I guess it’s a rite of passage. Eight years ago I let Maly cut my hair. I have no idea why I let her cut my hair. It was one of those ‘on a whim’ decisions. My hair was longer back then as I’d probably gone a couple of months between haircuts. These days I get my haircut on the first of every month, and I just get it cut short so I can go four weeks between haircuts. This month I was already a week an a half past due in getting a trim, so I decided to let Mara cut my hair. And she was pretty excited to do it.
One of the sad things about getting older and watching your children grow older is that this’ll probably be the last time my kids give me a haircut. Well, I guess it doesn’t have to be.
Six weeks ago, my friend Shelley asked me if I’d coach her for the Monterey Bay Half Marathon. Shelley has already run a handful of half marathons and a full marathon. So I asked her why she wanted me to coach her. She told me that she wanted to change things up. She wanted a new plan and new regimen. That seemed reason enough for me. My next question was, “what is your goal for the race?”
“To finish the race and come away healthy.”
Finishing a race healthy (uninjured) should always be at or near the top of the list for an athlete.
I then asked Shelley is she had any interest in attaining a personal best at Monterey Bay.
So it was decided, pretty much right then and there, that my not-so-hidden agenda would be for Shelley to get faster. Maybe she won’t get a PR at Monterey Bay, but my goal is for her to run it really well, and come away healthy, happy, and able to recover faster than she did after her best half marathon.
I created a 16-week periodized training plan that includes mileage, workouts, tempo runs and long runs.
I had to travel out of state the week that Shelley’s plan started. We maintained communication via text messages. On her second day I had her doing hill repeats. This was her feedback:
I was still out of town for her second week into the training plan. Tuesday consisted of a 4×400 track workout. Shelley hadn’t done a track workout in a really long time, and she wasn’t sure how to maintain my prescribed pace during the workout. Interval training feedback:
I was back in town for the following week and she invited me along for the Tuesday hill workout. I was a few minutes late, and she had already banged out one repeat. I ran the next repeat with her, and then told her I needed to catch up. So I picked up the pace and tried to catch her in the next 5 repeats, but I was already a half mile behind, so it wasn’t until the final downhill that we finally reconvened.
The fourth Tuesday brought us back to the track for a 6×400 workout. I wanted to be there for this workout so I could pace Shelley. As we walked to the track, I told her that this workout was going to be: Hard, hard, hard. Harder, harder, harder. We were going to work on turning our legs over quickly and increasing VO2 max.
She was raring to go, so we started our first 400. My watch was having a hard time calculating pace (it told me we were running a 10 minute pace. We needed to be running an 8:15). So I settled into what felt like an 8:15 pace. At the 300 meter mark, my watch told me we were running a 7:45 pace.
We settled into our 2-minute recovery and I asked her how that felt. “That was okay. A little faster than the last time I did 400’s, but it was okay.”
I smiled and said, “Good.”
Recovery time was over and we started our next 400. As we started I told her we were going to go a little bit slower. She liked that notion. But we still kept a 7:45 pace. And we kept a 7:45 pace on the third 400-meters.
We’re into our recovery and Shelley’s breathing hard. Two minutes goes by quickly, and I remind her that this is the part where we’re going to go “harder, harder, harder.”
And it’s at that point where my watch beeps, telling us it’s time to run, and Shelley says, under her breath, “fucker.”
I laugh and settle us into a 7:15 pace, and we finish the last 200-meters at a 7-minute pace. It’s at this point Shelley’s done expressing her feelings under her breath. “DAMMIT. ASSHOLE. HATE. YOU. FUCKER!”
Two more to go and I remind Shelley why we’re doing this. The track is like the gym. We’re here to do work. It’s going to suck, but it’s going to pay off. She wholeheartedly agrees, and then calls me asshole again.
The next 400-meters start at a 7-minute pace and we quickly settle into a 6:45 pace. “FUH. ASS. UGGGHHHH!!”
Two minute recovery before our final set. “I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you. Fucker.”
Last lap. We start at a 6:45 pace and I’m cheering Shelley on. “You got it. You got it! Push push push! Finish strong! Keep going! PUUUUUSSSSSHHH!!” And we end just shy of a 6-minute pace.
As we waddle our 2-minute recovery, Shelley takes her time to catch her breath and chug a bottle of water. High fives are exchanged. I was really excited for her and I commend her for her effort. I can easily see that she has the runner’s high thing going on. She calls me asshole again and tells me that I’m not invited to track workouts anymore.
I was diagnosed with a sprained anterior talofibular tendon on May 19th after twisting my ankle a few miles into our Grand Canyon rim-to-rim run. About a week after the sprain, I honestly wished I would’ve just broken my damn ankle. I’ve broken both of my ankles before and between us, I think this sprain is more of a pain in the ass than a fracture. I think “sprain” is too weak of a word. The medical community should call it what it is: Incurable Shitty Ankle.
A week after the sprain, my ankle was still the size of a softball and there was no way in hell I was going to try to run on it. The physical therapist, also a runner, who saw me in Flagstaff, told me I’d be looking at at least a month. And then he gave me my printout of stretches and strength-training exercises.
Now I’d been through physical therapy in the past with a hip injury. Based on the extensive research I’ve done by interviewing other casual and amateur athletes, 99.3% of them don’t follow through with their prescribed physical therapy. I am part of that 99.3% and didn’t continue with my hip exercises.
This time I decided I would actually do my PT because there’s absolutely no way I can run through this injury. I’ve only been doing these exercises for 11 days, and I have no idea how I’m going to fare when I return to running, but figured I’d memorialize the rehabilitation here with the hope that I might help you, fellow injured runner, overcome your Incurable Shitty Ankle. Note that a lot of these stretches and exercises are are supportive in nature, and focused in the hips and glutes.
Standing Hip Abduction (each leg 10 x 3)
Sidelying hip abduction (each leg 10 x 3)
Clamshells (each leg 10 x 3)
Weighted hip arches (10 x 3)
Supine active straight leg raise (each leg 10 x 3)
Ankle dorsiflexion and plantarflexion (each ankle 10 x 3)
I guess it’s a part of the circle of life; a parent, or parents die. You have to change the way you talk about what you’re going to do for the weekend. It used to be, “I’m going to my parents’ place this weekend.” Suddenly it changes to, “We’re going to my mom’s place this weekend.”
And then, on day, you find yourself thinking, “Where am I going this weekend? We’re going to Mom’s place. But it’s not ‘home’ for me.” That cycle continues. You’re not really going home; not to the home you know. I guess you’re going to your mom’s home. Your home is what your children know as ‘home.’ You have to make a home for them now.
Click the photo below to look at the photos of our last days at Mom’s place in Cat Spring, TX.
On May 18, 2019, Patrick, Michael and I made the trek to the Grand Canyon to run rim-to-rim-to-rim. Unfortunately, I sprained my ankle four miles into the canyon and could only make the rim-to-rim. I’d like to think that I have the Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the rim-to-rim with an anterior talofibular ligament sprain. The Grand Canyon is an amazing and awe-inspiring natural wonder. It’s even more so, and beyond words when you get down into the canyon.
Five years ago I had surgery to repair an abdominal hernia. While I was in recovery, I kept setting off an alarm because my heart rate was so low. The nurse came in to check on my to make sure I was okay. I was okay. I set the alarm off again. She came in again to find that I was still okay. I kept setting off the low heart rate alarm. The nurse came in the third of fourth time and finally asked, “Josh, are you a runner?”
“That explains it.”
“Runners usually have a really low resting heart rate”
Early in the year I had a non-cancerous mole-like thing removed from my tongue. It was a quick procedure performed by an oral surgeon, but was still considered surgery, so I had the heart rate monitor (and some laughing gas).
I set the heart rate monitor off again. While I was on my little conscious “trip,” I decided to try to trick the machine. I focused on my breathing and controlling my pulse. I would hold my breath for a few seconds and focus on the doctor holding onto my tongue, and then I’d listen to the rhythm of the heart rate monitor. Then I’d slowly inhale through my nose, and take a really long, controlled exhale and concentrate on my heart. I could slow my heart rate. I’d set off the alarm. I’d get a little excited by “winning,” and my heart rate would increase a bit and the alarm would stop. And then I’d do it again. And again. And again. And then the nurse asked, “Josh, are you a runner?”
“Today I took a spill after running a strong 10-mile hill repeat training running. I was jogging home and tripped on a split in the sidewalk. My feet came out from underneath me and, before I knew what I was doing, I hit the ground. Hard. I rolled. I scraped up my palms, knee and shoulder. I first noticed that the wind had gotten knocked out of my lungs. I’d landed on my right side and landed on my right arm. My body landed on my right elbow and said elbow hit my ribs. After a few minutes I was able to recover and jog the last mile home.
After six or so hours, Elise and I decided I needed to go to the doctor. It hurt for me to breath, reach, bend, stretch, and pretty much exist.
We went to an urgent care. The nurse and then the doctor asked me all of the the questions about my symptoms. An x-ray was ordered.
The X-ray tech took me to the X-ray room. She lined me up against the plate against the wall for a chest X-ray. She then went back to her “room” to take the X-ray. She took a few photos. And then she restarted the process. She sighed a couple times as she took the next set of photos. And then she asked, “Josh, are you a runner?”
And then she chuckled as she came back into the room. I asked, “What’s up?” She said she couldn’t get a full view of my chest with the default X-ray plate. I asked why. She told me that runners have “really long” lungs. So she had to get the large X-ray plate to get a full scan of my chest.
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was early on March 1st. I was in the shower. I do a lot of thinking in the shower. Sometimes really good ideas come to me. Other times, I have really bad ideas.
I knew my friends Patrick and Michael were going to be running the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim soon, and I’ll be doing a lot of running leading up to Mt. Hood in June and the Houston Marathon in January. I also have this running concept where I do something “epic” in an ultra or marathon training block; that way when I’m actually running the marathon, I can think back to that “epic” thing whenever I start experiencing a low during the race.
I’ve had the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim on my running bucket list, but honestly, I don’t know when I’d actually be able to do that on my own. I’d have to either get runner friends to go with me, or I’d need to make a family trip out it, and I think it would prove to be difficult (and somewhat self-centered) to take a family trip to the Grand Canyon, one of the most beautiful wonders of this world, and just go off on my own to run it and not be able to experience it with the family.
So I felt that this would be kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To do the r2r2r with friends, who are also very experienced ultrarunners. I asked them if I could join, and without much hesitation, they agreed to let me join the team.
Patrick and Michael are going to use the r2r2r as a training run for the Never Summer 100k in July. I’m going at it as probably the most amazing run I’ll probably ever go on. And, I’ll be honest, there are some nerves. Quite a lot of nerves for yours truly.
Since asking and graciously being accepted to run the Canyon on March 1st, Patrick booked our accommodations at Yavapai Lodge. We’ve maintained a group text thread where we’ve keep noodling over flights, and finally we booked our flights yesterday afternoon. There was part of me that was kind of secretly thinking this thing might fold in on itself because among the three of us, something would just come up and it would get delayed or canceled. We booked the flights and, as Patrick said, “Shit’s getting real now.”
In the meantime, I’ve stayed true to my marathon training plan, except I’m folding in some more difficult stuff, like doing hill repeats on the Hill of Life this past Sunday. I’ve run a 50k, and the r2r2r is ~45 miles. They say running is 90% mental. The other 10% is mental.
We’re going to run with poles. I bought a pair of poles. I also splurged on a GoPro Hero 7 and a gimbal because we’re going to have to document this adventure. I also bought a better running vest. My old Ultimate Direction vest chafes my neck, so I splurged on a Salomon S-Lab vest. My next step is to go to Fleet Feet and get some advice on some good ultra distance trail running shoes. I’m leaning toward Hoka, but won’t know until I put some on the wheels and see how they feel and fit. Forty five miles and 11,000 feet of climbing is going to be hard on the old dogs. And then I’m going to have to go on some training runs with my vest loaded with gear, nutrition, the camera and the poles.
On Wednesday morning the family loaded up and headed west for a quick Spring Break camping trip. Unfortunately, yours truly caught some kind of mild bug or cold either the night before or that morning, so I was feeling pretty crappy. My head and nose were all stopped up. I just wasn’t feeling it, but we pressed on anyway.
We made it to Garner at around 3:30 and immediately started unpacking and setting up tents. We borrowed a tent and a couple of other camping essentials from some friends. Elise didn’t really want to set up both tents, but we have a 4-person tent and would fit us like sardines. And since I wasn’t feeling well, I didn’t want to sleep in a single cramped tent, so I insisted that we set up the other tent.
After about an hour, our camp was set up and we started a fire to get ready for dinner. We grilled a chicken breast for the girls for an Italian salad. Elise and I had the same salad with foil packet potatoes, onions, mushrooms, and cannellini beans. And then, of course, we had to do the obligatory s’mores before calling it a night and going to bed.
In our packing, our car was at max capacity. We were so crammed that Elise and I had to forgo packing our own pillows. We decided we’d rough it fabricate pillows out of blankets and clothes. I surprisingly slept like a rock, however, my neck was pretty sore in the morning from sleeping on a rolled up towels as my pillow. Elise was equally sore and didn’t sleep well that first night.
We woke up with the sounds of the birds on Thursday morning. We quickly found that the camp stove that we’d borrowed from friends didn’t work. Note to self: test your camping gear before you go camping. So we had to start another fire in order to make our breakfast and boil water for coffee. For whatever reason(s), starting a fire in the morning is a lot more difficult and time-consuming in the morning that it is in the evening. Maybe it’s because you’re in a rush to get your day started and waiting on a fire delays plans. Maybe it’s the humidity and still air. I swear it took damn near an hour to get the fire big and hot enough to get around to heating our pot of water and cast iron skillet for eggs and bacon. The girls and bacon and egg breakfast tacos. Elise and I had tofu scramble tacos with our leftover foil packet mushrooms and potatoes with salsa.
After eating breakfast and cleaning up, we set out on our first adventure of the day to hike the Old Baldy Trail. This is a relatively short hike of only a bit more than a half mile, but it’s very steep and technical. And we had kids in tow. And Maly decided to dust off her camera and bring it with her on our camping trip, so she was stopping to take a lot of photos. And, true to form, Mara proved herself as an awesome little hiker. She did have a little spill on the way back down Old Baldy. She’d decided to wear rain boots on this hike, so I’m sure that decision didn’t help in her footing. She had to cry a bit because she banged up her leg pretty badly, but she was back up and at it after the tears dried up.
While I wasn’t complaining, I just wasn’t feeling well, and I think Elise could sense it. So we decided to call the summit of Old Baldy the highlight of our day. We then drove over to the park’s pavilion and the girls got some gelato. We sat under the huge oak tree at the pavilion and relaxed for a bit, then did some browsing in the gift shop. Then we drove over to the park store to get some more ice and firewood. Then we drove back to our campsite and walked the couple hundred yards to let the girls play in the Frio River. After about an hour, it was time to head back to camp and start the fire and get ready for dinner.
Thursday’s dinner was hotdogs for the girls and some pretty gross meatless veggie dogs for Elise and me. We also snarfed a bunch of tortilla chips and salad. And then, again, the obligatory campfire s’mores. It was as the sun was starting to creep down toward the horizon, Elise and Maly decided to run over to the camp store for more firewood, and then into Leakey so Elise could buy some dollar store pillows for us. While they were gone, Mara and I hung out and were able to witness an amazing moonrise.
Elise and Maly returned from their errands, and we made a few more s’mores before calling it a night and hitting the hay. Man, having a pillow makes a world of difference when you’re tent camping.
Friday morning came early with the chirping of birds again. And it was another slow morning as we had to build another fire for coffee and campfire pancakes. We also decided to take showers since it’d been a couple days since we’d all last bathed. Friday was a really slow morning and I think we finally made it out from our camp around noon.
We drove back over to the pavilion and hiked up the Crystal Cave Trail and explored Crystal Cave for a few minutes. Then we made our descent down the Bridges Trail. We made it back down to the pavilion, made a quick bathroom break, and then hiked the Old Entrance Road before calling it a day for the hiking.
We headed back to camp and the weather started looking iffy. We knew we had some significant rain chances all week, but the forecast was changing by the hour as we kept checking our phones. Finally we just decided to rely on the clouds and atmospheric pressure. It was too cloudy and cold to go back to the river on Friday evening, so we stayed at the campsite, fired up the campfire and made Frito pies and salad for dinner.
It was as we were getting dinner all cleaned up and the sun was going down that someone (probably yours truly) suggested that we consider going home Friday night instead of risking getting rained on. We noodled over it. We took a vote. Elise and Mara really wanted to stay. Maly and I were indifferent. We talked about it for a while and ultimately decided that it would probably be best to pack dry camping gear now versus wet camping gear in the morning. We’d already packed one of the tents and put all the non-essentials in the car and decided to just pack up the rest of the gear and get on the road. I think it was the right decision, too. About the time we’d decided to pack everything, a group of six people showed up at the site next to us and set up their tent really close to ours.
We got everything packed and miraculously loaded up by flashlight and found ourselves saying goodbye and heading out of Garner at 9:30 on Friday night. The girls immediately conked out in the backseat. I nodded off a couple times, and I think I finally actually fell asleep 30 minutes from the house.
We got home at 12:30 a.m., parked the car, didn’t grab a thing, and we all just piled out and went to our respective comfy beds where the sandman put us all into a nice, soft slumber.
I like the think we all had a blast and the girls will be left with memories that will stay with them forever.