Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Ailment: "C Diff"

I have been in pretty good health my whole life. Like everyone, I have had my share of sickness, but nothing like what I have been dealing with as of late. It all started just a touch over three weeks ago. At first I though it was just a stomach virus because everyone around our area was sick with some sort of flu like symptom. A few days turned into a week, and then a week turned into two. I then began to have stomach/bowel issues. The cramping and pain started to get worse. The smell was unbearable. I pushed it off and kept working and acting like it was nothing. My wife, Jerri, kept telling me to go see my doctor. She said it was not just a basic illness. Going to the bathroom anywhere from 15 to 30 plus times a day is not normal. And after a really severely painful night last Wednesday, I broke down and made the appointment.

And after seeing my doctor the following day, I ended up in the hospital. After being poked, prodded, and stuck with needles, I was then put through a CT scan. Because I had not been able to produce a stool sample, and because I hadn't eaten in a few days, I had lost 16 pounds. Later on that night my results came back...not good. My entire colon had thickening in the wall and was infected. Underneath my colon (trying to walk a thin line as to not be too gross) was infected as well. And since I wasn't able to produce a sample, I was diagnosed with Colitis, and also Ulcerative Colitis. I was also told I was at risk of having colon cancer.

I cried. I cried a lot. I kept thinking of my wife and two young girls. I felt as if I was letting them down. Those three girls are my entire world...and I didn't want to lose that. I had posted to Facebook about what was going on and the love and support just started flowing in. Emails and phone calls from longtime friends to cheer me up. It worked until I was alone. When you are alone and worried, many many bad thoughts can creep in...and they did. In the early hours of Saturday I cried like never before.

On Saturday morning I produced enough to send to the lab to be checked for cultures and infections. By mid day I knew what was going on. While taking Clindamycin for a severe sinus infection in late January, that caused me to be infected with Colostridium Dificile Colitis. Better known as "C Diff."

C Diff is a potentially deadly intestinal bacteria if not treated correctly. On average, it kills 14,000 people per year. It is painful and can last weeks even with treatment. Let me just say this is again, it is painful, very painful. It will take a while to feel 100 percent again, but that's OK. At least I am on the road to recovery, and that is great news. The nights have been long, the pain is intense, and sleeping is coming in large amounts. I am getting better. That is my personal mantra while awake.

I can't thank you all enough for the well wishes, prayers, and love that you have shown. The outpouring has been tremendous and I am forever grateful for that.

And to you, Jerri Jackson. I love you more than words can say. If I didn't have your support through this, your help, YOU. I wouldn't have been able to deal with this.

(This is the short version. I was in and out of the hospital and right now I still don't have a lot of energy. Hope this helps for everyone who had questions)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Back Injury- My Personal Setback

Here I sit, February 8th, thinking of all that I wanted to do in 2014. This was supposed to be the year I proved my worth on the local scene in running. I had put in the miles, did the training, and was mentally prepared to really go all out. And then January 30th rolled around and ended my running for the next six weeks. While I don't know how this exactly happened, here is what I do know.

After working a hard shift at work, I came home and went for a descent run in the snow and ice. When I woke up to get ready for work, the pain was there. I didn't feel any pain at all while working, nor did I feel any pain while running. This is why I cannot answer how or what happened when people ask. I simply do not know. I didn't think much of it and went ahead like this was a normal night. I figured it was tight muscles due to a heavy night at work, or possibly from sliding and slipping on the ice while running. But as the next few days came and went, the pain worsened.

On February 5th, my wife convinced me to go to the ER at the hospital. I was in a lot of pain at this point and didn't hesitate to go. After running some tests, as well as x-rays, they concluded that I had a herniated disc in my lower back. The medicine they gave me worked somewhat, yet the pain was still very noticeable. I was told to take it easy and set up an appointment with my doctor as soon as possible. On Friday the 7th, I found out the real news. None of which is good.

Not only do I have a herniated disc, there is a mild convex and left curvature to the lumbar spine, which could mean a possible slight case of Scoliosis. There is also some mild degenerative disc disease present at T12 - L1 and L1-L2. As well as mild degenerative changes of the lumbar spine and lower thoracic spine. In layman's terms: my back is a train wreck from the middle to the bottom of my tail bone, or the coccyx region. More medicine was given to help with the pain and more instructions were given. And this time I will listen and follow.

The main instruction was to take it easy so the pain will subside. So NO running at all for the next 6 weeks. I am to follow up with them in 1 to 2 weeks to let them know how I feel. If I am still in pain the next level will be taken....whatever that means. Quite honestly, I am afraid to ask. That's it in a nutshell. No running for a runner. The death sentence, if you will. I just hope when this is all done I can still log long miles. Thank you to all who have wished me well and mentioned me with kind words. Have a great day......

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Orange Mud HydraQuiver: My Review

Have you ever noticed that there are, or seem to be, a hundred new running products coming out with each passing year? New shorts that will make you run more efficiently, shirts that will cause less chafing. Shoes that will make you run like a gazelle, etc etc. We all buy into this hype because we want to believe the hype is real. Everyone has their favorite, and everyone's favorite is the best. Especially when it comes to hydration packs. Go to Twitter, Facebook, or any running site and this topic can get heated. Thus is why I sit back and scour reviews, products, and companies before I buy into anything.

Over the years I have bought a fair share of hydration packs and liked none of them. I could never get use to the taste that the bladder left behind. Plus I never liked carrying a heavy sloshing bag on my back for hours at a time. To me, they are a pain to clean and maintain. BUT that's just me. And even though I prefer to drink from bottles, I like my hands to be free. Runners can be so demanding.

All of the above mentioned led me to a promising "new" company based out of Corona, California. Orange Mud was envisioned by Josh Sprague after a few glasses of wine and years of dealing with waist belts and hydration packs. I was intrigued by the concept of taking the bottle of of your hand and putting it on your back. Add in a plush and comfy shoulder/back harness and some space to carry your essentials, and that's it. No overkill at all. After reading their website and looking at reviews, I instantly ordered their HydraQuiver hydration pack.

For the record, until I actually try the product itself, I am always skeptical when reading reviews. So for a few days (until the pack arrived) I kept wondering about a few things. A) How does it NOT move around if there is no chest strap to secure it? B) How will the bottle feel on my back when running?

As soon as it arrived, it was out of the package and on my back. My first question was answered as I found out that my upper body is what keeps it from moving around. I could see that Josh had done his homework when designing this pack. I absolutely loved the feel of it. It didn't feel like a standard hydration pack at all. It actually felt...natural. Again, well played Josh. I then hopped into my running gear and tested the HydraQuiver out.

I tested it on the road first, then moved to the hard packed C&O Canal in Williamsport, Maryland. On the way down I would intentionally reach back and pull the bottle out, then put it back in. I did this while keeping a brisk pace to see how it will fare when racing. I was amazed at how easy it was. And even with a camera, phone, keys, and tin of ENERGYbits, the fit stayed the same. Did I mention NO movement? You read that right. None...nothing at all. For five miles it was a smooth ride on my back. My thoughts? Happy!! Yet I wanted to see how it would hold up running on uneven terrain. I then picked some hills and bombed them to see if the pack would move or if the bottle would fall out.

Again...perfection! The pack just did not move on me. Like I mentioned before, running products come and they go. Great products stand the test of time, and great minds come up with even better products for us to love. Josh and his team at Orange Mud have created a product for those of us that dislike packs, belts, and running with bottles in our hands. Such a simple idea that goes beyond simple. While out running or racing I will no longer waist time wondering about my pack. And when running in the woods, no matter what time of day, I will have my hands free in case of a fall. No more lost time at aid stations trying to fill, seal, and fix a pack. Just fill my bottle and go. And if one bottle won't do, the new Double Barrel certainly will.

So here goes. Pros and Cons.

Double stitching on almost all of the seams.
Maximum breath-ability - Super cushy foam padding.
Weighs in at 3/4 of a pound.
Sits perfectly in the middle/upper part of your back.
Easy to loosen and tighten while running.
Ample room for accessories.
Made in the U.S.A.
Top of the line Specialized water bottle.
A great return policy

I honestly really have none. Wait...I do have one thing. My only Con is that I don't have the Double Barrel.

I am loving my HydraQuiver and believe in Orange Mud so much that I am now a running ambassador for Josh and his team. I am excited for the future and can't wait to see what is in store for 2014. So whether you run trails, roads, ride bikes, or even SUP, Orange Mud has your back covered...literally. They really are worth it! Thanks for taking time to read my review. You really can't go wrong with Orange Mud.

~Enjoying Some Trail Time~

~Kid Tested .... Daddy Approved~

~Check Them Out At Here: Orange Mud~

Sunday, January 12, 2014

600 Miles and Counting: My SKORA Phase Review

As you can see from the above photo, I am not kind to my shoes. So.......

Here I sit, January 12th of 2014, and I am stoked beyond belief. I am stoked because I have beat the crap out of my SKORA Phase's and they have yet to say "No Mas." How could a single pair of shoes go over 600 miles without falling apart, breaking down, quitting? Because the fine folks at SKORA know how to build real running shoes that last. Like that famous bunny, they just keep going and going...

Back in June of 2013 I typed up my first review of the Phase, which you can find here: My Initial Review. I broke it down in that review about the weight, which is 7.2 ounces. The asymmetrical lacing, outsole, and their being a zero drop shoe. Basically everything you need or want to know when buying a new pair of shoes. I want to really stick with the outsole this time around, which is called the R02 System. Because of the way it is made, and what it is made with, (IBR) Injected Blown Rubber, the sole actually breaks down evenly from front to back. Thus is the sole reason I am typing this up today, and why I will be typing again to you at 1,000 miles.

Now I am not saying every pair of Phase's will be able to go 1,000 miles. It all depends on form, terrain, etc. However, I have faith that I can make mine last that long. And if they don't? Lets just say I am going to have fun seeing how far I can make them go. Below you will see what my pair looked like brand new, and below that you will see what they look like now.

As you can see, I am a forefoot striker. That is where there is minimal breakdown. But other than the forefoot area...still like new. Hardly any wear and NO breakdown. That's how the R02 system works. And because of this technology, those who run/race/walk in SKORA's don't have to worry about their shoe causing them injury (from breaking down). That's a win-win!! As for me, I mainly run my Phase's on the hard packed dirt of the C&O Canal now because I like the feel I get when wearing them on it. Some may say that is the reason they have lasted so long. SOME people just aren't believers. Why do I say that? Because I have run other brands on the canal and they have fallen to pieces well before 400 miles. I'm talking upper and sole.

That's not the case with the Phase. While there has been some minimal wear underneath, the upper has stayed intact. I have had no issues with holes, rubbing, the shoes coming undone...nothing. They are the same as the day they arrived. I attribute that to the fine detail of the design and the way the shoe is constructed. Simply put...they paid close attention when making their shoes. They're not some mass market shoe company that pumps out thousands and thousands of shoes daily. For that I am grateful.

I have enjoyed every mile in these shoes. From my fastest 50k (roads) to the countless muddy miles on the canal, these shoes have not disappointed me. I have logged runs on the Appalachian Trail, in 4 inches of snow, and through standing water along the canal. Only time will beat these shoes into retirement. Time is what I have.

If you haven't tried SKORA yet, or have been wondering if they're worth it, I hope this helps. I honestly believe they are the best shoes on the market. See you at 1,000!!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Orange Mud Equals Awesome!

If you are a runner, hiker, walker, biker...please remember this name: Orange Mud Hydration Packs. This great "new" company from Corona, California is making waves in the running/biking industry. Why? Because they have a concept that REALLY works! (more on that later when I do my formal review next week).

What I really wanted to do today (with this blog) is to tell you how great they are. Not the brand itself, which it is, but the team working to get your products to you as fast as possible. Social media sites like Twitter handcuff you to quick responses so it's hard to get the point across. On Facebook, one has to be your friend to see what you write. With a blog, the world can see it. That's my have anyone and everyone know how awesome this company is.

I went to their website yesterday (Jan-10th) to order the HydraQuiver hydration pack. I also ordered their really cool Running Hat. As an online shopper, I figured I would get an email within 24 hours saying it would ship next business day. Pretty standard business practice. Well OrangeMud isn't pretty standard. Less than 30 minutes later I had an email in my inbox saying my order had been processed and was being shipped!

I was stoked! Heck, as I type this a day later, I still am. This isn't some big corporation that sees us as a number or a dollar sign. They see us as what we are, a real life consumer. Some of you may think I am stretching the truth with this, yet I am not. How many times have you ordered something and it didn't ship for days? Maybe because there was a high demand or because some other reason slowed them down.

With Orange Mud, I don't see that happening. They're a small company that is growing quickly because of word of mouth and great products. Products and gear that are made in the U.S.A. and that carry one heck of a lifetime warranty. So before you think about that big company that charges a two days pay for a hydration pack, remember Orange Mud and buy from people that really want our business.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2013- My Year In Review

As I look back on 2013 and my year in running, I am mostly pleased. I know there are things I could do better, and times where I could be smarter. Running sure isn't easy to figure out.

The Sole Challenge 24 Hour Race was my only sanctioned race of 2013. I have mixed feelings about this race. While I had a good time with great people, I only managed 63+ miles. I should have been closer to 100, yet I ran with a torn rotator cuff. It was very painful and gave me problems the whole time. No regrets though because Rick Meyers and his staff put on an excellent race.

From just a running standpoint, it was a great year. By far my best year since starting. From the start I wanted to hammer as hard as I could. I dropped a 141 mile week by January 13th and logged over 400 miles by the end of the month. I burnt out a little during the really cold months but rebounded in the spring. I then picked up a great ambassadorship with SKORA Running, which is a semi new, but awesome performance running shoe company.

I know training has a lot to do with times, but gear is right up there as well. I dropped a PR for my marathon with a 3:30:19 and finished 30 in 4:39:31. I did that in the Phase model by SKORA. In late August I set out to run to Hancock, Maryland and back. I pushed myself to my limits and had some low points from time to time. However, my nutrition was dialed in that day as I stayed on top of my ENERGYbits and water. I finished 53.02 miles in a time of 8:13:18, by far my biggest PR for that distance!

From spring to summer and into fall, I logged 100 mile weeks every week. This really seemed to work well for me because in the fall I dropped some really great times (for me). It really began in September when I ran a 43:17 for the 10k. I then knew all the long miles were paying off. On November 6th I PR'ed my 1/2 marathon by 10 minutes, having run a 1:27:33. Four days later, and out of nowhere, I ran 4:47:44 for 31.54 miles. Money was a major issue as to why I didn't race in 2013. Having two young daughters, my wife and I have directed all of our time and money into them. But had I raced, I believe I would have been competitive on the local scene.

My last big run came on the 8th of December. It happened on a day/night that was less than ideal. The temperatures were beyond cold and the roads/canal were covered in ice and snow. I had no set route and ran anywhere and everywhere, and finished the day with 59.33 miles. My time was 11:57:40. Some people would, and have questioned why I would waste so much of my time "just running." I honestly believe that if you are not a long distance/ultra runner, there really is no way I can explain this. It's just something we love to do.

As I stated earlier, training is the major reason I had a great year of running. But without the right gear, one cannot do well. I couldn't have done this without the help of the companies backing me. I totaled 4,112 miles in 2013 and suffered no blisters. That's how great Injinji Toe Socks are. I honestly do not have to worry about my feet or toes when I lace up to run, no matter what the distance is. Nor could I have done it without SKORA Running Shoes. I had an arsenal of great shoes to choose from, and loved every style that were sent to me. They really are kick butt awesome! And lastly, ENERGYbits Algae. With these tiny green bits of real food, no gels ever again! Just an amazing food that sustains my endurance for miles and miles. If you get the chance, please check out all of these companies. They really are the best at what they do.

Here's hoping to a great 2014! For me and you! Best of luck in all of your endeavors. Stay safe, stay happy!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

1 Gallon and Counting....

That saying, "it's the little things that mean so much", I couldn't agree more.

I took the leap into being a blood donor for the American Red Cross for various reasons. It is a decision that I am very proud of, and one that can never be taken away. December 23rd was a date that never meant anything to me, just "another" day on the calendar. But from this point forward, I will celebrate that day every year that passes. December 23rd, 2013, marks the day I pledged one gallon's worth of blood to those who need it. But with that said, it almost didn't happen.

I had been looking forward to this day for months, literally. It really was my personal Christmas, and a day that meant everything. My wife, Jerri, and our two young daughters loaded in the car and drove over to the main blood donor center in Hagerstown, Maryland. We arrived about 15 minutes early and I signed in and anxiously waited for 1:00 PM to arrive. It did...and passed. This was my third visit there, and just like the other two before, the "workers" in the back were late. Yes, I know things happen, but when you are the very first person on the list....

A very unfriendly male came out to get me so I could start the process. As he took my information, checked my pulse and blood pressure, I tried to make small can do. Sure, you have to be professional, but this guy was a straight up A-hole. He then pricked my finger and checked my iron level...12.3! As a vegetarian and long distance runner, iron has always been my arch enemy. Being that your iron level has to be 12.5 at minimum, he told me I could not donate. After going back and forth with him for a few minutes, and having no luck, he finally went out to have someone else retest me. Another awesome and personable male came in (sarcasm) and retested me. He barely squeezed any blood into the vile, more air than blood. Ugh!! 12.4!! Still not high enough. He shot me down and told me to come back in a few weeks. I was having none of it. I told him I would go home and get my iron level up and have it done later. He was adamant that I couldn't do it and told me to have a nice day. I didn't like this guy at all.

As luck would have it, our little town of Williamsport was having a blood drive at the American Legion. This is the cool part. I took 200 ENERGYbits and drank a bottle of water. We again packed the kids up for another go at it. I repeated the process and waited. But unlike the main center, everyone in Williamsport had a smile on their face and had a friendly attitude. My volunteer nurse pricked my finger, again with more air than blood, and it came up 12.1!! Now I was starting to worry. However, she was SUPER nice and had a male nurse retest me. I noticed that when he checked me, that he squeezed hard on my finger and filled it completely with blood. The result came back....wait for it....BAM!! 13.6!! He told that me if a little air bubble gets in during the testing, that it can throw the test off. That's what happened the previous three times, not enough blood and too much air. OR the ENERGYbits kicked in and elevated my iron level. Either way, my gallon was happening!

My nurse was the best! She even told Jerri and the girls to pull up a chair and sit right next to me. Emily was super happy about this! Less than ten minutes later, I was done. "Gallon Girl", as she was known, even showed Emily how to fill up the testing tubes. She even mentioned how impressed she was that Emily didn't get sick when watching. I couldn't believe the difference between the nurses at the Legion and the main center. It was like night and day. I have come to the realization that those who volunteer at blood drives do it because they actually love helping! I think this because the three times I have been to the main center, where the workers come down from Johnstown, PA, they have acted a certain way. Like they hate dealing with people. It really is a shame.

Back to "Gallon Girl" and those at the American Legion. I am so glad fate would put me there because they were all amazing! We even got to see Katharine, our elderly volunteer. We have seen her at a few locations over the past year. No matter what, she always takes the time to speak with the girls and make Emily smile. I swear from this point forward that I will only donate at blood drives. No more going back to the main center in Hagerstown. They will not suck the fun out of donating for me. I would rather deal with a volunteer who loves the American Red Cross opposed to a full time worker who goes about it as "just a job."

My next scheduled donation is in February and I am happily awaiting to start on gallon two. I love donating and feel honored after finishing. Knowing that I am helping save lives means more to me than words can express. I never forget my loved ones that have passed, and the donations that kept them going. I think about Brian, my friend that would have passed away had it not been for the many donations that were given to him during surgery after surgery. And to the many faceless victims that have been dealt a bad blow by life. And now I will think of my town of Williamsport, the American Legion...I couldn't be happier to know that is where my gallon was given. Thank You!!

~"Gallon Girl" and myself after my donation~

~Me and Em' biggest supporter~