Friday, December 23, 2016

Embracing Your Struggles

I have been wanting to update the blog for a very long time, but I really wanted the next blog post after TIR to be about how everything was great again. Even leading up to TIR, and after, I knew that I was still not where I needed to be. Everything since being in the hospital has seemed forced, but more on that a little later. One thing I have felt horrible about was not doing any update on the race, and I feel like I disrespected our team in not updating anything. So we will start there before getting into the topic at hand.

The Texas Independence Relay was such a unique experience for us, and something that will always stay with Susan and I. It's not just about running multiple legs over 2 days, but it is more about doing it with a great group of people. None of us knew everyone before getting in the vans together at Brad and Kristi's, but by the end of the race we were all old friends.

I really was very apprehensive on my ability to run, and maybe even complete what the team needed me to complete. It seems like a hundred years ago that I was in the hospital with rhabdo, but it has now been over a year. At the time of the race I had been "recovered" for about 6-7 months, and it had already been a rocky recovery. I knew I was going into the relay not at the training I had wanted to be at, but there was no way I was going to let the team down.

There are so many things that are so hard to describe about this race, but I will try to give it some context. Starting off with a literal canon blast, and then if you aren't running then you are cheering and supporting the person that runs. It was easy to keep up the energy through the first day, but the real struggle would come for all of us to keep that same energy through the middle of the night. That struggle was easily met, and even on very little sleep everyone met the challenge. Even when the beautiful traffic of Houston snarled our race plan. Just like life you either melt down or you adjust and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

This race was unlike anything I have done, and it really showed me the true nature of how to deal with struggles. I have always drawn so many parallels between racing and life, and this race was the perfect example that I didn't realize until now. In life, as in racing, you either are the one struggling or not struggling. The difference is in making the conscience choice of helping others even if you are or are not struggling.

We could not have been more proud to have been a part of this team, no matter how interesting the smell was for the van ride back to the Metroplex. :)

One of the hardest things I have struggled with, since being in the hospital, is that I feel ridiculous talking about my health issues. None of us would have very far to look in our circle of friends to find someone that is in a "worse" condition than you. This might be physical, spiritual, mental, or all of the above. So who am I to sit here and talk about my issues when I know so many others that are in worse situations.

The reality is that we are all going though some struggles, and some of those struggles are going to be worse then others. We would love to say that we are all strong enough to battle things more than others, but we really aren't made to be that way. We are made to stand together with each other and help the other fight. Sometimes we are the one being encouraged and other times we are the ones that are being encouraged.

I have come to believe this last year that being healthier is not just about the current fight, but more about preparing ourselves for the fights to come. So to highlight what I mean by this here a few bullet points from the last year:

Caused myself to develop Rhabdo and then had a nice hospital stay.

Then I was constantly sick and had no immunity.

I had extreme fatigue for months and months to the point that I barely could make it through the day. This still effects me some days when I have pushed myself too far.

Started visiting a functional medicine doctor, and became well versed in adrenal fatigue, sleep, and the effects of stress on my body.

Raced TIR against the advice of my doc, and I felt really good running!

Tried to believe that I was back to my normal fitness.

Couldn't decide to if I was still having effects from the Rhabdo or was it just in my head?

Decided that I needed some professional help. So enter Dr. Nicole Adams to help answer that question.

Needing some consistency I asked Nicole to coach me.

Then the old issue of irregular heart rate came back.

I got to carry a heart monitor around for a month, and everything turned out that it didn't happen often enough to worry at this point.

Then my "normal" eye issues flare up again, but this time much worse. The short version is that my eyes sometimes are very red for no reason, occasionally my vision will fluctuate, and they are usually very painful.

Found out my eye issue is so rare that maybe 3-4 people in the world have it

Decided to try an experimental eye treatment using a form of stem cell therapy. Didn't work!

Now trying several different types of therapy and specialists for my eyes. Including getting back on allergy shots and trying acupuncture for the first time. So far I have been very impressed and responding well to the treatment.

The one thing that I have had to get used to is wearing my glasses 98% of the time. I only wear my contacts for workouts, and the way things have been going that isn 't every day.

The reality is that this eye issue is a symptom of something else. Some inflammatory disorder that is causing issues that manifest itself through my eyes. The key is going to be finding what are the triggers, and dealing with those.

There is so much more that could be written about the last several months, but I feel horrible talking about something that is such an aggravation when others are going through so much more. I think that when we struggle it is really hard to put it all into words how it makes us feel, and sometimes it feels like we are trying to repair cracks in our souls.

My fitness was one of the things that was helping repair the cracks in my soul that were made the day my Dad died. I think that the reality is that training was a way to temporarily fill those cracks, and when I had that taken away I realized how I was propping up my whole well being by training harder and going farther. Many times I felt that as long as I could stay fit there wasn't anything that I could not push through.

Once you start developing cracks in your soul, and you don't stop and take the time to repair them. When those repairs are left to themselves then no matter how well you do the healthy things in life you will still keep struggling.

Thinking of my Dad (a welder) a thought came to mind that my overall health is very much like the process of welding:
Welding: A filler material is often added to a joint to form a pool of molten material (the weld pool) that cools to form a joint that can be as strong, or even stronger, than the base material.

Taking the time to repair those cracks will over time make you stronger in all parts of your life.

Whether or not you reading this believe in having a soul there are parts of us over the years that get chipped away and they are made rough. At those times you have to decide do you want to give yourself the best chance at finding out what comes next, or in some extreme cases how do I survive the next day. Your health has to be part of the solution, but it isn't the whole solution.

No matter how good you are, or how good you eat, how much you work out, you will come to a time when it nothing seems to jive no matter how hard you try. We all have cracks and broken pieces that make us up, but it has to be us that decides if we are going to let those define us.

No matter how much I have wanted to keep things as authentic as possible here there is always a part of you in writing that you keep backfire yourself.  I have enough close friends that know what things have been like over the last year or so, and some of those people are going through struggles much worse then mine. This journey started with me losing weight and becoming healthier for my family, then I somewhat became a competitive athlete, and then the loss of my Father started me on a journey of helping others fight for their health.

No matter what struggle you are going through don't ignore it because with our world of knowing everything about everyone you think that it is insignificant. Just recognize that sometimes you are the one that helps and sometimes you have to be the one that needs help. Be open to both ways that things can flow. In the worst of times embrace your struggles, because your will be stronger on the other side.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Your Pace or Mine - Texas Independence Relay 2016 - 200 miles of Fun!

During my last post, I was discussing my up and down health the last few months.  I also mentioned that Susan and I had been asked to run in a relay race called the Texas Independence Relay. We were asked to join the team by our friends Brad and Kristi Clyburne. Brad has talked to me about this race for many years, but I was always focused on triathlons and never could fit it into the schedule. Well this year it worked for both Susan and I to be part of the TIR challenge. I have tried to describe what this relay is to many people, but couldn't do it justice, so below is a description from the TIR website.

The Challenge
The Texas Independence Relay is composed of 40 relay legs of various lengths, totaling over 200 miles. The course starts in Gonzales, where the spark of the Texas Revolution took place, and it finishes at the San Jacinto Monument, where Texas Independence was won! To tackle this formidable task, your team will have of up to 12 members (your choice!), and you’ll have an exceptional time furthering good friendships and making new ones! You’ll encourage each other along the way while you visit the small cities of Gonzales, Shiner, Moulton, Flatonia, Schulenburg, Weimar, Borden, Columbus, Altair, Eagle Lake, Wallis, Orchard, Simonton, and Fulshear. Then, you’ll make your way through the paramount city of Houston, experiencing it in a way you never have before! Racing on a team with your friends in this unique format over an incomparable span of Texas steeped with momentous history all amounts to a GREAT time that you’ll fondly remember for... well.. the rest of your life! This all takes place over Saturday and Sunday, April 2-3, and don’t forget the Texas Independence Party (the TIP!) on Friday, April 1! Come and take it… if you have what it takes!

Your Epic Texas Journey

Gonzales is a wonderfully welcoming town, rich with history and attractive to tourists looking to escape the big city! Your entire team will run a small loop together around downtown, marking the commencement of your journey. You’ll enjoy picturesque rolling hills replete with blooming Texas wildflowers on perfect relay roads as you journey over rural dirt roads - even passing Sam Houston’s Tree! After leaving Gonzales, you’ll get a taste of smaller Texas towns with exceptionally large hearts! Shiner, Moulton, Flatonia, Schulenburg, and Weimar, you’ll appreciate each town’s individual flavor, but you will also note that they all possess a distinct relaxing quality. By the time your team reaches Columbus, the sun will be retiring for the day.
Eagle Lake, Wallis, Orchard, Simonton, and Fulshear will be sleeping communities as you pass through (though at least a few will stay up to curiously observe your unrelenting journey through the night). Pressing on tirelessly toward the finish, you and your team will follow the beacons of flashing lights (other runners).

When you begin to make your way through Cinco Ranch on the west side of Houston, you’ll notice early indicators that a new day is being gifted to us! You’ll also become aware that you’re crossing the threshold between country and city. Between here and downtown, you’ll traverse paths that wind through pleasing parks (George Bush Park, Terry Hershey Park, Memorial Park, and the Buffalo Bayou). You’ll admire stately homes in well-preserved neighborhoods, and then, you’ll stride through Houston’s very downtown, passing right by reflective sky scrapers and the Toyota Center!

After exiting downtown, you’ll head south to Houston's museum district and Hermann Park, even passing beneath Sam Houston's impressive statue that points the way to the finish! You'll continue to navigate east on the Brays Bayou Path followed by quiet neighborhoods. Finally, your epic Texas journey culminates with a momentous celebratory finish in La Porte at the San Jacinto Battleground and Monument!

Here is also a nice description from our esteemed crew chief, Brad: Our team, Your Pace or Mine?, consists of 12 runners from Fort Worth, Aledo & Lubbock.  Several of the runners have completed several half marathons, marathons, ultramarathons, & triathlons, while others will enter the TIR with a race resume of a few 5 & 10K races.  Eight of the 12 runners are running along with their spouse, therefore we split the vans into male and female.  The thought process here was two-fold privacy and ...self preservation, but the ultimate goal is just to have some fun. 

Susan and I have both been having our struggles with training, but today we realized that we are very excited to meet up with a great group of folks and just have a weird sort of fun. So tomorrow we are going to head off early to meet the group in Aledo then all drive to Gonzales, TX. Then Saturday morning we will go off at 7:20am, and we should finish around 3:00pm on Sunday in Houston. So if you pray put one out there for our group this weekend. We'll see you soon!

If you want to follow our unusual weekend go to the links below:

Keep Fighting,

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Giving Up the Ghost

I saved the title for this post more than a month ago with the intent of telling all of you that it was time to give up the ghost. Some of you that haven't heard this phrase before this is how wiktionary defines it:
give up the ghost ‎(third-person singular simple present gives up the ghostpresent participle giving up the ghostsimple past gave up the ghostpast participle given up the ghost)
  1. (intransitive, idiomatic) To cease clinging to life; to die [quotations ▼]
  2. (intransitive, idiomatic, figuratively) To quit; to cease functioning.
    My old computer finally gave up the ghost the other day.
  3. (intransitive, with of) To cede a commitment to or identification with.  [quotations ▼]

As many of you know this blog started during a time that I was having some of heart related issues with my training. When I visited my cardiologist one day I decided to document not only my issues, but also the fact that I was fighting something that had affected my family for years. Something that even factoring in genetics could be improved with lifestyle, and that even a terminally short, formally fat guy named Keebler could be fit and healthy.

While all along hoping that I could inspire others to quit accepting the fallacy that if we aren't sick we are healthy. I have always believed that too many things have fallen in place for this not to be a path that God has put me on, and if any thing I said or have written here has helped one person then it has been all worth it.

Then along the way I think that I started to believe that if I didn't keep surpassing my last goal, race distance, or whatever other stupid way to measure ourselves then I was giving others a reason to quit. I know that it sounds slightly koo koo, or maybe a lot koo koo.

Now I am sure all of this has been a form of therapy for me to try to come to grips with the loss of my Dad unexpectedly from heart issues. I still hate that he wasn't able to be here to see my kids and my sister's son grow up. I still hate that I can see pain in my Mom's eyes even after 7 years.The reality is that many times after going through something life altering you have to accept a new kind of normal. You have to learn to fight in a different way.

That acceptance of that new normal can either be a starting off point to something greater, or it can be  an anchor. Now since I was in the hospital in May I have started to write about what was going on several times, but since I kept waiting until the message was what I thought you would expect to be written. You know we all love that come back story, but when you are dealing with something as finicky as a human body you can't force the outcome.  I am slowly starting to learn that sometimes the fight has to change even if the reason doesn't change.

Slight excerpt from what training has been like for the last few months:

Released to train again:
Start slow and take it easy

Feeling good and starting to test myself on a few intervals, and they feel great.
I am even running at paces I haven't done before!

Feeling sick and energy levels suck! Take a day off.

Better time to start back. Runs feeling good.

Sick and I can barely keep my eyes open. I am so tired! Writing this sentence has made me tired.

Take time off to recover.

Feeling good again. Time to start again.

Energy levels are down again.

Sick again! Time to rest.

I think that you are getting the point!

Now those of you that know the usual training levels I have done over the years this is no where near that, but I did go by all the regular standards of building back exercise levels very slowly. I have really been striving to not get injured or have any other setbacks.

Still this same pattern has gone on since I was in the hospital, and being brutally honest I have barely had the energy to get through most days. When you feel like that there is very little left to be good in the other parts of your life. So I know I haven't been the best husband or the best Dad, and none of this matters if those parts of my life can't be met.

During this time I am looking around my circle of friends, and like many of you, I don't have to look far for some people going through some real serious shit in their lives. So my first thought is I can't write and bitch about putting my body through hell, and then come on here and grip when it won't do what I want it to anymore. That is when my first time I started to ask the question, maybe it's time to give up the ghost? Is it?

Well nearly at the same time that these thoughts were going through my mind a few other things happened.

First, my friend Jerred asked me to meet with an engineer from Texas Tech, Luciano Castillo, who was developing some devices for the healthcare industry and they needed someone that had completely gone from one side of the health scale to the other to be part of their team. That first meeting started to light a fire that I believed had burned out. Not to mention I have been able to join a group of folks that are so inspiring, because of all of the things they are trying to do to help people. More on this in another post.

Second, I started working with a doctor to help work on my immunity and exhaustion. During one of those meetings after telling him that maybe I needed to quit writing and that maybe my passion to help others had run it's course. He said, "Maybe this season that you are in is God's way of showing others they can't quit working on their own health."

Finally, I was contacted by a couple of old friends, Gary Schwantz and Jennifer Sedia, who wanted to meet. That meeting turned into another very inspiring talk on what we do to inspire and motivate people to be healthier.

I am forgetting many other instances that have happened over the last few months. The main reason is that I was trying to focus on how crappy things were for me. Then feeling bad because I have friends that are in their own bad situations, and I really don't feel that I should even be bitching. Expect the difference is that for who I was nine years ago to who I am now is that I know what good should feel like.

Not all things have been exhausted and bad the last few months. I actually have had some fantastic runs with friends and some really nice beers. All of these years I have only trained by myself, and really needed that time for reflection and prayer. Now I have started to run with my friend Jerred, and I really have come to appreciate running with no purpose than to hang out. Some days we talk about heavy stuff, and other times are just for talking complete nonsense.

The good weeks are starting to last a little longer every time. Right now I am in one of the down phases, but instead of training through it I am just trying to get healthy. The good has been good enough that Susan and I are even going to race with a team in Texas Independence Relay, but more on that in another post. I might not be what I think that I should be for that, but I am really trying to be smart and find that balance again.

I was used to always trending up, and instead I have gone through some pretty severe ups and downs. That is life! We all have our issues and troubles. Trying to compare those will never do any of us any good. We need to try to be there when we can for each other.  As long as we can do good in the world, and I am not talking about huge things. Just simple things things like trying to smile at someone when you walk by them in the hall, maybe trying to actually listen to someone without looking at your phone, asking for help and trying not to handle it all, or just stopping our loud lives  and listening to what God might be trying to say to you.

This week I have been listening to Joy Week on the Bobby Bones show, and for those that don't listen  it is real simple. It is just a week that they try to put as much joy as they can out the world. With hope that it will slowly blank out all the bad shit that permeates everything else. As long as their is this kind of fight going on, we all should keep fighting in our own way.   My way of fighting might be a little different, but it's not over yet.

So put a smile on your face and don't even think about giving up the ghost!

In the spirit of pimpinjoy,

I am inspired by many people and things daily, but for awhile now I have heard some good preaching through J.J. Grey. Even if you don't hear the same message that I do keep searching for what will inspire you.

I tried so hard to be the person
everybody thought I was
I pushed myself and everyone
almost over the edge
This mirrored light that sends back
everything that you send out
The grace you give, given back
loving every minute you live

Every Minute - J.J. Grey Video