Monday, May 4, 2015

My Ultrarunning and Sports Interview with DizRuns

My Ultrarunning and Sports Interview with DizRuns... If you're interested in hearing a piece of my story, here is my interview with Denny who interviews a lot of great athletes. Check out his website and his podcasts...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Run To Remember

Today I saw things I have never seen before.

2014 saw marathons being run every weekend sometimes twice in a weekend, sometimes twice in a day.

2015 started with a 123+ mile run for New Years.

A marathon and 4 ultramarathons on almost consecutive weekends followed.

The last ultra, Sycamore Canyon 100 km destroyed my ankles which were already compromised from the other races. These injuries kept me from running longer distances ever since, almost 9 weeks ago now.

Even after 4 months of rest, the latest MRI of my shoulder unveiled multiple tears from a fall skiing in Anchorage, Alaska over Christmas.

Today, I was going to go out and do a 4 mile run. It was cloudy and overcast. A storm was coming. There was no need to bring water or food on such a short run. Something told me to bring money, just in case, which is odd since it is something I never do on such a short run.

As I began running along the canal, a single voice whispered in my head... "Run"....

I looked off into the distance and saw Thompson Peak on top of the Mc Dowell Mountains and remembered that I had always wanted to run there from downtown Scottsdale.

A voice whispered again... "Run"....

Before I knew it, the 2 mile turn-around point had far been passed. I went off into a meditative state, allowing my mind and my body to decompress from a long work week and the news of the MRI results, which frustrated me to no end.

A 4 mile run, turned into 3 cities, 2 nations (Salt River Indian Nation Land), 3 mountain preserves and neighborhoods and areas I had never ever seen before. I ran across Indian lands with no trails. I ran next to wild horses, almost 14 of them, that looked nothing short of spectacular creatures. I ran trails I never knew existed. I waved at people and said hello to people that I had never seen before. I looked out over 50 miles from the top of a mountain at glorious stormy skies, across the entire Phoenix valley. I felt the cool rain on my body as I descended down off the mountain as if I was being blessed for having come so far, against expectation.

Today I saw things I have never seen before. Today, at the age of 41, I felt things I have never felt before. Spectacular and glorious things. Feelings I could not even describe. Overwhelming feelings of gratitude, just for being alive.

Maybe pain and frustration are part of the design but so are gratitude, joy, love and purpose. 

Life is so much more beautiful as an ultrarunner. 

3 cities, 2 nations, 3 mountain preserves and 27.5 mile run... Complete...

What is it that will make life worth it, for you?

Face Fear - Motivational Video

What we fear most is usually what we most need to do...

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What is it, that will make life worth it, for you?

I am not religious, but I believe in faith and faith in oneself. I wake up every single day and ask myself, what can I do today, to make myself a better person, a stronger person, a kinder person and a wiser person. I have done this for over 25 years straight.

I am a runner. Running is an extension of my faith and spirituality. I have run over 150+ marathons and ultramarathons in the last 3 years alone. I dropped down from 315lbs to 195lbs in 6 months to run my first marathon, just 4 short years ago. I have done this against the odds.

I drank alcohol and smoked for 20 years. It seemed to be part of the culture I group up in. After awhile I couldn't breathe anymore. 

I had to recognize and accept the fact that I violated the expectations I had for myself and my life. I had to reconcile, that I violated the expectations others had for me, which was a very hard pill to swallow. I went through testicular cancer and lost the use of my testicles. This happened at a much earlier age than most and brought fears and anxiety that my future was not bright. I went through the short-selling of my home and lost all my money. I sat by my mom's side as she slowly died from a crippling disease and held her hand, as she passed away. She was my best friend. 

I have advanced arthritis in my shoulders, back and feet, so bad, that more doctors told me to never lift weights again, in order to hold off from shoulder replacement surgery for as long as possible. I have never been married because I carry with me self-esteem, self-worth and trust issues that were instilled in me from childhood. A childhood in which I was bullied, constantly beaten up and alienated because I was overweight. Even after dropping down to 2.5% body fat during my training for the Kona Hawaii, World Ironman Championship triathlon, 30 years after the problem, I still worried about being fat.

As I started to try and gain some self-discipline and tried to lead a healthier lifestyle by running, I tore the tendon completely off my ankle, by accident, from something unrelated to running. I tore it so badly that the doctors, specialists in foot and ankle, told me I would never run more than 5 miles again. The people around me all told me that what I was doing was a waste of time. They told me that I was too big to be a runner. They laughed at me time and time again, as I kept talking about wanting to run a marathon, especially after the doctors told me I was finished as a runner.

I say all this without complaint. My life is truly blessed and I have learned to surround myself with people who inspire and motivate me and who, by their very actions and words, can be identified as being on the same mission as I am. A mission to be a better person, to be something more, and with a purpose to help others around them. I see it in their actions and hear it in their words and it truly touches me. It makes me want to be a better person and live a better life. It not only strengthens my own faith, but also my faith in others, which is so lacking, based on my past experiences.

Running is how I pray. My church is the land, the mountains, lakes and the sky.

I write this after having just completed my 5th running race and 4th ultramarathon this year. A 50 mile run through Antelope Canyon in Page Arizona. As I was driving home, I began to cry. I cried not because of the pain I was in, not because of any kind of injury I had, but because of the pride I felt, in what I had just accomplished. A sense of accomplishment that truly filled my soul to its core. It is a feeling that changes the entire way I look at life. It is a feeling that to me, makes life beautiful. It is a feeling that makes life worth it.

I believe that it is our duty in life to help others. To help those who sit so quietly in the darkness. To be the light that allows others to see the path and to help guide them out of the darkness. And I want you to know, and I want others to know, those who are going through hard times, those who are in pain, and those who live each and every day out of fear, that I will do my part. I will use everything I have and every ounce of energy that passes through me, to be that light, no matter how great the darkness. I will do this not only with my words, but through my actions. I will do this, until I leave this place.

If I cannot find a way… I will make a way…

What is it, that will make life worth it, for you?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

They laughed at me...

They laughed...
They laughed at me when I said I wanted to start running at 315lbs...
They laughed when I said I would drop the weight to do it...
They told me after the cancer and arthritis and tearing the ligament completely off my ankle that I would never run distances over 5 miles...
They laughed when I said how inspired I was by ultrarunning...
They laughed when I said I would run a marathon...

They will laugh at you...

315lbs to 195lbs in 6 months to do my first marathon in 2011.
2 Ironmans - St. George and Hawaii Ironman World Championships in 2011
150+ Marathons and Ultramarathons over 2012, 2013, 2014
1st Place in multiple Ultrarunning Races.
123 Mile Run - New Years Ever 2014

The warm up is over...

2015 ATY New Years Eve Ultramarathon... 123 Miles Complete
2015 Rock N Roll Phoenix Arizona Marathon... Complete
2015 Coldwater Rumble 50K Ultramarathon... Complete
2015 Black Canyon 100K Ultramarathon... Complete
2015 Antelope Canyon 50 Mile Ultramarathon... Complete
2015 Sycamore Canyon 60 KM... Complete

Let them laugh...

Success does not require you to look out the window... It only requires you look in the mirror...

Keep going...

You MUST know your WHY!?

If you want to be an ultra-runner, you need to first and foremost either love running or understand your "Why?". It is not until you know yourself well enough or at least are willing to discover the truth about yourself that you will be able to push through the pain of running very long distances. For me, it is about furthering a belief in myself and the need to reinforce my faith. Faith not in a god religion tells me to believe in, but faith in the person I see in the mirror every single day. Success does not require you to look out the window, it only requires you look in the mirror.

150+ marathons and ultramarathons in the last 3 years alone... Why?

Because it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees....

Monday, March 2, 2015

There are 3 kinds of people in life

There are 3 kinds of people in life... They're winners... They're losers... And there are winners who haven't found a way to win yet... What group are you?

Time to train...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Safety net, don't hold me now...

Safety net, don't hold me now
In this hole I've fallen down
Secret home I made and found
A new way to breathe...

Skin come off, skin come off
I've had enough, ooh ohh
Skin come off

And in the sickness, you have faith
And in the thickness you find me
Finally In the city, you find pain

And the people you see there
That remind you of your role
Let me go

Skin come off, skin come off
I've had enough, ooh ooh
Skin come off

And in the sickness, you have faith
And in the thickness you find me
Finally, finally
You don't have to beg,


Time to train...

I told them I just wanted to run

I told them I just wanted to run...

They said it can't be done...
They said look at your body...
You have this huge monstrous body and overly developed...
It doesn't fit with running...

2015 ATY New Years Eve Ultramarathon... 123 Miles Complete
2015 Rock N Roll Phoenix Arizona Marathon... Complete
2015 Coldwater Rumble 50K Ultramarathon... Complete
2015 Black Canyon 100K Ultramarathon... Complete
2015 Antelope Canyon 50 Mile Ultramarathon... Complete
2015 Sycamore Canyon 100 KM Ultramarathon... 22 hour countdown begins...

No pain... No gain... Time to train...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The mind is the battleground

It happens, each and every time I run. I go to a place. A place inside my mind. A place infested, with demons.  Demons, that have been conceived here. Demons, that I have conjured. And with every failure, every defeat, every humiliation I have ever experienced, they multiply.  Demons, whose sole purpose is to rob me of any pride, any comfort, any peace, until little by little, there is nothing left. The weight of their presence is so crippling. I have found myself with my head in my hands, down on my knees so many times.

And with each mile I run, I evict them, one by one, from that place. I take back a small piece of me. A piece that I know is rightfully mine.

I do not want you to think I run for revenge. To think that, would be to miss the point. I run to settle a dispute. I run, for a reckoning.

And there are so, so many demons... And I have so, so many more miles to go, before there is peace.

2 day countdown until 2015 Sycamore Canyon 100KM Ultramarathon

It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees...

Monday, February 23, 2015

February 23 - 2015... Reflection

An excerpt from my life diary, 2010...

They said I would never be thin again.
They said my failing health was just a matter of age.
They said the drinking would never stop.
They said I didnt have the power to stop smoking especially after having tried 1000 times prior.
They said everyone is depressed, just live with it.
They said the cancer was just the first of many bad things to come.
They said happiness would never come.
They said life wasnt exciting and that I expected too much.
They said the best times were behind me.
They said I would never be a runner.
They said I could never workout with weights again because of the arthritis.
They said tearing the tendon off my ankle was a sign that my body cannot handle running.
They laughed when I said I was going to run a marathon.
They said I was crazy for thinking I could do an ironman.
They said to stop trying.

They dont know who they are dealing with....

2015 ATY New Years Eve Ultramarathon... 123 Miles Complete
2015 Rock N Roll Phoenix Arizona Marathon... Complete
2015 Coldware Rumble 50K Ultramarathon... Complete
2015 Black Canyon 100K Ultramarathon... Complete
2015 Antelope Canyon 50 Mile Ultramarathon... Complete
2015 Sycamore Canyon 100 KM Ultramarathon... 4 day countdown begins...

If I cannot find a way... I will make a way...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

2015 Black Canyon Ultramarathon - Phoenix, Arizona (Montrail Ultra Cup)

Belief will change my world. One of the most powerful statements I've ever come across. A notion I carry with me on every single journey I've experienced that hauntingly tests me and pushes me beyond any limits I could've ever imagined.

In 2008 I had testicular cancer. Neither testicle was viable and one had to be immediately removed. I no longer produced the hormone testosterone. I now have to supplement with testosterone just to have the minimum acceptable levels to allow me to function properly. Extreme fatigue, loss of libido, depression, a much higher predisposition to arthritis among a plethora of all side effects ensue when proper levels are not maintained. The doctors keep me at the minimum level of the range in order to hedge against these negative side-effects.

In 2015 my medical insurance went up. I have a personal medical insurance policy and the changes to the insurance and medical system as a whole raised my premium by more than $100 per month.  The insurance company also decided to change what they deemed an acceptable testosterone medication for people who have had testicular cancer.

I can definitely see and feel dramatic differences being on the testosterone gel versus off of it. Even on it, I am susceptible to greater levels of fatigue but my biggest worry is to have any further arthritic change in my body. My feet already pop with every step, my lower back has three shot discs and I'm bone on bone in my shoulders.

When the insurance company changed their formulary for my condition, I was forced to get a new authorization for a different brand of testosterone from my doctor. This was an absolute nightmare as is any dealings where collaboration needs to happen between a doctor, a pharmacy and the insurance company.  It took almost 3 weeks to get the new brand of testosterone as well as me calling the insurance company every day for the last week to find out the status on the authorization.

During this time, I was off the testosterone completely. I couldn't help but remember what my urologist told me the last time I saw him.  He said "You're the next best thing to a female." jokingly, because I have no testosterone left in my body.

I was seemingly fine that first week and thought I'd be fine holding out until the mess with the insurance company cleared up. By the second week, the depression started to trickle in, little by little, like a storm cloud forming. By the third week, my libido was gone and the storm cloud had fully formed. I could noticeably tell I was depressed.

At the same time, I was trying to taper for the Black Canyon Ultramarathon, so I stopped running for almost two weeks, something I never do. I decided to cross-train to take the impact off my joints. I did this because my New Years Eve consisted of a 123 mile run on slightly damaged feet, which left my feet in worse shape then when I started. I also proceeded to run the Phoenix marathon, the 50 Mile Ultramarathon - Mc Dowell Mountain Frenzy followed by the Coldwater Rumble 50k, all within 1 months time. My taper included biking 40-75 miles per day, every day, along with leg weight-lifting and the eliptical cardio machine. Not a great taper considering this fried my muscles even more than running. I biked on a spin bike in the gym so I could bike at a high intensity, non-stop for hours. Normally, this is an awesome way to train, just not when you're trying to taper for a long ultra and haven't biked in a long time.

I run far and I run a lot. I do this because I love running plain and simple. At 6'4" 235lbs, I don't do it to win races or to impress anyone, I do it because it touches me in a place that nothing else seems to be able to touch. The best way for me to describe my training is that it is how I pray and the land and the mountains I run through are my temple. If you were to ask me if running as much as I do is the right way of doing things, I would ask you, what's your goal? I ask, because if your goal is to run the best race possible, as fast as you possibly can, then you need to taper. Something I don't do. At 6'4" 230 pounds, my body loves to taper and rest. I run my very best races when I taper for almost a month before any race. However, I'm not running the race to run my best race ever, or to have my fastest time. I'm running the race because I love to run with other runners. I love to pray (run) and I love being in my temple (the land and the mountains).

Coming into the 2015 Black Canyon Ultramarathon, I was depressed, burnt out and extremely sore from the biking and weight lifting. I lacked the confidence to run the race, because when I'm not running all the time, I start to feel like less of a runner, especially given my size. I know that with the slight depression I had, my nutrition was thrown off, as was my sleep. The two things that make all the difference in the world. I cannot stress enough, how much sleep, nutrition and exercise are the keys to being at your very best. I also recognize that hormone levels play a key role in your mood, your focus and your behaviors.

I got about 3 hours of sleep the night before the race and woke up at 3am. I was all packed, the night before and headed out the door quickly in order to catch the bus to the start of the race. (A point to point race).

Riding on the bus, I tried to focus on positive thoughts, on my breathing, on mindfully meditating and on the goal of finishing the race even though I lacked the confidence to believe I could finish.  I knew the course was going to be hard. It was going to be rocky single track through the mountains. The previous couple weeks I had to go so far as to wear shoes in my house because my feet were so sore from my last few runs that I couldn't stand walking barefoot.

I get to the race and as the runners line up to get started, I stared off as if in a trance towards the sunrise and focused on how grateful I was for everything I had and the people that were in my life. I focused on my journey over the last few years and how far I had come. I focused on how thankful I was to have the ability and opportunity to be at this race among so many other runners who knew the joys and the love I had and practiced the same religion as me (ultrarunning). You feel a comradery and a peace when you're exactly where you want to be, around the people you want to be surrounded by. There is a closeness felt, even without words spoken, just by being around other ultrarunners.

The race starts and we take off. By mile 10, I'm running at a good pace, my body is warming up. It usually takes my body about 8-10 miles to get fully warmed up. Once warmed up, its like a light-switch is switched on and I get an enormous wave of energy and strength that washes over me. It's an incredible feeling, a rush like no other. It is truly glorious. Only this time, the switch was not switched on and the feeling wasn't coming. The first time this has ever happened to me.

By mile 15, I felt nothing but pain. Pain in my knees, pain in all of my joints, pain in my feet. With each passing mile the pain only got worse. I tried to do everything I could to focus on the mountains and on my gratitude, but the pain was overwhelming. I had no energy, no motivation and couldn't seem to mentally conjure any thought that could take my mind off the nagging and throbbing pains throughout my body.

By mile 19, I was utterly defeated. I was still under a 12 minute mile pace, but had no will whatsoever to continue. My joints were throbbing and I was getting sharp pain in my feet with every step I took. I wanted nothing more than to stop and drop out. I had never been in pain quite like this so early in a race. I could only think that I would need to fight the good fight another day. I was convinced being off the testosterone, the nutrition and the lack of sleep, took me out and there was no way to come back from the deficit it had put me in.

By mile 32, I was doing the logistics for dropping out. I just needed to make it to the next aid station, which was only 1/2 mile away. There was just no way I could continue. The pain was too much.

As I was nearing the aid station, my mind began to think of all the reasons I started to run in the first place. It was almost like a defense mechanism kicked in. Among all the voices in my head shouting, "Stop running", there was still that single small voice that whispered nothing more than "Keep going...". I focused with all of my strength on the constant whisper and tried to drown out all the other voices telling me how much my body hurt, how this just wasn't my day, how there would be other races, how no one would even care, how proud I was that I ran as much as I did and that I had nothing to prove.

And before I knew it, I was out of the aid station and running. And all I kept telling myself was "just one more aid station, just make it one more aid station!".

As I got to mile 37, the heat of the day had gotten to every runner I came across. Runners were already doing the death march (The thing runners do when they are burnt out and have no more energy to run, when they are slumped over and barely able to speak, yet still find a way to keep moving forward, one half step at a time). My pain hadn't subsided in the least. I was in pain more than ever and with the next aid station approaching, I was 100% positive I was going to DNF (Did not finish - Drop out of the race).

Logic was telling me that stopping was the right thing to do. Logic was agreeing that I had made it as far as I wanted to go. I just wasn't having any fun and had no will to continue. As I approached the aid station, with the volunteers all clapping and cheering me on, the whisper came back into my head. That still small voice that said nothing more than "Keep going...". But I just couldn't continue. I didn't know where the whisper was coming from, I just knew I needed to stop here. I was done. I had to stop. My knees were killing me. I knew the difficulty of the course that was coming up. The biggest climbs of the race weren't going to happen until after mile 50 and there was no way I could make it. The logic was undeniable.

As I entered the aid station, my mind began to play back scenes from the movie "Cast Away" with Tom Hanks. How he was trapped with no hope, how his spirit was shattered. I remembered what he said after he had been rescued, when he recalled his point of greatest despair, being trapped in a hopeless situation,

"And that's when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that's what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am."

I kept running.

By mile 46, I felt no endorphin rush, no pleasure, just a dull aching pain that somehow I had become accustomed too. The nausea had kicked in hard. It had been there for the last five miles, but now it was here with a vengeance. With every step my body shaked from it. I tried throwing up several times but nothing was coming out. I remembered the saying "Make friends with your pain and you will never be alone." The saying and it's notion resonates and comforts me to my core. It is so true and applies to so many aspects in life, not just running.

I knew I had 16 miles left over the very hardest part of the course, most of which were ascents over and over again. Usually it's my euphoria or endorphin rush that keeps me running in races, without which, I don't even want to run, but this time it was different. It wasn't the feeling of pleasure that drove me, it was something new. Something I had never "used" before - My pain. And with the pain came an anger and a drive that brought voices that shouted in my head, "You can't give in!"

I was broken down to a fast walk by this point, doing everything I could to keep moving forward, throwing up over and over again, something I would be doing right up to the end. I focused on nothing more than one mile at a time. The nausea was crippling. I kept my head down and tried to block out all distractions. I began passing runners who were literally on the ground crying because of the amount of pain they were in. Runners throwing up, runners laying over top of rocks, runners defeated as I was so early on in the race.

By mile 55, it was pitch black, with no noise and very little light other than the light coming from my head lamp. Any runners left at this point were far apart from one another and every so often you could barely make out another headlamp off in the distance. I literally heard someone scream at this point and as I made my way around a turn, I found a runner who collapsed and was in severe pain because his feet were just destroyed. He was yelling because of the amount of pain he was in just from walking. Luckily he had two pacers with him and was still composed enough to ask me how I was doing. :)  I made sure they were all okay and kept on moving.

When I got to the finish, all I could think about was that there was no way, no way at all, no way, I could have finished this race. I was in utter disbelief and shock, because I knew what I would have had to overcome from the very start in order to make it to the end. I had reached a new level of awareness that I had never, in all of the racing and training, ever known.

I was handed my finishers buckle and found a bench to sit on. I sat down and stared at the ground. I reflected on how what I'd just experienced was so much like life. We come to travel so many bumpy roads and heed so many heavy winds and if we relied on just the logical parts of our awareness, I'm not sure anyone would make it. Without a leap of faith, I'm not sure one could ever believe in their own abilities. I reflected on how the end of a race is so much more than just crossing a line in the dirt. And as I continued to stare at the ground, a tear came from my eye, because I remembered something that now resonated within me, with an understanding and clarity I had never felt before.

Belief will change my world.

Keep Going

2015 Black Canyon 100km Ultramarathon... Complete...