Sunday, December 8, 2013

3 Years of Running

It was a crisp December evening in Saint Petersburg, Florida.  There I was, pacing back and forth, trying to get my nerves to calm down.  The time got closer and closer, and I inched closer and closer to the start of my first race.

I had no idea how it would go because let's face it... I was unhealthy.  Years of living a stagnant life and eating whatever I wanted left me standing on a scale two months earlier staring at a number.  The number staring back at me was the highest it had ever been.  I refused to let this be my life, so I decided to make a change.

I laced up my shoes and went for a run.  I made it a quarter mile.  As I walked back to my apartment, all I could feel was defeated.  But in that moment, I realized just how long this journey would be, and what I needed to do.  So I went again the next day.  I kept at it.  I ran a 1/2 mile.  Then 3/4 mile.  Then a mile.  Then 2.

On December 8, 2010, I ran my first 5K.  The nerves I was feeling at the start quickly turned to adrenaline.  I chugged along the course mile by mile.  And when I crossed the finish line, I was hooked.

I signed up for a race in January, and made a goal to run a race every month.  I didn't think this would last long, but I needed a way to hold myself accountable.  So I ran another 5K.  And another one the next month.  The weight started coming down, and my happiness started rising.  

I moved from Florida to Denver and stuck with it.  Once I adjusted to the altitude, I needed to keep pushing myself, so I signed up for my first 10K.  My distance kept going up a little bit.  My weight came down a little bit.  My speed went up a little bit.  The one thing that stayed consistent is running a race every month.  Month after month.  Race after race.

3 years later, that streak is still in tact.  

Each of the three years have taught me something major:

Year one taught me that the first step is always the hardest.  It is so much easier to lay on the couch than to head out for a couple miles.  Going from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one is a whole lot harder than most people give credit.  Setting new habits takes a lot of will power, and bouncing back from setbacks is key.  I've always loved the quote "Showing up is half the battle."  With running, getting out the front door is half the battle, and if you can least get yourself there, the rest falls into place.  Every time.  The first step is the big test.  Are you willing to take it?  I'm thankful I was.

Year two taught me the importance of pushing myself.  I was content to run a bunch of 5Ks, until I started meeting more people in the running community.  Those people kept encouraging me to increase distances and find ways to challenge myself.  I completed a Warrior Dash in Florida.  I placed 3rd in my age group in a race.  I ran my first half marathon.  I became a Tough Mudder.  I set PRs.  I never stopped pushing myself, and it was a nice reminder of how much fight I have inside of me.

Year three taught me that anything is possible.  I've been told all along that I shouldn't be a runner.  Too big.  Body's not built for it.  Previous knee surgery.  I love it to much and I'm too stubborn to listen to those voices.  But there was one feat that I thought was impossible for me.  I never thought I would attain it.  But in June, I became a marathoner.  It was an incredible way for me to realize that hard work, determination, and a little bit of crazy going a long way, and that nothing is impossible.

Here I am, 44 races later.  It has been an unbelievable journey over these past 3 years, and one that I would have never expected looking back at 25-year-old me.  It has taken me so far (literally and figuratively), and the person I am today is better as a direct result.  

Through running, I have learned what it means to be healthy and how fitness can lead to a better life.  I have gained confidence and tested my limits, gained new skills (tangible and not) and learned that when I set a goal, I won't stop until it's done.  I have learned that runners are some of the most driven and all-around best people you will meet, and being a part of the running community has been a giant blessing.  I have learned that the only thing standing in the way of accomplishing most things in life was the person staring back at me in the mirror.  Once I learned that, I knew that I could conquer anything.

And it's all because I was willing to take a first step.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Diet Bet is Over

A month ago I posted about a challenge I was doing this month:  DietBet

The challenge is to lose 4% of your body weight in 4 weeks.  You put money down to enter, and all winners split the pot.

I entered 3.

The first one was sponsored by Jillian Michaels, it had over 7,600 participants with a pot of over $238,000.  Wow!

The second one was a random one I found on the site.

I started a third one, and got a handful of friends to enter.

The Jillian weigh in was about a week ago, right after I got back from a week in New York.  Bad timing - I lost by a few pounds.

I still had a shot at the other two, but it was going to be tough!  I buckled down the last week and put everything into it.  I would also need a lot of luck to make it happen.

When the DietBet ends, you have 48 hours to weigh in.  My random one and my DietBet ended a day apart, so with each 48 hour window, there was a day overlap - my hope was that on that day, I would hit my goal, the weigh in would count for both, and I'd be a winner.

That overlap day was today.

Yesterday, I woke up a few pounds away.  I ate minimally (not the greatest idea), went for a run after work, and stepped on the scale before bed.  I had a shot, but it would depend on how my body processed the next 24 hours - I could see it going either way.

I woke up today and stepped on the scale - my target weight was 222.5.  The scale read 223.0.  So close!  I went for a run, which usually knocks off a little bit.  I got back on the scale when I got back home- 222.4!  I did it!  I ran to grab my camera (you need to submit a couple photos as proof), and when I got back, the scale read 222.6.  I got off and back on.  222.6.  I tried again.  222.6.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

So, I hastily bundled back up and headed back outside - did a quick couple of sprints and jogged back.  I approached the scale for one last try.

222.0.  Snapped a picture for weigh-in 1.
222.2.  Snapped a picture for weigh-in 2.

I uploaded the photos I needed, hoping that they would be officially accepted, because I knew next time I stepped on the scale I would likely be back over the .5 mark.

Then, I got this email:

I made it!  Barely, but I did it!  9 lbs down in a month - and I can't wait to see what my winnings from the two are!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Falling in Love with Running All Over Again

Since I ran my marathon in June, my motivation has been gone.  Since I moved to Gunnison and its 7700'+, it's been hard to run.  The last few months have been brutal.

I have tried to keep running and get back into the swing of things.  I've gone running several times, ran a few more races, and just kept at it.

Real Talk:  I didn't like running any more.

For me, when running is a chore, when it's hard to get out, and the miles are a challenge, it just isn't fun.
I ran a 10K this past weekend.  Somewhere in the middle of mile 4, I fell in love with running all over again.  The miles came easily - my feet were gliding on the pavement.

I was free.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Kooky Spooky 10K

With October winding down, I decided that my race this month would be the Kooky Spooky Race in Golden, CO.

I originally signed up for the half marathon, and for the last couple months tried to get ready.  That didn't happen.  Between adjusting to running at 7700', busy schedule, laziness, and several other excuses, I couldn't do it.  My longest training run was 6 miles - and I just couldn't get myself to double that on race day.  So, I decided to switch to the 10K.

Since I started running, I've always said the 10K is my favorite distance - just long enough that it pushes you, just short enough that you can still run pretty hard during it.  Which is funny to me, because out of my 40+ races I've done, only 3 previously have been 10K.  This was my first 10K in about a year, and I was really excited for it!

I got to the race site early so I could make the switch, then just sat around until a little before race time.  As it got closer, I started to get ready.  I gracefully dropped my handheld water bottle, immediately breaking it on impact.  Uggghhh...  Luckily, I had a spare in my trunk!

The race director made a comment about the hills - she hoped either you love them or at least you knew about them, because they'll destroy you if you're not ready... YIKES!

We gathered near the start, and there was the countdown... 5...4...3...2..1... GO!

We started the course and it was an easy downhill for the first mile and a half to two miles.  Piece of cake!  I ran at a faster pace than normal, which I usually try to avoid to start the race, but I was feeling great and I knew the course was going to get tougher.

Miles 3-4 the hills started - people started walking left and right - I had one goal: I didn't care how slowly I ran, I would not stop to walk.  So I just plowed ahead one step after the other, my pace slowed by about a minute and a half, but I kept trudging on.  Then at mile 4, we hit the fun part - a mile of steep downhill down a windy path - I FLEW down this.  The whole time I wondered if I was going to run out of gas after this portion, but I didn't really care - it was FUN!  At mile 5, it was a relatively flat, easy hills to the end.  I kept pushing and pushing and hit the 6 mile marker.  The final stretch was uphill - enough to take everything out of me.  I kept trying to push, and the finish got closer and closer.  I crossed the finish line, heard my name announced, and just smiled.  This is my first run in 4 months that just felt GREAT.

I ended up setting a 10K PR by over a minute, and in this one race, fell in love with running again.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Diet Betting

I am starting to get to a point where I need to do something drastic when it comes to my weight loss.

When I ran my marathon on June 2nd, I weighed 207 lbs.  As of today, I weigh 226.  I have more or less taken the last couple months off, only recently finding the motivation to get back on track.

Disclaimer: I am the first to admit that health isn't determined by a number on a scale.  At all.  But for me, I know that where I want to be fitness-wise involves lowering my number, so weight loss it is.

During this time off, I entered a Diet Bet, where the concept is pretty simple:  Put some money down.  Try to lose 4% of your weight in 4 weeks.  If you lose, you're out the money.  If you win, all the winners split the pot of money.  So if you win, the worst case scenario is you get your money back.  Best case scenario is others don't reach their goals and you win more money!

Sounded easy and fun.

I lost.

I lost because I didn't care.

But now, game on!  I have entered 3 Diet Bets (including starting one of my own) in an attempt to make it more of a competition for me.  I've been struggling to find motivation to do consistent exercise and eat well.  I figure putting $70 on the line for the next month is good motivation.  And the prospect of getting more than that back in return and winning money is even better motivation.  So this becomes my side job for the next month- and a way for me to keep myself on track.  Please check in with me and see how it's going, and help hold me accountable!

And if you'd like to join the Diet Bet I started, it's $25 to enter - click here!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Colorado Symphony 5K

My September race was the Colorado Symphony 5K on Sept 21.

Since it was my brother's 31st birthday that day, I figured I could run 3.1 miles as a shoutout to him.

The race was held at Sloan's Lake, and amazingly in my two years I lived in Denver, I had never visited the lake.  I parked on one of the side streets and walked to the registration area.  I got my bib, headed over to the start area, and waited for time to pass.

At 8:45 they did the kids fun dash.  I always love these - they're so adorable!  I'm not getting baby fever, but I can't wait until I can bring my kids to a race and have them do the kids runs...

After that, we assembled in the start area, sang the national anthem, and it was time to go!

By the time the race started, the sun was blaring and it was starting to get a little warm - at least from what I'm used to in the mornings in Gunnison.  We did a counterclockwise loop around the lake.

For me, the race was broken up into two different halves.  The first half felt great!  I was running strong, and happy to be at such a low elevation (I'm saying this facetiously, but I can definitely tell the difference when I go back to Denver).  The second half felt pretty bad.  I felt sluggish, heavy, and slow.  I could literally feel all of the 20 pounds I have gained since I ran my marathon in June.  Ugghhh.

All things considered, I'm happy with this run.  I know that in a few weeks/months as I get back into training and the rhythm of running, weight will come down and so will the time.

It was a beautiful day around Sloan's Lake and I'm so glad I got to do this race - and as a result, I already claimed my reward by getting a free ticket to one of the Colorado Symphony shows this season.  Can't wait!

Official Time:  30:10

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Bells Hate Me

The Maroon Bells.

Colorado's most photographed and most beautiful spot.

Here's what it's "supposed to" look like:


I've been wanting to go there as soon as I moved to Colorado two years ago.

I have tried twice, and here's what happened.

The first attempt was last November.  We went to Aspen for Kristen's birthday weekend and hoped to see them.  As we drove down the road, we came to a closed gate.  Poor planning.  But we decided to get out and walk.  After a couple miles of hiking the sheer-ice road, we saw somebody hiking down.  He said it was still a couple miles to the lake.  After a few minutes of talking, we decided not to risk it, and walked back.  We almost wiped out several times, and were a little lucky to come out of that unscathed.  We vowed to try again next summer.

Icy road to the Bells

Last weekend was that time.  Kristen and I went to the Glenwood Springs for the weekend, but decided to take a day trip to Aspen with one objective: see the Bells.  When we woke up, it was cloudy.  We made the drive anyways, hoping it would clear up by the time we got there.  We drove the same road, reminiscing about our icy adventure the fall before.  This time, the road was open!  We drove the road to the lake, got out, and what did we see?  A wall of fog coming over the mountains blocking the view.  So we decided to go for a quick hike, hoping it would clear up by the time we completed the loop.  It was a beautiful hike, but as time went on, we could see less and less.  By the time we finished, there was no proof the Bells even existed.

Pre Hike

Post Hike

I'm starting to put the Bells into the same category as the Loch Ness Monster & Bigfoot - something out of mythical folklore designed just to get foolish tourists to come there, only to leave disappointed... yet still intrigued...

You win again, Maroon Bells!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Blue Moon 5K

On Friday, I got to run my first ever trail race.

On the way to Denver to spend the weekend with Kristen and her parents, I made a pit stop in Colorado Springs for the 2nd annual Blue Moon 5K.

After a 3+ hour drive, I made it to the park with about a half hour to spare.  I waited in line to get my bib, but they were out of safety pins.  So lucky me got to carry it for the whole race.  At the last minute, I decided to grab my phone so I had music for the race.  Good call!

Everyone made their way to the start lines.  Not much of a warning or countdown, but we were off!

We rounded the corner of the park and headed into Ute Valley Park, a beautiful park with some great trails.  The trail shot up into a quarter mile incline that was tough.  By the time I reached the top, my chest was pounding.  I used the rest of the mile basically to catch my breath as I was winding through the forest.

Then, it got incredible.  Once I caught my breath, it became one of the best races I have ever done.  I loved the inclines hopping over branches and rocks.  I loved the downhills feeling my momentum pulling me down.  The weaving in and around paths, the dirt, the rocks, the trees... it was all amazing.

I think I'm hooked on trail races!

Official Time:  32:42

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Back in the Saddle

Recently, I've posted about struggling with motivation, trying to get consistency back in my running.  It's been a tough couple months to stay on top of any sort of training schedule, but I'm learning to be ok with that.  I'm not the most thrilled about gaining 15 lbs, but here I am, and I'm ok with that.

Now that RA training is over, I'm determined to give myself a schedule that allows me the chance to be successful for the rest of 2013.

That means a few things:  4ish days/week of running.  2ish days a week of strength training.  Cross training.  Workouts.  Eating right.  Go time.

I've thought I was ready before, but now I KNOW I'm ready to get back into the swing of things.  And here's why:  I get BORED when I'm not working out.  I get antsy.  I get tired.  Yesterday, I went on what I call a "cleansing run."  That is what I call the first run in a while (in this case it was about 3 weeks).  It's pretty much a throw away run, meant to right the wrongs that eating poorly and not exercising does to me.  Usually, it's a 1-2 mile thing.  Yesterday, it was almost 4.  My body is telling me it's time.

So... here we go!

I have my first trail race this weekend, another 5K in September, then a half marathon in October.

Game on!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What Doesn't Kill You

A friend of mine, who just so happens to be a professional strongwoman (see this post I wrote a year and a half ago), asked a question via faebook that has been rattling around in my head for a few days.

She asked: "When did/do you feel the most strong?" 

I've had friends and family describe me as strong-willed, courageous, and the type who accomplishes anything I set my mind to or have my heart in.  I may have a lot of moments where I feel strength, but here's my secret:

I am strong because I have been broken.  I have hope because I have been weak.  And I have meaning in my life because I have been lost.

Throughout my life, I have struggled with confidence, my weight, and depression.  I have had days when all I felt is emptiness.  I have had days when all I felt is worthless.  I have had days when all I felt is that I don't want to be here any more.

But those days are gone.  Because I am strong.

I feel the strongest when I am at my lowest and I take a look at myself in the mirror and say, "enough is enough."  When I go head to head with my biggest fears and insecurities and I win the fight.  When I can stand up and say that I have conquered those obstacles, challenges, and internal voices telling me to give up.

When I want to quit.  To run.  To hide.  When everything is telling me that I'm not strong enough.  Not smart enough.  Not tough enough.  Not enough.

And I stand up and say "Today is the day when everything changes."

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." - Nelson Mandela

Friday, July 19, 2013

When Motivation Slips

Currently, I find myself in the midst of a battle.

On one side is my motivation, my drive, my desire, and my eagerness to stay active, stay motivated, eat healthy, and keep moving forward on my fitness journey.

On the other side is apathy, exhaustion, and excuses.  Things that stand in the way of reaching my goals.

And right now, the second side is winning.  Since my marathon on June 2nd, I:
-Have gone running a number of times that can be counted on one hand
-Have put on 10 pounds
-Lack motivation and energy to work out, and sometimes to do anything productive
-Eat out.  A lot.
-Am not happy

I find myself at a crossroads: continue to go down a direction I don't want to head OR to take this moment to change my path, my habits, and get back on track.

I'm digging deep for this one.  Looking to things that motivate me in a way to get myself headed in a positive direction.  I have some quality go-to's, so I figured I would take the time to write them down, so I can take a look back when I have moments like this down the road.  Here's a few things that work for me when I feel my motivation start to slip.

Talk about it
Sometimes, this is the hardest thing to do.  But for me, it's the best.  When I am finally able to be open and admit to myself where things are - not a wish or perception, but the bitter reality - THAT'S when I usually find the strength to turn things around.

Find your inspirational go-to's to watch, listen, or read
For me, there are certain things that if I immerse myself in them, I instantly have this desire to work out or eat healthy.
-Watch The Biggest Loser.  A LOT!
-Listen to songs that are on my running playlists: some biggies- Linkin Park "By Myself," Simple Plan "I'd Do Anything," Eminem "Til I Collapse," and the most recent addition Kelly Clarkson "Catch My Breath"
-Read articles/books about running or fitness transformations
-Look up races and make lofty but realistic training plans

One of the hardest things for me is just to DO the things I say.  So many times, I put together a great plan for running, I plan on eating healthy, I plan on going to the gym.  Plan, plan, plan.  But then, there's little follow through.  So as necessary as putting together a plan is, at the end of the day it doesn't matter.  What matters is that I get out and go for a run when I don't feel like it.  That I stop eating at fast food restaurants regularly (or ever).  That I go on hikes, play sports, go to the gym.  Follow through is key.  Don't be all talk.

Hold yourself accountable
What happens if I don't do the things I hope.  Aside from the feelings of guilt or shame, NOTHING.  So I need to be able to answer the question: what is going to happen if I don't ______.  Make it a game or competition.  Have an incentive or reward.  Find positive things to do only if goals are completed.  And don't let not doing it be an option.

It's go time!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Independence Day 5K

I decided to wake up early on the 4th and run a 5K.

I had no idea what was going to happen, mainly since I've only gone running 3 times since my marathon on June 2nd.  I could see it going really well, keeping some of my endurance up over the month.  I could see it going horribly, basically losing everything I gained while marathon training.

I checked in, got my sweet shirt, and got ready for the starting line.  I won a pair of cheap sunglasses because I knew a trivia answer of who won the men's lacrosse NCAA championship (UNC).

Ready... Set... Go!

I took a deep breath and started trotting.  It started with a big downhill, so I got to pick up some speed and test the breathing.  I felt really good, but hoped that it would last.  First mile- still felt great.  It was a nice course that looped around the streets of Highlands Ranch.  Then, it hooked onto a walking trail that cut through the meadow.  Beautiful!  Then, it got hard.  There were a few tough hills that took the breath out of everyone, causing a lot of people to walk.  I was thrilled that I still felt great and didn't have to!  After a few uphills, then we rounded the final corner of the race, and could see the finish line - a quarter mile ahead and all uphill.  Normally, I make a big sprint to the finish.  Not today - the hill neutralized any burst I had left.  I picked up a little speed, gritted my teeth, and just started at the finish line, watching it get closer and closer.

Official Time:  28:29

I'm super happy with this time!  The next few months I'm going to focus on hitting a better time, but this was a test.  I haven't really lost anything, even though I haven't been running and haven't been eating very well.  I felt great, especially considering it was a tough course.  It got me excited to keep going and get ready for the next one!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Half Way There - 2013

Holy cow!  How did we already hit the half way point of the year?

At this point every year, I like to take a look back at my goals I made at the beginning of the year and check in with my progress.  Let's see how I'm doing.

Stay below 230 pounds
YES!  I hit high 200's just before my marathon - then after a month of not exercising I hit the 2-teens, so now I need to get back on track.  Still working on that part, but still well below where I started the year.

No McDonald's or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
Done.  And easier than I thought.

Run a race every month
So far so good!  The 2 1/2+ year streak may come to an end, but we'll see how the next few months go.

Run a marathon
Done!  June 2nd was such an incredible day!

Run under the following times:
5K: 26:00  10K:  57:00  Half Marathon: 2:00:00
Not sure if I'll hit any of these.  Probably won't go for the half (best time was 2:15), but if I work my butt off I could at least make an attempt at the other two.

Run 3 destination races
Moab, UT - San Diego, CA - 

Visit 5 new places
Not many new places, but road trips to Moab, RMNP, and a few local treks, moving to Gunnison, and a trip to San Diego.

Read the Bible
did well for a while, but then fell off of consistency.  Some chunks here and there, but not doing the best.

Increase savings accounts to undisclosed amount
Staying pretty steady, but not seeing some of the growth I was hoping for!

Have zero balance on my credit cards
Still working on this, but have a long ways to go.

I've volunteered at a couple individual events (races, church, etc.) but not was I was aiming for.

Discover/Rediscover a creative outlet
Did some art early on, but need to keep finding some fun things to do.

Smile and laugh a lot

Monday, June 17, 2013

What now?

What now?

That's the question that so many people ask themselves after completing their first marathon.  After months of training, it's customary to fall into a lull.  To fall off track.  To lose some of the edge.

Since my race two weeks ago, I have eaten like garbage.  I have gone running once - yesterday's The Color Run.  I've stopped caring about health and fitness.

And that's ok.  At least it was for a little while.  I know I need time to regroup and recharge.  But how much is right?  A week?  A month?  I'm not sure if I know the answer.

All I know is I'm starting to feel the itch again.  Not to run another marathon any time in the foreseeable future, but to get back on the active and healthy train.

So now, I need a few new goals to boost me in the right direction.

Running Goals
-Continue to run races every month, continuing my streak that started in Dec. 2010
-Run a 5K in 26:00 and 10K in 57:00 (2 of my goals from the beginning of the year - now it's go time!)

Weight Goals
-Be at 209 lbs by Labor Day (75 total lost)
-Be at 199 lbs by the end of the year

Active Goals
-Find a consistent weight regiment and schedule
-Consistently play a sport, recreationally or competitively (swimming, volleyball, badminton, etc - I'm ready for some variety)

Time to reassess and continue to find healthy ways to live my life!

What do you like to do to stay active?  What keeps you motivated?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What Support Looks Like

I'm still basking in the glow of being a marathoner, but now that the dust has settled, when I think about that day, I think about the love and support I got from so many people.

My favorite display of support I received came on the tail end of a fundraising incentive I did for people who donated.  For those who gave at least $25, I made a handmade purple bracelet, and asked them to wear it on June 2nd when I ran my race.

That day, via text, email, and Facebook, people sent me pictures of them wearing their bracelet that day.

Here's a sample of what came flooding in to me while I was in San Diego:

I'm a pretty lucky guy...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

26.2 Reasons To Smile

On Sunday, June 2nd, I became a marathoner.

I arrived in San Diego on Thursday with my family, and I had a couple days to explore and do some site seeing.  As the team flew in from Colorado over the next few days, the excitement was brewing.  Race weekend was here, and after 4 months, it was finally time to conquer 26.2 miles.

On Saturday night, we attended a special event that TNT races put on called Inspiration Dinner.  This was the typical pre-race meal, and featured all 1,500 TNT participants racing in San Diego.  After a few people gave some remarks, we were entertained by the keynote speaker, John Bingham ("The Penguin").  The night concluded with a father speaking about his son's diagnosis, and how thankful he was that 10 years ago it would have been a death sentence, but that is not the case today.  Lots of inspiration, lots of excitement, lots of smiles, and lots of tears.

After dinner, I got the last few items ready and gave a bag to my family to have to meet me along the race route.  We had figured out that they could see me at around mile 9, 17.5, and at the finish line.  I said good night to them, laid out my race gear, and it was time for bed.

3:30 came, and we were up.  We met the team in the lobby at 4 and took the shuttle to the starting area. We had plenty of time to kill, so we just sat and chatted as the time crept closer and closer.  Finally, it was time for the marathon to start!

I was in Corral 8, so I had a little while to wait.  Wave by wave, the runners got started.  Finally... the countdown... 10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1... GO!!!

Basically, the race was split into 4 sections for me, so I will recap all of them and save the mile-by-mile recap.

Start - Mile 11:  The first few miles I made sure I started at a pretty slow speed - rule #1 for people running a marathon.  I got into a rhythm, and I felt good!  There were so many people running that it took a few miles for people to really position themselves.  The course looped through Balboa Park then downtown, so it was a great tour of the city.  Once I got to Little Italy, I started getting excited because I knew I would see my family shortly.  The course ran right by their hotel, so they got to watch me pass from the front gate - I swapped some water bottles and sports beans and continued on my way, still feeling great!

Mile 11 - Mile 16: Once I hit double digits, I started feeling a little worn out.  My breathing was still great (thanks to my training in Denver), but my legs started feeling heavy.  I started feeling the humidity.  I knew that the easy part was over, so now it was just about staying focused.  I hit the halfway point and got excited to be on the back half.  I still felt strong, but I was fading.

Mile 16-22:  Then, it got hard.  Once I saw my family at mile 17.5, I made another switch of water and sport beans, and they gave me words of encouragement.  This stretch is when I had to start taking a few walk breaks, but kept trudging on.  At about mile 19, I saw my coach Chris, and he ran alongside me for a few blocks, seeing how I felt.  I told him I felt fine, but my legs were fading.  He said a lot of people were feeling that way because of the humidity.  He told me to keep hydrating, keep eating lots of salt, but the last 6 miles are just about getting through.  I hit mile 20, and that's the first sense I got that this was actually going to happen.  My legs started cramping at this point, going through stretches where they'd feel fine, then immediately start tightening and cramping to the point where I couldn't run. This repeated for about a 6 mile stretch.

The worst part of the race was a hill we had to go up at about mile 21- it lasted almost a mile, and it was death.  By the time I got there, nobody was able to run up it - people would run in spurts, but after a few hundred yards, would slow to a walk again.  It felt like it went on forever, but finally, I made it to the top.  I knew it would be just about all downhill from there.

Mile 22-Finish:  By this point, I just wanted to be done.  But the more I would start running, the better I would feel.  I kept drinking water, but I knew that nothing would really help any more - adrenaline was the one thing that was going to get me through to the end.  Mile by mile passed.  23... 24...  I started getting closer to downtown, and started picking up the speed a little.  25...  I knew I was reaching the final stretches, and I was eagerly awaiting when I could finally see the finish line.  A Team in Training coach spotted me and ran alongside, explaining that there were just 2 more turns, then a complete straight path to the finish line.  My pace quickened and my stride strengthened.  I was almost home.  I finally reached the 26 mile marker, and there it was... the finish line.   I bolted toward the end, raised my hands in the air, crossed the line, and became a MARATHONER.

I got my medal, gave a quick kiss to my girlfriend Kristen, gave my family hugs, and immediately went to find a place to sit down.  I was tired, beat up, and beyond exhausted, but words can't describe the feeling I had.  After 4 months of training, 2 1/2 years of running, and most of a lifetime of battling weight issues, depression, knee surgery, and several things that should have prevented me from ever reaching this day, all I can say is... I did it!

This post I made shortly after the race sums up my thoughts: