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October 11, 2012
September 6, 2012
May 5, 2012
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. ~T.S. Eliot
Well, last Saturday was the big day! It was the culmination of just over two years of hard work and training for Christian and I. We ran the the 2012 SweetH2O 50K Ultra-marathon.
It has been an amazing journey. A few days before the race, I was looking back through my running log on DailyMile.com. I found my 1st Daily Mile run post, dated April 14, 2010. It reads:
Christian and I have come a long way since then, but one thing has not changed…we still have an uncontrollable urge to push each other to our limits. We’ve run close to 1,300 miles together, in sub-freezing temperatures, and in 100+ degree heat indexes, 6 hour trail runs, endless mile repeats on the steepest portion of the Cooper River Bridge, and hundreds of laps around our neighborhood. None of that was enough to prepare us for what last Saturday had in store for us.
It was an incredible experience, but I doubt anyone would want to read the detailed account of our 9 hour, 47 minute ordeal, so I won’t put it all down here, but I will give a few highlights.
The race was harder than I ever thought it could be. It actually turned out to be about 33 miles long, based on several GPS reports, and the elevation climb/descent was over 7,000 ft! There were several points where I thought I couldn’t go on, but the encouragement I received from my son, or from the cut-off runner (Graham Gallemore) or from many of the friends Christian and I made on the course that day, spurred me forward. The ice bath for my legs and back that I got at the river crossings were also a huge help. After the second crossing (at about mile 19-ish), I changed into a fresh pair of socks, and rested my legs for about 5 minutes or so, and again felt like I could go on.
The last 8-9 miles of the course were simply miserable. Christian and I were exhausted, having spent more time on our feet on a single run than ever before. We walked almost all of those 8 miles, just struggling to put one foot in front of the other. We met several other runners during this time as well and took turns encouraging each other that we could finish. The last mile or so Christian and I decided enough was enough, and we wanted to finish under 10 hours, so we started to run again. Running in this case probably only described our posture, as I doubt we were actually moving any faster than when we walked, but we finally reached the finish line and both of us crossed on the run!
We found out later that Christian set the record for the youngest finisher in the six year history of the race: 13 years old.
It is, without a doubt, the hardest and most rewarding physical thing I have ever done, but I can’t take credit for it. I would have never completed it without the help and encouragement of the volunteers, fellow runners and most of all, my son along the way.
Thanks to all of you for helping me become an ultra-marathoner!
February 29, 2012
Many of you reading this are probably friends and family, so you know the crazy running journey that my son and I have been on for the last 22 months. For those of you who are new here, I’ll give you the “cliff notes” version. My son and I started running together in May of 2010, with a goal to get healthy, but mostly just to have some quality father-son time. So far, we’ve run about 1,200 miles together, and also finished a few “milestone” races including our first 10k, our first 1/2 marathon & our first marathon.
In a couple of months we are going to be running our first ultra marathon: The SweetH2O 50K at Sweetwater Creek State Park in Lithia Springs, Ga. It promises to be 31.75 miles of beautiful trails and brutal hills! We have been training hard for it and I am confident we will be ready.
Over the past two years, my son has surprised me many times with the grit and determination he has shown while training for these races (at 13, he was the youngest finisher for the Charleston Marathon this year). Now he has surprised me again, this time with his compassion. After being inspired by David Goggins, He has decided he wants to use this race to raise awareness and funds for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the Children’s Hospital at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, Ga.
In May of 1998, Christian and his twin sister, Johahna were born at MUMC at about 32 weeks gestation. We were very blessed that they were relatively healthy for being two months premature, but due to their size and development, they were required to remain in the NICU for about 4 weeks, and in the hospital another two weeks before being healthy enough to come home.
It was an emotional roller coaster during those six weeks, but I can’t overstate how amazing the doctors and nurses were, caring for our twins. The peace of mind we had each evening that we returned to the Ronald McDonald house, knowing our twins were in capable, caring hands was what helped us sleep at night. We also know that we owe so much of how well they are doing now (13 years later) to the excellent care they received in those first few weeks.
Christian has come a long way since then, and now he has decided he wants to give a little back. About three years ago, the Stephen and Matthew Huffman Neonatal Enrichment Fund was set up by Stephen and Matthew’s parents. You can see their story here. This fund provides care items for use in the NICU and to parents for home care: rocking chairs, bouncer seats & toys for the babies to help with cognitive development, and sleep sacks. The sleep sacks help reduce the risk of SIDS while keeping the babies warm. The sleep sacks are also given to the parents when their children go home. All gifts are tax deductible, and obviously go to a great cause.
If you’d like to give to the Stephen and Matthew Huffman Neonatal Enrichment Fund, just follow this link:
Please select the “Stephen and Matthew Huffman Neonatal Enrichment Fund” as the choice to make donations. Also, if you give, please make sure you put Christian’s name in the “Additional Information” field under “In Honor Of”. That will help us track Christian’s fund raising. If you would rather give over the phone or via mail, click –> here <– for information on how to do that.
Finally, if you would be so kind, forward this post to everyone you know to help spread the word about what Christian is doing. Thanks again for taking the time to read this.
January 22, 2012
“Hey Dad…you know we might as well go ahead and run a full marathon now….”
Last weekend was yet another milestone in my son’s quest to see how far he can push his “old man” (and for the record, I am still convinced he is trying to kill me!). For those of you who may not know, this journey started with our decision to train for and run the 2011 Cooper River Bridge Run. I talked about that race here. Then, we set our sites a little higher, taking on the 2011 Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon, which I blogged about here. So, last Saturday, we attempted our first full Marathon: The 2nd Annual Charleston Marathon. It was an experience that I will never forget, and quite frankly, even after a week to ponder things I am having a difficult time finding the words to adequately describe the experience.
By Charleston standards, it was a cold start for the race (32°F and breezy), but the sun was out and our adrenaline was high when the gun went off at 8am. Our goal was to run a steady pace of around 12 min/mi for the entire race. We were hoping to finish under 5 hours 20 minutes, but ultimately our goal was to just finish.
Because there was no pace group for our target time, we ended up running the first 10 miles or so with the half marathon 2:30 pace group. This should have put us running about an 11:40 min/mi pace, which was a little faster than our plan, but tolerable. In actuality, they ran way fast. Our average pace for the first 10 miles was just under 10:45 min/mi! Even so, we were still feeling pretty good at that point. Later in the race, we would find that took a lot out of us.
After we split off from the half marathon runners, we slowed a bit, and found a good groove, running about 12:15 pace and feeling great.
By about mile 16, we finally got warm enough to shed our “throw-away” sweats and the cool air hitting us gave us a bit of a physical and emotional boost, but it was not to last. Things really got tough during miles 19-21, our pace slowed and we took a few extra walk breaks to try and get ready for the final 5 miles. That seemed to work, and we picked the pace back up and set our sights on the finish line.
As always, the last few miles are the toughest. When we hit the 24 mile mark we turned into the wind, and it was demoralizing. We were tired, dehydrated and that 8-10 mph wind made the 45° air feel like 30°! The last mile, I had nothing left. It was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, and praying for the finish line to hurry up and get to me!
We had a couple of false alarms where we turned a corner and thought we’d see the finish line but instead, only met disappointment. When we finally turned that last corner, and saw the finish about 150 yards ahead, I was unexpectedly overcome by emotion. At the time I couldn’t explain why, but I knew I was on the edge of weeping. I held my composure for the sake of having a decent finish photo, but hearing my name called out, crossing the finish line, seeing that we beat our goal time and having that medal put around my neck was too much. I totally lost it for a minute or two.
And that is the part that I have such a hard time putting into words. The excitement and pride, the highs and the lows experienced during the race was a large part of it for sure. However, I know it was much more that that. It was also all the emotions from the months of training and hundreds of miles my son and I have run together, the sore ankles, strained muscles, the great conversations we’ve had and the friendship & respect we have forged with each other, all for the sake of just getting to that finish line…it all came back at that single moment. It was indescribable.
I wish that everyone could share that experience…and the fact is…you can! If you are reading this and thinking you could never do something as extreme as running a marathon or even a half marathon, please read this post. You can do it! You should do it!
So, what’s next? Well, believe it or not, my son and I have now started training for our final leg of this journey extreme running journey. We are running the SweetH2O 50K Trail Run in April. It is going to be epic…I hope I survive!
November 11, 2011
Back in April, my son Christian and I completed our first official race, the 2011 Cooper River Bridge Run. I wrote about it here. That race was the culmination of a year long training cycle for us. It was also the starting point for a new challenge: Finish a half marathon. A few weeks ago, we loaded up in the car to drive the 2 1/2 hours from Summerville to Myrtle Beach to achieve that goal.
Actually, with the addition of my two daughters, Michaela and Johahna, we ended up making an entire weekend adventure out of the event. It was a GREAT weekend. I introduced my kids to one of my favorite pizza joints: The Mellow Mushroom (they are now fans as well). Michaela and Johahna completed their first 5K fun run, 34:17 and 34:20 respectively (great job girls!). We had the 1st annual Palmer Putt-Putt Invitational (I dominated), followed by a cut-throat game of high stakes Uno. Then, of course, there was the 1/2 Marathon for Christian and I on Sunday.
Neither of us slept well Saturday night, due to the excitement. Nonetheless, we were up and out of the hotel by 5:45 to catch the shuttle to the start. the shuttle was running a little behind, and we didn’t get on the bus until about 6:15, which had many of the runners getting pretty anxious since the race started at 7:00. We arrived at the start about 6:30, and saw the last 10 minutes of the Medieval Times exhibition, which was pretty cool), then made our way to the corral, grabbed some water, popped a GU and got ready to run!
Our goal was to finish in 2:11 or better, which translates to a 10 minute/mile pace. We have been training, using Jeff Galloway’s Run-Walk-Run method and we set out using a 4:45 run-walk ratio (4 minute run/45 second walk). The weather was perfect at the start of the race: 50 degrees and sunny. Christian and I started out feeling strong and were running about a 10:15 mile pace when we reached mile two, so we picked up the pace a little to try and get on track for our goal.
We reached mile 6 at about 58 minutes, putting us right where we wanted to be, but Christian had started having some GI issues. He had a stomach bug earlier in the week, but thought he was over it. However, we were forced to stop at the port-a-potties at the 1/2 way point. We lost about 3-4 minutes there, and when Christian came out, he said he would have to stop again, but we could go on for now. We were able to get back on a good pace, and hold it for the next few miles, but at mile 9 1/2, Christian was in trouble again. After another visit to the port-a-potties, we were off again. He said he felt better, but I could tell he was struggling a bit with stomach cramps.
At mile 11, we passed our hotel, where the girls were waiting. True to form, Christian put a smile on his face, bowed out his chest and put on the “gun show” for his sisters with the camera. At that point I knew he was going to finish strong. We ran together to the 12 mile marker and then, Christian told me to go ahead and see what I had left.
At that point, I was not sure where I was at with regards to time, but I decided to give it all I had to finish strong. I turned off my GymBoss, and “dumped the tank” for the last mile. The only negative thing I had to say concerning the race was about the final stretch leading into the finish line. It was on the boardwalk, and the path for the last 600-800 meters was too narrow and curvy to sprint. I was having to weave in and out of other runners, and it really broke my stride near the end. I probably lost 30-40 seconds due to that. Nonetheless, I finished in 2:15:03. Considering the fact that we lost about 8 1/2 minutes at the port-a-potties, I was very pleased with this time. As soon as I got my medal, I turned to see how Christian was going to finish. To my surprise, I found that he was less than a minute behind me, finishing in 2:15:47. Apparently, he couldn’t stand to see his old man leaving him behind!
So, as always, I have to stop and think about what I have learned from this experience. There are many, but here are a few:
- 13.1 miles is not impossible as I once thought it was.
- I love spending time with my kids.
- Jeff Galloway is a genius (Run-Walk-Run works people!).
- I still don’t drink enough water.
- Changing from “heel strike” to “mid-foot strike” was the best running decision I have ever made.
- My son has more tenacity than I sometimes give him credit for.
- Marathon runners may not be as crazy as I once thought they were (or I am getting more crazy the longer I run!).
- I still can do more than I think I can do.
All in all, I don’t think I could have asked for a much better experience on my first long distance race. We had some challenges, but both finished strong with smiles on our faces and hunger to do another race soon. The entire weekend was a blast! Speaking of that, we are still training for our next race: The Charleston Marathon in January. Come run with us!
If you’re interested (and why wouldn’t you be?), you can see more pictures from our weekend here.