July 31, 2007

Ea Venit, Ea Vidit, Ea Vicit

Sometimes the weekend turns out great, but when it's over, you feel so bummed that it's over, you just don't want to recap it.

And that's kind of how I feel... Bummed it's over...

She came...

When we picked her up from the airport Friday afternoon, we couldn't make Stronger have 3 more hands so that each of the kids and I had one to hold... So we hugged her en masse, probably smothering her a bit in the process. Needless to say we we happy to see her, I was happy to see her.

She saw...

Since the last time she visited we drove 1000 miles across the southeast over a 2 day stretch, I wanted to let her see a little of Birmingham without a ton of driving this time. We went to see Vulcan for Momo, who I hear has always dreamt of seeing him and who has now placed the experience on her list of must-do's... Ha! So we went over to the helipad on the 16th floor of the hospital for an unobstructed view of him, and the rest of Birmingham. We then drove over and looked up his skirt - dude has balls of iron... Anyway, we scooted here and there over the weekend with a little sightseeing along the way.

She conquered...

We decided to do a little twilight Retro 5k Saturday night. We, being of the most cutting edge race couture type persuasion, had no real retro items to race in, so we just raced. And pointed and laughed at the 2 foot high afro wigs and leisure suits and knee high tube socks. We just made it to the start line after an brief - but highly effective - warm up before "3 - 2 - 1 - GO!" I had forgotten how small local races like this start so nonchalantly. No guns.... No cannons... No trumpets... Just Go.

And Go we went! I had hoped for under 20 minutes and thought I was on pace to do it, but I always forget about the last point something in a race when I'm figuring pace. I work on the 3 mile pace for a 5 k but forget about that extra 0.1 miles. So I finished in 20:26, which was good for 6th/40 in the 30-34 group.

After finishing I walked back to the last turn before the finishing stretch just in time to see Stronger rounding the corner. I shouted "Go Carrie" and then jogged along to see her finish in 23:22, good for 2nd (out of 30!) in her age group! Way to go Carrie!!!

After the finished we hurried over to the nearby playground where the kids we playing and hustled them back for the start of the half mile kids race. This was Emma and Tess's 2nd race in 3 weeks, and they were excited about the shorter distance this time. The race started with a big downhill, and Emma face planted after about 50 yards. The girl is tough... She popped up so quickly I barely had time to ask if she was ok.

Emma and Tess both ran strong and fast, and had fun! After the race Emma was shocked to realize that she was bleeding from both knees and an elbow from the fall. Her 7 year old runners high had kept her from realizing she was injured during the race.

After the race we took the kids home to the babysitter and then met Matt and Lauren for some good food and great conversation. Matt is just as funny and friendly as his blog suggests, and his wife is great... It always impresses me to see a couple who seems so genuinely in awe of and in love with each other... They're the real deal.

And finally the weekend had to end... Stronger back to Colorado. Kids to their mom. Me to work. Sigh...

On the Horizon...

This weekend Steelhead Half Ironman is on the schedule. Unfortunately, I'm bagging the race for several reasons, including a broken foot (on my unfortunate mom who was going to watch the kids for me on Friday) and my uninspired feeling about this race. Instead I'm going over to Madison to do a reconnaissance ride on the IM MOO course on Saturday and a recon run on Sunday. My own little WIBA, I suppose...

Muddy Buddy in Boulder is less than 3 weeks away, and 8 hours of triathlon is just a month away. And then comes the big show at IM MOO...

Thanks for joining me for My Daily Spin...

July 26, 2007

Shifting Focus

I've always had a hard time focusing. My mind drifts and wanders, thinking ahead to the next day or week or the next big adventure or the next patient that might stagger through my ER door squirting blood from a dozen bulletholes.

Lack of focus makes Ironman training hard for me. It was hard for Switzerland, and it's getting harder for Wisconsin.

Right now, I can't stop thinking ahead to Comrades. For those not in the know - which I wasn't until Momo wrote about this race a few months ago - Comrades is the world's largest and oldest ultramarathon. It is a road race, 55 miles long, held each year in June in South Africa. The racecourse alternates directions each year, so on even years it is UP and odd years it is DOWN.

Ultramarathons typically have no more than 100 or so entrants. Last year Comrades had over 12,000 starters, and 10,000 finishers. How huge is that?!! Check out this article from Runners World about this race.

So I'm committing myself to Comrades, now just 11 months away. To get there, and to survive, I'll need to shift my focus to a run-dominant training plan after Wisconsin.

I'm looking at either Marathon of the Palm Beaches in early December, or the Rock-n-Roll marathon in Phoenix in January. I'd like to be prepared for a near BQ time for either of those, although actually BQing isn't a primary goal. I'll need a 50k race in February or March, and any suggestions are welcome. I think one more 50k, or maybe a 50 miler, in April would have me ready to tackle the bigun in South Africa.

I've dreamt of running ultramarathons since I was a little boy, but until now its never been a realistic goal. This is something I want, and it's something I will have. I will finish Comrades... I WILL finish Comrades.

Now if I can just keep my focus on Wisconsin for another couple of months...

Thanks for joining me for My Daily Spin.

July 23, 2007

Lost in the Forest

I never imagined I would be spending my birthday lost overnight in the middle of an isolated forest. But as night crept in I found myself clueless how to escape...

Yesterday I drove to the Talladega National Forest to run on the Pinhoti Trail system. The Pinhoti stretches for dozens of miles and (supposedly) will eventually meet and join the Appalachian Trail.

My training plan called for a 2 hour run, and of course I wanted to do it on the trail. I started the run about 445 pm on Cave Creek Trail and planned to run to Nubbin Trail, then turn back when I reached Odum Trail. To Odum would be around 7.5 miles, so I wasn't sure I would make it all the way there by my 1 hour turnaround cutoff.

The run out was great, although it seemed like I was running forever. I hit my hour mark 15 minutes past a 2 miles to Odum sign, so I turned back there after an estimated 7 miles.

Coming back was passing much quicker than going out, and I was cruising. Felt great! I took the long gradual climbs a little slower and flew down the descents.

I reached my last landmark on the trail, a cliff with a steep drop a long way down into the canyon, and I knew I only had about 2 miles left. It was 630. It took me several minutes to find the trail connector at this point, and when I did it didn't really look familiar. But - it was the only trail I saw after about 5 minutes of looking, so I assumed it was the right one and blamed the lack of recognition on being tired (and the fact that my memory absolutely SUCKS!). And so I ran...

I ran for about 10 minutes when I was convinced that I was on the wrong trail. This one looked like an ATV trail, not a hiking trail. ATVs aren't allowed on the Pinhoti or its side trails. But I knew that landmark was right, and I had spent a lot of time looking for the trail and this was the only one I saw. So I kept running, assuming that this trail probably exited the forest soon.

WRONG!! I ran for another 10 minutes or so, and then started to get a little concerned. This trail had lots of diversions and intersections with other trails, all of which looked like ATV trails. I made a couple of left turns, then veered right. Then realized I was lost. It was 720.

At this point I had been running for 2 1/2 hours and had been out of my Gatorade Endurance for about 30 minutes. I had brought 2 Clif Bars with me, 1 of which I ate at the 1 hour turnaround. Man, it seemed like forever since that 1 hour turnaround...

The light in the forest was disappearing quickly. I veered left at the next trail split, thinking I was headed west back toward the road I had driven in on. I was sprinting now, concerned that I was lost and running out of light.

I started thinking about the very real possibility that I would be sleeping in the middle of the forest tonight. Would anyone come looking for me? The only person that knew where I was going was 1500 miles away in Colorado. And all she knew was that I was running on a trail an hour and a half from my house and that it might someday connect to the Appalachian. I have this week off, so noone at work would get concerned that I didn't show up. The kids were with their mom.

After about 10 minutes, I lost the trail. It apparently just terminated in the middle of nowhere... It was about 740, and I'd been running for 3 hours.

I decided that I should try to get back to the cliff, the last landmark I felt comfortable that I recognized. I turned back and ran as fast as my body would allow.

I'd been without any drink for an hour now, running the whole time, and I was feeling parched. My legs were aching from being anaerobic and without any fuel for 2 hours now.

I crossed a creek when I was trying to get back to the cliff, so I filled up my bottle and downed it. I then filled it again so I would have water through the night. At this point I was nearly certain I would be staying in the forest...

I tripped over more roots and rocks than I ever care to again. Between my aching legs and the impending darkness, the roots seemingly jumped up to trip me whenever I got close.

I finally recognized the first ATV trail that I had been on and ran until I was back at the cliff. I climbed out onto the open ledge of rock and peered out, hoping to see the road down below. Nothing. No road. No sound of cars. No human lights. Nothing. I stood on the cliff for a couple minutes trying to decide whether to hunker down here for the night, or to try to find my way somewhere else. It was a few minutes after 8. It was basically dark beneath the canopy of the forest, although the sky was still light grey.

I decided to search one more time for the right trail. I stepped off the cliff and then I saw it - my trail! There was overgrown foliage blocking direct sight of it, but I caught a glimpse of it through the greenery. I was so excited I started sprinting again.

Until I face planted again. With about a half mile to go, I could no longer see the ground and gave up on running. And of course, it was now that it started raining buckets... I gingerly marched through that last half mile until I finally got back to the trailhead and my car.

I've been humbled many times along this journey to Ironman. I've relied on total strangers for a ride home when I flatted with no extra tube. I've lost way too much skin trying to ride faster on downhills than I had any business riding. I've been lapped in the pool by a 200 # granny.

And now I've been lost in the forest. What an adventure!

Thanks for joining me for My Daily Spin.

July 19, 2007

The Troupe Goes Racing

For me, the next best thing to racing is watching my kids race. I saw an ad this morning for a local 5 k with some short distance (100y, 400y) kid races and a 1 mile fun run. I asked the kids about it and they were super-excited! My kids love to go racin'!

Prior to the start, they scoped the courses...
For the 1 mile run, I pushed the little ones in the stroller...
Tess cruises...

Emma makes the pass!
Hooray for kid medals!If she strains hard enough, maybe the muscles will show...

Discussing race strategy with her pal in Colorado...

Post-race pizza caps off another fun day!

July 16, 2007

The Waterfall Adventure

Saturday morning I woke to the kids climbing into my bed saying "Daddy we want to go on an adventure!"

Daddy didn't have any ready-made plans, so I had to come up with something to capture the imagination of my 4 kids, ages 2-7.

After a little thinking and a quick internet search, I came up with an idea: a waterfall tour and backcountry camping.

We gathered up some supplies and extra clothes then headed out by noon. We drove about 50 miles northeast to Noccalula Falls, our first stop on the Waterfall Adventure.

Long ago a native american named Noccalula was in love with a boy from a rival tribe. When their love was forbidden, she leapt to her death over the 90 foot waterfall, which later was named in her honor. There's a statue at the edge of her falls dramatizing the moment.

Noccalula Falls today has been commercialized with an animal park and children's train ride, which made this first stop the kids' favorite of the day. We walked around the park, climbed boulders, made the treacherous (for daddy at least!) descent into the gorge, ate yummy peaches off the tree, and rode the train around until they kicked us off. It was a great first stop on the adventure!

Next we drove about 50 miles further northeast to Desota Falls. This usually raging falls was reduced to a slightly-more-than trickle by the summer drought. We just missed a local cave rescue team practicing rapels and zip lines across the canyon. We sat for a few minutes on the edge of the 100 foot cliff and admired God's beautiful creation.

Then we drove a little further to Little River Falls. Like Desota and Noccalula, the Little River Falls showed the effects of the drought with water flow probably only 30-40% of what I remembered from last time I was there 10 years ago. The low water allowed us to walk across the rocky river bed and dangle our feet into the cool water just a dozen meters above the falls.

I made the kids hold my hand to stand in the water since the rocks were incredibly slippery. Of course my brave 7 year old ripped her hand away, said "I can do it Daddy," and then immediately fell back into the water. Sometimes I get way too much pleasure from I-told-you-so moments...

Then it was time to find a campsite. Little River Canyon National Preserve only has backcountry camping, and they only allow it at 3 specific single-group sites. Two of the site descriptions stated specifically they were along the banks of the river, but after some serious 4-wheel-drive mudfest boulder-hopping to get to the sites, they were nonexistent. Luckily, I found the 3rd site after a little nerve-racking deep rut narrow steep descents in the truck.

The campsite was the best! We were completely isolated from everything, and were directly on the river. A cleared path led 100 yards upriver to a perfect swimming spot. We pitched the tent, made dinner on the camp stove, and then went for a swim as darkness crept in. That night as we layed in the tent Emma said "Daddy I can't go to sleep because all the crickets are too loud..."

The next morning we woke, ate leftover dinner from the night prior, and then went swimming again before we started back home. The kids were exhausted and slept the whole way! Daddy was exhausted too, but he didn't get to sleep before his 2 hour prescribed run and then his overnight shift in the ER. Finally I crawled into bed early this morning!

What an adventure!

Thanks for joining me for My Daily Spin.

July 13, 2007

Photo Catch-up

Loading the boat!

Carrie and Anna playing "who has the biggest smile.."
Emma has the competition constantly on their heels...

This tube made for 3 saves a ton of "It's my turn" pouting...
Tess was Duck #5 at ballet/drama camp performance.
Any guess who's about to win this battle?
Buddying up for a little R&R...

Our biker gang!
Making sure everyone is ready for the show...
Soccer chick!

July 11, 2007

My Italy

An early 30s year old lady came to the ED a few nights ago complaining of leg pain since she hit her left hip on a table 6 weeks ago.

She didn't think much of the minor trauma and subsequent bruise, but the continued pain shooting down her leg and the slight swelling worried her enough to finally come seek help.

That was her story, and she was sticking to it...

But when I talked to her, and when I saw her massively swollen leg and wasted, atrophied body, I knew there was more to the story than what she was confessing. I sat down on her bed, held her hand, and we talked...

We talked about the upcoming baseball all-star game since she was watching SportCenter on the tv in her room, then Barry Bonds and San Fransisco and the time she visited there with her parents when she was a kid. That led to her telling me about the honeymoon to Italy she and her former husband took years ago, and how she would give anything see Italy again but was afraid she never would...

Why not?

And that opened the door to the real reason she was seeing me...

She had first noticed it about 6 months ago, just a little bleeding between cycles - nothing major. That continued for a few months and then she noticed a bump when she cleaned herself after using the restroom. "Maybe it's always been there..."

And she started losing weight... 150# became 145 then 130 and now she was barely 100 pounds spread over her 5'8" frame.

The bump got larger and more noticeable, and she knew something was wrong but by then she knew she should already have done something about it so she was afraid to seek help because she thought she would be ridiculed for waiting too long. So she denied it, and she waited.

Finally the pain made it impossible to sleep, or to walk, and the foul-smelling bloody cancer protruding 6 inches from her privates was impossible to hide even underneath the bulkiest of clothes. So she came to see me...

Wasted... Scared... Dying...

I did a few tests and diagnosed her with metastatic cervical cancer - too advanced for cure, too widespread to be compatible with life. I explained to her the bleak outlook...

And then we started talking about the all-star game again... And about her Italy...

The greatest fear I have is being 80 years old and reflecting back and wishing that I had done more/experienced more/lived more when I was younger.

When it's all sorted out, that's why I walked away from a suffocating marriage that most outsiders thought was perfect. That's why I take my 4 itty bitty kids on cross country road trips. It's why I race cars, and crash cars, and why I flirt with 50 mPH on the downhill at Ironman even when it leaves me bleeding and scarred.

Because she's not going to see her Italy... Because I don't want to miss seeing mine.

Thanks for joining me for My Daily Spin.

July 8, 2007


My training plan dictated a 70-80 minute run today, so I went over to Oak Mountain and ran on the trail that Stronger and I had biked Monday. The heavy rains today and yesterday left the trail muddy, so I got the double-shot of a medium distance run AND muddybuddy training.

This trail is single track for the first few miles, then there is a half mile of fire road before the single track picks up again.

I felt great in the damp mid-70's weather, so I was blazing through the trail in something around 7 minute pace. I turned back at the end of the fire road to start my return to the trailhead.

It was then that I was attacked...

I had only seen 1 other person on the trail, a slow-moving biker that I had actually passed going up a hill. And today I had seen no animals.

I was minding my own, running briskly, and out of nowhere I felt 2 hands grabbing at my headsweats hat from above...

What the ef?

I gave my head a quick shake and then glanced back. I saw nothing, and whatever had tried to grab my hat was nowhere to be seen.

I pulled the hat off my head and inspected, thinking maybe it was a little #2 present from a high-flying bird that had given me the sensation. Nope, no bird mess.

I decided I must be doing a little hallucinating and kept right on running. And then it happened again.

The same two hands grabbed at the top of my hat and actually lifted it slightly off my head. I somewhat frantically shook my head to the side, and the hands released.

I quickly looked over my left shoulder as I picked up my pace, slightly alarmed now.

And then I saw it...

Flying away was a charcoal gray bird with about a 4 or 5 foot wingspan. I have no idea what kind of bird it was, but it seemed huge! [added comment: after doing a little research this afternoon, the bird most resembled either a red-shouldered hawk or a golden eagle. The feathers were strikingly "fluffy," which looks to be more consistent with a golden eagle which are "uncommonly seen in Alabama late summer to winter." My guess is it's probably a hawk of some sorts...]

I can only imagine that this bird must have mistaken my white hat for a rabbit or some other scurrying prey. Luckily, his talons for some reason weren't very sharp or I think my scalp may have been a little more scarred than it is already.

Endurance sports training takes you to some interesting places and offers some rather unique experiences.

But I never for a moment imagined I would be the target of a bird of prey...

Thanks for joining me for My Daily Spin.

July 5, 2007


My week ( ok, i'll be honest, it was a super-size-me week and a few days...) off of training after Ironman Switzerland is over, and it's time to start building for the rest of the season.

I wasn't sure how my body would feel after my first 140.6. Would I be sore for a week like after my first 26.2? Would the road rash and bruises from my 45+ mpH crash slow me down physically, or even mentally? Would the satisfaction of completing an Ironman dampen my desire to continue to train?

Not a chance!

I feel great. Surprisingly great. In fact, I caught myself saying aloud yesterday morning that I could do another Ironman this weekend.

And that left me thinking that my body has more to give than I've been allowing it to give. There must be limits that I haven't come close to reaching... There must be more of me that could have been left on the course in Zurich (heh, I gave it a hefty chunk of skin, what else did it want!!!??)...

Ironman Switzerland proved to me that I have the endurance to go the distance. But my short recovery time suggests to me I need to kick it up a notch.

So as I shift my focus to Ironman Wisconsin, I will begin to train with a little more intensity. Get my heartrate up faster for longer... Stop the session when the work is done, not when I feel like I've had enough... Harder... Faster... Stronger...

The day after Ironman Switzerland I walked for hours touring the Swiss countryside, even climbing a 30 story wall in the process. The day after Wisconsin, I want to be so tapped I can barely make breakfast.

The endurance is there... Now it's time for intensity...

Thanks for joining me for My Daily Spin.