Sunday, July 29, 2012

Little Things

Sometimes it seems like we just have too much drama in our lives.  It can be from external forces (work, family, etc.).  It can be internally produced (procrastination, health, ego, et al).  And, too often we get to drawn into the all the crap and forget to appreciate and enjoy the little things.

This morning, I had one of those days to appreciate.  Met with one of my former HS runners for a nice a.m. run.  Took off from his house and ran east towards Paradise.  Had the Clark Fork River running along side us.  Mountains in every direction.  Cooling breeze on the way back in.  Saw deer, osprey, geese, ducks and a wide variety of other birds. 

We did a nice 6 at around 7:15 pace.  Swapped some stories.  Told some jokes.  Passed some gas.  All the things that make for a good run.

Thinking about it, what more could a guy ask for on a Sunday morning than a nice visit to the Church of the Blue Dome????

So all my friends out there - remember.  Take some time to enjoy the day and appreciate the good times.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails.

The Muddy Buzzard

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bionic Run #1

Had my one week post surgery checkup on my ICD (implanted defibrillator) today.  All looked good.  Incision looked good and post surgery dressing removed - glad to have it off - means I get to take more than a sponge bath for the first time in a week.

Also cleared back to full exercise.  Took two days compeletley off, then had been walking 30 to 45 minutes the last several days.  At least had the body moving; but, you know - it just ain't the same as a nice easy run.

So, got out for an easy 4 on the Kim Williams trail in Missoula.  I have to admit - I was a bit freaked out/anxious about the first run with this device.  Would it misread my running effort as an "event" and shock me?  Was the device going to feel like it was bouncing around and hurt like hell?  Would I pull a lead loose and cause all kinds of mayhem?

The easy answers were no, no and no.  Yeah, the device (which sits under the skin just below my left collar bone) feels a bit odd.  Hell, it is a foreign device in my body.  Maybe a bit uncomfortable; but, not painful.  And, I'm sure that I'll get used to it in no time.

All in all a pretty uneventful run.  About the only thing of note is that there seems to be some interference between the ICD and my Garmin heart rate monitor.  My HR readings seemed way out of whack for the effort.  But, that's a pretty minor detail.

In the end, it felt good to be out on the roads & trails again. 

The Muddy (and somewhat bionic) Buzzard

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Oly Predictions

We're just a bit less than 2 weeks out from the start of the Olympic track and field competition; and, I thought I would give you my predictions for the US medal chances for 800 Meters on up at the London oval.  So, without any further ado - here we go. 

800 Meters Men.  Duane Solomon just ran a real fast time in Monaco; but, he seems to lack the experience necessary to get through the heats & semis and still be ready to get a medal in the finals.  Nick Symmonds has the experience and is a big meet performer.  But, I just don't see him quite getting over the hump.  Best case scenario - 5th for Symmonds.

800 Meters Women.  I think that this is about how well Alysia Montano can handle the heats and semi's.  She's proving herself as a racer and has put down some fast times this year.  I predict a bronze for Montano.

1500 Meters Men.  With some of the performances that have been getting laid down this year, I just don't see our men being able to pull it off.  Centrowitz and Monzano have proven themselves to be good big meet performers; and, I think that they'll make the final.  One of them will likely make the top 5; but, I think that's it.  Wheating seems to be a big question mark; but, I just don't think that he's on top of his game and don't expect him to get out of the semis.

1500 Meters Women.  I think that all 3 of our women will make the final.  But, only one of them will come home with hardware...............and, I predict Rowbury.  Uceny and Simpson just don't seem to have the magic that they saw last year.  And, Rowbury is the most experienced and smartest racer of the bunch.  I think that she's finally ready to bring home a medal.

3000 Steeple Men.  Ignorance will be bliss for Evan Jager.  He's only run 5 steeples so far in his career.  One of those was to convincingly win the Oly Trials.  Another was this past week when he set a new AR in 8:06.81 - making him the 5th fastest time in the world this year.  He seems to have positioned himself well; and, I think that he may be just naive enough to pull off a bronze behind the top 2 Kenyans.

300 Steeple Women.  Although Emma Coburn has the 12th fastest time in the world this year, I just think that there is too much experience and speed in front of her.  So, she should make the finals; but, probably no better than 8th or 9th.

5,000 Meters Men.  Super interesting.  We have Lagat, Rupp and Lomong.  Lagat is smart, fast and experienced.  He'll definately make the finals.  Rupp is improving all the time with his speed and tactics.  He too will make the final.  Lomong - he has the speed and the desire.  I think that we'll get all three to the final.  That will be quite and accomplishment for the American team.  I think that Lagat brings home hardware.  I expect Rupp to be a bit too beat up from the 10,000 and the 5K heats to get a medal; but, top 6 is a possibility.  Lomongs lack of experience at championship 5K's keeps him out of the top 10.

5,000 Meters Men.  Unfortunately, I don't see any of our women making the final.  They are solid runners; but, don't see them having the wheels to pull off the Q time for the final.

10,000 Meters Men.  I think that all 3 of our guys will perform admirably - Rupp, Ritz and Tegenkamp.  But, I think that only Rupp will be in the top 9.  And, I think he will bring home a bronze.  He's developing the tactical sense and the finishing speed necessary for a championship 10K.  He's ready to go and I think he'll ride along with training mate Mo Farah to the medal stand.

10,000 Meters Women.  My prediction is that only Hastings will be in the top 12.  As in the 5K, I just don't think our women have the wheels this year to challenge for hardware.

Marathon Men.  I love Meb and Abdi - but, championship marathoning has changed dramatically since Meb's silver in Athens.  I think that Hall is the only one with the speed endurance to be in the hunt after 30K.  But, I see him 5th at best.  Still, a great run; but, just too much East African blood to overcome.

Marathon Women.  One of our women will win a medal.  It won't be Desi Davilla.  She's a bit beat up and not having the training block necessary to be ready.  And, I just don't think that Kara is back to 100% after the birth of Colt.  Top 10 maybe; but, not medals. That leaves us with Shalane Flanagan.  She has the endurance, track speed and race smarts to pull it off.  And, if she really runs smart and puts it all on the line in the last 10K - gold is not unrealistic.

So, there you have it.  Let me know what you think I have wrong and what I have right. 

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dream Season

Although some of this is old news, I just had to make comment about what is perhaps the best ever season that a female high school track athlete has had in Montana.  No diminishing the performances of some greats of the past like Julie Brown, Laurie Sax, Loni Perkins, Heidi Lane and Zoe Nelson - I would argue that Dani Aragon's 2012 season surpassed them all.

No wanting to overlook the fact that she ran a 4:53 mile or a 10:58 2-mile during the season; but, wanted to focus on her 800 meter performances starting with the Eastern AA Divisionals on May 19th.

At Divisionals she won the 800 meters in a stellar 2:10.33.  This time was within site of the all class record of Julie Brown from the 1970's and had people excited about what she could do at the State Meet.

Which then brings us to the state meet at the mile-high altitude of Butte.  With less than stellar weather (cold, wind, snow, rain) she smashed the 800 Meter record with the first ever sub-2:10 perfromance in running 2:08.31.  (On top of that she got 2nd in the 400 at 57.23, won the mile in 4:56.43 (just off the state record of 4:55.18) and won the 3200 in 11:09.28.)

But, all of that was a mere warmup for the biggest and best part of her senior season.  In mid-June, she headed to Bloomington, Indiana for the USA Track & Field Junior Championships.  She ran solid in the preliminaries with a 2:10.45 that qualified her for the finals.  Then, in the finals is where she had her real breakthrough performance.  Running 2nd to Ajee Wilson, she ran an incredible, 3 second PR with her 2:05.06.  But, even bigger than that was the fact that her performance qualified her for the World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain in mid-July.

Once she got to Barcelona, Dani kept on rolling.  In the heats, she ran a 2:07.84 to qualify for the semi-finals.  In the semi-fnals (held the day after the heats), she ran another PR in 2:04.19. That's 4 performances under 2:10 in a 6 week span - AMAZING.  Unfortunately, that's where Dani's run ended.  It took a 2:03.18 to qualify for the finals; and, that was just beyond Dani's time.  But, what an amazing run she had.

Now, Dani will take her talents to Notre Dame to join her junior to be sister Alexa (and to follow in the footsteps of their Dad Chuck - a ND alum and former school record holder in the mile).

I've had the pleasure of knowing the Aragon family since the girls were infants (during my time in Billings).  Dani (and the rest of the family) is a pleasant, intelligent and talented young girl.  She has a bright, bright future indeed.  My daughter Zoe was between Dani and Alexa during their junior high years at Lewis & Clark JH in Billings.  Zoe always thought that Dani was going to have a great career - guess she was right.

So, consider this my tip of the cap to the amazing spring of Dani Aragon.  I wish her all the best as she continues with her running and her time at ND.

The Muddy Buzzard.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Buzzard Goes Bionic

So, finally sucked it up and followed the doctor's recommendations.  Went in on Wednesday and had an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) put in.  So, what does that mean????

Well, as part of my reduced heart function (left ventricular ejection fraction of 35% +-), I'm at an increased risk of Sudden Cardiac Arrest.  Even though their underlying heart conditions were different, SCA is what struck down Ryan Shay at the 2008 Oly Trials and Micah True (Caballo Blanco from Born To Run).  Alberto Salazar suffered through an SCA episode (but got lucky due to very quick medical attention and survived).  Two international soccer players recently suffered SCA episodes on the field.  One survived, the other wasn't so lucky. 

Although the risk of an episode in my case is less than 1% in any given year, - there is a risk.  And, if you have an episode, it's usually fatal unless you happen to be somewhere with trained responders and/or an AED.   But, an SCA episode can also be treated by and ICD.  Under the right conditions (which have been programmed into the device), your heart will get a jolt or other form of electrical signal to bring it back into the correct rhythm.

The device is implanted on the left side of my chest, below my collar bone and above the breast.  Here's a pic with the dressing over the incision.

I was pleasantly surprised because I expected there to be more of a protrusion/bump from the device.  It will probably be a bit more evident once the dressing is off; but, it's not as bas as I thought that it might be.

The device really isn't that big.  It's a bit bigger than my Garmin 405 GPS Watch; and, about the thickness of a USB thumb drive.  Here's a few pix of a device sample that they gave me at discharge (it's an actual device, sans battery and leads.)

From the plastic piece on the top of the device are a set of leads that they thread through a vein and into the heart.  In my case, there is a lead to the atrium and a lead to the ventricle.  There's a very, very small "screw" that attaches to the wall of the heart. 

So, basically, here's how it works.  The ICD continuously monitors my heart rate.  If, for some reason, it starts to beat too fast (an indicator of the onset of Sudden Cardiac Arrest), the ICD tries to "pace" the heart back to a normal heart rate.  If that doesn't work, then, the device sends a shock to the heart to shock it back into a normal rhythm.  In my case, the "fast" rates have been set at 190 and 210 beats per minute.  (That shouldn't be a problem with running for me.  Since I've been on some of the heart meds, my max HR is now at around 155 to 160.)  Again, the risk of experiencing SCA is pretty small; but, this device is a good insurance device just in case it does happen.

The procedure went well.  Dr. Simone Musco from St. Patricks International Heart Institute did a great job.  He's been great to work with and has been really flexible in setting this whole thing up in a way that will minimize the impact on my day to day lifestyle; and, will still allow me to run.

They don't put you completely out during the procedure.  You are sedated; and, I don't really remember much of the 90 minute surgery.  I think I slept through most of it; but, I do vividly recall them forming the skin pocket and putting in the device.  It didn't really hurt; but, man, this thing doesn't gently slip under the skin.  There is some serious pushing to get the damn thing in place.

I came out of the procedure wide awake and ready to go.  Seems like I kind of get amped up on the back side of the sedative.  I was talking and visiting and all kinds of awake.  Within about an hour, I was pretty well back with it; and was already sending out some texts and making calls.   

I didn't seem to have any significant after effects of the sedatives; but, my left chest was pretty sore.  Finally wore down about 10:00 at night and was hopeful of getting at least some sleep.  But, it was not to be.  First, there was the IV antibiotic that they hooked me up to at midnight.  Then vitals at 2:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.  And, they wanted to do a chest X-ray at 5:30 a.m.  But, that wasn't the worst of it.  The bed in the room had an air mattress and was set up to almost continuously adjust the air pressure within the mattress (I'm sure to help avoid bed sores).  Every 30 seconds a small air pump would come on and pump air into or out of the mattress.  And, this wasn't some quite little pump.  It was like the battery operated pumps that you can use to blow up air mattresses for home or camping.  With that going on twice a minute, there was no sleep in my night.

Yesterday, my chest was still a bit sore; but, manageable with just Tylenol.  But, I was quite tired with no sleep.  Was able to get a bit of work done in the morning (email mostly)  Was home by about 2:00 p.m.  Took about an hour nap and did some more work in the early evening.  Then to bed pretty early.

So, here it is on Friday.  The pain is pretty minor.  Took 2 Tylenol early this morning; and, that's been it.  I'm still a bit fatigued; but, was able to get in a full days worth of work.  With a full weekend of rest, I should be back at it full force by Monday.

I do have a few short term restrictions.  I can't run for 5 or 6 days (although I can walk or do recumbent bike before that).  I can't shower or get the incision site wet for a week.  I do have an appointment on Wednesday to check the wound site and to double check the device programming.  Once that is done, I should be able to get back to regular running and normal activities.

But, for 4 to 6 weeks I can't lift my left arm above my shoulder; and, I can't lift more than 10 to 15 pounds with my left hand.  That's to make sure that the lead wires "set in" properly and don't move out of place.  After that, there should be no real restrictions on my previous lifestyle.

The ICD doesn't fix the underlying problem; and, I still expect that my performance/racing will be limited by heart function.  But, it does give me some peace of mind knowing that the risk of kicking over and dying out on a run has been significantly reduced.

At any rate, it's now another part of this big journey; and, I'm hopefully that the future road blocks are minimal. 

And, in just a few more days...............................I'll see you back out on the roads, tracks and trails.

The Muddy Buzzard

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Running At The Bottom Of The Lake

Okay - so my love fest with Missoula running is going to continue into this post.  But, I can't help it.  That's what happens in the afterglow of an event like last weekend's Missoula Marathon. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again - it is perhaps the best overall running event (dare I say festival) in Montana.  It's a 3-day celebration of running.  With the Run Wild Missoula Beer Run and packet pick up on Friday evening; the Missoula 5K and Kid's Marathon on Saturday moning; the expo on Saturday; and, the main event (full and half marathons) on Sunday - there's some level of running event for anyone and everyone.

Run Wild Missoula and the marathon race committee do an outstanding job of putting the race logistics together.  The Missoula community get's solidly behind the event.  And, when you combine in all of the local markets and weekend community events - you get a weekend full of energy, excitement and a "buzz about town" that is unmatched in the region.  Trust me - it's an event that is well worth puttig on you calendar.

And, on top of that, there's the little matter of the races themselves. Top to bottom, the marathon and half marathon have developed into highly competitive races with excellent fields.  (And, with an enhanced focus on the Missoula 5K, I expect that event to grow and become even better in the next couple of years.)

In the half marathon, high schooler Chiara Warner (Townsend/Broadwater HS) was a suprise at the front with her 1:21:59 win.  While a talented and accomplished HS runner, there was nothign to suggest her ability to step up to the 13.1 distance and beat some accomplished runners like defending champ Emily Schertzer, Meg Lerch and Brooke Andrus.

For the men, Matt Shyrock of Missoula jsut snuck under Casey Jermyn's course record as he pulled of a sub-1:10 finish with a winning time of 69:51.  A sub-70 Half is pretty impressive; and, it gave him an 80 second win and took the scalps of runners such as pre-reace favorites Devin Cowan, Jacob Naegeli and Adam Peterman.  In all there were 5 total men under 1:15.  Not a bad race.

At the full distance, the pre-race favorites were Jimmy Grant and Collin Fehr - and they lived up to the billing.  Both were looking for performances in the 2:30 or under range.  Collin took things out hard with a 1:14 opening half, opening a 2 minute + lead on Jimmy.  Race reports later had that lead up to about 3 minutes.  But, over the last 10 miles, Jimmy slowly chewed into the lead.  But, in the end, Collin held on for a 44 second win, 2:32:38 to 2:33:22.  Pretty competetive racing over a full 26 miles.

On the women's side, it was all Trisha all the way.  Running under her newly married name of Drobek (nee Miller), Trisha had one of the finest women's performances in recent Montana history.  Coming off a sub-2:50 win at this January's PF Chang's Marathon in Tempe/Phoenix, AX, Trisha pulled off her second super fast time in 6 months and smashing the course record with her win at 2:49:33.  This gave her a dominating 14 minute win.

All in all a great, exciting weekend in the Garden City.  Already looking forward to 2013 and seeing if the race festival can exceed the 6,000 runner mark and improve again on the level of performances.  Based on what I've seen over the last couple of years, I'm predicting yes to both of the above.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails.

The Muddy Buzzard

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Happy #11 To RE

Let me start with full disclosure.  The Brooker family (Tim, Carol, Anders [and soon to be Meg]) are friends of mine.  But, that friendship has little bearing on my comments below.

Yesterday (July 13th), the Runner's Edge celebrated their 11th Anniversary as Missoula's (and western Montana's) running specialty store.  That's a big deal for a small business - to fight off the competition, economic turmoil and a myriad of daily challenges to success.  But, here they stand after more than a decade.  But,, the question begs - why have they been successful and survived when so many other small businesses (in Missoula, Montana, and throughout the country) have folded up their tents???

Because they "get it".  They know the sport.  They know their customers.  They provide unparallelled customer service.  They've developed partnerships with other local and regional events, organizations, businesses and individuals.  They are actively (and I mean actively) involved in all aspects of the sport in the Missoula region.  Sponsorships, classes, coaching, group runs, donations, etc.  If there is something going on with running in the region, you can almost be certain that Runner's Edge will be somehow connected.

They have great products and a full selection of shoes, clothing, gear and accessories.  They know the products they sell.  They stand behind their products. 

The staff is great.  Anders, Tim, Vicki, Mike, Tyson, John, Colleen, Meg.  Pleasant - Knowledgeable - Committed  They bring their best to the table every day to make sure you have the best possible products to help you enjoy the sport.

Time Out Sports in Billings is Montana's first running specialty store and has been around for over 20 years.  Bozeman Running Company has taken over the old Fleet Feet store and is on the upswing.  And, Tread Lightly in Helena and Southwest Sports in Butte are a couple of the new kids on the block.  They all do a good job and it's great to have that many running specialty stores in our little corner of the world.  But, in my mind, they all take a back seat to Runner's Edge.  RE has set the gold standard in the Big Sky for running specialty stores.

In fact, they may be one of the best running stores in all of the Western U.S.  During my travels, I like to check out running stores in the various cities that I visit.  And, quite honestly, RE can run toe to toe with pretty much any of the stores I've ever set foot in.

So - congratulations Anders and all of the Runner's Edge crew on 11 years of service to the Missoula running community.  Thanks for all that you do for the sport; and, here's to hoping for a strong, successful 2nd decade of business.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard