MS Run the US Day 5

Scenic Overlook

I sat alone in the back seat of the car while the road crew was inside the store getting supplies for the day ahead. I took out my phone and found several notifications on GroupMe app. from my MS Run the US teammates. I was overcome with emotion as I read each persons encouraging message to me. Several told me that they would be running miles with me when they ran that day. I believe that moment in time changed everything for me.

I started the day off with a fast walk with some easy jogging mixed in. My right foot was still not doing well but I was determined to make this day better than the last. I was slowly making progress. I took a small break from the road while Haley and Malcom knocked out some miles for me that morning as well.

After my break from running I took off on the road again this time and something was different. I made it a quarter of a mile without having to walk. This road I was on had tons of landmarks along the way. I started focusing on each sign, telephone pole, or creek crossing along the way. I would make it to one and then keep going with a goal of making it to the next one. I repeated this over and over until I had made it a mile without having to walk. I couldn’t remember the last time I had run over a mile without stopping. I continued on until I found myself on a bridge overlooking the water. I stopped not because I needed to but because I wanted to take some pictures. I promised my good friend Tanis I would take some pictures from my segment and this one was definitely going to be one for her!

.92 Mile Hill

I ran along across the bridge to the road crew, grabbed a snack and took off again. What seemed to be a flat route through town quickly changed when the road took me into the woods. What started as a paved road through the woods gradually turned into an insane .92 of a mile climb up a very steep hill. The road curved to the left and right making me believe that the top was just around the corner but it wasn’t. Just more elevation. I found myself getting irritated at the hill for some reason. Maybe I was mad because I had just learned to run again and the hill was forcing me to walk. I don’t know.

About half way up the hill I stepped off the road for a restroom break and I questioned myself as to why I was irritated with this hill so much. This hill was here long before I was. It did nothing to me. I was the one using this path to get across the US. It was then that I remembered my mission. I had gotten so lost in my injuries that I had forgotten why I was here. I’m here because I want to stop MS. I am here because I love running. I am getting to spend an entire week outdoors exploring places I have never been. My teammates helped me start to remember when they sent me messages that morning.

I finished my climb to the top of that hill and it opened up to the highway. A little further down I found the road crew. I was fired up and ready to go! It was one of those moments where you’re driving along in your truck, your favorite song comes on, you drop the windows, and punch the accelerator! I grabbed some food and I took off running. I’m not sure what Malcom and Haley were thinking of me but I am certain they noticed a change in me.

Scenic Overlook

Not long down the road I saw a sign telling me that there was a scenic overlook up ahead. I was moving at a decent pace and thought for a second that maybe I should not stop and check it out. Ultimately the real question was why would I not stop? When will I have the opportunity to check this out again?

I stopped took some pictures and read the words on a plaque at the overlook. “You haven’t lived until you’ve looked down on a hawk.” In memory of Richard P. Thomson. Richard Thomson died in a hang gliding accident at that very spot. I can only imagine the adrenaline rush one would get from going over that overlook in a hang glider. I wouldn’t know his story if I had not accepted this 167 mile challenge and Im willing to bet you didn’t either until you read it here.

Just another Pennsylvania hill

The sun had was shining bright and I could feel its warmth on my face and arms as I pressed on through the Pennsylvania countryside. I was also quite aware of the fact that I was smiling again even through the pain. I arrived into a small town and found a sidewalk to run on. I passed a house that had at least 15 dogs in the back yard and they all went crazy cheering me on. On the other side of the house there was a man who I am assumed was the homeowner working on the yard. We greeted each other and he just smiled as the dogs followed me along to the end of the fence. I made one more crew stop to refuel and for the final push of the day.

I arrived at the my stopping place for the day a little bit before the road crew did. They had picked up some food so that we could eat dinner before heading on to our new campground for the night. I sat down underneath the shade of a tree on the side of the road and reflected over the day. I still could not believe how everything changed for me after climbing that one mile hill, but I was thankful for it. I had pushed my body to the point I wondered if I would ever be able to run again. I could barely move my right foot up or down but somehow I was running again. The human body is so amazing though. I really don’t know how to explain how everything changed for me that day, but I do know that it started with an amazing group of teammates supporting me from all over the US! By the time the road crew pulled up next to me on the side of the road I knew deep down inside that I would be able to complete all of the miles on the final day of segment 17.

MS Run the US Day 4

Today was the first day that I woke up and felt no improvement with my right foot. Most mornings I hurt but I could at least see some improvement after a full night of rest. Ice bath, dinner, and a great night of sleep did not seem to make a difference for me at all.

The sun was just starting to make its presence known and the cool Pennsylvania morning wrapped it’s self around me as I stepped out of the RV. I walked as easily as I could careful not to put too much weight on my right foot. Once inside the car I laced up my shoes as I wondered silently to myself how I was going to knock out 26 miles. I was thankful for the early morning start because my right Achilles told me that it was going to be a long day. I began my morning run after a one mile warm up walk. My right foot was killing me and my left knee only hurt enough to remind me that it could get worse whenever it wanted to.

I arrived at a small town and found a sidewalk to run on which reminded me of many hours I spent running the ones in San Angelo. Up ahead of me I saw a couple people running the same direction that I was going. Keep in mind I can barely move my right foot and I am not sure what I was doing even really resembled running, but I had this desire to catch up to them. I don’t know if it was just longing to run with friends or the competitor in me coming out but that is what I felt like doing. I didn’t catch up to them though. I didn’t even make an effort to do so. Just felt like I should mention that my brain wanted me to.

As I made my way into town I realized it was much bigger than I had first thought. I found much more traffic and realized the need to make a pit stop. Malcom gave me directions to where we would meet with a gas station I could stop at along the route. I never found the gas station and had to cross a very busy intersection along the way. Not typically a problem for me when my run does not mimic a zombie walk. I made it across though, met up with the road crew, and found another gas station to stop at.

At this point my urine had turned dark for the second day in a row. This was the earliest in the day that it had happened and I was concerned. I pushed on to the next stop and this is where it all went south for me. I don’t really remember much about those few miles except for a decent hill that took me to the car and having to go to the bathroom less than a half mile from my last stop. I recall sitting down in the grass next to the car and just defeated. I realized going up the hill I was getting lightheaded and just feeling like everything was off for me. This is also most likely the reason that I never saw the gas station I was supposed to stop at earlier. I got into the car, Malcom and Haley knocked out some miles for me while I hydrated and ate some food.

I was able to get back on the road but I wasn’t running. I was walking. Walking at a pace as fast as I could manage so we wouldn’t be out on the road all day long. I had to go to the bathroom again. We found a church and went there. My urine was still dark but not near as dark as it had been so I felt better about that. Haley and Ashley discussed my situation and determined it would be best for me to take a 5 hour break from the road to get rehydrated. Somehow we figured out that my salt intake was low. We attacked the salt and managed it better. I did not have another hydration issue the rest of the segment. Lesson learned.

I started up the second half of my day walking. As I walked along I increased my walk pace and eventually began to shuffle/run a little. I made sure to take in the countryside views as I moved along segment 17. I got more help with my daily miles from Malcom and Haley. On a long stretch of a quiet country road (except for a dog barking at me) with zero traffic I began to really run. Not fast. Not pretty, but I was running. It didn’t last very long but it felt good to run again.

I made a left turn onto a major road and was met by the biggest hill yet. I didn’t run the hill. I walked it. It was one of those hills that just kept going. Every time I thought I was close to the top it would continue to rise. The hill took a lot out of me but I did manage to make it to the top.

I arrived at the coolest bridge I crossed on my entire segment. The views of the town were pretty cool and I took some photos as I walked across. While I was walking I got passed by a guy who was running. I remembered a time when I could run like that (four days ago to be exact ). I crossed the bridge and made my way into a downtown area. I was able to jog a little bit but that ended when I reached a downhill slope and my right foot let me know that it was just done for the day. I hobbled my way down the hill where the road crew was waiting for me.

I was highly disappointed with how I performed that day. I was thankful that we figured out my hydration issues and that I was able to knock out miles as well. My hope was that an ice bath and some medication would help me recover enough for day 5 to be better.

MS Run the US Day 3

Day 3 Start

I am a very optimistic person. On opening day I still believe that the Texas Rangers can go 162-0. I also believe that one day I will run Western States Endurance Run. For some reason when I went to bed at the end of day number 2 I had this belief that when I woke up the next morning my left knee and right foot would be better.

It was another cool morning as I loaded my gear into the car. I chose not to put my running shoes on until we got to my starting point because in my mind an extra 20 minutes without them on would help me later in the day. I focused on the miles ahead of me as we drove along.

I got out of the car when we arrived at a field of corn and took my hoodie off determined to make this a better day than the last one. I did not have long sleeves on today and the traffic was pretty heavy so I knew that with each vehicle that passed I would get chilled. This is the part of the high school basketball player that grew up learning not to show weakness. Pain is temporary, victory is everything. I could go on and on with all of the phrases we used to motivate us to win. I am not certain how the miles of hills in front of me were supposed to be intimidated by me not wearing long sleeves today but that was the game plan! I started off with a one mile warm up walk but after about a half of a mile I started running. Not fast and definitely not pretty. I am not certain that I could even call it running. I did know that I was moving a little faster than my speed walking pace though, so I felt good about that.

I arrived at the first stop of the day and I think Malcom and Haley were both surprised to see me running already, or possibly just surprised at what my running looked like. I didn’t ask, I was just ready to keep moving. The traffic stayed heavier that morning as I pressed on mixing some running and walking, anything to just keep my body moving. I felt like I was starting to get into a pretty good rhythm as I entered a bridge. I recall just how beautiful the view was as I ran across a bridge, and there it was. Up ahead on my right was a sign that said WELCOME TO PENNSYLVANIA in all capital letters. I had completely forgot that I would be crossing a state line at some point in my 167 mile journey. I stopped because I needed to take a picture. I have driven over state lines hundreds of times in my life, had my picture taken by my parents many times in front of those signs on family vacations. Not once had I run across a state line. This was pretty cool. I am not a selfie person, so trying to take my own picture in front of the sign was not going well. About that time Malcom and Haley drove up and they took some pictures of me in front of the sign.

For some reason this acomplisment fueled me as I continued my run into Pennsylvania. State lines do not mean that the topography of the state will completely change. I did not expect the hills to go away, maybe I optimistically thought they would stay the same though? By now the sun was shining bright up above me and had been for quite some time. Three days in to my run and this was the first time I felt the sun burning my skin. Typically it only takes me 15 minutes to burn. “Sunrise, sunburn, sunset, repeat I heard Luke Bryan singing in my head while I tried to remember if I had packed sunblock in the car this morning. I think I have only heard that song 5-6 times on the radio but it was with me the rest of that day though.

I put some sunblock on at my next stop and made sure to rub it in good, just in case Malcom decided to take pictures. Knowing that was a concern of mine at that point in the day I can say that the ibuprofen, biofreeze, and KT tape were definitely helping. Later in the day I had zero care for what my pictures looked like as the pain increased.

Looking back from top of hill

I left another water stop at the beginning of a huge hill. I started off running and wanted to run as far as I could on the hill until the steepness got to be too much. I did not have the presence of mind to measure the distance of this hill on my watch, but it was a monster. I kept my legs moving, every time I felt like I was closing in on the top it just kept going. I remember thinking about how nice it would be to run downhill when I got to the top. I got to the top and looked straight ahead to a town in front of me. The drop down the hill was not equal to the uphill climb but I did enjoy running in the city on terrain that was at least somewhat level.

Making it to the top of the major hill was definitely the peak of my day as well. Even thought he back side of the hill did not provide much of a descent, the rest of my day did go downhill. Fast. Ibuprofen seemed to still be helping my left knee pain but after making it through the small town my right foot just got worse. I got to the point that I was moving faster at a walking pace than running. Maybe my run was more of a shuffle at this point. I recall sitting down at next to the car at a water break and just feeling beat up. It was getting late into the day and I knew that I could walk the rest of my miles for the day but that would put us back very late with a minimal amount of recovery time for the next day. I shared those concerns with Haley and she told me that Malcom and her could pick up of the miles for me to give me a little more rest time. I immediately accepted help to get through the rest of the day.

I was very thankful for the miles that Haley and Malcom helped me out with. Being able to take some time off of my feet allowed me to eat some food, hydrate, and get mentally prepared to finish out the rest of my day. The last miles of the day did not come easy. I had was at a point where I was starting to figure out the most comfortable way to put weight on my right foot. My left knee had finally decided to give me a little bit of a break from the pain as well. It was not easy to finish out the last few miles of the day but I was definitely thankful to be done and ready for an ice bath.

Most people that know me best know that I am not great at asking for help. I have been aware of this for as long as I an remember. I knew this when I applied to be a runner on the 2021 MS Run the US Relay team. I knew asking people for donations is what I would be doing if I was selected for the team. If you are bad at shooting free throws that is what you work on (unless you are Shaq). Forcing myself into a position where I needed to ask people for help was a something I definitely needed. I am now better at not only accepting help, but asking for help as well.

I believe with all of my heart that one day we will stop MS! I have eighteen other teammates that ran this relay with me who believe the exact same thing. Ashley Schneider believed this when she took on the task of becoming the sixteenth female to run across the US. Many others have shown that they believe in this mission by making monetary donations and spreading awareness about this terrible disease.

Also…. Im sorry if Luke Bryan’s song is stuck on repeat in your brain for the rest of the day.

Running Greatly With MS is a play on Teddy Roosevelt’s “in the arena” speech. Day three was definitely a day that I felt like I had failed. I did not fail though. Your best will not always look the same every day (The Four Agreements – Ruiz). I gave the best that I had for day three and I was able to see growth in myself by being able to accept help to finish my miles for the day.

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Teddy Roosevelt

Photo Credit mal.c0m- https://instagram.com/mal.c0m?utm_medium=copy_link

MS Run the US Day 2

Photo Credit – mal.c0m

It was a typical hot and dry West Texas day and there I stood staring at my suitcase. I had already packed my MS Run the US hoodie for the trip to Ohio. Was I really going to pack my long sleeve shirts for this trip as well? I remembered colder temperatures at some of my trail races this past fall and early spring and being thankful for wearing long sleeves. My gut told me I should take them “just in case”. I had read the forecast for the areas that I would be running, but my brain just didn’t quite believe it could be that cool in August anywhere!

At the end of my first day of running I reflected over my accomplishments from the day before. I thought about what I could have done better in hopes of making those adjustments the next day. It had taken me most of the morning to warm up in the cooler temperature. I smiled to myself because I was thankful that I followed my gut and brought the long sleeves with me. I decided that I would begin my second day with a long sleeve shirt on and then remove it as the day got warmer.

The sun was still in the process of waking up when we arrived at the starting point for the second day of segment seventeen which made for another cool morning. I was breathing in the fresh country air when I received a text message. The mens bible study group that I attend on Tuesdays wanted to let me know that they had prayed for my safety on the road that morning. I thanked them and then snapped a picture of the scenery around me and sent it to my daughter so she could see my starting view for the day. She was on my mind this week more than usual because she was in two-a-days for volleyball. She is a freshman this year in high school and had the opportunity to try out for the JV team! (I am excited to say that she did make the JV team!)

I felt surprisingly good when I started my run on day two. I was definitely sore but I expected that would be the case. I did not have any problem starting off with a slower pace today! The scenery was amazing! Much of the morning was spent running under a canopy of trees across the road that kept the sun from warming my skin. The road had very little traffic and I could hear the sound of animals scurrying away as I approached their spot.

I was joined by a sharp pain in my left knee early in my run. It was mild and I expected it to go away over the next few miles. I have learned on my training runs that most pain I encounter typically does not last very long. I arrived at my scheduled water stop and the knee pain had not improved. I put some biofreeze on my knee to see if that would help. I was also careful not to get any on my hands because I have done that before a run in the past and then rubbed my eyes to get sweat out of them (not a fun experience). I had a lot of miles left in front of me and I was not ready for that discomfort the rest of the day.

Photo Credit – mal.c0m

I continued on as the knee pain increased with each step I took. I tried spending more time running on the opposite side of the road to see if that would help alleviate the pain. I tried the first day to go fifty-fifty switching sides of the road, but there were quite a few parts that I was unable to do so. Switching sides more often did not seem to help so I opted to change shoes at my next scheduled stop to see if that would help. I realized as I changed my shoes that my right achilles was pretty sore but I hoped that the change in shoes would help with that. The switch gave me a mental boost, but the pain in my left knee decided that it was going to hang out with me for a while. The only relief from the left knee pain was more pain. My right achilles and shin started hurting a great deal as well. I assume that changing my stride to accommodate my left knee is what caused my right leg problems.

The last time I had taken any ibuprofen or pain killer was when I had my wisdom teeth taken out. April was the first time I had taken any kind of medication this year. I used to get headaches quite often, but I honestly haven’t had one in a year and a half now (I’m going with healthier food choices as the reason why). I chose to take an ibuprofen and slowed up to give the medication time to kick in. I started seeing some improvement in my left knee but the achilles was starting to scream at me even louder. I was running out of ideas on how to help my right leg. I was in the middle of nowhere and one of the few areas I had no hills (was thankful for that). In fact it almost felt like I was in west Texas for a little bit. There was no traffic so I ran on the left side of the road, the right, I even ran right down the middle of the road but nothing seemed to help ease the pain. Malcom suggested doing intervals so I tried that too. I realized that this was just going to be one of those really long days out on the road.

I hobbled into a small town where Malcom was waiting in a church parking lot for me. We made our way up to the building to ask if we could use the restroom. One of the gentlemen sitting outside came out to meet us and asked if we needed to use the restroom before we even had a chance ask. We had a really nice chat with him about MS Run the US and he told us that he had just started running himself. He was training for a marathon and definitely knew that the hills were pretty brutal around there. We told him where we were headed and he informed me that there was a very big hill on that road but after that it would be much better. That hill was insane! There also was not much of a shoulder to run on and there was an awful lot of traffic on that road for such a small town. I walked my way up the hill which seemed to take an hour to do. I was thankful for my long sleeves because every big truck that passed by made me even colder. At one point a large truck had to move over to the shoulder because an oversized tractor was coming from the other direction. I kindly took myself off into the grass to let him pass.

I finished out the rest of the day pretty slow with a mixture of run/walking. I got to my last water stop for the day and I finally took my long sleeve shirt off. I grabbed a banana and a couple of mandarin oranges to eat as I began my cool down walk to end the day. I was disappointed with my left knee and my right achilles but I was thankful for the slower pace that day because it gave me more time to take in all of the sights along the way as I spent another full day outdoors. Walking on the right side of the road I was completely caught off guard when a man on a bicycle rolled by, and stopped a few yards in front of me. He got off of his bike and asked me about my shirt, and running across the US. I explained the relay and our mission to Stop MS. We just stood there on the side of the road for about 7-8 minutes talking about running shoes, ultra runners, and amazing feats humans have accomplished running. That was an unexpected gift for me on a day where my body had struggled so much. He rode off ahead of me towards a hill I could see off in the distance. He stopped, got off his bike and walked it part of the way up. I knew I had at least one more hill to climb before my day would be over.

I put ice packs on my knee and achilles when we got back to the motorhome. I relaxed and looked out the window as we drove to the next campground which would be home for the next two nights. A blow up swimming pool was aired up, filled with water and ice just for me. I reflected over the day as I sat in the little pool while other campers walked towards the campgrounds swimming pool. I can only imagine what they were thinking about me. I think the only thing I needed at that point would have been a life jacket or some arm floaties.

Photo Credits- https://instagram.com/mal.c0m?utm_medium=copy_link

MS Run the US Day 1

Photo Credit – mal.c0m

I was not even a quarter of a mile into my run when the realness of the moment sank in. The past seven months my life had been training runs, strength training, phone calls, emails, and meetings in search of potential donors to support my MS Run the US fundraising campaign. All of which were integral parts of this journey to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. My desire to get to this moment in time was what helped me dig deep and push through on the difficult training runs. I don’t know how many different ways I imagined this day would feel and I am not certain that I will find words that accurately portray those emotions either.

I know there was a smile on my face because I could feel it as I took in the cool morning Ohio air. I recall the excitement that I owned because for the first time as a runner I would not be making a loop. I would be running from point A to point B, every mile helping our relay team get closer to the finish in New York. All of my training runs and races either took me back home or the finish line was also the start line. I wanted to make the most of every step, allowing all of my senses to experience this place I had never been before.

While my eyes were snapping images of the sights around me I thought about all of the people who contributed to my fundraising campaign. I reflected over how so many people stepped up big donating their hard earned money in a year that a pandemic is in full effect. I am thankful for the many people that I met along the way who either had MS or a family member who suffered from MS. I am grateful that they took the time to share their stories with me. I was running for them. Running so that hopefully one day nobody else would go to bed feeling normal and wake up blind in one eye with their life changed forever.

Segment 17 Start

I started my run on a small trail in a local park in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. The weather was nice and cool which was quite the opposite of what Texas weather had given me to train in. I was very excited about running in cooler temperatures to say the least. I focused in on the directions Haley and Malcom had given me for my run, I really did not want to get lost within the first three miles. I then laughed to myself a little as I realized just how much I had going on at the same time. Directions, breathing, taking in as much of the scenery as possible, watching for things I might trip on, reflecting over how I got here… then there was the momma duck with five baby ducks following her along the same route I was taking (got distracted by my next turn or I might have taken a picture of them).

Photo Credit – mal.c0m

Cool weather and the adrenaline rush from beginning the 167 mile adventure I had trained seven months for blurred any awareness I had of my starting pace until I hit the half marathon distance. To be fair though, I typically do not look at my pace until I have completed a training run. Shockingly enough the first fatigue that I encountered that day was my face, I am quite certain that I had been smiling every step of the way. I decided it best to slow down after the thirteen mile mark, so after a restroom break I began walking while I ate a snack and drank some water. I made my way out of the city into a more rural area where I found myself running again, only at a much slower pace this time. I took in some more views of the Ohio country side and stored some more mental pictures of the beautiful houses as I passed them by.

It was here that I spent some time reflecting over all of the events in my life that led me to running on a Monday morning in Ohio. I even thought back to my high school days when my track coach would drop the distance runners off and have us run back to the school. I was not a fan of running on an oval track back then, so I truly enjoyed those days. As I ran past some Ohio cows and I recalled coach telling me one day to leave the cows alone as we drove past them headed further away from the high school track. Coach Trahan passed away December 1, 2020. I can still hear him telling me that I was a distance runner while I argued that I was a jumper. I am certain that if he’s looking down on me now he is laughing at the washed up volleyball/basketball player with dreams of running a 100 mile race. He was definitely right about the distance thing!

It was around this point in my run that I encountered my first hills. (Maybe I should type that in all caps HILLS to be more acurate). I knew there were hills on this segment, Ashley talked about them quite a bit. We do have hills in Texas, but I don’t think they compare to what I encountered in Ohio and Pennsylvania. I realized after the next hour of hills that this would be my life for the next 6 days. The hills and I did not become best friends from the start, it was a relationship that took five and a half days to develop.

At some point in the second half of the day I started feeling a little bit of tightness in my right achilles tendon. I knew I was putting in crazy miles this week so I didn’t think much more about it. I do recall not feeling any sort of pain discomfort when my watch showed me that I had run 26.2 miles. I stopped, took a picture of my watch and I took a picture of the place I was at when I completed my first marathon distance. It definitely was not fast, and that of course was not the goal but it was an awesome accomplishment for me. I was supposed to have gone over this mark on my 60K attempt at Pedernales Falls State park which did not happen. I shook my head and smiled as I thought back to the many times in my life that I swore that I would never run a marathon. I continued on through the rest of the run and finished with a grand total of thirty miles for the first day of segment 17.

Photo Credit – mal.c0m

Photo Credits- https://instagram.com/mal.c0m?utm_medium=copy_link

The Bench

I did not just wake up one morning and decide I wanted to run 167 miles. I do have a single moment in time that this journey began though. It all started on this bench…..

The bench where it all started

It was the evening of January 6, 2020. The last night of a family vacation at Disney World and I had gone to the poolside bar to buy a crown and coke. On the way back to the room with drink in hand I took a seat on a bench. Earlier in the day I had been looking over some of the pictures from the week and they shook my world. I did not even recognize the man that stood there in those pictures. One picture in particular of me standing next to Goofy is one that I can still see when I close my eyes. I knew I was overweight and when I saw those pictures I was disappointed in myself and the way I had let myself go. I had 3 knee surgeries over a 5 year period and I used that as a crutch to not make time for the gym. I was tired all the time, I did not eat very healthy and I had zero desire to change that as well.

Still tough for me to look at this picture!

I recall a long conversation with God while I sat there on the bench. I knew that I needed to change some things in my life. I told him about everything that was going on in my world and I needed his help. As I sat there and looked at my half empty crown and coke I decided that I would take a year off of alcohol. I don’t know why I chose quitting alcohol that night but it just felt like the thing I needed to do. I have been pretty responsible with alcohol most of my life with the exception of a few times that I can count on one hand. I just felt that I needed to do something that would spark a change in my life. I guess you could say I was hoping that if I did that, God would help me with other parts of my life. I knew that God doesn’t work that way, but I was desperate.

A week after getting home my Grandfather passed away at 102, and then the following month my marriage ended. Neither came as a surprise to me. I do remember thinking I had picked a bad time to quit drinking. I didn’t take a drink though. I chose to feel all of the feelings that come with loss. It was not an easy thing to do but I believe doing so helped me heal.

One day, I realized that since I was not drinking alcohol I also had not been drinking any sodas. I opted to get one for lunch that day. That soda messed my stomach up pretty bad for the rest of the day. I didn’t like that feeling so I quit sodas well. It made me really start thinking about how unhealthy I must have been for my body to be used to consuming drinks like that on a daily basis. This realization was just the first of many for me that led me to start questioning some of the things that I had always believed.

I started running in March. I did not run much, just a mile every other day. I just wanted to start getting back in to shape. All of the gyms had closed due to COVID-19 but the outdoors were still open for business. Truth be told I wanted to get back into beach volleyball shape. I knew it was crazy to think I could jump in sand after 3 knee surgeries but I was going to try anyway!

In June I went back to college to finish the last 29 credit hours towards my bachelors degree. I found studying and then going for a run helped me retain information better. I also love to read books, in fact I read 39 books in 2020 while completing my bachelors degree. I am also the kind of guy that will read 3-4 books at the same time. A friend of mine had mentioned earlier on Facebook a book that he had read called “Born to Run” which was still at the back of my mind one day when I was searching for my next great read. I went back to his page to find the title of the book so that I could get it from the library. What happened next would alter the course of my entire life. This book introduced me to ultra running. When I read about a 100 mile race that was to be completed in 24 hours I was hooked! I thought why is everyone out there not doing this? I always said I would never run a marathon, I didn’t say anything about an ultra-marathon though!

I have to pause here and share a story with you about getting into running. Maybe a month in to running I hyperextended my right knee walking down the stairs of my apartment (yes I am that clumsy). I spent the next 5 days icing and resting thinking that maybe I was not meant to be a runner. Then I got a text from my sister asking if I had heard about Joe, one of my track friends from high school. She told me that he had died and my heart was broken. I had not seen him in many years but I had thought of him and the rest of my high school track team while I was on my one mile runs. I wiped the tears I had been crying for him and I laced up my shoes determined to run a mile for him on my swollen right knee. I didn’t just run the mile for him, I felt like he was there running with me and I ended up running a mile and a half that day. I never stopped running after that day and I started increasing my distances until one day I ran a 4 miles. After that run for some reason I believed I could do an ultra! I started reading every book I could on ultra running and ultra runners. I wanted nothing more than to cover 100 miles in a 24 hour period. In fact I even sent in an application to join an ultra relay team that was running across the US! While I read these books I was still in college. I found that if I studied for an hour and then went for a run I would think about the information and it would stick with me better. I started eating better, or what I thought was better for me. I did slow down quite a bit on eating fast food. In fact eating out became my reward for passing each final exam. I started to notice something in common between the ultra runners I was reading about. Many of them were plant-based! I was a produce manager and I never thought about only eating produce. I am certain in my past I made fun of those who did. I was curious and I don’t just take someone’s word on something, I have to try it for myself to see. I started trying plant-based foods that we carry in my store and I was surprised at how good the foods actually tasted. (Not all were great, but I was learning!)

I graduated college in September of 2020, and also that month I accepted a challenge of running 167 miles in 6 days with MS Run the US to raise money to Stop MS! I also noticed how great my body was feeling every day and how well I recovered after a long run so I started thinking of going 100% plant-based. That was a very big month for me.

November 21st I ran my first half marathon with my buddy Jason! I believe the runners high from that achievement stayed with me for the rest of the year. As the calendar rolled into December I continued to add more plant based foods to my diet and eliminated many of the meat and processed foods that I used to consume.

In January of 2021 I was about 90% plant-based and I still did not believe I would ever go 100%. I felt great running some trail races and in April after running a race at about 95% I made the decision to go all in! I have found that I truly enjoy cooking plant-based meals. It is fun trying different foods together to see what I can create. It doesn’t always turn out great, but I get better each time I try! Traveling is a challenge, but I have noticed many restaurants have embraced this movement and are adding more plant-based options to their menu. I feel amazing and my recovery time has been cut in half. I used to be dead tired after a 9 hour day at work, now I work the same hours and I have the energy to knock out a 6-8 mile run. I am not going to try and convince everyone to go plant-based but I will continue to share my story with those who want to hear.

There have been many occasions throughout this journey that I have thought back to that night on that bench. I think about where I am now and it blows my mind how one decision took me down this path that I am on. I recently took another trip to Disney World with my daughter this summer and I felt like I needed to go visit the bench where it all started. I sat down this time forty pounds lighter with an insane amount of energy that I had once thought I would never see again. I had a conversation with God again, only this time my prayer was one of thankfulness. I thanked God for not giving up on me and giving me opportunities to grow. Things do not always go the way you hope that they do and that’s okay. Failure is not fun, but learning from those failures are where I believe real growth happens. Below are two pictures taken at the same spot eighteen months apart. I would like to tell you they are of the same person but they are not, this journey has helped me grow into the man I am today. I am thankful for my time on the bench that set this all in motion. I have been blessed by those who I have met along the way. I am thankful for the running community!

Cleveland

I made it to Ohio! Now I just have to run 167 miles to Pennsylvania over a six day period starting Monday. I believe that I am prepared for the challenge and I am stoked to get started on this adventure! Today I explore Cleveland!

I have not written much over the past few months but that is all changing starting today! I have promised many of you that I would provide daily updates about this adventure through my blog so here goes nothing!

I landed in Cleveland last night, grabbed my luggage and made my way to the hotel shuttle pick-up area of the airport. All week long I had been looking at the weather forecast for this area and had seen high temperatures in the upper 70’s. After doing the majority of my training runs in Texas with temperatures ranging from the 90’s to 100’s I could not believe that luck would provide me with cooler weather for my relay segment. As I stepped out of the airport doors I could feel a huge smile growing across my face as the cool air welcomed me to Ohio. Even running after the sun went down in Texas it was not as cool as it was here already. After checking into the hotel I walked to a gas station to pick up a couple of waters. The sun had gone down and it was even colder outside. The previous night I shook my head as I packed a hoodie in my suitcase (just in case). I just might need it after all!

My internal alarm clock woke me up at 6:20 this morning (5:20 Texas time). Gotta love routine! I brewed some coffee, ate a Clif Bar, showered and scheduled an Uber ride to the West Side Market. My Uber driver was awesome. We discussed running, diet, Cleveland, and Texas on the drive. He is going to open a restaurant in town and I believe that I will be back here one day and will check it out! West Side Market did not disappoint! I started exploring the produce part first and it was awesome! Locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as a huge organic selection. I bought some locally grown peaches to snack on throughout the day. I also purchased some ground açaí, turmeric, black maca, and catuaba from one of the vendors there. I made my way over to the market building and was blown away by the selections that they had there. Had I been there a few years ago I am pretty certain that I would have given them all of my money. All of my food choices now are 100% plant-based. I realize that may come as a shock to many people. There will be more on that in my blog post tomorrow. My transition to plant-based has been an incredible journey and I have been working on writing share that story for a while now. The market side had every kind of meat that you could imagine. They also had any kind of bread or pastry item that ones heart could desire. Like I said, earlier life for me they would have taken all of my money. I made my way around and found a vendor that had bulk nuts and I knew that I would be spending some money there. I bought Brazil nuts, almonds, and had a great conversation about plant-based foods and why I was in town. She wished me luck on my run and I was off to my next stop of the day.

I knew that I wanted to go visit the Rock and Roll Hall of fame so I started walking in that direction. I crossed the Veterans Memorial Bridge which took me over the Cuyahoga river and I was supposed to make a left but I was distracted by Progressive Field on my right so I went that way instead. As I strolled down to the ballpark I passed Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers. I continued on to Progressive Field. There were no ballpark tours today, so I walked around the entire ballpark and even stepped inside the team shop and browsed for a little bit. I still want to catch a game in every MLB park one day!

Time for the Rock and Roll Hall of fame! I do not really have words for how much I enjoyed my visit here today. So much music history! The amount of creativity that was celebrated in that building was almost overwhelming. I believe that I have a memory tied directly to every song that I have ever heard and I spent a large portion of my day reflecting over the songs in my life! I have so much that I want to say about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I will spend some time gathering my thoughts. I will dedicate an entire post to it after my segment is completed.

I walked out to Voinovich Bicentennial Park and watched boats in the Cleveland Harbor while small planes took off from Burke Lakefront Airport. I had seen where the Cavaliers and Indians/Guardians play earlier today, so I went to First Energy Stadium to see where the Browns play.

I had an early dinner at the House of Blues, and then I stopped at a local coffee shop to relax before heading back to the hotel. As I was writing in my journal I took a drink of coffee and I saw a guy standing in line wearing a trail racing t-shirt. I asked him about his shirt, and if he was a trail racer. He told me that he had been a road runner and recently started running trail races. I told him about MS Run the US and that I do trail races as well. Not gonna lie, I had my Crazy Desert Trail Race shirt on too. We shared trail race stories and I talked about how much of a difference going plant-based had changed my training and recovery time after a run. He was intrigued, said his brother had been telling him the same things that I was saying. Again, more on this topic tomorrow! I don’t know that I have ever met a stranger in my life. Retail life tends to create opportunities for you to meet many people. The running community is the same. The trail racing community is so encouraging and it is always awesome to meet another runner and hear their stories.

I scheduled an Uber to take me back to my hotel so I could start putting together this story. My driver was just as friendly as my first one this morning. He told me more about the town and some of the places that I should check out. I talked about MS Run the US (I know you’re surprised I talked about running right?). I walked 12 miles around downtown Cleveland today and I loved every minute of it! I will be back to explore more in the future, for now its time to get some rest!

Pedernales Falls 60K

The sun was still shining bright and it would be for at least another hour before giving the almost full moon a chance to brighten the night sky over Pedernales Falls State Park. There was nobody counting down for me to start the race and I was the only one standing at the staring line so I sent one last text message and I began my 37 mile journey. This trail race was my first to run underneath the Texas stars which required me to use a headlamp to navigate the rocks, water, trees, and whatever else I would encounter along the way. I had been thinking about this race, counting down the days for over a month, so to say that I was obsessed about it would have been an understatement. This was going to be my longest and toughest run yet.

I made it to the first aid station with a huge smile on my face. Everything was going well for me so far. I was moving at a decent pace and my new shoes felt like I was running on air. I started running a year earlier in an old pair of basketball shoes that I used to mow the grass in. I learned quickly that proper running shoes made a huge difference when I got my first pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20. For this race I had purchased Hoka One One’s Speedgoat 4 in an attempt to help me navigate the trails more easily. I felt like I could run in those shoes for days! About a mile after the first aid station my left shoe came untied and this was the point that I realized I may be more stubborn than I thought. It did not seem as though the untied shoe was effecting me in any way and I did not want to stop until I made it to the second aid station so I pressed on. I thought back to watching Dennard Robinson when he played for the University of Michigan and how he would play QB with his shoes untied. That was the only justification I needed to run with my shoe untied. The sun was getting sleepy and started fading away behind the trees and I had not put my headlamp on yet so it was beginning to get difficult to see. As I was running up a hill I saw what appeared to be in the distance a deer who was running and stopped dead in its tracks. I wondered to myself if my headlamp had been on if the deer would have frozen until I got closer to it. Instead this one had as much interest in me running as my non-running friends do when I share my running stories. I arrived at the second aid station, refilled my water bottles and I retied the laces in both of my shoes with a double knot so that hopefully they would not come untied again.

I ran into my first problems on the trail after I had left the second aid station when I rolled my right ankle on a rock. This is not typically a problem for me, it happens quite a bit on rocky terrain. I have learned that if I keep running it typically takes care of itself. I rolled the ankle a second time and I still had no real cause for concern. The third time it happened was much worse than the first two times and it slowed me to a walk m. All three times happened within a one mile segment on the trail. I drank a little bit of water and took the opportunity to get out my head lamp because it would not be much longer until I needed it to help find my way in the dark. It was not until I put my water bottle up that I realized I had a 2 inch splinter sticking out of my hand from where I had grabbed on to a tree to keep me from falling. I pulled the splinter out and I slowly worked my way back into a jog and then into a run and I pressed on into the night.

The rest of my first loop of 18 miles did not get much better. I found myself rolling my right ankle more frequently with each mile. I had to walk through the more rocky areas and running on the dirt trails. At one point after rolling my ankle again I started hoping the next time would be my left one. I made my way into the last aid station before the start/finish line, I refilled my bottles and I took a seat for a little bit to check out my ankle. I noticed that it had started swelling quite a bit and I knew I had two more miles of trail left to make a decision about finishing this race. This was the first time in any race I had even thought about not finishing. My first trail race I got lost and ran an extra mile and a half and did not even think about quitting.

I left the aid station and I thought about three letters. DNF. Did not finish. I started weighing the benefits of grinding out another 18 mile loop of this rocky terrain on my now swollen right ankle versus the benefits of stopping. I went back and forth in my mind over stopping or pushing through for one more loop. Each step I took left me more even more indecisive. Each step on my right foot told me to stop and each step with my left foot told me to ignore my right foot (we don’t need him) and finish this thing. I even pushed my pace a little to see if my ankle could handle it. Right foot had the strongest argument and I decided that today was not going to be my day to finish this race. I would finish strong and turn in my timing chip when I crossed the start/finish line.

I crossed the line and I went over to the grassy area next to the aid station and I sat down for a little bit because I was not quite ready to quit. Maybe it is the competitor in me or possibly my stubbornness and mentioned earlier, but something that told me if I just sat down for a little bit I would be fine and I could start up and finish the race. Ultimately as I sat there I thought about how many people have donated their hard earned money towards my fundraising campaign to Stop MS! I thought about all of my other teammates on this relay across the US. I committed to run 167 miles from Ohio to Pennsylvania and I would be starting my segment in a little over a month. I decided risking a more serious injury and losing training time would be selfish of me so I got up and walked over to turn my timing chip in and told them I would not be finishing the 60K today. They gave me a 30K medal for all of the miles that I did complete and I was not sure that I wanted it because I did not complete the 60K distance. As I sit here writing this I believe that this could quite possibly be my favorite race medal because it is a reminder of my first DNF and motivation to make every single training run count. Most likely this will not be my last DNF and I am okay with that. I did not start running because I thought it would be easy. Ultimately my goal is to complete a 100 mile race and this is part of my journey to get there.

When I get knocked down, I’ll get back up. I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I’ll strive to be the grittiest.

Angela Duckworth, “Grit”

Everybody Lives

I looked across the room at the microwave that showed me clearly that the time was 4:32am or at least as clearly as one can see when they first wake up. It was an hour before I planned on getting up to start my race day routine but I didn’t care. I rolled out of bed, found a shirt put on some shoes, then I made my way down to the hotel lobby where I knew hot coffee was there waiting for me. Breakfast would be served in a grab bag at 6 am but I would already be gone by the time they put them out. The hotel provided coffee twenty-four hours a day and I had some cliff bars that I had brought along which combined with coffee would be my fuel to start the day. As I made my way down the hallway back to my room I realized the soreness in my legs that I had brought with me on the trip was gone. This week had been a tough training week for me. I had gone all out on my strength training early in the week and followed that up with a challenging speed work out the day after as well. Needless to say when Thursday rolled around I was wondering if I would even be able to walk let alone run the Wildflower half marathon trail run when the weekend rolled around. I stayed true to my training plan on Thursday and Friday because my commitment to running 167 miles as the segment 17 runner for MS Run the US is more important than any race I run. I see these trail races as training runs to help prepare me for my segment of the relay which I am told is very hilly. Don’t get me wrong I am one hundred percent a competitor and doing part of my training in a racing environment really helps me push through the tough times mentally and physically. 

I thought that after running other trail races I had seen and experienced every challenge I would face at the Wildflower trail run. I was wrong. Other trails had elevation gains, roots, rocks, mud, and hot temperatures so I was ready for that. Sand was something I had not planned for, or even considered to be a challenge on a trail race until I experienced it myself. I am not talking about just a little bit of sand on a hard surface, I am talking about sand deep enough for you to sink down with every step you take. You would think that an ex beach volleyball player would have an advantage running on sand but he does not. My first thought was that I could run much faster in sand if I took my shoes off.  I didn’t do that because I am not Barefoot Ted, and I also knew that would not be a smart thing to do on a trail race where the terrain changed every mile or so. I don’t know that my pace slowed much when running in the sandy areas but mentally I felt like I was moving much slower. The plus side was that running in sand was a much softer surface and there are definitely benefits to that as well.

I typically listen to audio books when I am traveling long distances in my truck and after my book finished I was still about an hour away from my destination. Not long enough to get far into an other book so I opted for the songs on my playlist. I mention this because on long runs I find myself reflecting over the book I am currently reading or listening to but today I found myself thinking about one of the songs I heard on my drive. “Everybody Lives” by Granger Smith is a song that for some reason resonated with me while out on the trails during this race. Check out the song if you haven’t heard it, but it is basically about how every persons life will end one day, but not everyone lives life while they are alive. Hundreds of us were out on the trail running and we all have a different story and a reason why we do what we do. Living life for everyone does not mean lacing up a pair of shoes and running trails or roads either. Living life is different for each one of us and I think that it is okay for us to not understand every persons journey in life. I do believe that part of living life is through each of us sharing our stories with one another. I have not flown around the world, climbed Everest, hiked the Appalachian or Pacific Trails but my own life experiences bring the stories of those who have to life for me. 

We started the trail race with an out and back to touch the tower which was 1.4 miles before we began our two loop of 6.2 miles each. I have never been one to start off with a crazy fast pace on a long distance run but many people took off very fast on this one. I took off at about half speed knowing that it would likely be 2-3 miles before I fell into a comfortable pace. Once I completed the tower run and got onto the trail I was met with my first real climbing test of the day and noticed others had slowed to a walk up the climb. I opted to keep running while at the back of my mind wondering if everyone else knew something I didn’t know and that this was a sign of things to come for the rest of the loop. I made it through the climb and got into more normal trail running with some roots, rocks, and narrow trails. I found it difficult to pass people early on because of how small the trails were in some parts so I would just maintain that person’s pace until an area opened up for me to pass. It was probably three miles into the race before I was able to get out of the congested traffic on the trails. Around mile four I was running in a group with four of us when I caught either a root or possibly a tree stump with my right foot and went flying forward. It all happened in slow motion for me but I felt as if I flew for about 10 feet (actually probably only about 4 foot) before I landed on my left foot and was able to keep my balance and continue running. The guy running behind me asked me if I was okay. I had not slowed my pace and felt zero pain in my left leg so I replied “yes”. I felt good and started thinking back to seven years earlier about how scared I had been to even take a single step after the knee surgery on that same leg. I thought about all of the hours of physical therapy and even acupuncture that was done to get me back to full strength. I did not know back then that trail running would be something in my future. One minor right ankle roll a quarter mile after my trip and I am happy to report that was the only other misstep for the rest of the trail run. 

It was hot and it was humid. Well it may have only been humid to me because I have done the majority of my running in San Angelo or Amarillo where it is hot and dry. I am told that my segment of the relay is pretty humid so I believe that any time that I can run with humidity will help me as well. I spent a large part of this race adjusting my hat. I typically wear my hat with the bill facing forward because it keeps more sweat out of my face that way. There were times on the trails that there would be random cool breezes of air in my face and I would turn my had backwards so that I could absorb as much of the cooler air as I could. I would turn the hat back around when the breeze went away and the sun was shining down on me. It was a back and forth game that I played the entire race and I am sure that anyone running behind me for any prolonged period of time found amusing. 

I chose once again at this trail race not to take any water with me because the aid stations were not spaced too far apart and I wanted to carry as little extra weight with me as possible. I also run in basketball shorts for no real reason other than that is what I have always worn. I tell you this because after the last aid station stop I realized just how heavy my shorts were. Its not what you are probably thinking though. I didn’t pee on myself while I was running. My shirt had been completely soaked with sweat since mile five of the race and it could not absorb any more sweat at that point. I believe that every other drop of sweat worked its way down into my shorts and chosen to stay along for the rest of the race with me. I actually had to tighten the drawstring and roll up the waistband in my shorts while on the run to keep them from falling down as I pressed on to the finish line. My watch screen was wet and I did not have a dry piece of clothing on me to dry it off so that I could complete my run on Strava. It is probably time for me to look into something other than basketball shorts to run in.

I crossed the last bridge on the trail and I knew I was getting close to the area where I would turn on to a paved road where I would sprint uphill to the end. I made the turn and I gave everything I had until crossed the finish line (14th out of 104). I am not certain why I love sprinting to the end of every trail race but I do. It doesn’t matter the distance I always end up finding something deep down to push me all out to finish a race. It leaves me wondering after the race how much more I could have done while out on the trail but I don’t lose any sleep over it. Every single mile whether on a paved road, rocks, roots, sand on a trail, or on a treadmill (only out of necessity of course) is run with the goal of creating awareness of multiple sclerosis and raising funds so that one day we can wipe out this terrible disease.

Wisdom Teeth, Geronimo, and Running

I knew committing to run 167 miles in a six day period would be a huge challenge. I also knew that training for that challenge would be tough. I was also fully aware that having all of my wisdom teeth pulled would be painful. Why I thought that running through the pain would be easy I will never know.

The pain from having my wisdom teeth pulled I do not have words to explain. My entire life I have heard people talk about how much it hurts but it’s one of those things I did not fully comprehend until I lived it. I have had three knee surgeries and a shoulder surgery and there is no comparison. Ice was my saving grace in recovery and pain management with those surgeries. I am currently six days in and I am still taking pain medications for my wisdom teeth.

I did manage to get my first run in last night and it was pretty painful. It was only a four mile run but I did manage a decent pace as well. I typically do not take water with me on such a short run but I decided I needed to this time just in case. Also because Coach told me to take water with me. My first mile was at a surprisingly quick pace and I felt good. About half way into my second mile the pain reminded me that it was still there and was not going away anytime soon. I drank a little water to see if it would help but it did not. In fact it made me a little nauseous. As I continued to run I started thinking about a passage from Mike Leach’s book Geronimo which is one of my favorite books of all time.

“Young boys had to run more than ten miles, up and down mountains, carrying water or rocks in their mouths the entire time; they could spit out the rocks or water only at the end of the run. This proved their endurance and toughness. The exercise also taught them to breathe through their noses.” 

Geronimo, Mike Leach, Buddy Levy

I have always been fascinated with how the Apache warriors trained. I believe that learning about how they trained was the first time I started questioning my own ideas of what the human body is capable of. Training the way they did was for their own survival. I definitely do not have to train the way the Apache did to survive in todays world because everything I need is available to me at the swipe of a debit card or click of a mouse. I don’t know what all my body is capable of but I intend to find out on this running journey.

I decided to try one of the training methods for send by the Apache. I filled my mouth up with water while I was running instead of drinking or spitting it out to see if that would help me with the pain. I figured at the least it would help me work on breathing through my nose better which is something I have been placing a lot of focus on over my past few months of training anyways. It did not make all of my pain go away but it did seem to help. It also took my mind off of the pain as well because I started thinking about what it would be like to start each day off with a ten mile run up and down a mountain with water in my mouth.

I don’t think that there is a cure all for running when you have your wisdom teeth pulled. Running with a mouth full of water was definitely helpful for me. Its not lost on me that I might be just a little dramatic complaining about this. However, I did start this blog to share my story as I train to do a marathon a day for six days in a row. The highs, lows, good, bad, and the downright embarrassing.

Running 167 miles in six days is the biggest challenge I have ever accepted. I definitely made my training plan tougher by having my wisdom teeth taken out in the middle of it. One day I will not have an extra pain to deal with while I am running and I will appreciate those days so much more after making it through this. I also know that there be some tough times in the middle of my 167 mile adventure and remembering days like today will help me be able to push through to the end.