5 Months Later…

It’s been 5 month since my surgery, and I’ve made a lot of progress.  I’m not where I want to be yet, but I am much better off than I was after my surgery and after finishing radiation treatments.

I know it has been a while since my last post.  There’s been some pretty good and some pretty lousy things in the last 6 weeks, so here’s a recap:

Good Stuff:

  1. I’m back into running again!  Had my first 20+ mile week and started my 18 week training plan for the Ledesma Sports Medicine Rails to Trails 50K in January.
  2. I finally made it back to working full time at the plant.  Even though I get a bit tired by the afternoon, it feels good to put in a full day at the plant, and get home before diner.
  3. Kids are back in school! I have two seniors this year…Lord, have mercy!
  4. Made the transition to eating mostly vegan.  I am eating pretty much 100% vegetarian and about 90% vegan.  Still give in for eggs and cheese on rare occasions.  I am actually loving it!  I feel great, recovery is faster, and much less GI issues from my medications, not to mention all the new dishes I have discovered.  My favorite so far is my own version of Beans & Greens.
  5. Had an AWESOME day out paddle boarding on Shem Creek with my whole family, my brother-in-law, and his two kids a few weekends ago.  Too much fun!

Not-so-good Stuff:

  1. Still having lots of mouth pain…mostly in my right jaw.  Doctors say this is normal from the radiation treatments, and will get better over time, but may take several more months.
  2. Also having to do stretches 3-4 times every day to maintain my range of motion in my jaw.   At the moment, I can only open my mouth wide enough to fit a small cherry tomato in.  Anything larger than that, I have to cut.  It makes eating a challenge and has slowed my eating tremendously (which is probably a good thing).  This too should improve over time, but may take 6 months or more.
  3. And then, I’ve had a couple of these bad boys work their way out of my mouth…bone fragments from the surgery.  They are small, but I swear they were a foot wide while they were coming out!
  4. About two weeks ago, I tried to start coming off my pain medication.  I have been on a 100mcg/hr Fentanyl patch since my surgery.  I change it every 3 days, but it runs out around 12 hours before then, and I feel pretty lousy until the next morning.  I thought that I was doing well enough to start coming off of it, and my doctor agreed to give me 75 mcg patches.  It was a bit of a disaster…felt like absolute crap for about 5 days before I gave up and decided now was not the time.
  5. Also, we were also notified that we have to move.  Our landlord has given us notice that we have to be out by the end of September.  The house we are renting is not ideal for us.  It is a bit small, and old, and the yard is not fenced in, but with all we have going on, now is not the best time to be moving.  Oh well, at least he agreed to give us to the end of October!

All in all, its been good.  There have definitely been some tough times, but we have made it through them and I am getting stronger every day.  Thanks again to everyone for your continued prayers and support.  Until next time!

Relentless. Forward. Progress.

kp

Great Day

So, today was a pretty great day. To start, I finally got to meet and run with a great guy, local ultra runner and   my “virtual” friend, Masumi Herota. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the conversation and the company as I ran the bridge for the first time since this whole “cancer thing” started. 

Masumi and I had met in passing at a few races in the past, but had only spoken through FB before today. I’m talking about this because Masumi is doing something that means a lot to me. He has organized a 72 hour run to raise money for the American Cancer Society. 

Here’s the website:

Masumi’s American Cancer Society 72 Hour Park Circle Run

and the Facebook page:

ACS 72 Hour Park Circle Run Facebook Page

It is amazing and generous what he is doing. Please donate to and/or support this event!

The rest of the day was great as well. I got to spend some more quality time with my wife. I took today off from work to celebrate our 20th anniversary (which was Wednesday). We did a little walking and shopping downtown Charleston and then got some dinner and watched a movie. 

All in all, a pretty great day!

Until next time!

Relentless. Forward. Progress.

kp

Random Update….Update

So, most of you who know me, know that I am an eternal optimist. I always try to offer hope and encouragement to people no matter the circumstances. This is true about most of the things I put on social media, and even in my conversations with people in the “real world”.

Having said that, I promised when I started documenting this journey that I would give you the good, the bad and the ugly…so when my wife read my last post, she called B.S. on me.

First off, let me say, I love that about my wife. She is just awesome that way. Secondly, let me clarify…I did give you the truth, but not the whole truth. I gave the Facebook, positive slant, “here’s the face I put on for strangers” version.  So, in the spirit of full disclosure, here’s the real deal;

I’m still on a pain patch that gives me constant narcotic pain medicine. I change it out every three days, but it wears off in about 2 1/2 days, so the last twelve hours before I change, I am pretty miserable. I am dreading when the doctor tells me there are no more refills.

Even with the patch, I still have a good bit of mouth pain, especially when I eat or when I talk a lot. The side of my mouth where my gum used to be attached, is still very tender. That also is where my dental prosthetic seats, so there is constant pressure and rubbing, especially when I talk or chew. It truly sucks.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m going to beat this, and I know I’m getting better every day, but it is a painfully slow process. I do really hope to be run/walk/running in a couple of weeks, but the reality is it will probably still be mostly walking. It will come in time, but probably will take more time than I want.

So, if you are reading this and are fighting your own health struggle know this, you can persevere. You can make it. It will be harder than you think, and it may take longer than you think. Hang in there, you’ve made it this far. You can do it!

Relentless. Forward. Progress.

kp

Random Update….Cancer still sucks!

Hey everyone!  I know it has been a while since I posted an update.  It has been a pretty tough go for the past month.  At my last post, I still had about two weeks to go in radiation.  Everything I was told about the last two weeks was pretty accurate.  It was awful.  The sores in my mouth and the pain from my prosthetic really took a toll on me, not to mention my energy level was the lowest its ever been.  For the last week, I was not even able to drive to work.  I managed to work from home for 4-5 hours a day, but I was sleeping about 12 hours a day.  The good news is, I finished it!

These technicians, were awesome!  Every day, for 6 1/2 weeks, they greeted me with a smile and a handshake and and upbeat positive attitude.  They really helped me to keep a positive outlook on things through all this. I am so grateful for the good work they do.

Having said that, I hope I never see them again!  It was so great to ring that bell, and know that, for now at least, it was over and that every day forward, I had the possibility of feeling a little better instead of feeling a little worse. So it’s been a couple of weeks now since I’ve finished treatments, and I’m finally starting to feel better.

This week, I have been able to get back to work in the plant for 5-6 hours a day.  I have been able to get out and walk for a mile and a half most evenings with my lovely wife Tania. A week ago, I got re-fitted for my dental prosthetic, which made a huge difference in my comfort level while talking and eating.

I have been able to eat a little better this week as well.  I have lost a total of 42 lbs, and to be honest, I probably needed to lose half of that, so that’s one positive thing.  I saw a guy at work that I haven’t seen in a while.  He didn’t know about the cancer, and he said “Kit, you’ve lost some weight, you look great!”. I laughed, thanked him, and told him not to try my diet plan!

So now, I am finally starting to feel human again.  There are still days when I feel lousy (usually from overdoing it).  There are still days when I miss how easy it used to be to eat or drink, or just chew gum.  It still sucks, and it is frustrating that I have to cut my food (even sandwiches) into tiny children’s size bites to eat, and it takes me forever to eat a small meal.  If I’m not careful, drinks still come out of my nose, but I am told with time, those things will sort themselves out.  Mostly though, I miss running.

I miss the time out on my feet.  I miss the leg burn.  I miss the trails.  I miss the feeling afterward of accomplishing a goal, and the endorphin rush. I really miss it! I’m hoping within the next couple of weeks, I will be able to start back again.  I’m planning to follow the Maffetone method to get ready for the Savannah Rails to Trails 50K on January 9th.  I’m registered, and hoping in 27 weeks, I can get ready in time for it!  I’ll keep you guy updated as I move forward.

Thanks again for all of your support!  Until next time…

Relentless. Forward. Progress.

kp

2013 Homestead 10 x 5K – Race Report

Wow! I can’t believe it has been so long since I posted on my blog…I wonder how many blog posts start that way? Anyway, lots and lots has happened since my last post, so I wanted to get some of it down on virtual paper before the details start to fade.

Since rupturing my L5-S1 disk last July, and my subsequent back surgery in September, it has been a long road. I was released by the doctors in late December to start running again, and since then, I have been slowly building up the miles. After nearly six months of no running, it was like starting running for the first time!

After getting back into running, I also made the transition from being a pronounced heel-striker to a mid-foot striker. I have been meaning to write a post on that journey and what I learned, but maybe later. Well, the long and short of it is after about 8 months of experimenting, trial & error, and a lot of hard work I am almost back to where I was before my injury. In fact a few weeks ago (Aug. 24th, 2013), I achieved my comeback goal of completing my second 50k!

This race was put on by Lowcountry Ultras, and I must say Tim Waz knows how to put on a race! After this experience, I definitely plan to run more of the races L.U. sponsors.

This race format was pretty unique, and I thought it would be a good way to get back into ultras. It was run on a 5k loop. At 7am the participants lined up to run one lap. We repeated this every hour, on the hour until all ten laps were completed. In the end your time was calculated as the total sum of your ten lap times. Running ten 5Ks sure SOUNDED easier than running one 50k!

Performance Enhancing Kokopelli

I came into this race woefully under trained. Due to pulling a muscle in my back about 6 weeks prior to the race, I missed out on some of my key long runs at the end of my training. In fact, the longest run I had done since my surgery prior to the race was 15 miles. Even so, I woke up that next morning feeling pretty good, and ready to run. I was putting a lot of hope in my PEK working some magic to get me to the finish line!

So, with all that on my mind, I drove down to Ridgeland, SC on Friday afternoon to pickup my race pack and setup my tent at the race site. Afterwards, I went down to Hilton Head for my pre-race meal at Mellow Mushroom. By 8pm, I was settled down in my tent where I listened to a couple of podcasts and then tried to get some sleep before the big race.

I woke up at 5:45 am, surprisingly refreshed after the fitful nights sleep I had gotten (it had been too hot/humid for camping), ate some fruit and almond butter and went for a warmup walk before the race began.

Mud!

Thankfully, the weather was overcast and cooler than expected (high 70s – actually cooler
than the night before), but still pretty humid. The course was a bit of an out and back figure eight, with about 2/3 of it being single track and the rest service roads. The first lap let me know what I was in for the rest of the day. A large portion of the course was muddy. If you are not familiar with coastal GA and SC, you probably don’t fully appreciate what I just said. Mud in this area of the country is not just wet dirt, it is mostly clay, commonly referred to as “gumbo”, and it is like running in creamy peanut butter spread about 6″ deep…relentless, slippery, shoe-sucking mud! Even so, I felt pretty optimistic about the day by the end of the first lap.
I had hoped to hold a steady pace between 11 and 12 min/mile throughout the day, and so far, things looked promising. However, that was not to last.

The next few laps were uneventful, but by the end of the 5th lap, I was starting to feel the effects of being under trained, poorly rested and running solo. This was my first time running a race that my son Christian and I didn’t run together. Actually, it was the first time I had run more than 15 miles without my running partner. I totally underestimated the importance of having someone there to motivate you when it gets tough.

On lap six, I put on a fresh pair of shoes that had a little more cushion and traction and started using the run/walk method that had gotten me through my first marathon at a 3:1 ratio. By the end of lap seven, the wheels were coming off and I was running 1 minute, then walking two minutes.

Start of Lap 8!

At this point, I was hanging by a thread and I was doubting my chances of finishing. I started lap eight thinking that I would drop after that lap with a respectable 24.8 miles completed. About a mile into the 5k loop, my quads started cramping. every time I tried to run for more than 30 seconds, they would spasm and cramp. From the two mile marker, I death-marched in to the finish line with full intention of embracing my first DNF.

When I crossed the finish line for that lap, Tim Waz was there logging everyone’s lap time. He told me I was doing great. I just winced and said “I’m done.” He said something to the effect of “You’ve got about 12 minutes before the next lap starts. Get something to drink, sit down for a minute and see how you feel.” In my mind, it was over. But rather than argue with him, I grabbed a couple of oatmeal cookies from the aid station table and hobbled back to my tent. I got my last bottle of Tailwind out of the cooler, sank into my camp chair and took off my shoes.

My rationale was good. I knew I could not complete two more laps, and I also knew it would be crazy to quit with just one lap to go, so now was the time to drop. Just finish that last cookie, turn in your race bib and start packing up.

About that time, they sounded the five minute warning for lap nine. I didn’t budge. I didn’t even raise my head. Just finish the last of that bottle of sports drink, turn in your race bib and start packing up.

Soon I heard, “Two minutes, people!” Since my station was only about 30 feet from the starting line, I decided I would at least hang around to cheer on everyone for the start of the next lap. Just clap, turn in your race bib and start packing up.

Then, something happened. I honestly can’t explain it. It was like someone else was controlling my body. “One minute!” I looked down and one of my shoes was on my foot, then the other, and by the time they started the ten second countdown, I was standing there in the middle of the pack thinking “What the heck…it’s only two more laps!”.

To my surprise, I power walked the entire course except for the first and last 100 yards of lap nine, and finished in about 45 minutes (faster than lap eight). Every step took effort, but now I had a plan…relentless forward progress. I knew I was going to be able to finish this thing!

Just before the last lap, I realized that I had not taken any pictures of the course, so I grabbed my iPhone at the last minute and brought it with me. Now I knew I could take a little extra time and still beat the cut-off, so I stopped every 1/4 mile or so and snapped some pics of the course.

View of the finish line as I round the last corner.

It was such a great feeling to round that last corner and see the finish line! I was so glad that I stuck it out, though I’m still not sure where the motivation to get back out for the last two laps came from, but I couldn’t be more proud of my finish. As a bonus, I also won a pair of SwiftWick socks they gave away via several random drawings! No one was going to be writing articles about me in Trail Runner Magazine with my 7:04 finish time, but it was a PR for me, and that’s way better than a DNF!

As I slowly packed up my campsite (I had failed to consider having to do that by myself with leg cramps when I decided to camp out instead of getting a hotel) I did think to myself that I was done with any races over the half marathon distance. I had done it, I had nothing more to prove to myself or anyone.

Two days later, I’m browsing UltraSignup.com for a January 50k for Christian and I to run together…….

The 2012 SweetH2O 50K Ultramarathon

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:

Ran 1.9 miles in 25 minutes and 30 secondS.  Got my orthotics today!
Ran with my son…first run in over five years. I died twice.

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!

  

  

Running for a Cause

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.

Christian – 3 lb, 11 oz

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:

Stephen and Matthew Huffman Neonatal Enrichment Fund Giving

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.