -covered runs.  I’m just trying to log my miles, ignore my numb hands and listen to a little music.  The next thing I know, my left arm is jerked straight back, I stagger a step and am twisted around. As I try to make sense of what is happening , I wildly look over my left shoulder to see that my forearm is in the mouth of a golden retriever who has it’s legs braced and is pulling on my arm. My first instinct is to punch.

In a panic, I put everything I have into that shot and connect as cleanly as I ever have. I hit the dog square in the face with enough force that I am pretty sure that I broke my hand. The dog yelps, let’s go and takes off.  The owner comes running up to me.  “Hey!  you didn’t have to hit my dog!”  I am still trying to make sense of what happened and am a little concerned about my ringing hand and can only manage to say, “I didn’t know what it was doing.”  The owner sticks her finger in my face, says, “You’re an ***hole!” and chases after her dog.  To this day, I feel kinda bad for punching that dog, but it was unleashed, in a road, and jumped on me.  Maybe it was playing, but I just reacted.

Dog #2.  I am running down the road and see a woman raking her yard with a large dog.  The dog sees me and comes charging at me.  I know that I need to stop running to avoid the chase instinct and stand facing the dog.  It pulls up about 15 feet from me and starts to slowly circle me.  I am pretty good at reading dogs’ body language, but this one is alternating between wagging it’s tail and then laying its ears back and snarling.  I can not quite decide if it is going to wag up to me to get pet or if I am seconds away from being bit. What worries me most is that it is pretty clear that this dog does not really know what it is going to do next.

The lady is still standing in her yard watching. Without looking away from the dog I call out, “Hey, are we going to be cool here?”  Without moving she simply says, “I’m not real sure. He’s acting weird”  Her neurotic looking dog is still circling me and I am becoming less comfortable with its body language.  “Look. Can you please come get your dog?”  Again, without moving she says, “I am not sure he’d let me. We are going to have to wait to see what he does.”

This does not sit well so I say, “If your dog comes at me, I am going to kick in the head and I will not stop kicking until it is done moving or you come get. Up to you.”  She throws down her rake and says, “Fine.”  As she grabs the collar of her nut-job dog, she looks at me and says, “You’re an ***hole!” Yup.  Heard that before

The Most Scared I’ve ever been on a run

It is a beautiful summer day. Today’s route is not my favorite as I am running through a neighborhood that has a lot of families from the schools that I work in. I am not worried about any of them. I just like to keep work and personal life separate. I also prefer that students not know where live.

Regardless, I am running down the street when up ahead I see a couple adults I know from school.  They wave.  I look to my left, make eye-contact and raise my hand to acknowledge them.  As soon as my hand is up, my periphery vision glimpses a flash of sparks, smoke and a giant explosion rips through the air. It’s so loud, that it hurts.  The adults I am waving ate, dive behind their car. All I can think is, “Someone is shooting!” and I sprint.  I sprint ten yards ahead and scramble behind a random car in a driveway.

So many thoughts. Where is the shooter? Is the car between me and him or am I just sitting in the open? Should I stay here or should I just ran like mad? Where would I run? I’m confused, and I am not 100% sure that I would not be running right into danger. Was there only one shot, or did I panic and not hear the others?

I glance across the street and see the people I waved at starting to stand up. They peek  over their car. One of them points to where I had been. They both nod and start laughing.  They see me and yell “It’s OK!  We thought someone shot at you but it’s safe.”  I walk over and talk to them.  It turns out that a branch had blown into one of the city’s transformers.  It just happened that I had the misfortune of being almost directly under the pole when it exploded.  We all got a good laugh out of it, but I cut four miles out of that run and went straight home.

Too Proud

Two years ago, I won my age group and finished 5th overall at a local 10K.  It’s not going to happen today. Granted, I’ve been battling the flu bug that shut West Michigan down and I have been less intense in my training, but the cold, hard fact is that Father Time is starting to reel me in.  There is about a mile left and I know there are probably 20 people ahead of and that I am nearly 25 seconds/mile slower than I was two years ago. Worst of all, is that I am struggling miserably and just want this stupid race to be done.

With about a half-mile left, I try to push through and maybe pass one or two guys in my age-group to salvage the day a little. I catch a couple more and am going to be able to cruise across the line. Slower than years past and farther back in the pack, but whatever.  Then, with 50 yards left, it hits me.

I have never thrown up while running but my stomach just completely rolled. I think that maybe it’s just a quick reaction, but it immediately rolls again and hard enough that my cheeks puff.  I know that I am about to puke all over the finish line in front of all the spectators.  I can’t just do that right on the finish mat where everyone will be crossing, but I can’t run to the side into the spectators.  What is the etiquette for this type of thing? There has to be some type of protocol.  My stomach rolls a third time.  It is going to happen. Then the worst realization hits me.

There is nobody really close ahead of me. I glance over my shoulder and nobody is within 20 yards of me.  This means that the race photographer that is crouched by the finish line is 100% focused on me and is going to be able to snap off a bunch of pics of me finishing.  His lens is pointed at me and I have visions of three-picture sequences of me projectile-vomiting across the line are about to be on the internet.  I am going to be a meme.  It’s amazing what becomes important to someone while they are freaking out.

I cross the finish mat while making the gag noises and cut a 90 degree angle. I do not think I ran more than 18 inches past the timing pad before turning. Someone yells at me that I’m out of bounds, but I saw a gap in the sponsors van. I keep it together another three seconds while I squirm between two vans and stereo equipment to a small area where I am out of sight.  I will spare the details, but as things were happening my only thought was not about pain, what went wrong, frustration or anything like that. Instead, I was genuinely happy and thinking, “I am so glad I kept it together for those three seconds so there are no pictures!”

Those are the ones that immediately stand out to me.  Of course, I have had nails go through my shoes, been told that my feet hit the pavement obnoxiously loud, literally ran through wet cement while I day-dreamed (not proud), been mocked by college-aged women and been whistled at by a teacher before she recognized me but in general, running has been a positive experience.

So…what’s been your worst running experience?

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Ragnar Relay – Final Leg

You should probably click Ragnar Relay – Leg 1 and Ragnar Relay – Leg 2 before reading any further.

My last leg is only 6.6 miles but I am not excited about the cliff I have to run up at the end.  Check out this elevation map and the little treat that is waiting for me at the end. I joke with a tall blond runner that we better get grappling hooks.  She laughs and almost knocks my scrawny butt down when she slaps my back.  This must be what The Hound felt like when fighting Brienne of Tarth.  She leaves early and Team Beast’s 5th runner starts his leg ahead of me… again.

elevation

I finally start my watch on time.  I only need to run 8:30’s but I feel good and settle in at 7:45s.  I kill Team Beast’s runner about 1.5 miles in and say, “It’s so nice out, but I’m ready to be done with this.”  He laughs and says, “Damn it. You caught me on every one of my legs!”  Honestly, the only reason I talked to him was to make sure he noticed that. I can be such a jerk. I kill Brienne at mile 2.5.

I jacked up something in the ball of my foot on Leg 2.  It feels like there is a pebble under my skin and each foot strike is killing me. It’s still bothering me six months later.  At mile 4, I sit down, take my shoe off and try to massage it. Two things get me going. First, I’m scared my van is going to drive by and see me sitting on the road. I don’t need that kind of mocking. Second, I’m scared Team Beast is going to kill me as the foot has really slowed me down.

Running up Hacksaw Ridge is kind of a relief as my foot strikes are different. I wish I had a Sherpa right before Brienne of Tarth comes back from the dead and kills me with about half a mile left. I struggle, finish with an average pace of 8:23/mile and pass of the bracelet to Ryan for the last time. He’s only run 6 miles two or three times and he’s facing a 6.2 with some pretty long hills. Ryan’s been a little nervous about his last, and longest, leg.

This is a weird feeling. I am done. I can change into whatever I want and throw my third running outfit into a Zip-log bag (highly recommended odor-reducing trick). Ryan has to run and then Van 2 still has 3-4 hours left but it’s over for me. I’m done. As we drive to the exchange point, I can see that the Ragnar organizers really know what they are doing.  On our early drives, we saw between 0-2 runners.  Now we are driving by a steady stream of runners of various abilities.  When we get to the a drive-in theater for the Van Exchange point, it is crowded and there are a ton of people to meet and socialize with.  Ryan brings it home and Van 1 is done. All we have left to do is get to the finish line and run it in with Van 2 in a few hours.

cherry bowl

We decide that passing the time at a local brewery is not the smartest thing we have ever done. After one beer, we are all nodding off at 2:00 in the afternoon. We find some real food and meet our team about 100 yards from the finish line.  Pete comes around the corner and we all finish together.   I expected to finish around 100 out of 250 teams.  Somehow, a bunch of under-prepared, inexperienced, Ragnar-newbies who were in over their heads came in three hours ahead of our projected pace.  A finish time of 27 hours and thirty four minutes put us third in the Masters (old dude) division and 13th overall! Of all the races I have run, this is some of the best swag I have been given. The team medals are amazing and I love the baton for placing.

finishMedalsbaton

The next six or seven hours are actually pretty challenging.  The lack of sleep, and age, makes brewery hopping challenging and ten times tamer than it was 20 years ago but it is so much fun. I am able to have some pretty serious conversations with a couple guys I have not spoken to in 20 years.  As the night progresses, guys start dropping out and promises are made to do better about keeping in touch with the unspoken understanding that not much will change unless we see each other at Ragnar 2018.  The night ends at a brewery with people sharing their favorite part of the race. There are laughs. I talk about how cool it was to see everyone from my van at each exchange point.  Brownie talks of stepping over what he believed was a roadkill opossum until it got up and ran. The Smurf chokes me up a little as he talks about his 3AM leg.  He shares how he turned off his his music and head lamp (sorry Ragnar) before spending two miles running along Lake Michigan talking with someone whom he had recently lost. We all vow to race again next year and start trying to think of how to move up a few spots.  A 12th runner would help so Marty, Mark, and Greg don’t have to carry an extra leg.  Getting a Beast of our own wouldn’t hurt.

overtimeteam

One of my all-time favorite weekends ends and everyone goes their separate ways.  Ragnar was way more fun than I had anticipated. Truthfully, I had doubts that we would ever actually do it and kind of wanted it to fall through at various times. However, it far exceeded my expectations for fun.  I had the perfect team.  I also found it to be far less physically demanding than I expected.  With a 12-man-team, there is plenty of rest between legs.  Taking care of nutrition, bathrooms, and sleep can be a tiny bit tricky but I found the actual running to be less challenging than I expected.

Ultimately, I am a very blessed man.  I have been blessed with a family that not only lets me take a weekend for Ragnar, but encourages it. I am blessed to be able to financially run Ragnar. It’s not cheap. Entrance fees, food, travel, post-race lodging, gas and various other expenses make Ragnar a very real financial commitment.  I am blessed with health and a body that can drive all over northern Michigan while running 16-17 miles.  I am blessed that over twenty years ago I spent some time running around a campus with a bunch of guys wearing Greek letters. Everyone went their separate ways, but two decades later we were able to re-connect, plan out, and commit to a pretty intense race and I felt like we had never really missed a beat. For two days, I felt like it had only been a couple months since I had seen everyone and I am extremely grateful for those relationships.  I am a very blessed man.

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