Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The spontaneously semi planned finish of a marathon or ultra in all 50 States

me in 2002
I have been debating how to write this for a week or so now because I like to talk about the entire trip that I was on during a run but I decided to make this post just about my unexpected journey in finishing a marathon or ultra in all 50 states...then I will post only about our Hawaii trip.

For those that don't know me in 2002 that photo in the Nebraska sweatshirt was me! I had finally kicked a 3 pack a day smoking habit but had not began the other part of healthier living yet.  It wasn't until shortly after my birthday at the end of February 2003 when I saw myself next to a couple friends and I was twice there size that I decided enough was enough.  I lost about 90 plus pounds by watching what I was eating and I started exercising and lifting weights. I found losing was the easy part....keeping it off was much harder!! I had also learned this once before in 1998 when I lost about 80 pounds but immediately gained it back plus a few more.  I was not going to let this happen again so I decided that I needed to come up with different goals to keep me motivated and working out. I started biking and swimming and attempting to run. Boy do I remember the first time I ran a complete mile without having to stop and walk once!!! Heck I remember when I ran my first TWO BLOCKS without having to stop and walk!! I always enjoyed swimming and had done some century bike rides in the past....long past but I had done I started researching triathlons. I discovered there was events called sprint triathlons....these were only about a half mile swim, 12 mile bike and a 5K run....sure I can do this!!! I ran into an old friend from school days at the local gym and convinced her we both could do these- she was already a runner and swam but wasnt into biking yet. Soon we were signed up for every sprint triathlon in 2004 that was within reasonable driving distance. Our first one wasn't as "easy" as we expected and even being swimmers throughout our lifetime, myself even certified in SCUBA...we both panicked in the water and doggy paddled, side stroked and laughed and cussed the entire way until we finished that swim!! We exited the water laughing and cussing about that was not what we expected as we casually walked to the transition area to get out our bikes for a "short" 12 mile ride....we then said to each other - opps we are in a race...lets get to our bikes. After the bikes it was off to the 5K that was weird...we had never trained to run after biking and learned that day we need to do this more often. We did finish and I tell this story because this was the beginning of my "obsession" some may call it?
By the end of 2004 I was running my first Half marathon with my friend Ginny Sturgill...we did the Columbus Marathon as a relay...I did the first half and she did the second half. I believe my longest run was maybe 2 9 milers....I will never forget the last several miles of this run when I would stop at the water stops...I felt if I stopped I would not be able to start going again and so eventually I just had to keep on shufflin to get done. Oh my did it hurt when I was done and then I had to wait for 2 hours for Ginny to finish. After that half marathon I never would have dreamed I would do any distance longer then that!!!  When the 2004 season ended we were already looking at goals for the next year....we had to bump it up a knotch so we continued with some sprint distance but also jumped into the Olympic Distance and did 3 of those that year. By 2005 we were ready to try the 70.3 triathlon distance...this was 1.2 mile swim 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run. Throughout the past couple years we met folks doing this crazy distance and were just in awe....and those that were doing FULL distance of 140.6 miles well that was just beyond reach!!! We signed up for a half in September of that year and low and behold we did it!!! Shortly after my left shoulder ended up having problems with swimming so I finally had it checked and I had tore my bicep tendon and labral tendon so I had to have surgery....the doctor put in 4 anchors and found a large bone spur that was shaved down and also pulled the ball/socket back together. This recovery sucked but I had it done in November so I had the winter off to recover. During the recovery all I could do is work on my schedule of what I wanted to do the next year.
2007 rolls around and I decide we are ready to attempt a FULL IRONMAN!!! 2.4 miles swim 112 miles of biking then a full marathon 26.2 miles of running!!! I had never even done a marathon until this!!! We signed up for Ironman Louisville because it was the first year and it was fairly close. About 2.5 weeks before the event I had some bleeding in a place that was not pleasant and had it looked at from a friend sister that was a nurse at urgent care.  It was a saddle sore that was bleeding and they gave me some ointment...however the next morning I awoke to the area being the size of my fist! I immediatly went to my female doctor and he had to lance it and stick some drainage tubes and sent me home with some antibiotics....the next morning I could not get my right leg to move out of the bed and was immediately admitted to the hospital and placed in isolation - I had MRSA Staph infection.....I was hooked up on IV's - nobody could come in without a gown and mask, they would change the medicine in the IV's every couple hours as they did not know what drugs would work for the strain I had so they kept changing them until the results came back 2-3 days later and they kept pumping me with those antibiotics.  That was scary!!!! I was released the Saturday before Ironman Louisville....8 days before. I had 2 other friends doing the event and I took my stuff and promised my folks and Doctor that I would not do the event.....however I told myself and my folks the day before that if I can sit on my bike I will attempt it.  And so I did - This was my first ever marathon too!!! I had about 1 mile left to go in the run (walk) and they came and took my chip- I was out of time...they told me I could continue or I could get in the truck and I said there is no way I will quit....there was a group of about 10 others around me....all had their chips taken but all of us decided to keep truckin. I finished the event about 30 minutes too late for an "official" finish but they did give me a finisher medal...I knew I wasn't an "Ironman" yet even though I finished the distance I did not finish in the allocated time so it kinda didn't count.  I did the best I could and when you do the best you can you have to be thrilled with that!
2008 comes along and it was time for redemption....I did the American Triple T which is a local event that consist of 4 events...friday night is a super small sprint tri saturday AM is an Olympic distance tri Saturday Afternoon at 3pm is another Olympic distance Tri and Sunday is a Half Ironman....all in the hills of the Little Smokies! I also did a couple other Half Ironman Triathlon and then complete Ironman Florida! My first official finish of a Ironman as well as my first official finish in a marathon since it was at the end of the event!
2009 I decide I am going to do Louisville again and this time I was doing it with Janus Charities...a Charity group that you were able to chose the charity you would like to fundraise for and if you were one of the top 5 fundraiser they would also give your charity moneys!! I chose one close to heart...the Steven A Hunter Foundation With the help of the community I raised $14,000 good enough for 4th place and Janus graciously gave an additional $4,000 to the fund! Beside Ironman Louisville I did do two stand alone marathons for the first time this year...I did Myrtle Beach in Feb of the year and also was selected in the lottery for the Nike Womens Marathon in San Francisco. I stated seeing info about ultra running and boy I wanted to try this!!! 50 Miles or 100 Miles!!! Wouldnt that be freaking cool!!!! After the Nike marathon I was having lots of pain in my left knee. I am the type that will not see a Doctor unless conditions interfere with my daily living and it was getting to become an issue. I had the knee scoped in December of 2009 and they found that 3 of the 4 compartments were pretty much bone on bone so he performed 3 microfractures,,,,this is where they drill holes in the area to try to get new cartilage to grow. Recovery was very frustrating, I biked pretty much immediately with the seat high and eventually started on the AMT and EFX. After months I was trying to run but the pain in the patella was excruciating - We tried an unloader brace but eventually was told if I continue to run then I would most likely need a new knee within a couple years. I ended up going to  other doctors for other opinions with the same outcome. After Doc 3 the very next day was the drawing for the NYC marathon and I had entered!! Of course I did get selected.  2010 was a recovery year but I was determined to get back. I did some triathlons, sprint, olympic and even a half, I also did one half marathon and I did walk the NYC marathon. In 2011 my right foot which was the opposite side of the knee was causing issues, issues to were I would have to crawl to the bathroom at night, finally that was diagnosed as Tarsel Tunnel, surgery was suppose to happen but the chance of fixing the issue was only 50% chance and it would require 1 month in a cast and 2 months in a boot and I was going to come back no matter what any doctor told me!!! I had seen people running without one of their legs, I was reading about folks running long distances the day after chemo-was I going to let these doctors tell me I can't do something?? There are no guarantees....I may need a new knee but heck I may not even be here in 2 years to have to have one!!! By 2011 I saw one last Doctor....he looked over all my MRI's, surgery photos etc and he said "I will not tell you NOT to run and I do NOT see a new knee within the next 2 years but I will say if you run you should try to keep it to a couple times a week and only about 3-4 miles each time." That's all I needed to hear and by the end of the week I had found my first 50 mile run that I was going to attempt!!! It was called Labor Of Love in Henderson NV. It had a 24 hour time limit!! I could do this!!! I did buy trip insurance just in case case.  I had put on about 20 pounds of the 90 I had lost in 2003 and I decided to get serious about getting that off and so I did...I took off that 20 plus another 15 and believe it or not the tarsel tunnel got better!!! Or I just adjusted to the pain???  I leaned how to block the pain in my knee and at times it would swell and even bruise where the bones would rub.
I knew I needed to sign up for events to keep me running longer distances so that I could train for the 50 miler, I also knew if I didnt sign up for events then I would not stay out there by myself running these long distance in the cold of the winter. That winter fortunately was very mild but I did do my first 50K in January of 2012, a COLD nighttime marathon also in January in Indianapolis, and 3 other full marathons leading up to the 50 miler. On April 21st I did my first 50 mile run!!!  I had also learned that if you do a marathon distance or more in at least 10 states you qualify for the 50 States Marathon Club. I had done 5 marathons including the ironman's in 2008 and 2009 and just the first half of 2012 I had now done a 50K 4 marathons and a 50 miler and all were in different states so I actually was qualified for the 50 states club!!! I then decided cool....I think I can do a marathon in all 50 states by the time I am 50........I was 44 so I had 6 years to do 40 more states....I stared researching my last state at this time...and I found one that happened the weekend of my birthday called Cowtown in TX...I also found that on my 50th Birthday it would be ON my birthday. Well.....things didn't happen that way.  By the end of 2012 I had learned of another group called Marathon Maniacs
I also learned about double marathons/ultras where you do a marathon or ultra on one day and do another the very next day!!! FUN STUFF -  I had finished 3 50K's TWO 50 Milers...I got into the oldest 50 miler in the US called JFK50 (named for John F Kennedy) and 10 marathons - Crazy as it sounded I waited by my computer on the day that the Umstead 100 mile ultra marathon registration opened because they sell out in a matter of minutes......It was meant to be because I got in!!! It was schedule for April 6 2013 so I now had my 2013 mostly planned starting it off with a 50 miler on the island of St Croix in the US Virgin Islands. That winter was not as forgiving as the winter before so I did do a lot more traveling to the southern states for double marathon training for the Umstead 100 miler. I was meeting the same folks at each event and truly formed a new edition to running family! I finsihed Umstead 100 and I was on top of the world. It hurt and it hurt bad but I wanted more. I discovered a company called Mainly Marathons This company is owned by an amazing man named Clint Burleson. He puts on series of marathons on consecutive days in adjoining states....Now I thought this is cool and major crazy!!! So I signed up for the one called Center of the I could knock off 5 states out west in 5 days! It is here where I honestly can say family ties were made. I met the most amazing people and made the best friendships that continue today.The 5 in 5 days was nothing like I expected....I never once went to bed or woke up thinking damn I have to go run another marathon...instead I woke up with a WHOO HOOO I GET to go run with all my new friends. My 2013 ended with 21 marathons, 4 50K's 3 50 milers and 1 100 miler. I thought to myself what in the world can I do in 2014.....I then started to see how my states were adding up and discovered that I could finish in June of 2015 if all went as planned. I would do CO/KS together with mainly marathons in the spring of 2015 and then finish in Kona in June of didn't happen this way.
I was having trouble with my right shoulder this time and it came to a point where I could no longer get my clothes on and off comfortably so off I had to go to the the right bicep tendon is torn and I had to have 2 anchors put I told the Doc lets schedule it right away because in 3.5 weeks I have a series of 6 marathons in 7 days and then I have a lot more on tap for the rest of the year. The look on his face was priceless but he knows me well. I said it is perfect timing since I do have 3.5 weeks until my next event so I will have that time to start recovering.
 I did have to wear the sling and power walk the majority of the 6 marathons but I finished them. These 6 were in the New England States and my son Tanner got to travel along....he got to meet all my friends I run all over the place with and after that week he finally "got it" he realized why mom runs so much and saw how much fun we all have.  He was learning about the marathon maniacs and started asking me questions about things he was hearing like how many "stars" do I have.....stars is a way the marathon maniacs credit folks for different accomplishments....I told I knew I had 8 because last time I logged in it showed 8 but I didn't know when I got them- I never really pay attention to those details...I just sign up for events and have a great time and complete them.
He started checking my stats because folks were talking about 10 stars...this is the highest level you can achieve as a maniac. So during the traveling he started counting up the different states I had done and the period of time they were done in and found that if I did 32 states in 365 days I would reach 10 stars....he then discovered that if I finish the Storm the Dam in Kansas that would get me to my 10th star! I get asked all the time how many marathons or ultras I have done and I can honestly say I don't know unless I look on my results page where they are all listed and count them up. I didn't know which state was number what until I had 5 left...then I knew what state I was on. I know I will know what number 99 and 100 will be when that time comes and it will probably be next summer. It is not a "goal" and it will happen when it happens. I could get it done a lot faster if I wanted to back out of some 24 hour events and ultras but I would much rather enjoy the events then chase numbers. In looking I have done 81 marathons distances up to one 100 miler....with 76 of these being from January 2012 through December 2014.

For many years my cousin Maggi Apel and her husband Matt were stationed in Colorado Springs and out their window was a view of Pikes Peak - I would always admire those photos and I knew of the Pikes Peak marathon well before the days of me even thinking of running but I always though how cool would it be to climb that mountain and one day I will!! I then read a couple places that it is considered one of the toughest marathons in the World but I thought yeah right...they are just saying that...kinda like Warrior Dash and Spartan races are the "toughest" races in the world - I knew Pikes Peak Marathon usually sold out fast and it really wasn't on my radar for my 50 states journey but one evening before going to bed I made the mistake of checking my face book one last time and I read my friends Scott Sunday's post that Pikes Peak was still open however it was 98% full!! I had a qualifying time and I ran downstairs without any thought and accidentally signed up! Oh - and I do NOT recommend Pikes Peak for someone chasing their 50 states as your Colorado Marathons now I have CO scheduled so I won't be doing the CO/KS together in spring of 2015 so I need to find a Kansas marathon. This I did and my friend Heather Waugh and I drove 12 hours to do Storm the Dam Marathon!!!  I was still recovering from my shoulder surgery and could not use my right arm...this was a muddy mess of a race where we had to pull ourselves up several mud one point I wondered how in the world I would finish the second loop with my right arm- then I would remind myself if I didn't finish this I wouldn't get the 10th star and I also knew that I would be as smart as I possible could be when I am running and try to really listen to my body to not do more damage- I pulled through and I did finish!! I don't know whether it was from this event or not but after I returned home my shoulder was still hurting so he did a test by injecting dye and a MRI and found the rotator cuff was now torn.....IT is STILL torn because Im not doing that surgery again until I HAVE TO!

So now back to the states......I now had all states scheduled or completed except for Hawaii...I didnt wanna wait until June now and I really wanted my son to be able to go who is a Junior at University of Cincinnati so which Hawaii can I do???? HONOLULU!!! It is December 14th and his finals are the week before so if he could take any early he could go!!! I signed up and waited to book flight for awhile for him to check with professors and he decided he could not go...(of course he never checked cause at that age they kinda know it all) I went ahead and booked and I was going to finish state 50 with just my running friends. 2 and half weeks before I was heading to OK ad AR for a double and stayed with him at his apartment, the night before he tells me that his finals are over and he can go! WOW I was thrilled but also nervous with airfare that close and would the same flight be available- To my pleasant surprise his airfare was $20 less then mine and we got on all the same flights. My folks then decided they would get him the ticket as a Christmas actually feels like a present to us both!!
I had another friend Jim Collins that was finishing his second time around the 50 states in Honolulu and also my great friend Troy and Cathie Johnson who have ran 221 marathons together- I was a little concerned because I hadn't ran in about 3 weeks...I have been fighting some depression due to the conditions with my back and hip (NO IT'S NOT FROM RUNNING!) I have had physical therapy, several injection one to the sciatica and one to the SI at this point with no relief and even though I do feel much better and less pain when I run - it is hard to get myself out there on a typical day to do it because I get into this poor me mode.
The weather for the race was actually was a light rain most of the day with some heavier rains sporadically and light winds with a few gusts but nothing unbearable. I think without the rain and winds it would have been tough with the heat. Cathie, Troy and I ran the entire run together and had a blast!!! I had taken a surfing lesson the friday before the event and Chris my surfing instructor was waiting for me at mile 20 with a stella in a plastic bottle for me to take along with me.
 Tanner was waiting at the finish with my 50 states finisher shirt and it was so cool seeing how big of a smile he had!!! It really didnt feel any different then any other events? Im not sure if it is because it was kinda an unplanned goal and one that finished much faster then when I started thinking it out? I just know I'm ready for the New Years Eve and New Years Day Double Double Event.  Through out this blog are different write ups about most of the states I have been to - I usually type fast, nor do I prof read so read at your own risk. It is more for me to recollect later and for my son if he choses to.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Don’t be discouraged. It’s often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock"

This is going to be a lot of ramblings as my mind is just a mess and can't seem to grasp all this pain. I have never felt so weak, so "un tough" in my life. Somethings gotta give and soon.
Tuesday while shopping for the First Day of Winter Half/Full/50K that I am hosting on December 21st with my mom the pain was so bad I was just trying to lean into the shopping cart to get the pressure off whatever is pinching whichever nerve that is being pinched and would just break into tears. I am at a loss? I hate to wake up because I know as soon as I step out of the bed the numbness in the toes and the right side of my anterior side of my leg will be pins and needles and my lower hip/glute area will be unbearable pain for the next 6 or so hours until I have enough pain meds in me to finally take a little of the edge off.
Today's appointment was to do EMG's to make sure there is no permanent nerve damage- I asked if any of this could be related to the tarsel tunnel that was diagnosed in 2011 and he said that nerve issue run down not up so my hopes of that were shot down. The tarsel tunnel is still there and has not advanced (even though the doctors wanted to do surgery on that years ago I refused because it is only a 50% chance of fixing the issue with 3 months in a cast and boot) I do not feel the kind of pain like I use to from the tarsel tunnel  but the kind of pain and pins and needles I face and have been facing for quite sometime is something I have never experienced and do not wish it upon anyone.  We did find during the EMG's that there is no permanent nerve damage that shows up so that is something that I will take as a positive.
After the EMGs we discussed what can we try next? He seems to feel this is a back issue and not a hip issue even though there is stuff wrong with both parts as reported on the MRI's but he explained a hip issues will not lead to the pins and needles that I have felt for 24/7 for the past 8 plus weeks now or the pain that is beyond words that I feel in my hip and glute.  We have tried a shot in the sciatica....did nothing.....two weeks later we tried a shot into the SI joint.....again nothing. So discussing what's next aside from there is nothing else he can try we chose to try an injection into the L4. Injections are done on Wednesdays and we leave next Wednesday for Hawaii where I will finish my achievement of running a marathon/ultra in all 50 states!! So the injection will have to be for the Wednesday I return. My biggest worry is how in the world am I going to function while I am not running and enjoy my time with my son. The pain pills don't take the edge off until I have had 2-3 during the day and I can get into a position on the couch and the pain level drops to where I don't wanna cry. The worse part about pain like this is it can be so easy to get addicted to pain killers due to the unbearable pain that is felt and people take and take the pain pills just to get a smidge of relief. We did decide to jump up to a stronger medication to have with me in Hawaii but I try to not take anything until I am into tears....which lately has not been often.  He also feels the tear that is next to the L4 where the spinal stenosis is is most likely the culprit....he knows how I feel about surgery and it scares the hell out of me. I don't have time to be down for back surgery! I don't want someone cutting on my back and my spine! What if they slip and I get paralyzed? So many thoughts but also what are the odds of it working.....I want 90 percent or above but don't think I will even get that. So far I have tried to just brush off that option and the look I got today about what is the next step I could tell that a referral to a surgeon was probably next if the L4 injection gives no relief. So when I asked what is next and that I really can't imagine surgery on my back and I got the look I said I pretty much have to learn to live with it? There is no way I can live with this pain so I pray and pray that the L4 injection will help on December 17th!!! If it doesn't I guess I will have to consider what to do next.
I know I have said over and over that I want to take off 15 ish pounds that I have put on in the past 2 years-I get depressed with all that's going on and then eat crap and then feel worse for doing it. I also justify that I am healthy because who can go run a marathon every Saturday and Sunday and not be fit...which is true but I also feel better in my other clothes...I feel better when my shirts fit a little different. I then justify that I am still 85 pounds lighter then I was in 2002...but now I have to tell myself - Before surgery is even an option you MUST try to take off 15 pounds and see if it relieves any of the pressure that is on whatever nerve that is causing so much pain.  The doctor does not see an issue with my weight and did not recommend that I need to lose weight but when I gave him my thoughts and analogy of weight on a nerve etc I then asked if he thought it would relieve any pressure and he said it is possible - anything's I think I really need to try this as an option as well....and if I tell myself doing so could lighten up the pain a bit it is worth the try!!
The reality is nothing can fix what is wrong with my body but we just need to find something to take the pain away.  I do not have an injury that can be fixed. I have degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, arthritis and conditions that can not be reversed. What we are looking for is what is causing the pinched nerve that is keeping my foot,calf and outer anterior area numb.....what can help relieve the pain that causes tears multiple times a day in my hip, back and glute area. What can allow me to get into my car without having to crawl into it. How can I lift my leg without tears to put on my shoes and socks.