Saturday, February 6, 2016

If today was your last day...,

As I got in my car this morning to go to the Strawberry Plains 10k, I turned on the radio to hear Nickelback's "If Today Was Your Last Day."  When things have been going as bad as they have with my health, I wasn't sure if that song was a good or bad omen.  It kind of scared me.  

I arrived early, knowing parking wasn't the greatest.  I managed to hide in the gym at Rush Strong.  I saw a lot of running friends and even one of my students and her family.

After killing an hour and a half, it was race time.  I decided not to wear my garmin.  My regular running partner, Kaycee, was out of town.  So, I was running solo for the first time in months.  I wasn't sure about it.  What if I had a dizzy spell?  What if my eyes struggled to focus?  

The race began and I tucked in behind a small group that were running together for the first half mile.  As we began a slight downhill, I pulled away.  I was on my own.

A mile into the race, I heard a guy call out 12:00, 12:01... I was doing less than a twelve minute mile taking it easy.  Then, there was a big downhill.  I love the downhills.  I picked up the pace.  A little later in the race, I heard a "Go, Mr. Paschal!"  It was the parent of one of my students.

I ran.  I walked.  I ran some more.  I walked some more.  

At the water stop, I got a high five from Angi, a former biggest winner team member.  A little later, I got a cheer from one of my students who was running the race and had already made it to the turnaround.  

Then, I saw another teacher.  I had a target.  For the next quarter of a mile, I worked to catch her, finally doing so as we rounded the turnaround.

Then, it happened.  My vision went blurry.  My eyes wouldn't focus.  I kept running, knowing it was the only way to learn to adapt to the upbeating nystagmus.  

Over the next mile, I saw many of this year's Covenant Health Marathon Team. Before long, I caught up to Missy Kane.  She told me that one of this year's team was just ahead of me.  I closed the gap over the next half mile.  Rather than beating him to the finish line, I ran with him.  It doesn't hurt to help out a first time runner.  

Aproaching mile 5, there's a big hill.  We walked it. I heard the man say 57:01.a sub 12:00 min pace for the race was well within reach.  If I pushed it, I had a chance at close to an 11:00 minute pace.  That's what happened.  Over the next 1.2 miles, I pushed the pace, finishing in 1:09:08.  I was good with that.  

After the race, I ran into a friend, Shea.  Her friend was new to running. It was her first 10k and she ran it in 49:45 to finish second in her age group. Not bad for her first 10k.  Then, I saw my student who is a seventh grader. She finished in 53:57 along with her 10 year old sister.  Not bad...I'm hoping to get back to that. Maybe one day I will.

Fortunately, it wasn't my last day.  I'm glad I took the chance to run, even if I had to run by myself.  Though 13.1 miles is a long way a way, I'll get there.  It may take me a little more time, but I'll get there.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Runners have to RUN!

This weird thing happens when you have medical issues.  Everyone wants you to sit around and waste your life away waiting to get better. Or, they want you to take it easy?  What fun would that be?  After all, runners have to run.

So I have this thing called Spontaneous Upbeating Nystagmus.  It's a neurological issue involving my eyes.  I guess the best way to describe it is that my eyes rapidly bounce up and down like a really shaky camera.  It happens at random moments with no warning.

This past weekend I was running 7 miles with Kaycee and Ben.  A couple of miles into the run, we hit concrete.  You know those little lines in the concrete.  They weren't working very well for my eyes. So I decided to look up.  Bad mistake!  My eyes went ADHD on me, bouncing from one item to the next while never focusing on anything.  The weird part of the run was that my eyes got tired before my legs did.  

Next week, I am running a 10k.  How fast will I go?  I have no clue, but I'm going for it. It won't be even close to a PR, but the doctor told me the only way to overcome this whole thing is to run and get used to it.  It's retraining my brain.  Hopefully, I'm getting a new med or two this week that will make things less intense.

So, please don't suggest I take it easy.  I'm under doctors orders to push it to the  limit of what I can tolerate and a little more.  It's the only way to get my life back because runners have to run.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Endurance: the struggle is real

Throughout all of this struggle with medical issues, I have learned a lot about endurance.  It's really training your brain to overcome discomfort and pain so in the end it's the goal you gain.  

Every run is a struggle.  I push myself to learn to cope with the unbalance and dizziness that tries to creep into my head. Each time, my brain learns how to compensate a little more.  Step by step, run by run I get a little stronger.  

Don't worry.  I'm not completely crazy.  I do my runs at the gym or with Kaycee so there's someone there just in case.

This week, I got up to five miles!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Five Months For the Rest of My Life: The Sequel

Three years ago, I began this blog to document my journey on the Covenant Health Marathon Team.   What a year that was, losing 75 pounds, winning the Biggest Winner, and finishing the half marathon on the 50 yard line in Neyland Stadium in 2:00:38.  Life was good.

Over the next three years, I went crazy with running.  I ran over 20 half-marathons, 5 full marathons, and even an ultra 12 hour trail endurance race.  In the fall of 2015, I planned eight straight weekends of running marathons, ultras, and back to back halfs.  With only a week to go in my training, life changed.

On my way to a training run in early October, something didn't feel right.  As I was driving, my eyes suddenly focused on something in the distance before refocusing.  At the time, I blamed it on new contacts or my new sunglasses.  I should have heeded that warning sign.

I met Kaycee, my running partner, fellow Biggest Winner, and co-worker.  I joked with her as we walked to warm-up that my insurance card was in my billfold in my car.  Something didn't seem right as we walked to warm-up.  Something was off.  Being a runner with races to train for, I didn't let that get in my way.

We set off on our first interval.  I was fine until we slowed to walking. The world began to spin.  I'm not talking about being light-headed.  I mean spinning uncontrollably.  I stumbled to a nearby bench.  Was I having a stroke?  a heart attack?  Had my blood sugar spiked?  I was scared. I was glad it was Kaycee there.

It took a while before I could stagger back to my car.  I thought I could drive. Sitting for only a few moments in the driver's seat scared me enough to ask Kaycee to drive me to my parents' house.  I may or may not have gotten a little sick along the way (sorry about that Kaycee), but I finally got there.

For the next three months, a constant headache dampened my spirit.  The dizziness and light-headedness kept me from training as I couldn't even walk straight.  My blood pressure and blood sugar soared with each passing day.  So did my weight. Oh, did I mention that I found out I have a unruptured, elongated fusiform aneursym in the basilar artery of my brain.  They also threw in some big words like dolichoectatic and tortuous.  All of which meant nothing when I asked if I should worry about it as a runner.  They had no opinion on that.

It really got old when people would ask me how I was doing.  I was miserable.  Doctors weren't much help.  I started to get depressed until I realized I had a choice to make.  I was in control.   I could either decide to wait on death or I could take my chances and try to reclaim my life.

About a week ago, I began training again.  Three miles a day became my daily battle. I struggled to finish each mile.  I was determined to run again.

Today, I ran the Calhoun's New Year's Day 5k with another former Biggest Winner, Kelsey.  (I also got to see yet another Biggest Winner Brian Murphy and his wife who works with me.  They did great.)  I had one simple goal: DON'T DIE. And I didn't.  I took it easy.  I didn't worry that much about time.  I just wanted to make sure I could do it.

I'm back and the best motivation I have is seeing my picture in an ad for the marathon.  It kind of inspires you to do a little better, work a little harder.  It brings me back to a time when I accomplished some amazing things in just a short amount of time....five months.  It's time to do it again.

My goal for 2016: For the next five months, my plan is to rebuild.  I have done this all before as a member of the Covenant Health Marathon Team.  This time, it will be on my own with support from some good friends.  Though I would love to make my comeback by Knoxville in early April, I think it will take longer than that.  So, it's five months for the rest of my life.

(Then, if all goes well, it's time to see just how many half marathons I can run in the fall. )

So, the journey continues.  It's going to be an adventure.

MM #10035 HF#7663 DA #938

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My favorite race ever!!!!!

When people think of their favorite race ever, it's usually a PR or the first time they've ran a race.  That wasn't the case for me today when I ran the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon.

It all started on Saturday with a visit to pick up my bib. As I was wondering around the EXPO with a couple of friends, we ran into Jason Altman, the race director for race.  Now, he knows us from our days with the Covenant Health Marathon Team.  It's kind of like an at-home version of the Biggest Loser where people train for the marathon.  Kaycee, Kelsey, and I happen to be the Biggest Winners for "seasons" five, one, and three respectively.  It was so cool that he took the time to talk with us.  He's a busy man.  It was his birthday the day before.  He has small kids.  He is absolutely one of the nicest people I've ever met in the running world.  Then, who else showed up?  Our favorite team manager Tonya Stoutt-Brown.  She took care of each of us as when we were on the Biggest Winner Team.

I even found a good deal on a New Balance jacket.  I got a bag of ZenEvo Chocolate from Eddie's Health Shoppe.  The energy ones really give you energy.

Race day morning comes.  After texting Kaycee to make sure she was awake, I went through a thousand options about what to wear.  The start was going to be in the twenties and by the time I finished, it would be in the fifties.  That's not good.

After a small breakfast, I met Kaycee in parking lot a G10 by the finish line and my parents gave us a ride to the start line.  I love my parents.  They are the greatest.  We found the Biggest Winner team and more importantly I found the restroom.  It's good to know where the "other" bathrooms are that most people haven't a clue about.

As usual, Missy had to have pictures.  In the past, I would have loved it.  Today, it was all about doing 26.2 miles.  I just had finishing on my mind.

Kaycee and I made our way outside.  We kept looking for Ben.  He was nowhere to be found.  I was supposed to pace him.  That was my strategy to keep me from going out too fast.  We couldn't find him.

The National Anthem played.  The gun went off.  The race started, at least for those in front.  After a couple of minutes, we finally crossed the start line.  Kaycee was staying with me.  It was important that she did.  My parents were waiting in the cold at the first corner to take a picture.

Once the picture was taken, Kaycee slowed down.  I wasn't running her pace.  That was a great move.  She's really learning how to be a runner.

My garmin wouldn't sync.  I don't know why.  I started it up way before the race started.  It was probably a quarter of a mile into the race before it did anything.  About a half mile into the race I run into the 4:45 pacer.  He says he's doing a 3:1 run/walk.  I was cool with that.  Since I didn't have Ben, I needed something to keep my pace.

Well, that might have been a mistake.  Once my garmin synced, I realized the pacer wasn't running 10:50 miles.  His miles varied a lot.  I realize doing a run/walk that it's not always going to match up, but you should do a fast mile followed by a slow mile.  His miles all seemed fast.  The cool part was there were a lot of Marathon Maniacs in the group as well as some cool people.  I was enjoying the run listening to their stories.

Somewhere near mile 4, I ran into Ben.  We tried to stay with the pacer through Sequoyah Hills, but it just wasn't working.  Finally, I decided to do my own thing and pace Ben.  I knew it was a little fast for him and my goal for him was 2:30.  Once we did that, things were cool.

We came up to Noelton, the hill that's really two hills.  We just walked it.  It wasn't going to make that much difference in the long run.  At the top of the hill, we hit the water station and started to run.  Then, some crazy woman, Patty Murphy, started yelling at us.  I've never had fans on the course.  I'm sure she was there for us and it had nothing to do with her husband, one of the 2015 Biggest Winners, was just a minute or two behind us.

As we turned the corner to head onto the greenway, I decided we would go with about a 1/2 mile run and a short walk after each.  To my surprise, Ben was keeping up and he wasn't struggling.  That's a long ways from where he was just five months ago when we started training.

We were on pace or even a little ahead of it.  That was good.  We still had to survive Fort Sanders.  As we came out of Tyson Park, we turned the corner and ran as far as we could.  Why waste a good's a good walk break.  As we rounded the corner at Starbucks, there was Missy, Perry, and Joe taking pictures.  I'm still waiting for the picture of me and Ben.  He was a little behind me so I took a few seconds to wait for him to catch up.

As we got to the top of the hill by Children's Hospital, I heard all kinds of people talking about it being the last hill and how it was less than two miles to the finish line.  If only that had been true for me.  I kept going and kept Ben going.  We finally made it to the Knoxville Museum of Art and then it was time to split.  He headed to the finish line.  I congratulated Ben on his first half and headed down the hill while he headed to the finish line.

I wasn't feeling it today and I knew a PR was out of reach.  It was time to have fun and use that run walk to death.  I was making my through the 4th and Gill area when I heard a familiar voice.  It was Julie Claxton.  Julie is the one who got me into running races. She was cheering for me at a corner.  When I got there, she started running with me.  Now, she wasn't dress to run.  She was dressed to be out in the cold.  I'm sure it looked strange to people that she was running with me and she could easily keep up with me.  She has run Boston.  She's pretty fast.  I told her I was about to take a walk break.  She said I couldn't.  I had fans ahead.  Up the road a little bit, I saw a group of people cheering.  It was the Claxtons, the Claytons, and the Maryanskis, all people I had I had worked with before.  They even had signs.

It's great to have people holding signs for you and cheering for you!!!!!  I will say that I did take a walk break shortly after these signs.  It was a hill.

As I was going through the 4th and Gill neighborhood, I ran into a Marathon Maniac and a young lady running her first marathon.   I decided to join them. There's nothing like running someone when it's the first.  Maniacs have lots of stories to tell.  So for the next 4 miles we did a run/walk.  At a water stop near mile 18, someone called out to the young lady.  It was her fiance working the water stop!!!

We traveled across the James White Parkway Bridge and headed into Island Homes.  It was great to see a lot people I knew including Shameka from spin class.  I'm pretty sure she was on pace for a PR by a whole lot.  I was sticking with my first-timer.  I knew she was fading, but I couldn't leave her.

It took a while to get through Island Home and back across the Gay Street Bridge.  At one of the intersections in downtown, I found Officer McKnight who works at our school.  Through Market Square, I convinced Tori to run.  There were people watching.  We were able to do a few other sprints.  By the time we got to the bottom of the hill before coming into the stadium, I ran into Perry, one of the former Biggest Winners.  He was offering me water.  I'm sure Missy thought I was miserable.  The truth was I was having fun.  I even convinced Perry to call ahead to make sure that my people at the finish line took pictures of Tori, the newbie, too.

As I was talking to one of the Biggest Winner Team after the race, I was telling the story of running with the newbie.  About the same time, she got a message that her friend's daughter Tori had just ran with a guy named Bryan and a maniac.  I even got to meet her parents.  I was so proud of her finishing her first marathon.  It was even better to know it was a friend of a friend.

I loved coming to the finish line and seeing Kelsey Godfrey had made a sign for me.  Kelsey is one of my favorite people in the world.  She gets the whole racing culture.

I finally got one of those finisher hats.  Next time, I'll probably stick with the half.  I don't think anything can compare to this year's full.  I just had fun.  I finished in 5:32 and I really didn't care.  It was great.

What do you do when you finish a marathon and Kelsey Godfrey is around?  You wait with her until every last finisher has come across the finish line.  She knows a lot of great people.  When you hear their stories, you just have to wait to see them cross the finish line.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Part Two of How I Changed My Life: The Mental Game

Just as much as the training regiment matters, the mental game is more important.  I had to change my mindset.  I blamed my slowness on being sick for year.  That wasn't it.  Sure it slowed me down, but in reality, I had to change the way I saw myself.  Here it is.  These were the things people said to me and things that I said to myself that changed my life.

1.  Look around the gym.  Most of these people haven't broke a sweat.  If you don't leave the gym drenched in sweat, you ain't working.  ----Joe

I now take at least one change of clothes to the gym so that during my workout, I can change my shirt.  My goal is to make it soaking wet. ewwwwwwh.   In case you are wondering, there's probably over 400 pounds of weight loss in the picture.

2.  Celebrate every mile.  ----Phil

Look at me every time I pass a mile marker.  I've got a smile on my face or shouting out something.  Every mile is a gift from God.

3.  Somewhere out there someone is living the life you want to live and accomplishing the goals you want to accomplish.  Why can't that someone be you?  ---me

You always hear about people doing what you want to do.  What is stopping you from being the one people are talking about.  Sure it will be hard work, but it will be worth it.

4.  When you don't feel like training, train anyway.  ---me

It's amazing how I used to come up with excuses of why not work out.  I finally told myself it didn't matter what I felt like, workout anyway.  I soon learned the difference between soreness and injury.

5.  When someone tempts you with a donut or some other food you know you shouldn't have, use the line "I'm on a medically supervised diet."  ----Tonya

This worked great during Christmas and Thanksgiving.  It also works when you don't like someone's cooking.

6.  Be careful the words you say to yourself, the stories you tell yourself, the names you call yourself  Your mind doesn't know the difference between the truth or a lie.  It will believe you.---Chris

This comment became important in my training.  I used to say I hate hills.  Now, thanks to my friend Jim, I just call them inclines.  Well, almost all of them---Noelton is still a hill.

7.  God can do more through you and with you than you can ever imagined. ----preacher

I never dreamed I would make that much progress in 5 months.  When training began with the Biggest Winner team, I was a 3:00:00 plus half marathoner.  About a month away from the half, I ran 10 miles at a 10 minute pace.  I was going as fast as I could.  At the race, I did a 9:12 pace for the half.  Sure, I missed the sub 2:00:00 half by 38 seconds, but who cared?  I was now in the pack.  A year later, I broke 2:00:00.

8.  For every pound you lose, you get 2 seconds faster per mile.  --the internet.

I have no idea if that was true.  It motivated me to lose 75 pounds.

9.  You need a nickname.  How about Flyin' Bryan?

What you call yourself is important?  Your mind tends to live up to what it's told.  So, being Flyin' Bryan tells my brain I need to go faster.  Be careful what you call yourself.  Your brain is listening.

10.  If you do all of this and never give back to anyone, what have you gained?

I am committed to giving back.  If you stalk my race times, you will see a lot of inconsistency, especially in the last year.  Many times, I am running a race with a friend, trying to pace them to help them become better.  Now, if you look at my marathon results, I'm just haven't figured them out yet!

That's enough for today.  More thoughts tomorrow.  I will tackle the issue of my eating habits as well as other insights I have.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Part One of How I Changed My Life

This is the absolutely true story of how I went from the back of the pack to a sub 2:00:00 half.   I’ve tried to break it up into different parts.  Some people like the whole background of where I came from.  Other people want to get down to the daily details of exactly what I did.  So, both are here.  Just remember:  This is the story of what worked for me.  I’m not a coach, a trainer, an expert, a doctor or anything like.  Take what’s in here for what it’s worth.  What I did may not work for everyone, but I’ve seen it work for others.

Here's a link to the short version of my story. 

MY STORY: In 2009, a friend of mine who could qualify for Boston any year she wanted somehow got me into running.  I did my first 10k that February.  I ran it in 1:22:01.  At least it was a PR.  That began my running career.  So, what does any first time runner do?  I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon.  I just did a 10k. How hard could a marathon be?

The training began.  I did the Flying Pig in 2:46 and the Spirit of Columbus in 2:37.  Life was great.  Then, in late September of 2009, something happened that changed my life forever.  I stopped sleeping.  For a couple of weeks, I slept less than hour an hour night.  I couldn’t function.  I was going crazy. I couldn’t take it.  You know how it is when you don’t sleep for one night.  Multiply that times a couple of weeks.  I couldn’t function.  I couldn’t take care of myself. I couldn’t work.

I had to live with my parents who took care of me.  For the next four months, I didn’t sleep. I would lay on couch in pain with tears in my eyes.  I went to doctor after doctor, specialist after specialist.  No one could figure it out.  No amount of medicine could help me.  It wasn’t until the New Year that one doctor found an old antihistamine that finally knocked me out.  They discovered I had diabetes and something called hemochromatosis. That was only because we went to a funeral where one of the family happened to mention the strange disease.   My body was absorbing too much iron and was destroying my liver.  The sleeplessness, the pain, the diabetes, and fast heart rate could all be caused by it.

I spent the next four months having phlebotomies to lower the iron in my blood.  It’s the only effective treatment.  Meanwhile, I slept for all the time.  My body was weak. 
It took me almost a year before I would attempt another race.  I did the Covenant Health Knoxville Half and the Flying Pig in 3:10:18 and 3:17:16.  I had trained hard for those races.  I blamed it on being sick for a year.  I tried again the next year.  I was still around the 3:00:00 mark.

That September, I went to the doctor.  He told me my diabetes was getting worse.  My hemoglobin A1C was about 6.7 even with medication.  My cholesterol was around 267 and my triglycerides were over 500.  My doctor had a real conversation with me.  He told he could increase the number of medicines I was taking or I could go run marathons, but something had to change.  He said that with my genetics I was just sunk.  My mom’s side of the family has diabetes and my dad’s side of the family have heart disease.  I lost the genetic lottery of health.

In November, 2012 I was selected to be a part of the Covenant Health Biggest Winner Team.  Think of it as an at-home version of the Biggest Loser.  It changed my life forever and what I learned from it and from experience is what I am going to share with you.  It’s how I went from a 44:11 5k at a 14:13 pace to a 2:00:38 half marathon at a 9:12 pace in 5 months.

In case you’re wondering, my health became a doctor’s dream.  More on that in a future post

The Training Regiment:

Sundays; Hiking or walking for fun

Mondays: Spin Class—At the suggestion of one of my coaches, I started taking spin class once a week.  It’s low impact and high intensity.  The best part of it is that I can push myself as hard as I want to.  If I don’t leave the class dripping with sweat, I didn’t do my job.  When I first started out, I was lucky to put any resistance on the bike.  By the end of the program, I actually broke the chain.
Tuesdays:  Strength Training:  I do the usual planks, crunches, chest press, bicep curls, rows, triceps machine, etc. I run a mile for a warm-up.  I do 10 reps of each.  After I’ve done 10 reps of each exercise, I run another mile.  I end with about 3 sets of the exercise.  Yes, that’s 5 miles of running.  It didn’t start out like that.  When I first started training, I did about a quarter of a mile between sets.  I gradually increased a little each week.

Wednesdays:  I did half of the mileage I did on my Saturday long run.

Thursdays: Body Combat---I like to take a high intensity interval class.  Intervals are the key.  If I didn’t take a class, I had all kinds of interval trainings to do on the elliptical, treadmill, and bike.  Usually, it was a 5 minute warm-up followed by 1 minute fast, 1 minute slow for about 10 reps with a 5 minute cool down.  I started with two machines.  After about a month, I moved it up to three machines.  I liked doing Body Combat a whole lot better than doing intervals on machines.

Fridays: Rest day

Saturdays:  I don’t have the exact mileage I ran for each long run, but the pattern went something like this:
5-6-7-8    7-8-9-10    9-10-11-12    11-12-13-14   10-8-Race

On my long runs, I did a run-walk in the beginning.  I played with all kinds of intervals.  Sometimes, I did distance.  I would walk 0.1 and run 0.15 as fast as I could.  Other times, I did time.  I started with a 1:1 minute intervals.   I increased by 0:30 on the run portion each time I used the time intervals.  I eventually made my way up to 4:1 minute intervals.

On the weeks were the mileage went back by a mile, I tried to run the whole thing with the exception of walking up hills.  Many times, I would get most of the miles in before slowing down significantly.

That's the end of Part I.  In Part II tomorrow, I will share with you the most important part.....the mental game.  I talk a little more about training and avoiding injuries.  I will let you in on the principles of eating that I go by.  Seriously, the mental part was the key.