Monday, January 12, 2009

Conquer Your Demons!

There are times in your life where no matter what you do something seems to be holding you back. Maybe it's a belief that you have or a habit or simply a lack of motivation. Whatever it is, you know that it's keeping you from "Going for it" a hundred percent.

If you're like me at some point in time you're finally going to say; enough is enough!

You're either going to beat this thing down and rise above it or its just going to consume you.

When I had my heart attack back in May of 2008, I was on a route to my brothers' dealership some 21 miles from my house. I was not running, I was on my bike and still there was this route.

Since that time I have tried on several occasions to get myself to run that distance down to see my brother. Trust me when I say it was not the distance that was bothering me.

That particular route goes south from my house. I have run north towards Malibu and east towards Los Angeles for distances similar in length and yet there was this route.

In the back of my mind
every time I thought about doing this, the thoughts of that day kept sliding in. If you've never had a heart attack trust me when I say you don't want to!

It was thoughts of that day that kept me off my mountain bike for nearly three weeks after my heart attack. It just took me that long to get my brain around the fact that I could ride again without having a repeat performance.

Is this ridiculous? Maybe! You have a heart attack and then tell me how it affects you. Until then... don't!

Yesterday, my brother was going to ride his bike from his home in Irvine to the dealership. His wife and daughter were then going to pick him up at the end of the day.

"Here's my chance", I thought. I figured I could run down to the dealership and meet up with him and the family for some dinner after he got off work.

I had been thinking about this all week long vacillating back and forth. I knew that they would still drive up to see me whether I ran down there or not.


  1. They're coming this way no matter what so I really don't have to do this today.
  2. I haven't run as much as I should have in the last couple of weeks and I might not be ready.
  3. I have been having small problems with my hip flexors on the right side and my hip literally gives out sometimes when I'm running.
  4. It could be really hot.
  5. I will need to wear my backpack (15 lbs of extra weight) for a long distance.
  6. This will be the longest run I've done since my heart attack and I don't know if I'm ready for it.
I had a load of pre-run excuses as you can see and even more would pop up as I ran. I was as they say a "Game-time" decision.

Sunday morning arrived and I had pretty much made up my mind that I would just let my brother and the family drive up to see me when he got off work. I told myself I would just get in a decent run at home and that would be enough.

And still, I couldn't get around the fact that this was looming out there literally controlling my mind.

About 10:45am I called my brother to check on his ride. We talked about the spoke blow-out he had and how he was actually glad it happened on a training ride. He is training for an Ironman Triathlon in August of this year and as he put it; "I was wondering how I would handle things if I had a breakdown in the middle of a 100 mile ride during the Ironman." Well, he handled it with flying colors and now he knew!

When you're in a competition and you have a problem, you either fix it or get a big fat "DNF" next to your name. DNF = Did Not Finish.

As we hung up the phone I knew what I had to do. I had this demon hanging over my head long enough and I had to do something about it!

Gear up, pack up, double check everything, double check again! On long runs you don't want to get caught short.

As I walked out the door, I was
convinced I was going to do this. Within a hundred yards of the door, I wasn't convinced anymore.

The excuses started rolling in. I have very good running form especially for a big guy. I spent several months after my heart attack changing from a "Heel Striker" to a "Midfoot Runner". What that basically means is that when I run in good form I have very few issues with lower leg pain, like tight calves or shin splints.

On this day within a mile of my house I was already walking from the intense pain in my shins. This was a mental thing. How can a guy who never has shin splints suddenly have them?

I was in a mental wrestling m
atch with myself.

Then came the heat. I'm not exactly certain how warm it was, although we'd been in a cold snap in Southern California and so the mid-seventies temperature (I'm guessing) felt more like a hundred.

With heat comes hydration issues. Normally, I can run any distance under ten miles without even a water bottle, although I don't recommend it. On this day within three miles of my house I had gone through three quart
ers of my first water bottle.

What was going on?

I actually quit in my mind several times in the first six miles or so.

There's a line in a book by James Arthur Ray called Harmonic Wealth, that just simply goes: "That's not me, I'm so much more tha
n that!"

When you find yourself focused on the purely negative of a situation, saying those words can help you refocus on the positive. I must have repeated those words a hundred times during the first six miles.

As I made the turn onto the bike path that runs along the ocean and headed south to my destination an ocean breeze came up and suddenly everything became doable. That's right, it took six miles of agony to finally even commit to the fact that I was going to do this.

About eleven miles of this route are run on a bikepath along the ocean. On a beautiful sunny SoCal afternoon I began to release all of my feelings and fears about this route and the events that took place just eight months prior.

A little over halfway into the run, I got my first little phys
ical alert. This was the one I was waiting for and quite frankly having covered close to this distance several times in the last eight months I don't know why I was expecting it other than "This was the path".

I experienced a slight amount of angina. Just so you know, angina is nothing more than chest pain. It doesn't always come from your heart, although it can be associated with heart disease. It can and often is caused by indigestion. Having had a heart attack, I immediately began running down my checklist.

Am I moving too fast?

What's my heart rate?

Is that really what I felt or am I imagining it?

It kind of freaked me out for a couple of minutes. Ultimately, I slowed down for a little bit and it went away.

Just so you know, angina is not... I repeat, not what you feel when you have a heart attack and in fact it turns out to be indigestion more times than not. However, if you are overweight and out of shape and you experience it, go see you doctor and get checked out!

From that point in it was just reeling in the miles one by one. There's a quote which I have modified for my own purposes:

"If you believe it you can achieve it. When you can see it... its done!"

One of the great things about running along the coast in Southern California is you can see for miles. When I made the turn onto the bikepath about six miles into my run I could see the first of three piers in the SouthBay area, the Manhattan Beach Pier and I knew it was a done deal. Once I hit that pier I was within eight miles or so of my destination.

Once I passed the last pier I turned inland to the Pacific Coast Highway for the final four and a half miles. This is where it got emotio
nal for me. I began to remember that day last May when everything just went wrong. As I moved along, I teared up knowing just how far I had come since that day.

Then just over the top of a hill I could see the gas station where my brother had come and picked me up. When I reached the intersection I stopped and just stood there. It was a surreal feeling. I just stood for probably ten minutes realizing that I was not the same person who had last been at that corner some
eight months and fifty pounds ago.

And yes, I took pictures. Goofy? Maybe, but this was my release!

Now with only a mile to go I began to run knwing I had made it! I had killed the demon that had been holding me back. I had conquered all fear and destroyed the boundaries that stood in my way.

One last call to my brother to let him know I was just up the street. It had taken me a little longer than I had anticipated, but that's not what this run was all about. This run was about taking control. This run was about determination in the face of adversity and prevailing. This run was about understanding that pain is a temporary thing which should not define your limits.

I arrived after dark at the dealership just in time to see them closing up. I could see my Tom, Becky, Raelynn and a couple of the salespeople standing on the showroom and I knew once and for all, I had conquered my demon!

1 comment:

  1. You are an amazing person! Keep it up and remember as Beck say's " one foot in front of the other..."