It was the morning of June 3, 2006. My roommate was a guy named Mike Z., with whom I went to church. We both had hit that point in our lives where we needed a challenge from both within and without. That's how we stumbled onto Dam to Dam, a 20k road race from the Saylorville Dam to downtown Des Moines. Folks, I need it again. But instead of 38, I'm 54. So, it's the Bix7 on July 30th. Let's go.
Back in 2002, I started as Chief of Staff for Cedar Rapids Mayor Paul Pate and Executive Assistant for the City Council from 2002-2006. I've always been "big boned." In high school and college I was fit, but as you get older and life comes at you, sometimes you make poor decisions. At the swearing in ceremony for the Mayo rand City Council, I was a large, large man. When I was sweating, it smelled like someone was frying bacon. Wiping my brow, I noticed it was Mayo. OK, ok, ok...not that bad, but THAT BAD. I worked a lot of hours because I loved my job, and I ate poorly.
After the 2006 change in form of government, I took a job as an executive at the largest affordable housing organization outside of Des Moines. In a few months, I worked my way up to President and CEO, and I realized that I could work myself into an early grave, or I could do something for myself to help my physical, mental, and spiritual well being. So I decided to start walking to run. At first, I'd walk a block and then run a block. After a week, I switched to walk two minutes, run a minute. After another week, it was walk 3 minutes, run 1.5 minutes. The next week, it was walk 2 minutes, run 2 minutes...and from there I walked and ran to how I felt for the day.
Soon, I was running five minutes at a time. Now, for some of you, that might not be a big deal. For me, it was amazing. I had found something I could do, which was goal oriented, yet, was at my own pace. I wasn't really working my way toward anything, and then, in late summer, I found a neighborhood 5k, which is about 3.1 miles. I didn't think much of it, because by now I could run 3 or 4 miles in a row. But my neighborhood was flat. The day of the race, I started fine and then hit the first hill. And then there were more. and then MORE! I was absolutely BLOWN OUT when I finished. But I finished. I finished. I kept running at my own pace, and I kept pushing myself, finally able to get rid of the walking portions of my training.
Thanksgiving brings around the Turkey Trot, another 5k race, and this one was going to be a flat one. I entered with my neighbor, a guy who wrestled at lower weight when we went to high school together. He was a pretty fit guy, so I had to make a good showing, right? Let the training begin! I incorporated interval into my training, which is when you alternate distance running with sprint/walk/spring.walk sequences. I guess the idea behind this is to get you to a physical place where you can push beyond your prior boundaries and perform in an anerobic state. That basically means I would be powering beyond the oxygen-based engine I had been using while just chugging along. And it worked.
The morning of the Turkey Trot, my neighbor and I started off neat to one another. As I expected, his light and lean frame took off well ahead of me. I was able to keep a decent pace, picking out someone who looked like they were a little younger and in better shape than me, and keeping them in front of me, and my neighbor within a block at all times. It's funny, but when you run somewhere you're not used to, you get caught up in the new place and all it's interesting paraphernalia. Running through a graveyard...down a street you never knew existed...is that car up on blocks?...HEY! that's my favorite pizza place's box in the trash on the curb! Next thing I knew, both my pacer and my neighbor were far, far ahead of me. And there's not long to the finish, because it's a short race. So I sprinted.
I don't know for how long I sprinted, but I do know three things: First, after a couple of blocks, I couldn't feel my legs...or my feet...or any of the joints below my waist; Second, my lungs were burning and I was sucking in more air than I ever thought I could; Third, I was foaming at the mouth. Yes. I was foaming at the mouth. It seems inhaling spit and exhaling very forcefully will create foam on your lips. I saw my pacer, and picked my chest up higher to get more volume for oxygen. I brought my head down to dead level and calmed my mind. Soon, I passed the pacer and started in for my neighbor. I lengthened my stride by picking my hips up higher in my step, but kept the same cadence.
The finish line was in sight, when I saw my neighbor crank it up, so I just left nothing to rest. This was a matter of pride! I recall three chutes into the finish line and angled to make sure I wouldn't be in the same one as he was. Within the 100 feet before the chutes began, I passed him on the left and bore down on the finish...just ahead of him. I did it! I had set my goal, and I achieved it! I pulled off to the side and worked on getting my breath back. I couldn't remember doing anything like that since my high school days! I was in my glory! Standing tall to let all the oxygen get into my body that I could and acknowledging the pats on the back from the volunteers...and I walked to the curb to go lay in the grass...and vomited all up in the curb. Yup. That happens, you know! When you shut your innards down so far as to push all the blood and nervous system activity from them, when they come back, it's like a diesel engine belching smoke.
But, that was the beginning! I was hooked, and I knew I had to do something bigger! Next post, it's the lead up to the Dam to Dam in Des Moines! Meanwhile, I'll start my training for the Bix7 in Davenport on July 30th. And, again I have to walk before I can run.