73 Miles, Vertigo, & Fresh Baked Bread?

In December The United Family did a can food and donation drive for the High Plains Food Bank. I told my store director Matt that I would run a mile for every $1000 raised. $73,000 was raised by all of The United Family stores for the High Plains Food Bank. 73 miles over a weekend would be my first time to run ultra marathons on back to back days.

This was going to be a tough challenge for me but I figured cooler temperatures would help me with the adventure. As luck would have it Covid-19 and then a concussion pushed my 73 mile run into late spring. Navigating holidays and graduation season left me with the first weekend in June as my best opportunity to complete the run.

June in Texas is hot. I knew that June was not as hot as it would be in August so my optimistic mind decided to go all in the first weekend the month! All of the United Family stores helped raise donations for the food bank so I thought it would be awesome to around Amarillo and stop in at all 8 of the United Family stores in town. I would end the at our store in Canyon. Day 2 I would be running from the Canyon store to Amigos in Hereford. My store director would crew for me on Saturday providing water and food at stops along the way. Day 2 our assistant produce manager Sergio would crew for me from Canyon to Hereford. Matt and Sergio also took pictures of me in front of each store that I made along the way.

I woke up at 3:30 am on Friday and ran my shoulder into the doorframe of my room when I went to the bathroom. I didn’t think much more of it than just being half asleep. When my alarm woke me up at 6:30 I got out of bed and realized that I had a severe case of vertigo. I hoped that it would go away by the lunch time but it had other plans and stayed with me all day. I had a surprise interview with a tv station that wanted to do a story about my running adventure. I don’t remember much about the interview except just trying to smile while my brain was racing trying to figure out how I would do 73 miles with vertigo.

I woke up Saturday morning and I got out of bed slowly hoping that the vertigo would be gone. It decided that it wanted to hang around and be my pacer for the entire weekend. I know that most people would have understood if I moved the run to a later date because of the vertigo. What’s the challenge in that though? I don’t run because it’s easy, I do it because it’s difficult. I don’t know if my thoughts would have been the same if all of the miles were on trails though. Outside of running up on to and off of curbs the majority of my miles would be on flat ground.

I started my day Saturday at Market Street at 5:30 in the morning. Slow and easy miles to start off and adjust to running with vertigo. I learned quick that turning my head left or right while running made things worse, but that slowing to a walk for about 40-50 yards helped. You will also notice in the pictures below my shades are on top of my hat until day 2. That’s not because I took them off for the photo, they just made my vertigo worse. I kept them on my hat and tried them on every so often just to see if things had changed because the sun is very bright! I am sure passers by got a good laugh at the guy running in the sun with his shades on top of his hat.

I stopped at the United on Gem lake road for a picture with team members in front of the store. They gave me a Clif bar and I made my way to the River Road United. I took a picture of the sunrise behind an old windmill, passed some stray dogs that ignored me and ended up at the store ahead of my projected schedule. I got a picture in front of the store and then took some pictures of Wonderland Park as I continued my run to the United on Amarillo Boulevard.

Matt met up with me and took my picture in front of the store with management. I sat down for a minute and refueled. When I got up I lost my balance but I was not ready to quit. I took off down the road and stepped wrong on a curb across the street from the store. I hoped that Matt had not seen that. I found out later that he did notice. I crossed a bridge that ran over railroad tracks and ended up at the High Plains Food Bank. I had my picture taken there and I rolled out my right calf because I was beginning to feel some tightness in it.

I continued in until I got to Amigos, got more water and a picture in front of the store with management. To this point the sky had been overcast and the temperature was nice. I’m not sure what happened after I left Amigos but the sun came out and reminded me that he was the one in charge!

It was starting to get hot and I slowed pace a little and added more walk breaks to drink and eat some of my Clif bar. Matt noticed and drove back to check on me. I told him I was good and I continued on until I got to the Washington Street United. I went inside to use the restroom and realized that I needed to make an adjustment to my electrolyte intake. I mixed a Tailwind recovery shake to drink on my run to the next stop. I kept the pace slower and pushed on until I got to the United on 45th & Bell. I rolled out my calf muscles again took a picture in front of the store and then we went inside. There was a large crowd of team members that clapped and cheered when I stepped inside. It really caught me off guard. That was a special moment that helped get me through the day. Leaving the store my legs felt great and the adrenaline boost the team at 45th &Bell gave me propelled me all the way to our store on Soncy.

Shade Trees

The Soncy United had a table set up for me with an umbrella for shade! I sat and talked with the team for a little bit and ate a banana that the previous store had given me. My skin was feeling hot and they got me some sunblock. I made another recovery shake and made my way towards Canyon. I turned back on to 45th. I knew there was some shade if I ran through the Colonies and there would be another mile of shade when I got to Coulter as well. I walked in the shade and drank my shake.

I had planned on meeting Sergio at 2pm on Hillside and Coulter. He wanted to run with me when he got off work. I called him and told him I was ahead of schedule but if he still wanted to get some miles with me I would be a little further down the road. I also told him my run/walk ratio had moved closer to the walking side of things as the temperature got hotter.

I met up with Matt just before Hollywood road and sat under a shade tree. I ate a few potatoes refilled my water and Tailwind bottles. Sergio got dropped off about 2 miles from where Coulter merges with I-27. At that point I was walking at a good pace but the heat was taking its toll on me. We met with Matt before I-27 and I put on a long sleeve shirt. I did not want to do day 2 with a major sunburn.

We merged with the service road to I-27 and I started doing run/walk intervals. This continued until I was 4 miles from the Canyon United. I decided to call it a day because I knew that following my recovery protocol would be essential to the success of day 2. We loaded into Matt’s truck and headed back to town.

Day 2 the vertigo did not seem as bad when I got up. Sergio drove my truck out to where we left off the day before. I walked a quarter of a mile and then started running. I had no soreness or fatigue in my legs at all as I began the day. With the exception of the few steep hills I ran all the way to the store. I got a picture in front of the store and headed out to Hereford.

The sun was rising fast behind me and I knew that it would not be long before it passed me up. I knew that I would run through Umbarger and Dawn along the way. They are towns that you miss if you not paying attention when driving. West Texas is pretty flat and you can see a town from a long ways off in the distance. The small towns don’t seem so small when you pass through them on foot.

Things I learned on the Hereford Highway:

There were a lot of trains that passed me on that stretch of highway.
Train whistles are much louder when you are not inside your car.
Trains make vertigo worse.
75 MPH means 85There are a lot of hills.
18 Wheelers can take the hat right off of your head.
Roadkill count – 6 snakes, 1 dog, 1 cat, 1 coyote

When planning day two I thought this would be a pretty easy run but in fact it was not. I fought a 15-20 mph headwind most of the run to Hereford. I made the mistake of looking at the temperature gauge in my truck on a refueling break. It said 101 but I am sure the temperature rising up off of the highway made it much hotter. I kept fighting even though I was walking much more than planned. At one point Sergio told me what I was doing was inspiring and that boosted my mental game for sure.

I resorted to squirting water on my shirt to help cool me down since I was not sweating as much. I may have been sweating normal but the dry headwind would dry my shirt out completely within 3-4 minutes. I resorted to ice wrapped up in a t-shirt on the back of my neck the last few miles into Hereford.

I used to live in Hereford when I was younger and the smell of feedlots is not something I will ever forget. The last few miles into town I kept smelling fresh baked bread. I could not explain it. It was as though someone had opened a bread manufacturing facility right off the highway. I looked around but I saw nothing. I asked Sergio if he could smell fresh baked bread. The look he gave me was the look you make when someone asks you a crazy question. He was like maybe your body is telling you to get more carbs?

I was still three and a half miles from the United in Hereford but I had already passed my goal miles for the weekend. I decided that the fresh baked bread hallucination was a pretty good sign that the heat was getting to me. I got into the truck and we headed back to Amarillo. It was a pretty cool thing to drive back over all of the miles that I had traveled on for that day. It really puts into perspective what I had accompished.

Running back to back Ultra’s was a really amazing experience for me. It was a confidence booster for the goals I have set for the next few years. Dierks Bently sings “every mile a memory”. For this trip every mile was many memories. I started and stopped writing this post so many times because I have so much to write about. I decided to keep it shorter and save the other stories for a little bit further down the road.

1 Year Plant-based

In January of 2021 I celebrated making it a full year without alcohol. In April of this year I celebrated 1 full year of being vegan. Becoming a plant-based athlete was not something that I set out to do when I gave up alcohol over two years ago it just kind of happened.

It has now been 28 months since I last had a drink of alcohol. I would like to say that the transition to vegan was just as easy, but it was not. Traveling as a vegan has been a challenge. I also don’t want friends/family to have to cater to my restrictive diet. There have also been some occasions where I was unaware of a food that contained animal products in it that I consumed. That being said I can count on one hand the number of times I did not have a plant-based meal. I have learned quite a bit over the past year and I have been able to find the foods that my body responds the best to. I am definitely not the person to sit here and try to convince everyone that they should go on a plant-based diet. I am not a registered dietician. It was not too long ago where I made fun of vegans and swore that I would never do something like that. Hopefully those words are plant-based because I have been eating them every day for the past year.

I have lost 50 pounds of body weight since I started this journey. I am not sure how many are from being plant-based, I am sure that dropping alcohol, sodas, and fast-food were big contributors to the weight loss as well. I used to take allergy medicine every night and morning. In the last year I have taken allergy medicine on four occasions, but I no longer need to take anything to function without sneezing all day long. I used to take antacids 3-4 times a day and did my best to avoid coffee or spicy foods late at night. I can now say that I have not taken any antacids in over a year and now I can eat jalapeños right before bedtime and I experience zero heartburn. I have had no heartburn in over a year! I have had eczema one and off for most of my life. I have not had eczema in over a year which may not be related to being plant-based, it could simply be just one of the longer periods that it chooses to stay away.

As a runner I have found that my recovery time after a long run has decreased significantly. I recall one Saturday not long after moving to Amarillo exploring the town with a 29 mile run around the city. I remember getting up after resting for an hour and feeling like I could knock out another long run if I wanted. This is pretty consistent with every training run I do.

The most exciting change for me since going vegan would be the return of my energy! In college (the first time) I worked 40 hours a week, coached club volleyball, played on the men’s club volleyball team, and worked another part time job. When I was diagnosed with MS I lost my energy. I pretended from time to time I was okay, but I used a steady stream of energy drinks just to make it through my day at work. I got to the point where at the end of a nine hour day at work I would go home and be dead to the world. Caffeine stopped working, I just became a zombie. In the past year fatigue has not been a problem for me. I love the fact that now I can put in a full day of work and still find the energy to run for an hour or two. I would like to say my wallet is thankful for not having to purchase tons of energy drinks, but running shoes are not cheap either.

Concussions and Trail Runs

The forecast for the day was in the mid 80s but I sat there my entire body shaking as the adrenaline high I had been on the past three hours started to dissipate. With my head in my hands and elbows resting on my knees I looked down at racing bib 325 as the bridge from Cody Johnsons song “The Only One I Know” played along with the ringing in my ears.

And I’d rather die than be caught crying’ So I’m just smillin’, wear my hat down low…. Wear my hat down low…

Cody Johnson

Thursday night I packed up everything I needed for a trail race on Saturday. I even spent time cooking potatoes which would be a big part of my fuel plan for the 32 miles I would be taking on Saturday. I had not attempted a race since my non attempt at the Brazos Bend 100. In fact, I was not running much at all. I found an April race in Arizona that caught my interest so I signed up for it. I caught Covid-19 and my training slowed down even more. I signed up for the 50K race this weekend to force myself back into training mode. It worked, kind of.

Race checkin was at 6:30am with a start time of 8:30. I grabbed my race bib with the number 325 on it. I had selected that number because it is the area code to the place I first fell in love with trail running! I miss running with my friends from San Angelo!

Sitting in the cab of my truck I mixed up a bottle of tailwind to fuel my run. I attached the racing bib to my shorts, applied Squirrels Nut Butter to a few areas to prevent chafing, and I laced up my trail shoes. I decided to bring a lightweight pullover for the start of the race. I knew there would be a nice cool breeze coming in off of the lake most of the race. I knew that if it got too hot after the first 13 miles I could always send it back in my drop bag.

I made my way to the starting line and chatted with the other runners standing around. The 50k and the marathon runners would be starting at the same time. The race director informed us that the first six and a half miles and the last 6 and half miles had the most elevation changes. I had an idea there would be lots of climbing when I signed up, just did not dig into it too much because I like surprises when I run.

The race started with two small loops on the park road before we got out onto the trails. Immediately after we got onto the trails the hills began! I kept my pace slower trying not to race anybody. I wanted to stick to my race plan. A few people passed me up and then I eventually caught up to one of the guys and we ended up running for many miles together. We talked about running while we were running. Doesn’t get much better than that in my book!

The trials were awesome! I ran over big rocks, roots, dirt, small rocks, logs, and even had to do a little climbing at a few spots. I would not say that it was super technical but there was enough changes that keeping my eyes up ahead was very important. The majority of the trails were under a canopy of trees and every now and then I could see the sun shining through. At around mile 7 I left the trees and entered an open area which led down to the lake and I ran through a sandy beach area.

After leaving the beach area I made my way back to the canopy of trees. The elevation began changing again and there were a few small creek crossings along the way. I felt really good as I pressed along. I felt like I could run all day long.

Somewhere after mile 11 the trail flattened out again and I was running on hard packed dirt. This is the part of the race that I have been thinking about for the past 12 days. I have been trying my best to piece it all together but to be honest I don’t know exactly what happened. What I do know is that I was running and then I landed on my head and the lights went out.

The next thing I remember is being on my knees with my arms flat on the ground wrapped around my head. I looked to my left and I saw a small root sticking straight up out of the ground. I got to my feet and started walking. I grabbed my bottle of tailwind and got a drink as I walked along. I put the bottle away and that was when I realized I did not have a clue what had happened. I felt my head but it did not feel like I had a bump on it. I did not feel nauseous. My ears were ringing and I was starting to get a mild headache but I kept on walking. I assume that my shoe caught a tree root under the dirt and I tripped but I really have no idea. For all I know Will Smith came up behind me and knocked me out.

I thought about starting up a light jog when another runner passed by me coming in the opposite direction. He looked at his watch and told me I was a mile and a quarter from the turnaround. I thanked him and decided to continue walking the next mile and re-evaluate my situation at the aid station there.

I came to a spot on the trail with no marker. I first kept straight, nothing. I turned around and went to the right which led down to the lake. That was wrong too. Another runner caught up to me as I was walking back up from the lake and tried the same thing. When we got up to the top someone from the aid station was waiting at the crossroad and pointed out a pink ribbon hanging in some trees which led 200 yards to the aid station. Apparently we were not the only ones to miss this ribbon.

I sat down in a chair at the aid station and I finished off the rest of my tailwind. They did not have a medic at the aid station but I explained what happened to the crew there. All I wanted to do was get up out of the chair and finish the race but I knew that I wouldn’t though. My head is hurting, my ears are ringing, Cody Johnson is singing about how he’d rather die than get caught crying, so I’m just smilin’ wear my hat down low…. I’m not a bull rider. I’m a trail runner and that moment I pulled my white MS Run the US hat down low. I might have had a few tears or maybe not only my hat and I know, but if I did they were not about any physical pain. Just the frustration of not being able to finish the race. It felt a lot like not making it to the starting line at the Brazos Bend 100 in December.

My mom reads my blog so now she can know that I am adventurous but I am also smart enough to know not to run with a head injury. The crew at the aid station was kind enough to drive me back to the starting line. The race director called an ambulance (for liability reasons) even though I did not want one. My vitals looked great! The medic was even impressed with my time to the 13 mile mark for that trail.

Full disclosure it took me a while to write this because I had 11 days of an annoying mild headache so I stayed of my computer as much as I could. I did go see a doctor and have a CT scan after getting back to Amarillo which revealed no brain bleeding. My headache has left me completely and I hope to put in a few miles over the next weekend. I will reevaluate with my doctor next week and we will decide together if I will be able to run the 91K I have scheduled at the end of the month.

Chasing 100

The day after my segment of the relay ended I woke up thinking ….Okay….now what? I had spent the entire year training and thinking about running from Ohio to Pennsylvania and now it was over. I got back home and started running more with the San Angelo Road Lizards. We ran trails, roads, and just sat around sharing stories about running. I love being a part of that community!

I was also constantly searching for something to replicate the feelings I had while running segment 17. I even ran from San Angelo to Miles one day just to run somewhere new. I missed the 18 wheelers trying to knock my hat off as they flew past me. I missed the odd looks I got from people looking at me through their windshield as they passed by. Most of all I missed the adventure of starting in one spot each day not knowing what was ahead of me and ending somewhere completely new each day. I had a 100 mile race coming up in December and even though it was a six loop course I hoped that I would be able to find some of those same MS Run the US feelings amongst the alligators of the Brazos Bend State Park. 

It was very humid even for Houston in December and there was a heavy fog that hung over the hotel parking lot as I waited for the police department to arrive.  Needless to say, I did not get to attempt the Brazos Bend 100 race because of reasons that were out of my control. Normally I am the resourceful type person that figures out a way to make things happen, but that morning as I sat down on the curb I had nothing. The majority of my days since signing up for the race in July had been spent dreaming about running my first 100 mile race. I don’t typically subscribe to the idea that everything happens for a reason though. I believe that sometimes bad things just happen. It was definitely not a great day, but I still don’t hold a grudge against the person or persons responsible for it because it is my choice to decide how I remember that day. I had recently relocated from San Angelo to Amarillo and started a new job. The setback that day was a gift of some quiet time to slow down and reflect over all of the running I had done over the past year.

Eventually I started thinking about what it would have been like to have run the Brazos Bend 100. Had I trained enough for the race? Would my achilles have failed me again? I even wondered if finishing the race would have been enough to replace the missing adventure in my life, or would it have left me wanting more. I was certain that I would have needed an even bigger challenge to follow it up with had I completed the race. I spent much of that day thinking of what my next year of running would look like. I thought about how the Brazos Bend was 6 loops of the same trail and how my soul longed to explore new places. I also happened to be reading “The Rise of the Ultra Runners” that week as well. The stories of mountain trail races with crazy elevation changes, mud, snow, water crossings and switchbacks had found a home in what I like to call the “Challenge Accepted” part of my brain. It is not lost on me how much the hills of Ohio and Pennsylvania kicked my butt this past year and how many new curse words my right achilles taught me as it screamed at me with each step I took. That’s what makes it a challenge though. That’s what makes me smile. Thats why in 2022 I will be running mountain trail races. 

I changed up my training the second week of December to start preparing for massive elevation gains next year. I am all in on the mountains in 2022! I do not have the luxury of close trails to run like I did in San Angelo now that I am in Amarillo. Palo Duro Canyon State Park is not too far of a drive from me and I can hit some trails there for training runs. I am closer to the mountains of Colorado now so I plan on getting some elevation training runs there when I am able as well. I have been researching point-to-point trail races in the mountains and my first race in 2022 is scheduled for the end of April.  I have a date that my body needs to be ready so I am in full training mode right now! I also have another running adventure that I will be doing here in the Panhandle of Texas next year that I will write about when it happens! I’m still deciding on races to finish out the 2022 calendar with, but it is already looking to be an adventurous year for me and I can’t wait to share the journey with you!

I started doing math this week to figure out how many miles I would need to average the last 5 days of December to end the year with a nice even number of 1400 miles. I smiled as I realized how big of a challenge it would be with my busy schedule to get the last 39 miles in. Then I remembered that I had a different training plan for the next year and I needed to stay with it. I started writing this post with 1361 miles for the year. My original goal was 1200 miles, an average of 100 miles each month. I definitely exceeded my goal and I know that I will not end this year with 1361 miles either. I decided that I am going to do something I have never done before. I am going to start today’s training session in 2021 and run my way into 2022!

MS Run the US Day 6

“To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.” ― Jim Valvano

We loaded into the car and headed out to the final starting point of my segment. I reflected over all of the emotions from the day before. I thought about how starting at my lowest point and how messages from my team mates changed the entire day. I knew then I would make all of my miles without help on my final day, but as we drove further on thoughts of doubt made their way into my brain. I did my best to shut them out while I silently wondered if the road crew was thinking they would need to help me with my miles today. Those voices of doubt were silenced as I began running into one of the most beautiful sunrises I had ever seen. I wanted nothing more than to share it with everyone so I stopped and took a picture. I knew that the picture would not be the same as being here in the moment. Just like retelling of each days out running the roads its not the same as being out here. One of my favorite books is “North” by Scott Jurek which is his account of his FKT of the Appalachian Trail. There are pictures in his book and he does an amazing job of describing each day, but I am certain it is not the same as being out there. What his book did for me was leave an open space for my imagination to fill in the gaps of what that experience was like. I hope that my storytelling of segment 17 has left room for your own mind to create its own version of what it was like. I have many reasons that I took this adventure and one of those reasons was to honor those who have inspired me to do big things. 

I found myself walking a little more today but this time it wasn’t from the pain in my right achilles and shin that was slowing me down. It had taken me five days to figure it out but I had learned how to run through the pain. Today was the last day of my 167 mile adventure. I was taking in every single minute left of this adventure like my skin soaking in the hot August Pennsylvania sun. I knew that the memories I was making would stay with me longer than the burn the sun was leaving on my skin.

The weather was cool most of the morning and there were times that I wished that I had put on a long sleeve shirt. The landscape seemed like it changed more on day 6 than any of the previous days which kept my mind off of being cold. I can only remember the names of two roads that I ran on my entire segment both of which were on my final day. The first  one was Old Town Road which put that song on my brain. Definitely not my favorite song in the world but I have heard it enough that I knew it. I do not have to have headphones when I run because I hours worth of songs stored in my iBrain account. Even the ones that I don’t particularly care for.

With each step I took I knew that my adventure drew closer to an end. I was not to the point of counting down miles yet, but I knew how many more times I would see the road crew before I got to the finish. I was closing in on my second to last stop when I heard a gun go off. I felt nothing and I heard nothing hit in my vicinity and then it went off again with the same result. Im not sure why someone shooting in the country caught me by surprise on that Saturday afternoon because that is a common occurrence in Texas. I had been thinking about stopping for a restroom break and I was wearing an orange shirt but I felt like I should maybe get another mile down the road before I decided to stop.

I knew I was closing in on Brookville when a road sign told me that it was 5 miles away. I stopped and posted a picture of the sign on social media to let people know that I was getting close. Most of the day had already been emotional as I reflected over days one through five. I passed this sign and started thinking about how reading “Born to Run” set me on a path that took me from San Angelo, Texas to Brookville, Pennsylvania. I thought of the day I got my invite to join the team and how quickly I respond with my trademark “challenge accepted”!! The training runs in the rare Texas snow and the hot dry triple digit summer days were all part of the journey to get here. I thought of the DNF on a 60k trail run a month earlier and how it helped prepare me for the days that I needed help to finish my miles. The country side turned into a city and sidewalks appeared before me again. I shared the sidewalks with other people walking around in downtown Brookville. It seemed like forever since I ran and saw other people out and about. I realize the cars that passed me along the road had people in them but I only started to see them as just other objects I passes along the way. These humans that I passed probably assumed I was some guy out for a short run around town as I passed them by. I said “Hi” to everyone as though I was greeting guests walking through my produce department. I smiled to myself and wondered what they would think if they only knew where I had started my run that morning, or where I had started six mornings ago. 

I mentioned earlier that I remembered the names of two roads from my segment. The second that I remember is water plant road. I remember this one because it was the final turn of my 167 mile journey. There are moments in my life that no matter how much time passes by when I play it back the emotions hit me just as hard as they did the first time. This was one of those moments. I had been running down Main Street looking for water plant road knowing that it would be my last road to run on. I was hoping that my turn was much further ahead of me but as I left the downtown area there it was. I remember zero pain and feeling as though I was running on clouds as I made my way down the quiet tree covered road to my finish line. I had tears streaming down my face as I ran.  I was thankful for wearing shades so that the camera waiting at the end would not capture my tears. I was about a quarter of a mile from the finish line when I rolled my right ankle and I started laughing as I thought to myself how I had gone from Ohio to Pennsylvania only rolling it once. I thought of Jimmy Valvano’s ESPY’s speech and the 3 things that he said we should do every day. “If you laugh, think and cry that’s a heck of a day”. I was experiencing all three of those things at the exact same time. That was definitely one heck of a moment for me that I will never forget! 

I emerged from the canopy of trees that surrounded me my last mile and I jumped up onto a sidewalk that took me the rest of the way to North Fork Redbank Creek where segment 17 ended. I can not imagine a more beautiful spot for my run to end. I passed underneath the archway and I stopped running.

I have seen“Forrest Gump” many times and started thinking of the moment when he just stopped running. I had been running for six days and now my body was used to it. It is an odd thing to experience. I don’t know how to explain it, but this was my Forrest Gump moment. It was just like the movie, I just stopped. I sat down on a bench next to the sidewalk and I took my shoes off. I walked into the cold creek water and sat down on some rocks. I continued my reflective state of mind as I watched the minnows swim around my feet in the water. I thought of the people that had inspired me to do big things. I hoped that I had honored them by stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing myself to do something that I once never thought possible. I said I would never run a marathon. It was just starting to sink in on what I had accomplished the past 6 days. 

If you have been following my story you have seen me at my best and worst. You have witnessed my insecurities, victories, and at the hopefully you smiled a time or two. I hope that in some way I have made it easier for others living with Multiple Sclerosis to share their own story. If you have been inspired by my story to get out of your own comfort zone and find out what your body is truly capable of then I know I have honored those who paved the broken the broken road for me. My journey is not over. I have only begun to experience what it means to truly live each day to its fullest.

MS Run the US Day 5

Scenic Overlook

I sat alone in the back seat of the car while the road crew was inside the store getting supplies for the day ahead. I took out my phone and found several notifications on GroupMe app. from my MS Run the US teammates. I was overcome with emotion as I read each persons encouraging message to me. Several told me that they would be running miles with me when they ran that day. I believe that moment in time changed everything for me.

I started the day off with a fast walk with some easy jogging mixed in. My right foot was still not doing well but I was determined to make this day better than the last. I was slowly making progress. I took a small break from the road while Haley and Malcom knocked out some miles for me that morning as well.

After my break from running I took off on the road again this time and something was different. I made it a quarter of a mile without having to walk. This road I was on had tons of landmarks along the way. I started focusing on each sign, telephone pole, or creek crossing along the way. I would make it to one and then keep going with a goal of making it to the next one. I repeated this over and over until I had made it a mile without having to walk. I couldn’t remember the last time I had run over a mile without stopping. I continued on until I found myself on a bridge overlooking the water. I stopped not because I needed to but because I wanted to take some pictures. I promised my good friend Tanis I would take some pictures from my segment and this one was definitely going to be one for her!

.92 Mile Hill

I ran along across the bridge to the road crew, grabbed a snack and took off again. What seemed to be a flat route through town quickly changed when the road took me into the woods. What started as a paved road through the woods gradually turned into an insane .92 of a mile climb up a very steep hill. The road curved to the left and right making me believe that the top was just around the corner but it wasn’t. Just more elevation. I found myself getting irritated at the hill for some reason. Maybe I was mad because I had just learned to run again and the hill was forcing me to walk. I don’t know.

About half way up the hill I stepped off the road for a restroom break and I questioned myself as to why I was irritated with this hill so much. This hill was here long before I was. It did nothing to me. I was the one using this path to get across the US. It was then that I remembered my mission. I had gotten so lost in my injuries that I had forgotten why I was here. I’m here because I want to stop MS. I am here because I love running. I am getting to spend an entire week outdoors exploring places I have never been. My teammates helped me start to remember when they sent me messages that morning.

I finished my climb to the top of that hill and it opened up to the highway. A little further down I found the road crew. I was fired up and ready to go! It was one of those moments where you’re driving along in your truck, your favorite song comes on, you drop the windows, and punch the accelerator! I grabbed some food and I took off running. I’m not sure what Malcom and Haley were thinking of me but I am certain they noticed a change in me.

Scenic Overlook

Not long down the road I saw a sign telling me that there was a scenic overlook up ahead. I was moving at a decent pace and thought for a second that maybe I should not stop and check it out. Ultimately the real question was why would I not stop? When will I have the opportunity to check this out again?

I stopped took some pictures and read the words on a plaque at the overlook. “You haven’t lived until you’ve looked down on a hawk.” In memory of Richard P. Thomson. Richard Thomson died in a hang gliding accident at that very spot. I can only imagine the adrenaline rush one would get from going over that overlook in a hang glider. I wouldn’t know his story if I had not accepted this 167 mile challenge and Im willing to bet you didn’t either until you read it here.

Just another Pennsylvania hill

The sun had was shining bright and I could feel its warmth on my face and arms as I pressed on through the Pennsylvania countryside. I was also quite aware of the fact that I was smiling again even through the pain. I arrived into a small town and found a sidewalk to run on. I passed a house that had at least 15 dogs in the back yard and they all went crazy cheering me on. On the other side of the house there was a man who I am assumed was the homeowner working on the yard. We greeted each other and he just smiled as the dogs followed me along to the end of the fence. I made one more crew stop to refuel and for the final push of the day.

I arrived at the my stopping place for the day a little bit before the road crew did. They had picked up some food so that we could eat dinner before heading on to our new campground for the night. I sat down underneath the shade of a tree on the side of the road and reflected over the day. I still could not believe how everything changed for me after climbing that one mile hill, but I was thankful for it. I had pushed my body to the point I wondered if I would ever be able to run again. I could barely move my right foot up or down but somehow I was running again. The human body is so amazing though. I really don’t know how to explain how everything changed for me that day, but I do know that it started with an amazing group of teammates supporting me from all over the US! By the time the road crew pulled up next to me on the side of the road I knew deep down inside that I would be able to complete all of the miles on the final day of segment 17.

MS Run the US Day 4

Today was the first day that I woke up and felt no improvement with my right foot. Most mornings I hurt but I could at least see some improvement after a full night of rest. Ice bath, dinner, and a great night of sleep did not seem to make a difference for me at all.

The sun was just starting to make its presence known and the cool Pennsylvania morning wrapped it’s self around me as I stepped out of the RV. I walked as easily as I could careful not to put too much weight on my right foot. Once inside the car I laced up my shoes as I wondered silently to myself how I was going to knock out 26 miles. I was thankful for the early morning start because my right Achilles told me that it was going to be a long day. I began my morning run after a one mile warm up walk. My right foot was killing me and my left knee only hurt enough to remind me that it could get worse whenever it wanted to.

I arrived at a small town and found a sidewalk to run on which reminded me of many hours I spent running the ones in San Angelo. Up ahead of me I saw a couple people running the same direction that I was going. Keep in mind I can barely move my right foot and I am not sure what I was doing even really resembled running, but I had this desire to catch up to them. I don’t know if it was just longing to run with friends or the competitor in me coming out but that is what I felt like doing. I didn’t catch up to them though. I didn’t even make an effort to do so. Just felt like I should mention that my brain wanted me to.

As I made my way into town I realized it was much bigger than I had first thought. I found much more traffic and realized the need to make a pit stop. Malcom gave me directions to where we would meet with a gas station I could stop at along the route. I never found the gas station and had to cross a very busy intersection along the way. Not typically a problem for me when my run does not mimic a zombie walk. I made it across though, met up with the road crew, and found another gas station to stop at.

At this point my urine had turned dark for the second day in a row. This was the earliest in the day that it had happened and I was concerned. I pushed on to the next stop and this is where it all went south for me. I don’t really remember much about those few miles except for a decent hill that took me to the car and having to go to the bathroom less than a half mile from my last stop. I recall sitting down in the grass next to the car and just defeated. I realized going up the hill I was getting lightheaded and just feeling like everything was off for me. This is also most likely the reason that I never saw the gas station I was supposed to stop at earlier. I got into the car, Malcom and Haley knocked out some miles for me while I hydrated and ate some food.

I was able to get back on the road but I wasn’t running. I was walking. Walking at a pace as fast as I could manage so we wouldn’t be out on the road all day long. I had to go to the bathroom again. We found a church and went there. My urine was still dark but not near as dark as it had been so I felt better about that. Haley and Ashley discussed my situation and determined it would be best for me to take a 5 hour break from the road to get rehydrated. Somehow we figured out that my salt intake was low. We attacked the salt and managed it better. I did not have another hydration issue the rest of the segment. Lesson learned.

I started up the second half of my day walking. As I walked along I increased my walk pace and eventually began to shuffle/run a little. I made sure to take in the countryside views as I moved along segment 17. I got more help with my daily miles from Malcom and Haley. On a long stretch of a quiet country road (except for a dog barking at me) with zero traffic I began to really run. Not fast. Not pretty, but I was running. It didn’t last very long but it felt good to run again.

I made a left turn onto a major road and was met by the biggest hill yet. I didn’t run the hill. I walked it. It was one of those hills that just kept going. Every time I thought I was close to the top it would continue to rise. The hill took a lot out of me but I did manage to make it to the top.

I arrived at the coolest bridge I crossed on my entire segment. The views of the town were pretty cool and I took some photos as I walked across. While I was walking I got passed by a guy who was running. I remembered a time when I could run like that (four days ago to be exact ). I crossed the bridge and made my way into a downtown area. I was able to jog a little bit but that ended when I reached a downhill slope and my right foot let me know that it was just done for the day. I hobbled my way down the hill where the road crew was waiting for me.

I was highly disappointed with how I performed that day. I was thankful that we figured out my hydration issues and that I was able to knock out miles as well. My hope was that an ice bath and some medication would help me recover enough for day 5 to be better.

MS Run the US Day 3

Day 3 Start

I am a very optimistic person. On opening day I still believe that the Texas Rangers can go 162-0. I also believe that one day I will run Western States Endurance Run. For some reason when I went to bed at the end of day number 2 I had this belief that when I woke up the next morning my left knee and right foot would be better.

It was another cool morning as I loaded my gear into the car. I chose not to put my running shoes on until we got to my starting point because in my mind an extra 20 minutes without them on would help me later in the day. I focused on the miles ahead of me as we drove along.

I got out of the car when we arrived at a field of corn and took my hoodie off determined to make this a better day than the last one. I did not have long sleeves on today and the traffic was pretty heavy so I knew that with each vehicle that passed I would get chilled. This is the part of the high school basketball player that grew up learning not to show weakness. Pain is temporary, victory is everything. I could go on and on with all of the phrases we used to motivate us to win. I am not certain how the miles of hills in front of me were supposed to be intimidated by me not wearing long sleeves today but that was the game plan! I started off with a one mile warm up walk but after about a half of a mile I started running. Not fast and definitely not pretty. I am not certain that I could even call it running. I did know that I was moving a little faster than my speed walking pace though, so I felt good about that.

I arrived at the first stop of the day and I think Malcom and Haley were both surprised to see me running already, or possibly just surprised at what my running looked like. I didn’t ask, I was just ready to keep moving. The traffic stayed heavier that morning as I pressed on mixing some running and walking, anything to just keep my body moving. I felt like I was starting to get into a pretty good rhythm as I entered a bridge. I recall just how beautiful the view was as I ran across a bridge, and there it was. Up ahead on my right was a sign that said WELCOME TO PENNSYLVANIA in all capital letters. I had completely forgot that I would be crossing a state line at some point in my 167 mile journey. I stopped because I needed to take a picture. I have driven over state lines hundreds of times in my life, had my picture taken by my parents many times in front of those signs on family vacations. Not once had I run across a state line. This was pretty cool. I am not a selfie person, so trying to take my own picture in front of the sign was not going well. About that time Malcom and Haley drove up and they took some pictures of me in front of the sign.

For some reason this acomplisment fueled me as I continued my run into Pennsylvania. State lines do not mean that the topography of the state will completely change. I did not expect the hills to go away, maybe I optimistically thought they would stay the same though? By now the sun was shining bright up above me and had been for quite some time. Three days in to my run and this was the first time I felt the sun burning my skin. Typically it only takes me 15 minutes to burn. “Sunrise, sunburn, sunset, repeat I heard Luke Bryan singing in my head while I tried to remember if I had packed sunblock in the car this morning. I think I have only heard that song 5-6 times on the radio but it was with me the rest of that day though.

I put some sunblock on at my next stop and made sure to rub it in good, just in case Malcom decided to take pictures. Knowing that was a concern of mine at that point in the day I can say that the ibuprofen, biofreeze, and KT tape were definitely helping. Later in the day I had zero care for what my pictures looked like as the pain increased.

Looking back from top of hill

I left another water stop at the beginning of a huge hill. I started off running and wanted to run as far as I could on the hill until the steepness got to be too much. I did not have the presence of mind to measure the distance of this hill on my watch, but it was a monster. I kept my legs moving, every time I felt like I was closing in on the top it just kept going. I remember thinking about how nice it would be to run downhill when I got to the top. I got to the top and looked straight ahead to a town in front of me. The drop down the hill was not equal to the uphill climb but I did enjoy running in the city on terrain that was at least somewhat level.

Making it to the top of the major hill was definitely the peak of my day as well. Even thought he back side of the hill did not provide much of a descent, the rest of my day did go downhill. Fast. Ibuprofen seemed to still be helping my left knee pain but after making it through the small town my right foot just got worse. I got to the point that I was moving faster at a walking pace than running. Maybe my run was more of a shuffle at this point. I recall sitting down at next to the car at a water break and just feeling beat up. It was getting late into the day and I knew that I could walk the rest of my miles for the day but that would put us back very late with a minimal amount of recovery time for the next day. I shared those concerns with Haley and she told me that Malcom and her could pick up of the miles for me to give me a little more rest time. I immediately accepted help to get through the rest of the day.

I was very thankful for the miles that Haley and Malcom helped me out with. Being able to take some time off of my feet allowed me to eat some food, hydrate, and get mentally prepared to finish out the rest of my day. The last miles of the day did not come easy. I had was at a point where I was starting to figure out the most comfortable way to put weight on my right foot. My left knee had finally decided to give me a little bit of a break from the pain as well. It was not easy to finish out the last few miles of the day but I was definitely thankful to be done and ready for an ice bath.

Most people that know me best know that I am not great at asking for help. I have been aware of this for as long as I an remember. I knew this when I applied to be a runner on the 2021 MS Run the US Relay team. I knew asking people for donations is what I would be doing if I was selected for the team. If you are bad at shooting free throws that is what you work on (unless you are Shaq). Forcing myself into a position where I needed to ask people for help was a something I definitely needed. I am now better at not only accepting help, but asking for help as well.

I believe with all of my heart that one day we will stop MS! I have eighteen other teammates that ran this relay with me who believe the exact same thing. Ashley Schneider believed this when she took on the task of becoming the sixteenth female to run across the US. Many others have shown that they believe in this mission by making monetary donations and spreading awareness about this terrible disease.

Also…. Im sorry if Luke Bryan’s song is stuck on repeat in your brain for the rest of the day.

Running Greatly With MS is a play on Teddy Roosevelt’s “in the arena” speech. Day three was definitely a day that I felt like I had failed. I did not fail though. Your best will not always look the same every day (The Four Agreements – Ruiz). I gave the best that I had for day three and I was able to see growth in myself by being able to accept help to finish my miles for the day.

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Teddy Roosevelt

Photo Credit mal.c0m- https://instagram.com/mal.c0m?utm_medium=copy_link

MS Run the US Day 2

Photo Credit – mal.c0m

It was a typical hot and dry West Texas day and there I stood staring at my suitcase. I had already packed my MS Run the US hoodie for the trip to Ohio. Was I really going to pack my long sleeve shirts for this trip as well? I remembered colder temperatures at some of my trail races this past fall and early spring and being thankful for wearing long sleeves. My gut told me I should take them “just in case”. I had read the forecast for the areas that I would be running, but my brain just didn’t quite believe it could be that cool in August anywhere!

At the end of my first day of running I reflected over my accomplishments from the day before. I thought about what I could have done better in hopes of making those adjustments the next day. It had taken me most of the morning to warm up in the cooler temperature. I smiled to myself because I was thankful that I followed my gut and brought the long sleeves with me. I decided that I would begin my second day with a long sleeve shirt on and then remove it as the day got warmer.

The sun was still in the process of waking up when we arrived at the starting point for the second day of segment seventeen which made for another cool morning. I was breathing in the fresh country air when I received a text message. The mens bible study group that I attend on Tuesdays wanted to let me know that they had prayed for my safety on the road that morning. I thanked them and then snapped a picture of the scenery around me and sent it to my daughter so she could see my starting view for the day. She was on my mind this week more than usual because she was in two-a-days for volleyball. She is a freshman this year in high school and had the opportunity to try out for the JV team! (I am excited to say that she did make the JV team!)

I felt surprisingly good when I started my run on day two. I was definitely sore but I expected that would be the case. I did not have any problem starting off with a slower pace today! The scenery was amazing! Much of the morning was spent running under a canopy of trees across the road that kept the sun from warming my skin. The road had very little traffic and I could hear the sound of animals scurrying away as I approached their spot.

I was joined by a sharp pain in my left knee early in my run. It was mild and I expected it to go away over the next few miles. I have learned on my training runs that most pain I encounter typically does not last very long. I arrived at my scheduled water stop and the knee pain had not improved. I put some biofreeze on my knee to see if that would help. I was also careful not to get any on my hands because I have done that before a run in the past and then rubbed my eyes to get sweat out of them (not a fun experience). I had a lot of miles left in front of me and I was not ready for that discomfort the rest of the day.

Photo Credit – mal.c0m

I continued on as the knee pain increased with each step I took. I tried spending more time running on the opposite side of the road to see if that would help alleviate the pain. I tried the first day to go fifty-fifty switching sides of the road, but there were quite a few parts that I was unable to do so. Switching sides more often did not seem to help so I opted to change shoes at my next scheduled stop to see if that would help. I realized as I changed my shoes that my right achilles was pretty sore but I hoped that the change in shoes would help with that. The switch gave me a mental boost, but the pain in my left knee decided that it was going to hang out with me for a while. The only relief from the left knee pain was more pain. My right achilles and shin started hurting a great deal as well. I assume that changing my stride to accommodate my left knee is what caused my right leg problems.

The last time I had taken any ibuprofen or pain killer was when I had my wisdom teeth taken out. April was the first time I had taken any kind of medication this year. I used to get headaches quite often, but I honestly haven’t had one in a year and a half now (I’m going with healthier food choices as the reason why). I chose to take an ibuprofen and slowed up to give the medication time to kick in. I started seeing some improvement in my left knee but the achilles was starting to scream at me even louder. I was running out of ideas on how to help my right leg. I was in the middle of nowhere and one of the few areas I had no hills (was thankful for that). In fact it almost felt like I was in west Texas for a little bit. There was no traffic so I ran on the left side of the road, the right, I even ran right down the middle of the road but nothing seemed to help ease the pain. Malcom suggested doing intervals so I tried that too. I realized that this was just going to be one of those really long days out on the road.

I hobbled into a small town where Malcom was waiting in a church parking lot for me. We made our way up to the building to ask if we could use the restroom. One of the gentlemen sitting outside came out to meet us and asked if we needed to use the restroom before we even had a chance ask. We had a really nice chat with him about MS Run the US and he told us that he had just started running himself. He was training for a marathon and definitely knew that the hills were pretty brutal around there. We told him where we were headed and he informed me that there was a very big hill on that road but after that it would be much better. That hill was insane! There also was not much of a shoulder to run on and there was an awful lot of traffic on that road for such a small town. I walked my way up the hill which seemed to take an hour to do. I was thankful for my long sleeves because every big truck that passed by made me even colder. At one point a large truck had to move over to the shoulder because an oversized tractor was coming from the other direction. I kindly took myself off into the grass to let him pass.

I finished out the rest of the day pretty slow with a mixture of run/walking. I got to my last water stop for the day and I finally took my long sleeve shirt off. I grabbed a banana and a couple of mandarin oranges to eat as I began my cool down walk to end the day. I was disappointed with my left knee and my right achilles but I was thankful for the slower pace that day because it gave me more time to take in all of the sights along the way as I spent another full day outdoors. Walking on the right side of the road I was completely caught off guard when a man on a bicycle rolled by, and stopped a few yards in front of me. He got off of his bike and asked me about my shirt, and running across the US. I explained the relay and our mission to Stop MS. We just stood there on the side of the road for about 7-8 minutes talking about running shoes, ultra runners, and amazing feats humans have accomplished running. That was an unexpected gift for me on a day where my body had struggled so much. He rode off ahead of me towards a hill I could see off in the distance. He stopped, got off his bike and walked it part of the way up. I knew I had at least one more hill to climb before my day would be over.

I put ice packs on my knee and achilles when we got back to the motorhome. I relaxed and looked out the window as we drove to the next campground which would be home for the next two nights. A blow up swimming pool was aired up, filled with water and ice just for me. I reflected over the day as I sat in the little pool while other campers walked towards the campgrounds swimming pool. I can only imagine what they were thinking about me. I think the only thing I needed at that point would have been a life jacket or some arm floaties.

Photo Credits- https://instagram.com/mal.c0m?utm_medium=copy_link

MS Run the US Day 1

Photo Credit – mal.c0m

I was not even a quarter of a mile into my run when the realness of the moment sank in. The past seven months my life had been training runs, strength training, phone calls, emails, and meetings in search of potential donors to support my MS Run the US fundraising campaign. All of which were integral parts of this journey to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. My desire to get to this moment in time was what helped me dig deep and push through on the difficult training runs. I don’t know how many different ways I imagined this day would feel and I am not certain that I will find words that accurately portray those emotions either.

I know there was a smile on my face because I could feel it as I took in the cool morning Ohio air. I recall the excitement that I owned because for the first time as a runner I would not be making a loop. I would be running from point A to point B, every mile helping our relay team get closer to the finish in New York. All of my training runs and races either took me back home or the finish line was also the start line. I wanted to make the most of every step, allowing all of my senses to experience this place I had never been before.

While my eyes were snapping images of the sights around me I thought about all of the people who contributed to my fundraising campaign. I reflected over how so many people stepped up big donating their hard earned money in a year that a pandemic is in full effect. I am thankful for the many people that I met along the way who either had MS or a family member who suffered from MS. I am grateful that they took the time to share their stories with me. I was running for them. Running so that hopefully one day nobody else would go to bed feeling normal and wake up blind in one eye with their life changed forever.

Segment 17 Start

I started my run on a small trail in a local park in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. The weather was nice and cool which was quite the opposite of what Texas weather had given me to train in. I was very excited about running in cooler temperatures to say the least. I focused in on the directions Haley and Malcom had given me for my run, I really did not want to get lost within the first three miles. I then laughed to myself a little as I realized just how much I had going on at the same time. Directions, breathing, taking in as much of the scenery as possible, watching for things I might trip on, reflecting over how I got here… then there was the momma duck with five baby ducks following her along the same route I was taking (got distracted by my next turn or I might have taken a picture of them).

Photo Credit – mal.c0m

Cool weather and the adrenaline rush from beginning the 167 mile adventure I had trained seven months for blurred any awareness I had of my starting pace until I hit the half marathon distance. To be fair though, I typically do not look at my pace until I have completed a training run. Shockingly enough the first fatigue that I encountered that day was my face, I am quite certain that I had been smiling every step of the way. I decided it best to slow down after the thirteen mile mark, so after a restroom break I began walking while I ate a snack and drank some water. I made my way out of the city into a more rural area where I found myself running again, only at a much slower pace this time. I took in some more views of the Ohio country side and stored some more mental pictures of the beautiful houses as I passed them by.

It was here that I spent some time reflecting over all of the events in my life that led me to running on a Monday morning in Ohio. I even thought back to my high school days when my track coach would drop the distance runners off and have us run back to the school. I was not a fan of running on an oval track back then, so I truly enjoyed those days. As I ran past some Ohio cows and I recalled coach telling me one day to leave the cows alone as we drove past them headed further away from the high school track. Coach Trahan passed away December 1, 2020. I can still hear him telling me that I was a distance runner while I argued that I was a jumper. I am certain that if he’s looking down on me now he is laughing at the washed up volleyball/basketball player with dreams of running a 100 mile race. He was definitely right about the distance thing!

It was around this point in my run that I encountered my first hills. (Maybe I should type that in all caps HILLS to be more acurate). I knew there were hills on this segment, Ashley talked about them quite a bit. We do have hills in Texas, but I don’t think they compare to what I encountered in Ohio and Pennsylvania. I realized after the next hour of hills that this would be my life for the next 6 days. The hills and I did not become best friends from the start, it was a relationship that took five and a half days to develop.

At some point in the second half of the day I started feeling a little bit of tightness in my right achilles tendon. I knew I was putting in crazy miles this week so I didn’t think much more about it. I do recall not feeling any sort of pain discomfort when my watch showed me that I had run 26.2 miles. I stopped, took a picture of my watch and I took a picture of the place I was at when I completed my first marathon distance. It definitely was not fast, and that of course was not the goal but it was an awesome accomplishment for me. I was supposed to have gone over this mark on my 60K attempt at Pedernales Falls State park which did not happen. I shook my head and smiled as I thought back to the many times in my life that I swore that I would never run a marathon. I continued on through the rest of the run and finished with a grand total of thirty miles for the first day of segment 17.

Photo Credit – mal.c0m

Photo Credits- https://instagram.com/mal.c0m?utm_medium=copy_link