A Storm’s Brewing

Asthma sucks. If you’ve been reading you’ll know that I have asthma. Getting my lungs to cooperate with me is an ongoing battle that results in some pretty bad runs. But, there are good days and ok days and lots of other days in between the bad ones.

Sometimes, usually in the summer, I can just feel the asthma attack coming. I wake in the morning with a little hitch in my breathing. “Tight” is what my doctor calls it. Things just aren’t working right and I know that sooner or later it’s going to result in an episode of some pretty bad breathing. It happened this week on race day. I regularly run in a local cross country race. It’s a great race with lots of friends and a fun course. Unfortunately, it’s also plagued by some pretty wicked weather. On this particular race day I woke up breathing slowly. My lungs just weren’t as motivated for the day as I was. I took my usual morning meds and things didn’t improve. All day, I knew an asthma attack was coming. Maybe not a proper, full-on attack, but I could feel something building.

I had a decision to make. In the past, I’ve had good luck triggering a mild first attack to get it out of my system and then running later. Usually, I can get a little wheezy, recover, and then run well. I’ve never had a two-attack day. It’s a strategy I used a lot to perform well in races when I was younger. I didn’t really care about the outcome of this race. I wasn’t planning to race race – just have a good time with friends. And there I was, ready to trigger an attack to run well in a casual, local race. The whole thing suddenly seemed silly. If I didn’t care about my time and was only running for fun, why would I need to run well – and why would I trigger an asthma attack to do it? I decided to take my chances in the race.

While I was running, feeling worse and worse, I had the sudden realization that I do the little trigger an attack routine mostly so other people don’t see it and worry. Sometimes I really care how I do and I want to run well. Mostly, I want to avoid the concern/pity I get when I am clearly struggling to breathe. Any time I have an episode of bad breathing, people engage in the concern/pity questions – even people who’ve seen me had multiple attacks and who know I have asthma. Did you bring your inhaler? (No – I never do. Ever. Never have.) Are you going to be ok? (Yes. Always am.) Did I remember to pre-treat? (Of course) And, the worst one – Bad day for you, huh? Sigh. I get it. Asthma is distressing. But it is what it is. Sure, sometimes I imagine what it might be like to just run, with no 30-minute nebulizer routine, but that isn’t going to happen. Mostly, I just want people to accept my poor breathing with minimum distress – the same as we all accept that one really sweaty guy in every group run. It’s just his way. I have a little trouble breathing sometimes. That’s my way. It always passes. I appreciate the concern, but I’m really ok. Really.

Troy Conquers 26.2: How it All Began

The cardboard snack box of post race treats was the only thing keeping me moving.  After running 13.god-awful many miles, I could only curse my family for having the audacity to make me walk to them. That last half mile was harder than the previous 13.1 and all I wanted to do was eat a banana.

My first half marathon was the Walt Disney World 2014 Half Marathon and it didn’t end pretty.  I came in behind my desired time and with plantar fasciitis flaring up to the point of limping.  I swore off running as I hobbled through the crowds in search of a place to collapse and eat.

By the bottom of the snack box, I said I would do it again next year.  All 13.1 miles.

Troy at Disney

Two weeks later my sister, our own Dr.Rachel, was telling me that if I could finish a half I could finish a whole.  Somehow I believed her enough to agree and start planning the next trip to Disney.  A month later, it was the no longer just my first marathon but the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge.  Why not run a half and then full having only completed one of the former and none of the later?  I was in.

It took 71 days to go from finishing my first half marathon to asking Dr.Rachel one very stupid question – ‘if we are doing the Goofy race, why not just do the Dopey and run all four?’.  When running 39.3 miles already, what is another 9.3?  It took 71 days from swearing off running to trying to convince Dr.Rachel that a 48.6 mile challenge run was a good idea.  Brain worms.  It had to be some sort of cerebral parasite.

Since Disney, I have completed five more races including my first sub-30 5K and my second half marathon (20K but who is counting the miles?).  I am comparing the official WDW/Jeff Galloway running plan with races in my area.  A half marathon through scenic mid-Michigan on a long run weekend in October – sign me up.  40+ mile weeks through December in Michigan – better start trying out wool socks now.  A 50 mile week around Christmas – hope Santa brings me new shoes.  Brain worms.  Something is deeply wrong with me.

Troy's Fast 5k

Dr.Rachel has asked me to guest write on my experiences training for my first marathon and I have agreed.  Occasionally I will pop in and detail the horrors of my first marathon experience.  The official Disney Training plan started July 1st but thanks to Dr.Rachel I was already running a half marathon.  I dropped 2 min/mile off my time from 6 months previous and then set a 5KPR the next day.  Two weeks of mild rest later, I am ready to start serious  running again.  This weekend – Warrior Dash MI and a 5.5 mile training run.  Should be fun.

Race Recap: The Coach Kelly Races

Why run one race in Michigan when you can run two?! Because my siblings and I are all a little crazy (well, me, mostly) about running, we decided to run a second race the day after our big Volkslaufe event. We searched some of our favorite race sites and came up with the Coach Kelly Races. I knew nothing about the event, only that there was a 5k that my brother had signed me up to run.

The Coach Kelly Races are named after St. Louis cross country coach Steve Kelly and the race was started in 2006 with a 5k. The race is now an annual tradition in St. Louis, Michigan and is held July 4th weekend. This year was the 9th running of the 5k. The races also feature a 10k and a kids’ mile.

Race morning, my siblings and I headed to St. Louis, a tiny town in the middle of Michigan. The weather was perfect – 55 degrees and sunny.

Coach Kelly Races

It was a super low key event. There wasn’t a line for packet pick up, and packet pick up was hosted by the race director, his wife, and his young daughter. We got a really nice, bright green technical race shirt. I was impressed by the quality of the shirt and will actually wear it again. Most people seemed to know one another. The race start and finish were at the tiny town square. With time to spare, we warmed up, waited around, and watched the kids’ mile (adorable!). We lined up at the start of the 5k with some serious runners, some runners who looked like they were there for fun, and a large group of walkers. The course was perfect small town Michigan. It was well marked and staffed by plenty of volunteers. The course went over a bridge, along a small river, and through quiet neighborhoods. A quick tour past a school and we were back on Main Street and headed for the finish line. The course was hillier than I expected for the area, meaning it had one little tiny hill, but a great 5k course.

Coach Kelly 5k Elevation

At the finish line, there was professional timing, complete with all the amenities typical of a much larger race, including chip timing, a big clock, and a well-marked finish area. Runners were treated to Powerade, cookies, banana, and granola bars. Runners gathered for the results and awaited the last place finisher, an amazing older man who was a true inspiration. Though he wasn’t moving fast, he completed the whole 5k with a cane and a pronounced limp. Everyone cheered as he crossed the finish line.

Coach Kelly 5k last place

When the results were read, we were all thrilled to find out that my brother and sister-in-law placed in their age groups!

Coach Kelly Races 5k

With a small field, and fairly fast times for a local race, both of them had raced well. Overall, the Coach Kelly Races was a great event. I was impressed with the attention to detail, the organization, and the overall high quality of the event. The races had the perks of a big city race, but without all the hassle. The small town atmosphere was charming and the course was great. I would definitely run the Coach Kelly Races again.

Pure Michigan Running

Over the Fourth of July, I headed to my home state, Michigan, for a quick visit. While in town, I couldn’t resist a few races. First up was the Volkslaufe. Volkslaufe (German for “the people’s race” is one of my favorite Fourth of July traditions. What started as a small, hometown race has grown over the years. This year, the race was featured in Runners World Magazine. What I love about the Volkslaufe is that, despite its growth, it hasn’t lost the hometown charm. For example, a giant tractor greeted runners at packet pick up, held in a local event hall.

Volkslaufe packet pick up

My siblings and I were able to easily pick up our packets without waiting in line, and quickly made our way through the tiny expo. The Volkslaufe includes 4 races, a 20k, 10k, 5k, and 2k children’s race. The races are all held on July 4th every year.

This year I chose the 20k, with a course that winds through some of the best Michigan farmland. The weather was perfect, about 75 degrees and sunny. I had on my Fourth of July best, and was ready to run with my sister-in-law (who raced her way to a HUGE PR, by the way).

Volkslaufe

Runners exit town almost immediately and head out past corn fields, soybean fields, and pretty much every other crop Michigan has to offer. The views are stunning and the farmhouses are well-maintained. I loved running through the countryside. The breeze was blowing, the birds were chirping, and the course was smooth. The course began to loop back towards town, over a gorgeous old bridge and along a short dirt road. About 10 miles into the 20k, the course heads back in towards town and through lovely, mature neighborhoods. Spectators were few and far between, but those that were out were enthusiastic. Running behind the classic restaurant, Zehnder’s, the course geared up for its big finish. The last mile or so is run along the Cass River, over a classic, wooden covered bridge, and into Heritage Park. The course is one of my favorites and this year was no exception. The weather was perfect, the course was pretty, and the small-town hospitality was in full effect. It was a great day for a run!

Volkslaufe 20k Elevation

Volkslaufe 20k Elevation

Race Recap: Worcester Running Festival

My running mom came to my house for my birthday. It was a great week, and we decided the best way to finish the week was with a half marathon. After doing a little research, we found the Worcester Running Festival. I communicated with the race director and determined that walkers were welcome and ensured that mom and I could finish well within the time cut off. We signed up and were looking forward to the opportunity to do a half marathon in a new area.

Race morning we got an early start to head up to Worcester. We were using the map provided by the race organizers and got to Worcester easily. Once we got to Worcester, finding parking was another story. We randomly drove around the city. The parking map didn’t include addresses for the parking lots, so we couldn’t GPS the parking lots and the map wasn’t to scale, so it was very difficult to find the parking. Add to that the massive construction zone around the race start area, closed streets, and streets with different names than the map and it was chaos. Luckily, we drove past a parking garage. We pulled in and didn’t care that we would have to pay. We had been driving for 20 minutes and hadn’t managed to find any of the free lots suggested by the organizers. Our parking garage was just feet from the race start, so it seemed like a perfect parking spot.

Wrocester Finish Line

We headed to the race start area to pick up our packets and use the bathrooms (it was a long drive). Upon arriving, we saw that the porta potty line was already ridiculously long. We were there more than an hour before race start – the volunteers were still setting up the finish line – but the line for the porta potty was wrapped around the block. There were way too few potties for the number of people. The line got long and stayed long.

Wrocester bathroom line

After waiting about a half hour, it was nearly time for the race to start. We hustled to the start to get in line. At start time, the bathroom line was still around the block. Nothing happened. Five minutes after the start, someone announced that the race would be starting in five more minutes. Ten minutes later, nothing had happened. Finally, 15 minutes after the scheduled start, announcements began. The race got underway about 20 minutes late. It wasn’t terrible considering that the temperature was good and the sun was shining, but I would have been irritated had I been warmed up and planning to race.

The race course exited Worcester proper pretty quickly and entered an area of neighborhoods with historic homes. It was lovely. The course had some rolling hills and was generally shady and quiet.

Photo credit: Cynthia T

Photo credit: Cynthia T

There were a number of walkers and we were in good company at the back of the pack. The course wound through neighborhoods and past several interesting parts of Worcester. I had not heard the most flattering things about Worcester, so I was pleasantly surprised. Mom and I enjoyed seeing the homes and parks. The volunteers were supportive and cheered wildly when we passed. After the neighborhoods, the course went out into the far reaches of the city and took a T up and down what looked like a minor highway. Though the scenery wasn’t particularly interesting, the road was mostly flat and passed a nice reservoir. We headed back into the neighborhoods, heading toward race finish. Back in town, the course went through the main part of Worcester. This was the Worcester I had heard about. Trash blew around our feet. Broken glass littered the sidewalk and houses had broken porches, bars on the windows, and long grass. Several individuals were drinking from paper bags while sitting on the streets. We drew comments from a few such individuals and hurried along. There was a lot of traffic on the main road, so we were eager for a turn off the street. It finally came, and we headed into the deserted business area. Soon, the finish line was upon us. It was well marked and the finish line announcers were upbeat and fun.

Worcester Running Festival Elevation

Worcester Running Festival Elevation

We next headed over to the main square for some food and water. The water was warm and the food selection was less than appetizing – pizza that had been sitting out for hours and warm yogurt. We passed on the food, took our water, and headed for home.

Mom had raced well and the real disappointment came when results were posted. She wasn’t listed in the results. According to the results, she didn’t cross the finish line or the start line. I immediately emailed the timing company and provided the verification – mom was in the start line video crossing the start right next to me, wearing her number, and in the finish line photos right next to me. Three days later I got an email back that said the problem I reported had been corrected. Mom still wasn’t in the results. I emailed again, and emailed the race organizers. I haven’t heard back and mom still isn’t listed in the results.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this race. The race itself was ok – the course was well-marked and the volunteers were nice. Unfortunately, the course wasn’t pretty. The start wasn’t well organized, amenities were lacking. The shirt was hideous, and medal a bit on the cheap side. And, there was nothing edible at the finish line. It wasn’t the best. I’m glad mom and I had fun together, but I won’t be back.