Unexpected Consequences and Life Impact

It looks like I started this blog in 2009 and did a lot of posting at first, but now rarely do.  I hope to change that by using some of the habit-changing tools I’ve recently learned about.  In fact there are a bunch of things I want to change.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”-Aristotle

This post is about an influential person in my life… and gratitude. And being grateful is a habit I want to cultivate.

We all affect everyone we come in contact with. Positive or negative, our actions can have long-reaching and frequently unforeseen influence. This is the story of one such individual.

This person is a man I worked with 20 years ago and he literally changed my life, but I doubt very much he knows it.

drum roll…..

Rocky Sample.

I know, I know…there is a big kerfuffle these days about the use of the word “literally” when you really mean “figuratively”…but Rocky LITERALLY changed my life and changed it so completely that barely a day goes by that I don’t feel his influence.  We weren’t really friends.  At times we weren’t even particularly friendly.  He was a manager and I was a machine operator so our social circles didn’t overlap.  He was also a little older than me. But he helped me discover  a passion that I had denied since childhood.  I was 36.

In grade school I was the kid that was always coming up with excuses to miss gym class. In high school, I was harassed and teased about my lack of aptitude and coordination with any activity involving a ball.  Consequently I identified myself as a non-athlete and experienced a fair amount of shame about it as a result.  By my mid 30’s I was a middle aged father of 2 that smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day and stayed far away from any real exercise. My wife and I  lost our baby weight together after child number one, and after number 2 was born, we set out to do it again.  20 minutes of elevated heart rate was the absolute minimum daily physical activity prescribed by the particular diet plan we followed.  My pride prevented me from being seen doing  aerobics with a videotape ( a WHAT?) on vacation in front of my father-in-law, so I decided a good way to get my heart rate up for the Minimum Daily Activity was to jog for 10 minutes down the road then turn around and jog 10 minutes back.

When we returned from our July 4th vacation, I was blabbing at work  to anyone that would listen-including Rocky- about how I jogged 1.7 miles.  Rocky said  ” You should run the Sycamore Pumpkin Fest 10K in October.”  “10K?” I asked. “How far is that?”  “6.2 miles.” he answered. “Yer friggin’ nuts.” I opined, but I got out on the road and increased my mileage in my now-familiar haphazard fashion, learning the hard way about plantar fasciitis and runner’s nipple.

When we came to the end of October 1996. I donned my cotton t-shirt, cotton gym shorts, and a monstrous pair of Nike Air Pegasus running shoes, took off at the starting gun, and marveled at myself for what I was doing: RUNNING in a RACE…with people I had heretofore identified as kooks, crazies, and whack-jobs!  Around the 5-mile mark I saw a familiar face in the thinning crowd ahead of me.  It was Rocky! I trotted past him after a brief greeting and plowed through the remaining 1.2 miles with a huge grin on my face.  I further amazed myself by kicking the last 100 yards and passed a couple more runners.


They say the difference between a jogger and a runner is a race number. During the ensuing 19 years I’ve run too many 10K’s to count, a handful of 5Ks, a couple half-marathons, four 30K’s, two full marathons, several sprint triathlons, a few olympic tri’s and a 1/2 ironman (70.3 mile) tri.  I went out and ran almost 6 miles before dinner the other night just because it felt good.


I guess the kids on the playground were wrong.

I AM an athlete. I am a runner.  Thank you, Rocky.

No loss of Enthusiasm!

After a couple weeks  months of abject laziness therapeutic inactivity  I finally got over to the Y for a couple miles on the  track last week.  Since I last posted in October, I officially gave up trying to get the tendonitis in my heel by continuing to aggravate it.

I was considering getting a pair of the Vibram 5-Fingers but a friend of mine told me that 3 out of 3 of his friends that bought them ended up with stress fractures in their feet from ramping up mileage too quickly.  I could just run barefoot because the discomfort of THAT would prevent me from running too far too fast.  But…. and this is a BIG but…I HATE going barefoot.  Anywhere. Except  the beach. No, even the beach.  The sand gets too hot.I don’t even like walking across the kitchen floor barefoot.  And after 54 years of being cradled in comfy, protective shoes my feet are not likely to respond to being beaten up very well,  so it’s more miles in my Nikes.  I still think they are too soft.  The kind I really liked are Nike Reax.  It is a model that Nike sells only through Kohl’s I think.

Thank you all, for tuning in to read about my feet.  I had my longest week last week (11.6 miles) since 2011.  I have come to the conclusion that thinking about running, writing about running, and reading about running has not had the same effect on my waistline as actual running.

I also read this gem. http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/ss/slideshow-is-my-dog-normal

Answering such burning questions like ” Is it normal for my dog to chase his tail?”  After reading that article/slideshow, anyone will find reading about my feet utterly compelling.

Riding that Skeleton Horse to the Gates of Hell

Monday evening I got all puffed up with pride that I ran 10K on Sunday and remembered that the day after the long run was an important day from a workout standpoint.  A nice, easy, short run was in order to warm and loosen up my tired muscles and help purge any remaining lactic acid from my legs to facilitate rapid healing. It was getting late and I didn’t feel up to wrangling the dogs on the short bike path I frequent in town, so I packed up my bag and went to the Y.  As I was driving, I started getting this funny feeling deep down in psyche.  I checked in at the front desk and proceeded to the locker room where I changed into my running togs and my minimalist  cheap shoes…again the vague nagging feeling. I intended a gentle trot on a treadmill in the “Wellness Center” but had to pass through the “Fitness Center” on the way.  One look at the 1/10 mile indoor clay track of the Fitness Center and that vague unease  turned into a demon cobra. Gnawing and writhing through my self-control. And the only way I could wrassle it into submission was: Speed Intervals!

Demon Cobra for Speed Intervals

I was doing pretty well until my second set of sprints when I felt the sharp pain of “oops” in my right foot.  I had aggravated that damn fasciitis again!  NOW I slowed down! NOW I did stretches with a nice long cool-down. NOW I limped off to the steam room.  I said at the beginning of my blog that I’d probably be my own worst enemy and here was the white-hot pain to prove it.  The limping and gimping around the house was fodder for my 18-year old’s hoots of derision.  My wife gave me looks of disdain.  I iced it, I rubbed it, I used all manners of incantation.  At one point I even invoked a deity! (JeeezuzChrist that hurts!)  I thought for sure I did some real damage.

But then an idea struck! Wrap it up in a bandage.  You see it in the NFL all the time.  And all those cool athletes in the Olympics always had various parts of their bodies taped up (for no obvious reason).  I could have gotten this stuff for 10 bucks

But instead I got this stuff for $.99

It’s made for horses!

It is a fabulous product for taping up feet!  It is made to tape up horse ankles I guess, and it REALLY HELPED  the pain in my foot.  It doesn’t lose it’s “stretch”, so it applies consistent pressure to reduce inflammation and swelling.  It’s tough, applies easily, tears off the roll easily, stays on your foot, no matter what, doesn’t stick to skin or hair, and is utterly impervious to water, sweat, and foot stink!


Here’s my nasty foot minus the nasty, brown blister on my big toe.

I have taken the week off from running, hoping to get this heel problem under control.  Poor time management and shortening daylight hours have made biking impractical during the week, but I’ll be out there for a long ride Saturday.  I should be able to get some nice pix way out in the country.  You know, where the deer and the antelope play.

Maybe I’ll try the Pumpkinfest 10K  route Sunday…And take it easy on the intervals until I’ve lost another 20 lbs. See you on the road!

Miles Wound All Heels

My experimental “caveman” run is complete and the results are in!.  I wanted to see if I could heal my heel by abandoning my uber-comfy Nikes and went Paleo by running barefoot.  The actual barefoot running only lasted about 3/10 of a mile. I found a very new, smooth asphalt path to run on.  At first I tried running to the side in the grass but after so many years of being cradled in comfort my skin was too tender to handle the weeds. As predicted by the barefoot running crowd, my form changed dramatically to avoid the teeth-jarring crashing of my heel into the ground and I practically danced along on the balls of my feet.  Well, not exactly danced.  More like clumsy stumbling. When I was done, the soles of my feet were ON FIRE!



What was needed was a little protection for the soles of my feet without the over-cushioning of my over-priced heel-bangers.

A quick search of the internet provided unexpected hilarity.  Countless “Minimalist” running shoes are abundant and plentiful….and more expensive! I had to laugh.  Here was a modern-day version of The Emperor’s New Clothes!  Less shoe for more money! On to Wal-Mart!

There, I found these little delights.

Shoes like these used to be called “Red Ball Jets”…Except they were red.

Nike would crow about the  “zero drop” design.  New Balance would tout the “lightweight fabric”, but only Wal-Mart says “Hey! These shoes are CHEAP!” 14 bucks later I was out on the Great Western Trail with the K9 running team.  I don’t know if it was the cooler weather, the recent bi-daily running, or the minimalist experience giving me that heady Caveman feel, but I went almost 5 miles!  First time I’ve run that far since before January, according to my running log.  I had to take a couple of walking breaks, but my head (50% of the battle, remember?) wanted to go that far.

That afternoon my heel hurt like hell and my calves felt like they had barbed wire running through them. I expected some stiffness, but maybe I overdid it.  The next day (Monday) I wore the most comfortable shoes I own to work (Chippewa steel-toed engineer boots…heavy, but I love them) and that evening I walked 1/2 mile in flip-flops at the Y with a friend before swimming laps. My heel felt great. Tuesday was a moderate pace bike-ride for about 45 minutes, and by Wednesday I was ready for more running.  I cut back the miles to 2.7 and my pace was pretty slow.  Being 40 lbs overweight has drawbacks other than tight clothes.

Thursday was a no-workout day, and I’m doing another 2.7 miles tonight.  My right calf is a lot sorer than my left because the heel pain made me change my gait.  Now that I have a healthier and more normal stride it will take time for the muscles to accustom themselves.  I’m doing all of the usual therapies for plantar fasciitis: stretches, golf balls, night splints.  I hoped for a quick fix, but time is needed to see if  changing my foot strike will heal my heel and keep me running!

A Brave New World

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Blah, blah, blah.

So here’s my running cred.

Just before the birth of our second child I began running.  At first to control my weight. Then I allowed myself to be goaded into the Sycamore Pumpkinfest 10K. I beat the guy that double-dog-dared me.  I’ll never forget the look on his face as I cruised by him just before mile 5. “Hi, Rocky!”  I said.  I didn’t understand the implications of his excuse-making the next week at work. “I’m just a little older than you.”  and “I didn’t execute my strategy correctly.” I had just gone out and ran as fast as I could for as long as I could. It was the first time I had ever beaten any one at any athletic endeavor in my life.  I was hooked.

I mean, I didn’t win the 10K, I just beat the guy I knew.  A few years later another fellow runner at work challenged me to my first 5K.  I beat him, too.  Since I don’t remember my 100 yd. dash times from grade school, I can’t say I NEVER ran that fast, but it was the hardest I remember ever pushing myself. I ran 7:20 that day, a personal best I have yet to beat.

In the next 10 years I ran 2-3 10Ks per year, but running was always just a lifestyle thing, not a competition thing. Usually about 2 miles per day, but I ramped it up if I was expecting to run in a race.

I moved on from 10Ks to a few 1/2 marathons and 30Ks, and then my first Chicago marathon in 2003 at the ripe old age of 44.  Then the Triathlon bug bit.