Sunday, June 26, 2011

It Sounded Like a Freight Train

As you know, parts of Alabama and Georgia were hit by some pretty severe weather about two months ago.  I know people that were in the path of the storm that live in both places and I can't say that I wasn't worried about them...I was.  Fortunately, they ALL made it through without a scratch but a lot of people weren't as fortunate.
One of my co-workers mentioned to me that she was going with her church to help in the cleanup.  At the time I couldn't make it to that trip, but asked her to let me know if they did another.  Sure enough they did, and Melissa let me know.  Without a second thought I signed up.  A short time later I was having lunch with another friend, Anna, and mentioned to her that I was going to do this, and being the type of person she is, she was in as well.  There are just some people you know so well, that had she said 'OK you have fun' I would have been stunned.  People like these two are awesome and rank highly in my book.
Personally, I did this not because I am looking for a thank you or some kind of extra credit with humanity or anything, and in the scheme of things I did very little, but I did this because I just wanted to do something.

I am sure that you want all kinds of details, and I have all kinds, but I just can't share all of them.  But for those thoughts I wish to share, here you go:
  • People without anything that make it through something like this still have the most important thing in the world...their lives.
  • Sometimes help can be too overwhelming...and difficult to deal with and accept.
  • (Actually I had about 10 things listed here, but...these are two that really stood out.  If you want to know more about this, just ask me in person.  And, in all honesty, I am still processing this.)

I do have some photos that I tried to take as discreetly and respectfully as possible that I will share.
First stop.

Someone's home was here before the cleanup before the tornado.


FEMA Marking.  (This picture is actually really special to me.)
Last stop.

It's a purple room...this was someone's home.  Imagine the kid that doesn't live here anymore.

I took this one for Anna and myself just because...

Really...this is scary!

Don't just note the house off the foundation...look at the wood spears sticking out of the wall on the left.
Whether you believe in God or not...stop and think about what is important in your life...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Running with the Zombies

In case you didn't know, the cable TV network AMC films its show 'The Walking Dead'in and around Atlanta.  One day FB was a buzz with an article from the AJC in which they talked about road closures and this and that.  Then a friend of mine (probably jokingly) made the comment "Maybe I'll go out for a run and get to kill some zombies."  Me, being the 37 year old kid that I am was all over it. 
I was in...I mean...killing there was a question?  As soon as I suggested a 'Zombie Killa 50K' the banter started.  We talked about weapons of choice, what kinds of supplies would be offered at the aid stations, etc.  The only thing was that a 50K was a little tough to get in before work so we settled on a little 7¾ miler.
All weekend, right up to Sunday night, I was on and off.  What I had forgotten was an appointment with my eye doctor that I had scheduled for 8:00am that same morning. However, I was not going to let this stop me.  I talked to Jenn Sunday night and decided to risk being late for it.
4:00am - beep beep beep my alarm goes off.
5:15am -  the zombie killas are assembled and now ready for battle.
I armed myself with my water bottle and long hair.  Jenn had her camera (w/ flash for blinding zombies) and her witty personality.  Jason was dressed like a ninja (I couldn't tell if he was running with us most of the time) and his water bottle.
We finally made our way to the set and then started our exploration.  We searched high and low but found nothing.  The closest we got to a zombie was when we were near the lighting trucks. The sound of dozens of zombies in the trailer moving around were coming from the side door, but they wouldn't come out for some reason.  It appears that the most of the zombies slept in, and those that were up were busy eating something in the trailer.  How disappointing!  What were we going to do now?  We had a fun time that's what!  We toured the set, took some pictures and ultimately got kicked out by the security guard who was adamant about us discontinuing the use of the!
The moral to this story?  Have fun like a kid.  Wake up at 4:00 if you have to.  It is totally worth it!
8:00am - sitting in the waiting room.

Look at my eyes, and look at the terror!  (Photo: Jenn C)

This is howI felt all day.  (Photo: Jenn C)

Even grown-up Zombie Killas can have fun : )  (Photo: Jenn C)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Black Mountain Monster 12/24 (Race for AWESOMENESS)

This past week I went to see podiatrist Dr. Peebles to really get a good bead on what was going wrong with my ankle. I knew it was sprained (duh) BUT...I really needed to know what was going on and what would happen if I did what I had planned. Sitting in his chair he poked an prodded and examined my x-rays. There were some bone fragments, but he didn't know from when.
So then I told him my plan:
"Doc, I have a race coming up this weekend."
"What's the distance?"
"It's a timed event and I have 12 hours to see what I can do."
"My current plan is to walk / jog / run 5K and then R.I.C.E. my ankle for 20-30 minutes, and then repeat."
"I don't have a problem with that, and see how it goes, but I warn you...if you start feeling something funny in your knees, hips, or back STOP. You can be over compensating for your ankle and end up hurting yourself worse."
"That makes total sense! So, you're cool with it?"
"As long as you follow the plan and listen to yourself."
So, that was it. I was VERY strict about taking care of it for the rest of the week and then through the race.

So, my plan was to leave ATL at 7:00am. Well, after a night of finishing off all of the beer I was going to take to the race I decided to get up at like 8:00 instead of 5:30. OOPS! You know, stuff just happens sometimes. So, after a quick pop in the shower I then loaded my car with the rest of the 2,000lbs of crap I was taking up to Black Mountain and took off.
I finally arrived at the race site around 4:00 or so and helped some guys set up their canopy next to what would become my home for the next couple of nights. Being the awesome person I am, I never got their names and am pretty sure I didn't introduce myself either : )
Shortly there after Laura P rolls up and I decided to chill with her for a while in the comforts of her car's A/C where we discussed my life story, the abridged version. Though I am not a 'phone person' I love talking chilling and whatnot in person, and will talk about almost anything...just get me started. Eventually, Kim P and Amanda T show up, we stake out our plot of land for our 'aid station' and tents. Following the setup, the four of us headed out for a bite to eat with Margaret C and Tom W joining in.

Us at dinner.  I couldn't leave you out momma Kim : )  (Photo  courtesy of Kim P)

At the end of dinner I decided that since I wasn't going to run hard tomorrow I would go out with TW to this local brewery to sample some of the local beer. Like either one of needed it, but anyway. TW takes me east on I40 and then we turned around and headed west. Where the hell were we going? Once we got off I40 we drove down some back roads with him telling me “You won't believe this place...” while I'm thinking “We're never going to make it back alive...” Shit! there are like 10 cop cars!  Look sober!  Then we were was in the back of this industrial park, around a dark corner, between the porta-johns and the dumpster. What a find! Awesome beer, good conversation, a fun bartender named Abby (who we are sure hated us but was really cute), a shrine to Patrick Swayze...for real...a lot more beer, and then a big ol' growler to go...I was set. We made it back, I don't know how, and then it was sleepy time.

Nobody puts baby in the corner.

SATURDAY 6/4 and SUNDAY 6/5:
2:30am: “What the F is that?!?!” There was this HUGE rumbling and then the all to familiar sound of an air horn on a freight train approaching a crossing. OMG I thought to my self, please tell me that my tent isn't on the tracks. I felt around and then was like there is no way so I lay there and said a little prayer and the train finally made it's way past. Really, not expecting something this loud to wake you up in the middle of the night is kind of frightening! Then there was another at 3:15, another at 4:00, and I think the last one at 4:45. When I got out of the tent that morning the topic of discussion with everyone that camped that night was the train. I think during the day there was a total of about three more. For real, they all come through in the am. Yep.

Note the railroad tracks just above the red line...totally missed them. (Photo courtesy of Kim P)

Our home on the course, which is the 'mowed' section of grass.

The race begins and to avoid a super long drawn out recap of the next 24+ hours here are my highlights:
I started out at a stroll as part of my plan to test how I felt and soon I caught up with two fantastic ladies, Terri H and Angela I, who I would share a good part of the next two laps with. AI is the type of person that can make anyone smile. She just had this fantastic smile and attitude. TH, as it turns out is the SC Race Legend Terri (at least in my mind) and her attitude on races, organizing them, and rules for them are just wow! She is someone that totally embraces running and does it because she loves it.
Getting up from my rest I am feeling good. I started to run up felt so much better. I started running flats. I started running downhill. Things are looking good!
While I rested I took the time to help out and provide for my friends any help I could including getting water, heckling, kind words, food, you name it! That was a lot of fun. Also while I rested I was a target for heckling as well. Joe F, the ultimate winner, record breaker, and amazing athlete would run by shouting a new nickname at me time and time again. “Hey Jesus hair!” “Fabio's ugly cousin.” “Rembrant's something or another.” It was freakin' hilarious every time! Really!  I don't know why but stuff like this really makes me smile like Wayne D yelling to me as he left that he was having his prize for a visit to a hair salon mailed to me.

My favorite section of trail.
So, The Big Cat, Jason R goes out on a lap and I decided to head out with him. Along the way there was an old bus and JR breaks into a song about Alexander Supertramp this was funny as shit! Like pee your pants funny. I swear I might have shed a tear from laughter. Earlier during the day JR had also commented to me about the Eddie Vedder music selection they were playing before the race which made it all the more funny. Also along that lap we picked up another ultrarunner who I kind of met at Sean's Runlikehellathon. If you don't know who Leopold is you should.  He's 11 years old. No, I am not kidding. As a matter of fact he set his distance PR at 50 miles this weekend, I also had the joy of running his marathon lap with him which was a time PR (I think). And the conversations...Holy Moly!

On my favorite section of trail.
Mark E. Out of all of the people at the race, I think I logged most of my miles with this dude. There was never a time where we didn't stop laughing or making jokes. Like: “JF's shoes make me so much taller!” or “This was the sunny part, we should walk it to save our energy.” or “This qualifies as a hill.” or “Mark, dude, you look so much it the shoes?” or “I haven't really studied whether or not dogs sweat, but I am sweating like a pig.” or “There's KP in the same spot we couldn't catch her before. Let's do it.” or I don't care what JF says, I am not drinking something called a Dirty Sanchez. or “This is a really bad idea.” or “I can't believe she thinks my shirt is dirty!”

If you look closely amongst the ferns you will see mucho poison ivy : )
At one point I was on one of my breaks where I had a moment of realization. My goal of 15 miles was within sight and I was feeling AWESOME. I was sitting there with Kena and I told her that I think I have a marathon in me. She looked at me and said “Aaron, I believe in you.” I don't know if she was just saying that to get me up off my butt or whatever, but it really meant a lot and did the trick. I knew it was going to go for it and give it my best. I got up and off I went. Thanks girl! You are AWESOME!
OK, I admit that as the race went on I could feel my ankle getting more and more tired. I was taking a good number of walk breaks and noticed one of my tell-tale signs of fatigue on my marathon lap. I knew how much more I had in the tank (a lot), however knew that though all of my body was working well I couldn't risk being injured all summer. So, I decided to do one more. I set out and did my last lap finishing at 50K or 31mi.
Now the party can begin. Off come the shoes out comes the ice. Getting to see my running diva friends KP and AT meet and CRUSH their goals was inspiring. KP rocked out an amazing 37.2mi after coming back from a terrible ankle injury a year ago...YAY! AT's goal was to do more miles than her boyfriend Todd who was running a 38mi race that night. Having never run more than 22mi before she finishes SUPER strong at 43.4mi and was ready for more! LP, girl, seeing you tear up was really moving and you deserve to feel that way after 52.7mi! Matthew G, I'm proud you represent us man! 
"Hey, KP, did you help him with his wood?"
“You know, we're going to have a bonfire over there, it's going to be really cool. There is a pile of dry wood over there (points in another direction) and if you want you can get some know for yourself...there is no obligation.” OK, for realz? Not that I ran as much as everyone else, but I just ran 31mi. No way! However, I am glad he did ask because we spared no expense with picking on KP for the rest of the trip. (Insert bad jokes about wood here.)

Kitchen bitch. (Photo courtesy of Kim P)

As the night wore on I earned a new nickname. Bitch. Yep, I feel the love...yep...for real! I was KP and AT and JR and whoever else came into our aid stations kitchen bitch. I would get water, cokes, ice, make grilled sandwiches to order, whatever, and even made coffee in the morning! And, yes I complained the whole time...with a smile of course. And, yes KP, I need to cook faster, but I was in no hurry : )

Me and The Big Cat.  (Again, thanks Kim P)
Ha ha! Look we match! I almost brought and probably would have worn my black running shorts. No, JR and I didn't plan this ahead, it was totally an accident. My race shirt was RED by the way. Way to meet your 100K goal man!
You know, I don't know where to put this, but I went to sleep around 2:30am (I didn't really sleep all that much) but every time JR came in Christian G would yell “Big Cat”...I chuckled to myself each time. Oh, yeah, and another thing...our aid station was by far the rowdiest of all! I know that people were trying to sleep but hearing Sully and Weezy call out as they approached just fueled things. The race director came over and accused us of having alcohol, probably thinking we were hammered...actually we weren't!
What did I hear as I lay in my tent that night?  Train. “Big Cat”. Train. Sneeze vomiting. Train stopping. “Woooooo!!” Things falling on my tent. Train. Birds chirping.
Then it was light.
ME, JS, WD, MC, and JF were still all going! Margaret somehow found her second wind and damn, she was on freaking fire! 83.7mi WAY TO GO!
JF was resting.  I stood watching his expression change as he sat there taking off his shoes, listening to our encouragement, and then putting on his racing flats for another, that was AWESOMENESS right there. Time was running out. As he popped out of the woods and ran up the hill to the lap table I yelled as many profanities at him as I could remember at that moment. I yelled them as loud as I could. And then it happened he looked at me as he ran by and said “This is going to suck.” and he put that thing into a whole other gear I've never seen and took off looking faster than he did ALL day. Wow dude 37 laps? 24 hours?  114.7miles...

So, you may ask: “Was the weekend really AWESOME?”
If you don't know and can't figure it out from what is written above, you are an idiot : )

Look at that AWESOME silver car!!  See anything?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sutallee 10mi Trail Challenge, Anke Sprain, & Gahuti Training Run


I awoke early Saturday morning after an evening of watching the Hangover (in preparation for The Hangover 2), having a big ol' plate of sushi from Kuroshio (page 6/8 'The Earth Mover'), and a couple of beers to thin the blood for maximum efficiency.  Once I picked up Jason B and His sister Stace, we headed off to Canton where JB and I would run the 10 mile course while SB did the 4mi.  Earlier during the week I got a and e-mail from Jenn and a call from Jaydene regarding this race, and I was ultimately able to con them each into coming out!

At the start of the race I got to hang out and chat a few of my GUTS friends Kate B, Jon O, and Mark E.  I would ultimately end up running about 7 miles with Mark while cutting up a good portion of the time.  Laughing while running can't be beat!  Thanks Mark! 

9:00 and it was a go!  I cruised through all of the miles with ease and a smile on my face.  I wish I had seen Jenn at the start, after all I did tell her about the race.  However, I must have been caught up in setting my new land-speed record.  All the way from the start through mile 7 (I am beginning to sense a pattern here) I was doing awesome then it happened.  At one point the light was coming through the leaves and I quickly discovered that because of my 'gimp' eye I had problems with the contrast and then my depth perception.   BAM!  As soon as I saw it, I stepped into a hole.  Not a deep one, but one substantial enough to cause me to roll my ankle, fall down, and roll down the trail.
"ARE YOU OK?",  a couple of people asked.
"I don't know, but run on." was all I could say.
I helped myself up with a tree and stood there for about 2 minutes.  Was it broken?  Can I move? Am I going to be able to finish?   These were all questions going through my mind, as I started walking down the trail.  Yep, I was walking, and eventually I was running.  I finished that bitch yo.  I WAS NOT going to let this stop me!  Like last week I pushed on until the end, and i finished with a respectable 2:02 considering I damn near killed myself.
The trails of Boiling Park in Canton are awesome.  The hills are rolling and not too challenging and the tree cover keeps you protected from the sun almost the entire way.  One thing I particularly liked was the pine straw covering the trails in several sections.  According to the RD there was a 'bushwhack' section that we were going to have to run through..for real?  This was nothing, but it did afford me the chance to pass about 6 or 8 people as they 'struggled' to find their way.  Come to think of it, I only remember being passed by 2 of these people after my fall, how did that work?

Me and Jaydene at the finish - she kicked ass!
I sprained my dang ankle.  Yep yep.  It has turned all purple and it looks like I have elephantitis.  Today, I go to see Dr. Peebles for an expert evaluation.  Why a podiatrist?  Well, the ER doc didn't do anything for me except take an x-ray and give me a prescription for some Vicodin.  Hmm...12 pills of Vicodin for $ it worth it?  I have to admit that I did try one even though I'm not in much pan...let me say DAYUM!

Left Ankle - Outside View - Day 3

Left Ankle - Inside View - Day 3

If you follow my Facebook page you will note that the times don't quite match up, but whatever : )
Saturday night I called Kim P and told her I wasn't running, but I was going to come out to work the aid station.  She was a little confused as to why I would still want to come out, but trust me, spending some time with some good friends (whether you can run with them or not) was just what the doctor ordered.   Actually, she understands having been a very similar situation a year ago.
I loved being able to get out there and help my friends out even though some of them got lost Greg M, Joel T, and Sandy G,  but hey, the missed the 985 stairs on the first loop and, well it was just right that they got lost and ultimately ended up doing them! 
There were SO many people out there and I wish I could have run with y'all but have no fear I had a great time working the mile 3 aid station as well as the finish line.  Y'all did great!  I can't wait for the run on the 301 trail!   Hopefully my gimp ankle will be healed by then.

So, with that I bid you Happy Running!