Wednesday, September 07, 2011

To Disneyland and beyond

Wow, what a weekend! I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon on Sunday and then got an epic bike ride in on Monday. Lets start from the beginning.
I was raising money Lazarex Cancer Foundation who is helping me with my travel expenses for the clinical trial I need to be on in Houston. The event was the aforementioned half marathon. I had a huge outpouring of support from friends and family and raised a total of $3467 which made me the top fundraiser for this event. For that I send out a huge thank you to everyone that donated.
Kasey and I arrived in California on Saturday morning and were picked up by the Lazarex endurance coordinator Jenny Walls. We were able to stuff my bike into the back seat of a compact car and still carry 4 people back to the hotel. After a settling in I was off to the fundraiser lunch where two other patients and I all told our stories to the rest of the fundraisers in order to give the charity a real face. I stumbled through my talk, but everybody seemed to appreciate it so that was good.
Sunday morning came early with a 6am race start. We caught a shuttle from the hotel to the park, then walked for what seemed like a mile to find the starting area. The crowds were massive with 15,000 people running. I didn't request a wave based on a time goal so I was in corral E lined up with the 2:45 pace group, which would have been pretty slow for me. I got in near the front of the corral so with the time gap between corrals I had some room to run from the gun. Then in about a half mile I hit the runners in the corral ahead of me and it was a wall of people. I didn't have a specific time goal so I wasn't worried, bu I did want to get a good run in so I had fun running on the side of the street and on the curb to weave my way through the people. Running through the park was a lot of fun. I was surprised at how many people were stopping, during the race, to stand in line for pictures with characters. After leaving the park the road started to open up so I could run without much weaving, but there were tons of people the whole way. I had to make 2 pit stops along the way during the first half. I started to get a side stich around mile 9, but had worked it out and was feeling completely revived by mile 10. My longest training runs were a couple of 8.5 milers so all of this was now beyond that, but I had faith that my past experience and training would hold me through the distance. And did it ever. After mile 10 I started to feel really good and started to pick up the pace. The road was clear enough that I didn't have to weave, but was passing people the whole way. I sprinted across the finish line and stopped my watch at just under 1:51 with a huge smile on my face thinking of all my supporters. I was glowing the rest of the day as I celebrated with the rest of the Lazarex team and even into the evening as Kasey and I visited Disneyland to get a few rides in and watch the fireworks.
Monday morning Kasey had to leave early for a 6am flight to make it to work that afternoon. I was staying for a bike ride with Alex Eusebio, an old running friend that has recently gotten into cycling while living in the area. I assembled my bike and rode up the street to get breakfast at Starbucks and wait for Alex to make the drive down to pick me up. When he arrived we headed to Santa Monica to start our ride. We headed a few miles up the PCH before turning up Topanga canyon then following Old Topanga to Mulholland Hwy.  We took a short detour to find some water and started planning how to make our way back. An admirer of Alex's bike suggested we head up Piuma Rd. so we did. That was probably the longest sustained climb of the day and seemed a lot like Lookout Mtn. from home. The decent from Piuma was a little gnarly. The sign at the top said 10% grade next 3 miles. It was very steep and very winding. I'm still a little skiddish on steep sharp corners after my fall last year so I was riding the brakes hard all the way through that. We got in close to 4000 feet of climbing and 48 miles for the day. I felt really good the whole time and the views were awesome.
The whole weekend was awesome and I'm still on a bit of a high. I can't wait to let my body recover and start training for the Marine Corps Marathon.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Feeling as well as I have in a long time

Just a quick update here. My July trip to M.D. Anderson has come and gone. The good news is the the CT scan shows my tumors are still completely stable. No significant growth in nearly 2 years now. The other news is that while there is still some fluid around my lungs it appears to be stable as well. The important thing is that I can barely tell that it is there even while doing some pretty serious bike rides.
Speaking of bike rides, which is what I'd rather be talking about, I've been doing quite a few. I've now done two 60 mile rides. The first one on primarily flat roads, but this past Sunday I rode up to Idaho Springs from home. It is about 30 miles up into the mountains following mostly side roads paralleling I-70. Idaho Springs is a popular starting point for climbing Mt. Evans and I wanted to scope out the route even though I probably won't use it for my ride because it'll add unneeded miles and climbing. It is a fun route with a very steep descent on the way out where I hit my highest speed ever of 53mph. I stopped for lunch and ate way too much so I my stomach was a little sore when starting back, but I made it just fine. Next weekend is the bike race from Idaho Springs to the summit. I've got a friend riding in the race so I think that I'll try to make it up to Echo Lake via Squaw Pass which will completely avoid the course, but get me to the approximate half way point of the race and past half way to my goal of reaching the top from home.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More cycling than running

Summer is in full swing and I'm getting more fit each week. Unfortunately I haven't been doing as much running as I'd like, but what I have done has felt pretty good. Since my last post I visited both sets of my doctors and they confirmed that the fluid around my lungs was still there, but we did decide to double my diuretic dosage and that helped within days. I did a run less than two weeks after the Bolder Boulder that was nearly the same distance and nearly as fast, but with much less effort and absolutely no breathing pain. I've done a couple of other runs since then with similar results, but most of my workouts have been on the bike. Most recently I headed up Squaw Pass as a first attempt to see how much work it will be for me to summit Mt. Evans on my bike from home this year. Something I've always wanted to do. I found that just getting to Squaw Pass, essentially the base of Mt. Evans, is not just a stroll in the park. I've been along that route before, but not in a long time. I was happy with how well I was able to climb the back side of Lookout Mountain, but forgot just how far it was to get all the way to Evergreen. Even starting the climb up Squaw Pass Road felt good, but a few miles up I started to get fatigued. I was hoping to make a loop of this, but when I got to the turn off that I wanted to take it turned out to be a dirt road so I decided not to take it. I kept going hoping to get to Echo Lake, but I hadn't scoped that out before the ride so I didn't know how far it would be and I didn't have a cell signal to get maps on my phone. I had been planning on putting in 50 miles so when I reached 25 miles on my trip computer I decided to stop to re-evaluate. I took a big gulp of water and realized I was almost out. That is when I decided it was time to turn around. The trip down was a little bumpy at first, but the road smoothed out after a bit. I stopped at a gas station to refuel for the rest of the ride home and made it home without incident. Looking at the maps later I found that there were quite a few miles left before Echo Lake so I wasn't going to make it there on the fluid that I had brought with me. So, in conclusion I'm going to need  more endurance and more fluid to make it to Echo Lake and I need to make it there before I begin to think about making a summit attempt. I'll keep working on my endurance, but also hope to pay attention to my running for my upcoming half marathon.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bolder Boulder 2011

Today I finished my 10th Bolder Boulder. Supposedly the best 10K road race in the US. I haven't run them all, but I find it hard to believe there is a better one. It is also the largest Memorial day celebration that I know of. All 5 service flags followed by the US flag parachute into Folsom Field shortly after the pros finish their running of the same course that 50,000 citizens just ran. 
I have not been running much recently due to my pleural effusion so this was not my fastest race by far, but I was happy with it anyways. I ran a pretty consistent race and my breathing didn't hurt too badly and that is encouraging news for me. Maybe my effusion is going away and I'll be able to continue training normally. We'll find out for sure on Wednesday. I head to M.D. Anderson in Houston tomorrow evening and have a chest X-ray on Wednesday morning before seeing my doctor so I can continue my treatment. I also have an appointment with my pulmonologist next week where we'll discuss options assuming the fluid hasn't decreased. 
Back to the race. 50,000 people in Boulder is a lot to handle so RTD offers bus service which I took. There is a stop less than a mile from our house. I caught the first bus to Boulder at 5:25am. I wanted as much time as possible at the start to prepare. I had port-a-potties to use, multiple times of course, and a FedEx mobile locker to load with my warm up clothes and anything I didn't want to carry with my to the finish. Again with 50,000 people all of this can take some time. Luckily I was in a later wave than usual so I had a few extra minutes to get everything done. I made it to my wave with a few minutes to spare, perfect timing. The weather was looking good. Overcast and probably about 50F. There were a few sprinkles a little earlier that could have turned bad, but blew over. 
The course was changed this year. We used to have a gentle downhill for the first mile, but the new profile shows a gentle uphill replacing that before going through the neighborhoods which have a few hills that get your heart rate up. I think this made for slower times for most, but it made for a more consistent start. Being in a slow wave was good for me. I was able to maintain a comfortable pace and not have the wave get away from me. I was actually making my way to the front of the wave, but we caught the back of the wave in front of us quickly and after that it is a free for all. I still felt like I was making some forward progress in the crowd for quite awhile. Breathing was heavy and slightly labored, but not painful. My lack of training meant I just had to keep it under control and I'd be fine. I've been doing lots of biking so my legs were pretty good. The only problem I had in the race was shortly after taking in a few sips of water on the way up the largest hill to the high point of the race. Then on the way down where I usually run away from the crowd I got a stomach cramp and was getting passed left and right. There was nothing I could do to shake it or move any faster. Eventually I stopped to walk for a bit. After about a minute of walking I was able to breath out the cramp and start running again. The final couple of KM were pretty good. My final time was recorded as 54:09 and I wouldn't know any different because I forgot my watch at home. I guess I'm out of practice. 
I got to see lots of old running friends after the race. We hung out in the stands watching the festivities and good times were had by all. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A good bike ride

I had a good bike ride after work today. Since my exercise has been less than ideal lately this was a notable event. My pleural effusion has made running very difficult and even a little painful to breath. My last long run even had some lasting effects on my daily life for about a week. Cycling seems to be less aggravating to me lungs. This is likely due to the fluid not being sloshed around internally as much. 
After work I took my road bike up and over Lookout Mountain. There is some difficulty when breathing heavy, but it is tolerable and my legs felt pretty good so I was able to push as hard as I could breathe. I'm signed up for and planning on running the Bolder Boulder 10K next Monday so this added exercise is an attempt to keep my fitness up without having to run and potentially cause more lung irritation.
Next Tuesday I head to Houston again for a chest X-ray and medication refill then the following week I see my pulmonologist in Denver again. We'll have to decide the best course of action to take so that I can begin seriously training for the upcoming Disneyland Half Marathon.

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 23, 2011

2011 Disneyland Half Marathon

Today I committed to run the 2011 Disneyland Half Marathon and raise money for Lazarex Cancer Foundation. If you aren't familiar with why this is so important to me please take a minute to read my cancer story in the link on the right side of this page.

OK, now that everybody is up to date there is some more specific information that you should know. Lazarex has been helping me with my travel expenses to and from Houston for nearly a year now. Without their help my financial life would be in big trouble. Recently they told me about their Team For Life fundraising program. It allows people to get into popular Marathons and Half Marathons after they fill up by raising money for their organization. They wanted to make me one of their VIPs, that is a Very Important Patient. This allows them to put a face on the fundraising efforts of the runners. I told them that I was a runner and would like to participate myself. I chose the Disneyland Half for a couple of reasons. The first is that I want to get back to southern California to visit a friend and his new baby girl and maybe go for a bike ride with him. The second is that I haven't been running much so I'm not ready to commit to a full marathon.

This brings me to another reason this is important to me. I haven't been running much because one of the side effects of my current treatment is that I have a pleural effusion. This is an accumulation of fluid in the space between the lungs and the chest wall. The fluid restricts the full inflation of the lungs giving me less than 100% breath capacity. Luckily I have pretty large and efficient lungs from all my past training so this doesn't impede my daily life, but I do feel it when I try to run far or fast. I have been using diuretics to help keep this down. I've also had the fluid drained twice so far. For awhile it looked like it was staying away, but it is back now. Since this doesn't affect my daily life there isn't much motivation for me to take care of this, but having a running goal means I have added incentive to work with my doctors to get this completely under control in one way or another.

Now that you know the whole story please consider donating to a cause that is directly helping me out by following the donate link on the right. It would mean a lot to me and other cancer patients like me. You can also follow this page as I write about my attempts to regain my former glory as an avid athlete.