Forging Ahead

Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute, or an hour or a day, or even a year. But eventually, it will subside. And something else take its place. If I quit, however, it will last forever.”

-Lance Armstrong

The above quote is one I think of at times when I’m tired, or sore, or just want to stop running and go home.  It’s one I think of when my legs, my back, or those little voices of doubt try to get me to end my workout early.  I think about this quote, and how far I have grown in the last few years both mentally and physically, and I know I cannot quit.

Yesterday I went out on a 6 mile run.  I added a long hill incline (approximately 11 blocks) into the mix early, and started paying for it quickly.  My body wanted to stop, to walk and rest, but I knew that if I stopped, I would not start again that evening.  So I kept pushing, hearing this mantra in my head.

It really doesn’t matter what time you finish your distance in.  Some days you set a personal record, some days you won’t.  What does matter is that you didn’t give up on yourself, that you have the guts, the drive, the determination to forge ahead and continue.  You refused to take the easy way out, to quit, and because you refused to quit you become tougher, stronger, and more mentally focused.

When I finished, I thought “Wow, it really wasn’t so bad.  Why did I even consider quitting?”  Running is one of the few sports where the participants continue on long after the winner has crossed the finish line.  Why?  Because it was never against them in the first place; it was against those inner demons that want you to quit.  It’s a battle within, and one you can win …

If you continue to forge ahead.

Remember, pain is temporary, quitting is forever.


Live healthy, be happy.


2014 Dam to Dam

Saturday was the 35th annual Dam to Dam race, and for the first time the event was lengthened to become a half-marathon. It has been a 20K race (12.4 miles) all these years, but after discussions with city officials it was decided to add the .7 miles and create a half-marathon.

Kara and I arrived downtown around 5:00 a.m. to catch the bus that would take us to the Saylorville Dam. We met up with Donna, who is training for her first Ironman race; Andy, who just completed his first Ironman; and Andy’s fiancée Megan, who was running her first half-marathon.

We boarded one of the many buses that were waiting and headed out. We wondered what the other three pickup points looked like since it appeared that every school bus in Des Moines was on Locust Street that morning. The ride was uneventful until a road closure had the bus driver confused on what to do. It was apparent that this wasn’t discussed before the drivers were sent to their locations. But we runners are always a helpful bunch. The whole bus directed him around the detour, and we made it to the drop-off point with time to stretch and prepare for the next 13.1 miles.

As we made our way onto the bridge and to our pace area (the area marked that, according to your average time per mile, is where you should start from) it felt as though we were salmon swimming up the river. There were approximately nine thousand runners on the bridge, all waiting anxiously for the starting gun. Kara and I were hoping that we could start and finish together, but in this sea of people that would prove to be challenging.

Suddenly the race was on. After the initial start and stops as the crowd swells at the starting line, we were off and in fine form. Kara and I were quite the team, passing other runners while watching out to see where our partner was. We were making good time and moving ahead, and it looked like I would make my goal of under 2 hours if we kept up this pace or close to it. The first three miles were awesome!

Then it happened. We moved off the road to pass some slower runners, and Kara stepped back on the road easily. I went to follow, but the crowd was closing the area. I had to sidestep to get back on the road and avoid a runner in the grass, when I felt a pain in my right calf. I have a tear in the inner muscle that is healing, but this pain said to me that trouble was brewing if I didn’t watch out. I hollered to Kara that the calf was acting up, and she instinctively slowed down. I pointed forward and told her to go on; I wasn’t about to let my injury spoil the great run she was having. After a quick nod, she continued on with her pace and I slowly watched her fade from view and into a wall of people.

The next ten miles were brutal. I would have moments where the pain was gone, and my pace quickened somewhat, only to have the pain return and slow me down again. I needed to cross that line; I did not want to be picked up and carted back; I did not want a DNF next to my name. I had to give up on the personal record dream and focus on just finishing the race.

Finally, and mercifully, I turned the final corner and could see the finish line 400 yards away. The calf was calm for a moment, so I took a chance and started to really pick up the pace. Any gas left in the tank was going to be gone when I hit the tape. It probably looked slow, but it felt like a dash. 400 yards became 200, then 100, then the finish line. As soon as I stopped the pain returned, as if to say “I gave you a break, but now I’m back!”

I met up with Kara and Donna, who both had really good runs and both finished in under 2 hours. I finished with 2:13:56, not too bad for thinking that every step could be my last one for the last ten miles. We rehydrated and stretched, and tried to enjoy the moment.

Another half marathon in the books. Another Dam to Dam completed. Another medal to go along with all the memories that were made, both good and not so good. It won’t take long to start dreaming of doing it again next year.

In fact, I already am.

Live healthy, be happy.




When Memories are Made

This sunday, part of the iCan Running Group got together to go on a 70 minute training run. As I pulled into the meeting area, it started to drizzle, and as we stretched it started to rain. We had our training discussion and took off away; no rain was going to deter us from our morning run!

My dear friends Stephanie and Kara joined me, and it was like old times, laughing and joking along the way. The weather started getting worse, but thankfully there was no lightning, so we kept running. Stephanie laughingly mentioned that she was soaked, to which I replied “This is when memories are made.”

That statement got me thinking; that really is when memories are made. I had some sunny runs this week, but I don’t really remember them. But being with close friends, getting soaked, those runs I’ll remember. It seems that friendship or adverse weather strikes a chord that makes you remember the event. When you add the two together, the memory can last a lifetime.

Don’t get me wrong; Kara, Stephanie, and I have had many wonderful runs where the weather was perfect, and wonderful memories were made. But it seems that the worse the conditions are, and the more we laugh and smile our way through them, the better the memory.

I guess it just shows that we love our lifestyle, and each other. We support and encourage each other, and it’s great to feel and share that love. I didn’t have to run today as it was supposed to be a rest day. But I knew that I hadn’t ran with Stephanie and Kara since the Market to Market Relay, so I was not going to let a “rest day” or rainy weather stop me.

So think about it: what are your happy memories from? Are they from acquiring things, or being with people you love? Are they from times when you pushed yourself whether it be a mental or physical challenge, or where you ran in the pouring rain, like we did?

I hope you all build happy memories as you transform your lives.

Live healthy, be happy!



Stretching for Runners

I was never one to waste a lot of time stretching, that is, until I got injured. I discovered that I wasn’t doing enough stretches and I wasn’t doing enough proper stretches to aid my running and to avoid injury. Here are some websites with some simple stretches to incorporate into your pre and post run routine.


Live healthy, be happy!


Market to Market Relay

Friday I received great news. I was cleared by a specialist to resume running. The tear in my calf would heal on its own, and that even if they were to stitch it back together, there has been no proven benefit to even consider going that route. That bit of good news came at no better time, as the next day was the Market to Market relay.

For those that are not familiar with this race, it’s a relay race where teams of 6,7, or 8 members cover 72 miles of bike trails and sometimes city streets, making their way from Jefferson to the Court Ave. Bridge in Des Moines. Teams shuttle from checkpoint to checkpoint in vehicles (we rented a van, actually one of the largest vans I have ever seen) and drop off, pick up, and cheers their teams on.

This was my first Market to Market, and I am thankful for the invitation to go, even though I was nervous on how the leg would hold up. We started off a little bit of chilly weather, and a guy in a pink ape suit and a trombone leading the official start. That alone should tell you what a day this was going to be.

I had the fourth and twelfth legs of the run. I missed a very cold rainstorm on my first leg, and was running on wet pavement that was slowly drying due to the heat. It felt good and the 4.8 miles went by quickly in the scenic farm country. I finished that leg in 41:16, not to bad for all the worrying about the right calf.

The weather was all over the board. From bone chilling rain, to clear skies, calm soft winds to 25mph crosswinds, from heat to a torrential downpour (poor Kara had that leg), the weather was everything and anything that day.

My next leg was 4.6 miles and just a straight shot. That would have been a piece of cake, except for the brutal wind that made me almost constantly hold on to my hat for fear that it would blow away! I finished in 42:40, and wondered why it took so long, even with the wind. Stephanie reminded me that we have been walking a lot between relay legs, and she had been measuring it. We had the distance for a half marathon each already. Maybe that’s the reason I was tired!

When Kara emerged from the rainstorm on the last long leg, we ran as a team for the last .3 miles to the finish line. We started off as friends and strangers, united by one member or another, all with one common goal. We crossed the finish line as a team, united by a day and a bond that will remain with us forever!

Live healthy, be happy!


Loop the Lake 8k

Saturday was a new event for me, an 8k race called Loop the Lake. It is sponsored by the Capital Striders, a great running group in town. Since I have belonged to the Striders for a year now, I thought it would be nice to participate in a club event.

The Friday before the race was the packet pickup, which was at the Confluence Brewery. I sent my wife a text asking if she wanted to go after work, and have a beer after getting the packet. She agreed, and then suggested that we ride our bikes there instead of driving. What a great idea! It was a beautiful afternoon and a great day for a short ride. It totaled 18 miles round trip, and took just over an hour ride time (we did stop to grab some water, but only for a minute).

Race day was beautiful! It was a great morning with clear skies and perfect temps to run in. I was still taping the calf that I had trouble with, but after a 10 mile run I figured the tape was merely a precaution now. There were several hundred runners that were running, so I hoped for the best and was determined to run my own race and not the other persons.

We started off and I got off to a fast start, 7:57 for the first mile. I was aiming for 9:00 or just under, so I was concerned about holding that pace for the entire race. I settled down (excitement usually gets me running faster to start) and got into a groove. Miles two, three and four came in at 8:23, 8:26 and 8:48. Mile four is a mystery to me: I’m not sure why I slowed down, except I was in a open area where the faster runners were way ahead and other runners were a bit behind. I don’t know if that had any effect, but I was 20 seconds slower than the other miles.

I gained the time back on mile 5, as I was able to pick up a good pace runner and then kicked it in another gear when the finish line got within view. Mile 5 was clocked at 8:16, by no means fast but fast enough for me! I recorded 41:56 for the race, something I was extremely happy with.

As I drank some chocolate milk and ate a banana, the initial postings came out. The elite and master runners put up amazing numbers, in the 20’s and low 30’s. It must be amazing to literally fly through the course like that! I looked further down the list and got a nice surprise . . . I finished in first in my age division for regular runners (50-54 age group). That was a quite a surprise, and received a medal at the post race ceremony.

Now it’s time to prepare for the Mayors Bike Ride and then the Hy Vee half marathon at the Drake Relays. It’s going to be a great year!

Live healthy, be happy!





Tough Decisions (Ending the 100 Day Challenge – Day 85)

I was running on the treadmill the other day, when I felt my calf muscle start to tighten up. I stopped, stretched and rubbed it, but it would not loosen. It felt like the muscle wanted to cramp, and was right at that point. I decided to stop running for the day and let it rest.

The next day, I had the same issue. The tightness caused me to change my gait, and I knew that it would lead to more issues if I continued so I stopped. On Saturday morning, I went to a spin class and the leg was great. No pain or tightness at all. That afternoon, I decided to try a short run, and 1.5 miles into the run the tightness returned.

I think that the only way for this to go away is to rest it for a few days. The problem is in order to rest it, I have to give up my pursuit of the 100 day challenge. One of the requirements is to never miss a Monday, and today is Sunday! And since I’m at day 85, it’s hard to let it slip away. I know I can try again, but being so close makes stopping extremely difficult. Imagine seeing the finish line at a marathon, only to stop short and sit down; you could finish, but you don’t.

I have to weigh the options and my goals for the year against the challenge and see which one wins out. On one side, I’m 15 days from completing the challenge, and I could run very short runs to meet that goal. On the other side, I have two half marathons and an 8k race, and a full marathon coming up (one half is less than 30 days away), and if I don’t rest it I risk hurting it more than it is now. If I continue the Challenge, I risk hurting myself worse and then missing out on those races.

As hard as it is to let it go, I’m saying goodbye to the 100 Day Challenge. It’s been fun and taught me a few things about myself: I can find the time to run, no matter my busy schedule; I can be creative in making time to run (one day I ran up and down a hallway); I can stick with something when I set my mind to it; and I can also let something go when it come to the greater good.

Hopefully, three days of rest and a therapeutic massage will help my muscle return to normal. With the Challenge, I logged in over 200 miles, mostly on the treadmill because of weather conditions (it is Iowa, after all). I pushed in runs when I had no time, and even got to run with dear friends whether it be on the treadmill, the indoor track, or outside. It’s been a lot of fun, and I will try it again.

Now it’s time to rest and heal, the Hy Vee Road Races Half Marathon is coming up. I want to PR this one!

Live healthy, be happy.


The Things You Can Accomplish

I was working out on the treadmill the other day with my dear friends and mentors Stephanie and Kara, when Stephanie mentioned that I was really pounding the treadmill. “But I’m heavy footed” was my reply. Stephanie suggested that I try shortening my stride and increasing my cadence. I really didn’t understand what she meant, but being afraid of looking stupid, I also didn’t ask her to explain it either. I didn’t think I could increase my speed and maintain it . . . wasn’t that what she meant? Speed and cadence is the same, right?

A couple of days later, Stephanie’s words were ringing in my head as I stepped onto the treadmill for a lunchtime run. After I warmed up, I started taking shorter, quicker steps. In the beginning, I could only run like that for a minute or so, then I had to lengthen my stride and recover. I kept trying it though, and after a few days I was able to lengthen the time I could run like she suggested.

So I shortened my stride, now what about the cadence Stephanie mentioned? How do I increase that while shortening my stride. Turns out that it does it for you, or at least for me it did. I noticed in order to be comfortable on the treadmill while running with a short stride, I had to speed up the treadmill in order to adjust and avoid overrunning the treadmill belt. On my “normal” stride, I felt comfortable with a pace of 6.0 – 6.2 mph. With the shorter stride, that speed increased to 6.8 – 7.0.

I thought I was having problems with my Garmin watch, as it was showing that my cadence was approx. 165-170, and my time for a mile was under 8 minutes. I brushed it off as being incorrect due to treadmill running, and not running outside. I thought that this weekend I would try it out on the indoor track and see how it changes then.

Friday night I was at the Waukee YMCA, and decided it was time to try Stephanie’s suggestion on the track. To my amazement, I ran the first three miles effortlessly, posting times of 7:24, 7:52 and 7:52 respectfully. And I wasn’t finished! Mile four was slower (congested track) at 9:08, but mile five and six came in at 8:33 and 8:37. So other than the one mile where I had to wait for people to move, I stayed pretty consistent. I expected the time per mile to decrease, but it was a lot faster throughout than I could have hoped for. I usually hope to finish a 10k in an hour, or just over 10 min a mile. This time I finished a 10k at 50:59!

I hope to continue to increase the distance that I can keep the stride/cadence consistent. If I can, who knows what will come about as far as finishing times. Thanks to Stephanie for pointing that out to me, and to Kara for helping me understand it all.

Live healthy, be happy!


New Year, New Goals, New Possibilities

The holidays are behind us, and now is the time to focus on where we want to be by this time next year. I’ve enjoyed all the friendships I’ve developed since I started this fitness journey, and some of them grow stronger each and every day. I started planning goals for the new year, but as you know life has a way of altering your course . . . in amazing and wonderful ways!

1. Run another marathon – This was pretty easy, since I enjoyed my first one so much! But I was thinking along the lines of Chicago or maybe Kansas City. I also wanted to pay it forward, to help others as my friends and mentors and coaches helped me along my path. While I am no expert, far from it, I have made enough mistakes and missteps to be able to tell someone “don’t do that.” Well now I get my chance: I have been asked to be one of the mentors for the iCan Running group this year. For those of you who don’t know what that is, Coach Loran Storts takes approx. 10 people who think that they could never run a marathon and transforms them into marathoners. They go from “I can’t” to “I can”. I ran with them for a lot of my training, and the lessons, advice, tips, and encouragement they gave to me was invaluable. It probably was the “make or break” portion of my training, and because of it I can proudly say I’ve ran 26.2. iCan!

2. Run at least two half marathons – I had already signed up for the Hy Vee Road Races half, so finding one more shouldn’t be too hard. Once again life made it easy. I planned on running the Dam to Dam again, a great 20k race. The organizers for the race got into a debate with the city over street closures and such, and as a result, they changed the race from a 20k to a half marathon. See . . .Easy!

3. Complete a century ride – this one will take a lot of training, as the longest ride I’ve completed is 75 miles. But I know that I can do it. With proper training, nothing is beyond reach!

4. Complete the 100 day challenge – this is a running challenge, of which I am 22 days into. The rules are: run four days a week, never go more than three days without running, and never, ever miss a Monday! I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

5. Get in the pool more often – If I’m ever going to compete in events in open water, I need to train. So I need to start making time to swim.

So there it is, my main goals for 2014. I plan on a lot of races (completed 16 last year) so I will have lots to post about. Here’s hoping your 2014 is everything you planned, and then some!

Live healthy, be happy!


Time to start anew

Hello. It’s time to start this blog anew.

When I started this blog, I had the intention of writing about food, restaurants, and assorted stuff. That was a couple years ago, and my how life changes! Not only does life change, but if you’re willing to go for the ride with it, you’ll change as well. So I guess a little update and backstory is needed to get caught up in the here and now.

When I started this blog, I was 214 lbs and really didn’t care about my weight. I thought I was enjoying life and the spoils that went along with success. Then I noticed the marks on my waist that my pants were leaving because they were too tight. My wife suggested getting larger pants, but I refused, not believing that I was getting more and more out of shape. Then one day I visited my doctor (I have borderline asthma induced from years of smoking – which I quit doing but not before some damage was done) and he told me I had high blood pressure, that it was genetic, and that I would be on meds the rest of my life. I asked “what about diet and exercise?” and was told that while it would help, I would always need the blood pressure medication.

I didn’t like the sound of that. I didn’t like being chained to a pill. Wasn’t it bad enough that I had to take breathing medication and tote my inhaler around, without adding more to the mix? I thought about joining a gym, but I had went down that road before, only to stop going after a few visits and waste a bunch of money. I needed to be accountable for getting in shape. I needed a goal, and a plan.

A friend mentioned an event called Penny’s Pieathlon, a sprint triathlon that requires the entrants to swim 400 yards, then bike 12.5 miles, then run a 5k race. He said then there’s pie and ice cream at the finish, hence the name. I found out that it was in 6 months, and I decided to enter. Then I had to find a gym with a pool and somehow remember how to bike and run.

To be certain that I would stick to this plan, I paid for the triathlon in advance, and then told everyone I was doing it. That way I would be held accountable and embarrassed if I quit again. Now I needed to start training.

I also started counting calories in an effort to lose weight. What I found shocked me! I was consuming all the wrong foods, too many calories, and a lot of it (calories) were unnecessary. The first thing to go in the trash was soda. Now, I have a pop now and then (it’s rare), but I was drinking 8+ cans a day. At 120 calories a can, that’s an entire meal wasted on sugary syrup. I replaced it with water; lots and lots of water. At first I hated it, but now I have to have my water!

The training started slow. I could only run a quarter mile, and then walk a quarter mile, and then repeat until I reached a mile of each. After a week I was up to a half mile, then a mile and so on. It was a slow pace, but a safe one. The swimming was the hardest; I could only do a half lap without needing a break (that’s 25 yards). I needed to do 400. But by determination and slowly adding to it, the distance increased.

The bicycle training was funny. I had always known how to ride a bike, so it shouldn’t be hard right? Wrong! I got 5 miles and was worn out. But again, determination and proper training helped to increase the distance.

A funny thing happened on the way to the triathlon; I started changing. I suddenly noticed I was losing weight, was happier, enjoyed working out, was making new friends who were like minded as me, and I felt better than ever. Why I hadn’t done this before??

The six months flew by and it was race day! I was a nervous wreck. But when my time came I went for it. I finished the 400 swim, and ran out to my bike. Before I knew it, I was back in the transition area and heading out for my 5k. As I crossed the line I almost cried. I did it. I started out an out of shape 214 lb. blob and finished at 190 lb. sprint triathlete.

I’m 183 lbs now, and am training for my first full marathon which will be in October. I have done a half marathon, a 20k Dam to Dam run, a 75 mile bike ride, and numerous 5k races. This year I shaved 15 minutes off my previous sprint tri time. The best news came during a case of dizzy spells in which I saw my Doctor. He said “What the heck are you doing with this training? Your blood pressure is too low.” And he proceeded to take me off blood pressure meds! He then asked that I not share my secret, or he would have to get a second job. lol

Well, that’s the backstory. I will start updating on training and races as they come up. I have two 5k races in September, and a 10k and the marathon in October.

I need to thank numerous people who have helped me along the way. To my wife Julie for putting up with me during this change, to Stephanie, Connie, Eric, Andy, Kara, Stacie and others for their help, guidance, advice, and encouragement. If I forgot to mention someone, please don’t feel bad, you are always in my heart, and I thank you!
A big shout out to Suzan H. Who inspired me more than she knows. She quietly trained and completed an Olympic triathlon, alone in her training, not saying a thing. It was by accident that I found out she was competing, and watched her cross the finish line. I wished I could be in that kind of shape. Well, if you try hard enough, sometimes dreams can come true. Not that I’m ready for an Olympic Tri, but I’m a lot better shape than i’ve been in years.

Well that’s it for now. Going to pack the gym bag and hit the spin bike for a nice 1-1 1/2 hour workout.

Live happy, be healthy!