Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Little Turkey Trot

If you were hoping for a touching tribute to Spike's persistence, courage and maturity, hope on! Today's post deals only tangentially with the Spikester although you will find the obligatory cute Spike picture. You just have to read the whole post first!

One of my sailing buddies, Bad Bob, posted a dangerous link on his Facebook page earlier this week. I'm not a real Facebooker but his post caught my eye. It tells the story of an overweight, middle-aged man who one day decides to go running and, along the lines of Forrest Gump, just keeps on going. The video accompanying the story is quite motivational and it struck a chord with me.

A couple years ago, I was morbidly obese. I'm not going to post a picture because it would probably violate blogspot's Terms of Service. I had no excuse - no underlying health issues, hormonal imbalances or any of that. I just ate too much. One day I was driving along eating french fries and listening to my boys Papa Roach and the song "Change or Die" came on just as I passed the local Lifestyle Family Fitness gym. I looked in the mirror, looked at the gym, pulled in and hired a trainer. After nearly two years of concentrated effort, I had dropped 80 pounds and was in the best shape of my life. I actually enjoyed going to the gym nearly every day. I planned the trip of a lifetime to celebrate my fitness. Two weeks of adventure in New Zealand. Sailing, climbing, scuba diving, hiking and rafting filled my itinerary.

Spike had his first seizure four weeks before I was scheduled to depart.

Throughout his illness, I did my best to keep up my fitness schedule but my diet began to slip as I spent weeks in the hospital, staying up all night and eating junk food. I didn't gain a lot of weight but I certainly wasn't as fit as I would have been without all that pizza. Once Spike went on the ketogenic diet and became seizure free for several months, I returned to the gym and even hired a running coach to give me some pointers on turning running from a necessary evil to a fun activity. It worked and I began to train for my first 5K in late June. I survived the race and planned to pick up the intensity of my exercise ahead of a planned scuba trip to Fiji. As you've probably guessed, a few weeks ahead of THAT trip, Spike's seizures returned. Maybe the little guy just doesn't want me to go far away! He's certainly gotten his wish so far.

My exercise regime completely collapsed through Spike's three recent hospitalizations. I was a little more careful with my diet and only gained three pounds but my endurance and strength evaporated.

Now that Spike is home and healthy, I decided it was time to get serious about fitness again. That's when I came across Bad Bob's posting. The video and related websites motivated me to run another race. Unfortunately, I had the misfortune of recalling that I had actually signed up for the 13th Annual Apex Turkey Trot back in August when Spike was healthy. Today was Trot day. Uh-oh. Fortunately, I had a pile of ready to use excuses. With the exception of one painful mile in Cleveland, I had not run in four weeks. I hadn't run three miles in at least two months. I wanted to spend the morning with Spike. My shoes were dirty. The sun was in my eyes. Fine, no valid excuses. If I didn't run, I was a wimp, a loser. Ok, I can live with that as long as I don't have to sweat or breathe hard to be a loser wimp.


If Spike could go through all that he has, he deserves more than a loser wimp for a Dad. I figured I would go out and just take it easy. If I had to walk the three miles, so be it. I was not going to wimp out.

But I didn't want to walk three miles. If I'm going to run a race then I should run. My first race in June was a disaster in every way except one - I finished faster than my goal time. I threw out all of my training, ran too fast at the start and had a miserable race - but I finished. This time was going to be different.

My wonderful trainers, Sandra and Leslie, use the Jeff Galloway method of running. Basically you run for three minutes then walk for one. Repeat until you cross the finish line. Now that doesn't sound like real running, right? Not until you look back as you cross the finish line and see lots of people struggling far behind you while "really running." Like it or not, the Galloway method works for a lot of people and in our training sessions, it worked for me. Of course, I should have used it in my first race but I had no choice today. There was no way I was going to be able to go out and run three miles non-stop. If I just followed my training, I should be able to cross the line without too much embarrassment or help from EMTs.

Another thing I learned in training is that you are supposed to run at a certain rate of beats per minute - around 90. I don't know why but lots of smart, experienced people have figured this out so I can go with it. One of the issues in my previous training was my choice of running music. I found the fastest, hardest heavy metal and created a pounding playlist to urge me on. Papa Roach, Motley Crue, Metallica. That stuff is great for the first mile - especially if you only have to run a mile. Beyond that, monsters lurk.

Last night, I did a little on line research and found some tools to calculate the beats per minute of various songs. My playlist averaged around 180 BPM. Oops. When I should have been sleeping, I created a new playlist just for today's race. A collection of laid back Eagles tunes that should carry me softly around the lake and into a slow but survivable finish.

After reviewing a fresh list of excuses this morning (it's a nice day, I can't find my iPhone holder, the tires on the truck need air), I couldn't find any good ones so I headed for the park to join 600 other lunatics in a little unnecessary exercise.

With five minutes to go before the start, I hit the phone and started my music. Papa Roach's "Days of War" warmed me up. As long as I wasn't actually running, I figured some good punk metal would get my blood flowing. Unfortunately, the Eagles' "Learn To Be Still" came up next. Huh? That was supposed to be at the two mile point to calm me down. Where was "Change Or Die"? I must have hit the shuffle button. I didn't want to learn to be still at the beginning of the race! I crossed the starting line just as Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" started. Oh no. I was counting on the Bird to bring me home. This was all messed up. I might as well take a right turn and head home.

And then Spike would have Wimpy Loser Dad.


"How Long" by the Eagles came on next and I thought 'pretty darn long at this point' but I rumbled on rather than allowing myself to be run over by hundreds of racers. That's right, I was NOT in last place - at least not within 100 yards of the starting line. A pleasant downward slope sped us on our way. I bookmarked that slope in my brain, knowing that, barring an earthquake, that slope would be going in the wrong direction on the final stretch to the finish line.

I had a "Peaceful Easy Feeling" for the first mile before a little "Desperado" ennui set in on mile two. I stuck to my run three minutes, walk one minute program and it seemed to work. Although people would pass me on the walks, I generally caught them on the runs. In any case, all I wanted to do was finish without embarrassing myself. I had set a rather optimistic goal of 40 minutes but I desperately hoped that I would crawl across the line in under 45 minutes. Heck, that's not much more than a fast walk.

I know what you runners out there are thinking. "40 minutes????? Is this guy even picking up his feet?" Look, I've always been slow. I set a goal for my first race of 36 minutes and, by golly, I beat it by a few seconds. Someday, in my dreams, I might run a 5K under 30 minutes but for now I'm Fat and Fifty and just trying to get across the line - a goal that seemed increasingly elusive around the 2.25 mile point.

No more Free Bird to carry me on. "Hotel California" lulled me through a painful half mile. I wished I had some of the drugs they were one when they wrote that tune!

My worst nightmare hit as I saw the final hill. I wasn't going to make it. At best, I was going to stumble across the finish line far behind everyone else. For the first time, I took a walk break early but only by a few seconds. Bad move. The next three minute run lasted one minute. Once you give up on that pattern, you're doomed. I walked.

Just then, a woman larger than me, and I ain't petite, ran up next to me and said "C'mon! It ain't that far!"

I started running again just as "New York Minute" started playing. Now there's a nice song to spur you across the finish line!

Harry got up
Dressed all in black
Went down to the station
And he never came back
They found his clothing
Scattered somewhere down the track
And he won't be down on Wall Street
in the morning

Lovely. Slow beat suicide ballad. Perfect.

In a New York Minute
Everything can change
In a New York Minute
Things can get pretty strange
In a New York Minute
Everything can change
In a New York Minute

The ground leveled out and I sprinted for the finish. In my head anyway. Anyone watching would not have called it a sprint. A stroll perhaps, maybe a saunter. No, better than that. A trot - yes, that's it. A little Turkey Trot.

I looked at the clock as I crossed the line. 36:38 Hey, not bad for an old, out of shape guy!

I then did what I am sure all insecure runners do. I looked over my shoulder to make sure there was at least one person behind me. Yup. Success!

When I walked in the house, Spike asked me, "Did you win?"

I handed him my Chick-Fil-A participation trophy and told the truth.

"Yes I did. I certainly did."



  1. Hey Tom,
    I would show Spike that picture and answer his question; you definitely won big time. I've decided if I get to do this life over, I want you for a Dad. Ummm yeah...I did ummm realize that Spike would be my brother too.
    I am so happy for you and your family, it's just amazing.
    Rock On, Spikester, Rock on!

  2. Though I have not written as regularly as in the past, still, appreciate you posting updates and pictures and continue to share Spike's recovery and family updates with us. We'll continue to keep you all in our thoughts and prayers until you stop blogging, ha!

    In Christ,