Thursday, April 19, 2012

The First Year of Running. An Amazing Experience.

We are run nerds.  We are passionate about running.  We talk running 24/7.  We live running, eat running, and breath running.  Too bad work gets in our way.  This is a blog for anyone who loves to run and has a passion for running the way we do.  We love to run.

A little bit about me.  My name is Mike.  I started running in just May of 2011.  I hadn't run or done any sort of physical activity since High School over 20 years ago.  Even then I wasn't a runner.  I was a high jumper.  I was definitely out of shape and did not like the way I looked or felt about myself.  I was 230 lbs when I started running.  When I first started it was all I could do to just do a mile without stopping.  I was motivated by some friends on Facebook  I had Facebook friends that were always posting their runs from runkeeper and it inspired me.  My friend Becky was a big factor in getting me to run.  She posted a run about every day, sometimes twice a day and it inspired me to get off my butt and run.  My wife Melissa was a huge influence on me as well.  She had started running to get in shape.  She was doing really well so I thought I would give it a try.  Our first run together I ran as hard as I could with her.  She was good but I didn't want her to show me up(come on, I'm a guy, couldn't let her beat me).  Ran about a 10:45 mile pace for 2 miles.  I think she was a little mad at me because I had stayed up with her.  I ran a couple times after that and then one day I said to myself I can do this running thing so I went out and ran 8 miles!!  Yes, 8 miles!!  I didn't know anything about what types of shoes you needed and socks as well.  I had my heavy Nike shoes and cotton socks.  Big mistake.  I got the 8 miles in but paid a price for it.  Blisters all over my feet and my knees were so sore I couldn't even walk for a few days.  I thought my running was over after that.  If running caused that much pain I didn't want any part of it.  I'd rather go back to sitting on the couch and being a couch potato.  I couldn't do that.  I had to get in shape for myself and my family.  I've got 3 daughters and I want to be around for a long time for them so Dad needed to get off his butt and do something.  I went back out there and ran a couple times a week.  I finally got me a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 11's.  Got me some running socks and I was off.  Wow, what a difference that made.  When I was buying the shoes I thought to myself $100 for shoes???  What are they made out of gold??  The most I had ever paid for shoes was 25 bucks for Wal-Mart cheepo's.  Glad I made the investment.  I slowly upped my mileage from there to about 15 miles a week and decided to enter my first race.  The Mike Rokicki 4th of July 5K.  I was wanting to finish under 30 minutes.  My times had been improving so I thought I could do that.  So after less than 2 months of running it was race day.  Could I pull this off??  What if I fell down??  I felt pretty good throughout the run.  I had my runkeeper(which always seems to mess up when you don't want it too).  I couldn't even get a GPS signal so it was worthless except for time.  I just wanted to do under 30 minutes.  I'm running throughout the race.  I felt great.  Maybe the adrenaline rush??  Finally see the finish and look down at my time.  23:45!!!  Are you kidding me!!  I placed second in my age group(Good thing I'm an old 39).  From there I was hooked.  I kept running 3 times a week about 3 miles each time.  Every once in a while I would throw 8 miles in there but not often.  Knee would hurt when I tried to do too much.

What I did next would change my running life forever.  My friend Becky had told me about this thing called Run for Roses.  This girl was running from St. Louis to New York for 1000 miles in 65 days to raise awareness for Cystic Fibrosis.  She was going to run through our town in Indiana and Melissa and I had decided to join her for(Colleen Caul) about 8 miles as she passed through.  It was an experience we would never forget. She was so nice and genuine.  She had an energy you just wanted to be a part of.  We ran(and walked) some of the 8 miles with her up Highway 40.  We finished up our 8 miles with her and thought this was it.  We would continue to follow her progress and wished her the best of luck as she continued her journey.

Next big race would be a half marathon!!  Melissa and I decided a week before the race we were going to Chicago to do the Chicago Rock n Roll 1/2 marathon in August 14, 2011.  How was I going to pull this off.  I hadn't ever ran any more than 8 miles but you know what, I could do it.  I had just ran 8 miles with Colleen.  I would also be running for my friend Becky who couldn't go with us because she had been diagnosed with melanoma. I could do this.  Had to do this for Becky.  She was a big reason I started running and I couldn't let her down.  Oh well, guess I'd wing it.  I could walk some of it if I had to.  I had only been running for 3 months.  I just wanted to finish it.  What an accomplishment that would be.  I put my estimated finish time at 2:15.  At the expo before the race I went to check in and decided to do something stupid.  I decided to change my estimated finish time to 1:50.  I told them my training had been going really well and wanted to know if I could move up corrals.  What was I thinking.  I hadn't really even trained for this.  I was starting in corral B now.  I was out of my league.  Why would I do that.  I told Melissa what I had done and she rolled her eyes.  OK, I had to do this now.  Didn't want to look like a fool.  I remember a little past mile 8,  I thought to myself.  This is the most I had ever run!!  I feel good!!  I can do this!!   I powered through the pain and kept going.  The adrenaline rush was incredible.  All my thoughts, all my emotions helped me to press on!!  There it is, there is the finish!!  I could see it.  The clock is reading in the 1:40's!!  I had to finish in the 1:40's.  I could do this.  Ended up finishing in 1:50:35(finish was a little further away than I thought).  It was a feeling like no other.  The emotion of it was unreal.  I had just run 13.1 miles and I felt great.  My pace was almost the same that I had previously ran a 5k in a little more than a month before that.  Maybe this was meant for me.

I wanted more!!  I decided to keep running.  Started to increase my mileage to 20 miles per week. What I did next I still to this day don't believe I did!!  I had kept tracking Colleen and her progress on her run to New York.  I had talked to Melissa and we decided to fly our to New York and run the final Day with Colleen.  Day 65.  We were going to fly out to New York and run with her the last day.  I emailed Colleen and told her I had a friend that was wanting to run with her the last couple of days of her run.  She was happy that a friend of mine would be running with her.  What she didn't know is that person was actually me.  I kept it a secret until she was asking for a name and number so she could set up arrangements on where to meet my friend.  I told her I didn't have a friend but it was me that was flying out to run with her.  I was going to attempt to run day 63 September 21, 2012(15 miles), day 64 (16 miles), and the final day 65 (9 miles).  Melissa was going to fly out the final day and run with us.  Remember the most I had ever ran was 13.1 miles.  Now I was going to try to 40 miles in 3 days!!  I could do this!!  First day felt great!!  Hills like no other in New Jersey.  I had never seen hills like that in Indiana.  Got through the first day and ran the whole way with really no issues.  Next morning I was sore but not to the point where I couldn't move.  I think the adrenaline was pushing me on.  Day 64 we had to be at Met Life Stadium.  They were having a celebration for day 64 there and the TV station was going to be there talking about and promoting day 65.  We had to run hard to get there on time.  I looked down and we were doing 7:45 miles!!  I couldn't believe it!!  We got there and the crowd waiting on Colleen was unreal!!  I got a cool Eli Manning jersey and got my picture taken on the 50 yard line with Colleen.  We finished up the run at a relaxing pace.  I was dead tired but did the 16 miles.  Melissa was flying in that night to meet me and couldn't wait to see her.  I was dead tired but this was an experience we would never forget.  She arrived safely and we had to get to bed early.  Had to meet colleen at like 5am!!  I was going to run the whole 9 miles with her.  The rest of the group that was running was going to do 5 miles with her.  They would ride in the RV and meet us with 5 miles left.  We had the taxi set up to take us to meet her the next morning.  We waited and waited and the taxi never showed up.  Said they didn't have any reservation for it.  What were we going to do??  We had to get there on time.  We looked over in the lobby at the hotel and luckily they had a car service.  I told them what happened and they hooked us up with a car.  A limo!!  We were arriving in style!!  Oh well, whatever it took to get us there.  We got there with a minute to spare.  Colleen and I started out busting our 7:30 miles.  Figured we could make up the time and have some extra to play with when the rest of the group met up with us.  We were running to Fox Studios in Downtown New York.  We raced by Central Park and on the dark streets of New York.  This was amazing!!  I had never even been to New York and I was running the streets of it.  Not bad for somebody that had only been running for 4 months.  I was in so much pain right now but I felt none of it!!  No pain existed.  We met up with the group and arrived right on time just as planned to be on the Fox Morning show.  Unreal.  An experience Melissa and I will never forget.

My running was now fueled with a purpose.  I had to run, in fact I loved it!!  I was getting addicted to it.  Had to take a week off because when the adrenaline rush went away I was in so much pain from all the running I had done the last 3 days.  Decided to sign up for another 1/2 marathon and run with my running buddies Becky and Laura (I know, I run with all girls, they rock!!)  Laura is an amazing runner. Next 1/2 Marathon was going to be at Fort Harrison Park in Indianapolis on 10/15/2011.  Lots of hills.  Well, I had just gotten done running all the hills in New Jersey and New York so I thought what the heck, lets do it!!  Cold morning but I warmed up once I got to moving.  Finished with a PR of 1:43:39.  Wow, I was really getting pretty good at this.

I kept my running going and entered a Halloween 5K fun run race in Greencastle, IN.  Had a new PR for the 5K for me.  Ran that in 20:18, took off almost 4 minutes off my previous best 5K time and was first overall!!  All after running for only 5 months.

Had another 1/2 marathon in the works, just 3 weeks after my last one.  The Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon.  It was cold at race time(about 32 degrees).  The course was supposed to be flat and fast.  It was.  I had another PR of 1:38:43.  Got to run the race with my buddy from High School Corey.  I barley beat him.  He finished in 1:40.  He had ran the Marathon there the previous year.  That was something I was considering in the back of my mind but hadn't taken that thought seriously yet.  Did a couple of Fun 5K's with my running buddies from Greencastle, the Santa Hustle and the Jingle Bell run.  Fun times!!

On Thanksgiving Day I decided to take on this 40 day running streak challenge.  Run every day for 40 straight days without taking a day off.  You needed to do at least a mile for it to count.  Well I did it and actually have not stopped since Thanksgiving Day, 2011.  That's right I haven't missed a day of running since then. I ran for 2 months with a pulled groin. I'm over 150 days of running without a day off now and I don't plan on stopping any time soon.

The Santa Hustle was the first race I got to run with my awesome running buddy Katie!!  She has a passion for running just like me(we're run nerds).  Our first run together was with Laura on December 13, 2011.  We did 3.2 miles. I did a 7:15 pace.  She did 7:47 pace.  That was after she had already did 5 miles of trails earlier in the day.  I thought to myself.  This chic is good.  I ran as hard as I could at that run.  Didn't want her to think I sucked!!  First run we did solo together was on January 3, 2012.  Ran 2.94 miles at a 7:44 pace. She kicked my butt.  I knew from there we were going to be run buds.  This chic could stay up with me (in fact she kicks my butt quite often).  She started back up running in October 2011 after a 10 year layoff.  She has run 601 miles since then and I have run 264 of the 601 with her.  She is awesome on the trails.  I hate trails!! She is going to be posting on this blog as well.

By this point there are quite a few people running and wanting to get in shape in Greencastle.  I decided to create a Facebook page.  Greencastle Running and Fitness Club.  It's for anyone that wants to get healthy and get in shape.  Whether it be from running, walking, weight lifting, bike, kick boxing, etc. This was a club for people to motivate each other.  Post when you are going for a run, walk, etc and maybe people can meet up with you.  It's better with buddies.  It's all about fitness and staying in shape and healthy.  We now have over 100 members.  We've even got shirts!!

2012, a new year.  I got this idea in my head I'm going to do 12 half marathons in 2012!!  Yes, 12.  Signed up for my first half marathon of the year in January. It is hard to find a Half Marathon in January in Indiana so I settled for the Eagle Creek Night Trail 1/2 Marathon.  First of all, did I mention I hate trails, now in the dark, with headlamps, not to mention mud and cold.  This was Katie's specialty.  I needed a half for January so beggars can't be choosers so I decided to do it.  Katie and Becky signed up for the Half as well.  Melissa, Wes, Ronda, Poki, Laura, and Dani all signed up for the quarter.  It was cold, wet, and dark.  6.55 mile loops.  Becky, Katie and I would do 2 loops.  The others would do 1 loop.  Got the first loop done and was ready to be done.  Feet were soaking wet and cold.  I had ice on my eyebrows it was so cold.  Couldn't see, running in the woods, the field had thinned out after the first lap and you were basically all alone in the cold, muddy, wet woods by yourself.  Trail was not very well marked which made the second lap even harder to navigate.  Finished the race in 2:20 just 2 minutes ahead of Katie.  Becky did awesome as well.  She finished as well.  I had never seen Becky like that after a race.  She is always all smiles and takes lots of pictures.  She just wanted to go home, no pictures, said it was the hardest run she had ever done, even harder than a marathon she had previously done.  She was right.  That was the hardest run I had ever done.  Harder than my first 8 miler after my blister covered feet, harder than my 40 miles in 3 days with Colleen.  It just sucked but I got it done.  Now Katie and I are planning on doing the full there next year.  What have I gotten myself into??  1/2 Marathon 1 down, 11 to go.

My buddies and I decided to enter in a Virtual 1/2 Marathon on Valentines Day.  We could run our own course in town.  It was an awesome fun run with all my running buddies.  1/2 Marathon 2 down, 10 to go.

Next run I decided to sign up for was in St. Louis, MO.  The Go! St. Louis Marathon.  I had decided on this in January.  That only gave me 11 weeks to train.  That's right, a Marathon, after less than a year of running.  My goal was to run a marathon before I turned 40 (Feb, 2013 is when that will happen). What is ironic about this is that Colleen worked for Go! St. Louis.  I was going to get to see her again.  What better place to do my first marathon was in St. Louis and in front of Colleen.  I pounded out the miles in Jan, Feb, and March.  Averaging 40-50 miles a week.  Remember, I hadn't had that kind of mileage week since I ran with Colleen on day 63, 64, and 65.  For some reason the miles just came easy to me during these months. I had record months mileage in Jan 120+ miles, Feb 160+ miles, and March 220+ miles.  I had my awesome running buddy Katie by my side for most of it.  264 miles of it to be exact.  She is an awesome inspiration to my running.  We get up at 4 am for early bird runs to run before work.  Christina runs some with us too(Christina is a bad a** bike chic training for her first 1/2 marathon.  She rocks!!) Run Nerds forever!!  Day of the Marathon gets here and I know I have driven Melissa nuts by then but she has been very supportive about my obsession(passion) for running.  Melissa is running the half.  She says, I'll finish before you this time.  Weather was not in our favor.  80 degree temps and 25+ mph winds and on top that they were calling for sever thunderstorms.  In fact they canceled the 5K races there the day before.  I was nervous.  I hadn't done all this training for nothing.  Colleen settled my nerves by saying it probably wouldn't be canceled.  The wind was going to be strong.  If 26.2 wasn't enough battling 25+ mph winds would be even harder.  I put my estimated time down as 3:15 which would put me qualifying for Boston.  I know what you're thinking.  This guy has just started running, has never ran a marathon and expects to qualify for Boston.  He is nuts!!  I had 4 goals for this race.  The first was just to finish, the second to run under 4 hours, the third was to run under 3:30, and the fourth was to run in 3:15 and qualify for Boston.  Decided to join a pace group.  3:15 pace group.  My pacer Chris was a beast.  He had ran Boston in 2:48.  I run the first 7 miles strong.  Keeping up well.  Maintaining a 7:20 pace for the first 7 miles.  I know everyone is watching live with my runkeeper app at home and I aim not to disappoint.  Katie I'm sure is going nuts checking my run constantly on her computer.  She said she never even got up once and missed church that morning to watch me.  What an inspiration she is.  Mile 7-8.5 is a different story.  I get slower on the long gradual steep hill not to mention battling the 25+ MPH winds, and heat.  A bad combination for a runner running in their first marathon but definitely a learning experience.  I knew there was some hills but in no way did I expect 2400 ft of elevation climb for the race.  That is nuts.  I was still maintaining a 7:30 pace but was slowing down ever so slightly.  At the half way point I was at 1:50:33.  An 8:26 pace.  I knew by now that I probably wasn't going to qualify for Boston in this race.  I still had other goals to obtain.  If I maintained that pace I could finish in 3:41.  That would be a respectable time for my first Marathon and knock out 2 of my goals.  Mile 14, and 15 was tough.  The wind was a constant battle as well as the heat and hills.  It was all I could do to push through it.  When Katie and I go on our runs she always has to be on the left side of me.  She told me before the run that if I got tired to look left.  She would be there in spirit pushing me through it.  I look left a lot that day and it really helped. By now I am seeing other pace groups passing me.  There went the 3:45 pace group.  Maybe I could stay with them.  I did for about a mile and just couldn't maintain it.  I was pushing as hard as my legs could manage and just couldn't make them push any faster.  At this point I am taking fluids at every aid station and walking through the aid stations in order to take in the fluids so I don't risk being dehydrated.  My miles keep getting slower and slower.  My Garmin beeps at mile 23.  I look down, 12:30 mile.  Is that right, 12:30 mile??  At this point I think something is wrong with it.  As if time has stopped and finish is not getting any closer.  By this time I see the 4:15 pacer pass me. That is an hour after the pace group I had originally started in.  I realize at this time I still have the 3:15 pace group sign on my back.  I reach to tear it off but my arms are too tired to ever reach back there.  Miles 23-25 take me 36 minutes to complete.  At this point I feel like I am really going fast but it's obvious I am not.  I am moving my legs as fast as they will go but it does no good.  Finally I see the mile 25 marker.  I get this new adrenaline rush knowing the finish is within reach.  I feel a renowned energy like I have never felt.  The emotion is intense to the point I have never felt before.  My legs push on.  I look down at my Garmin.  Only 2 tenths of a mile to go.  There is mile 26 marker and I can see the finish. I'm going to do this!!  I'm going to finish a marathon!! I start to tear up.  I am running this last mile at an 8:30 pace!!  Where did this come from.  The finish is all up hill but I don't let it slow me down.  I sprint to the end and cross the line finishing my first marathon in 4:17:18.  I accomplished one of my first goals and the most important one.  I FINISHED!!  Guess who was standing at the finish line to put the finisher medal around my neck.  Colleen!!  I could not believe it!!  I then look right and see Melissa yelling for me.  She had seen me cross the finish line.  I feel incredible.  Everyone is trying to get me to drink Gatorade, water, and eat something.  I take a bite of banana and it about makes me sick.  All I want to do is sit down.  I feel better after I sit.  I check my phone and forgot to stop my stupid Run keeper.  I'm sure Katie is wondering what is going on.  She has now gone over 4 hours without a bathroom break.  She's thinking stop the Run keeper already so I can go pee!!  I stop it.  Check my phone and I had 20 text messages from friends telling me they were proud of me.  Katie's text messages put me over the emotional roller coaster and I begin to ball like a baby.  Melissa asks me what's wrong and I tell her.  The support from all my running buddies and Katie is unbelievable.  Couldn't have done it without all your support.  Melissa has been incredible throughout all this putting up with my passion(obsession/addiction) to running.  This was an unbelievable experience that I will never forget.  All the hard work and months of pounding pavement had finally paid off.

The running streak has not ended.  Got up the next morning after the marathon and ran a mile before we left St. Louis.  I get back and Melissa asks me.  Where did you go??  Let me guess, run!!  I say yep and that is that.  I felt pretty good.  Did a 6:28 mile the day after the marathon.  I've had a good week of running this week the week after the marathon.  2 days after the marathon I ran 11.95 miles with Katie and Christina.  Ran 3 with Becky on Wednesday and a little over 7 with Katie this morning at 4:45 am.  I feel great.  Legs feel strong and I am planning on my next marathon next month in May.  It is a flat and fast course.  Let's see how I do on a flat course.  I've changed my goals for this year.  Instead of running 12 half marathons in 2012 I am now running 7 half marathons and 5 marathons.  2 of them will be within 2 weeks of each other and an Ultra Marathon in August.

I set up this blog in hopes that Katie and I can help to motivate others to get healthy, get in shape, and just run!!  Did I mention I now weigh 175 lbs. 55 lbs less than when I started and in better shape than I ever was in High School.  Katie and I will be posting often so stay tuned.  Katie is going to run in her first Marathon this year and I will be there for her just like she has been there for me every street pounding, trail pounding step of the way.  Run as much as you can as often as you can but just run.  Run Nerds Rock!!  Run Nerds forever!!

Mike-Marathon Man Mike