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Annie and Julie are tackling adventure and wellness at every turn!

Annie and Julie are tackling adventure and wellness at every turn!

The full moon seemed to smile at me as the sun set, like an inspirational shift change. Despite the bug plastered windshield, it stirred sweet adventure memories and radiated wellness. What a fitting culmination to a full weekend! I tasted the riches of family, friends, travel, physical challenge, coffee, shopping, dining and peaceful rest. All is well!

Mark and Frank keep entering in a young guys division.

Mark and Frank keep entering in a young guys division.

It was pretty tough for a while. Bloomsday is a little like a plunge into an icy lake. Many people view it as a spring-time tradition. We see who we are. I was confronted with my past selves and I wished I could stride like some of them. And I think maybe I can. Or not. The mysteries will be revealed and created!

Adventure partners forever!

Adventure partners forever!

People are so interesting. We offer much and sometimes deliver little. Our potential is incredible. Our limiting beliefs dance with our willingness to try to be truly open-minded, fighting for the precious ground of our souls. We rarely know when we’re missing out, choosing to think that our opinions and beliefs are sacred, accurate truths. How silly we can be!

I may have done one thing right, or not. Bloomsday officials have a new ploy called “time up Doomsday.”  They measure how long it takes to ascend the brutal hill between 4.3 and 5 miles into the 7.46 mile race. It may be a good idea for some people to buy into this chase. For me, walking the entire steep part yesterday may have saved my life. I was red-lining, after zooming past hundreds of people on the steep downhill before Doomsday. I’ve learned that I’m very good on downhill portions, and I simply love to run fast. The mob hindered me during an early downhill section, but it thinned a bit and the course widened by the middle of the race. So I hauled ass! Then I accepted my need to walk. No, I would not post one of my faster race times. But I would still do the best I could on this day, and live to race again. Hundreds of people passed me on the hill. Many of them faded badly after the hill, and I passed them back. My ego loved the times when I passed guys who appeared to be about my age. Yay! I passed another old guy! How silly I can be!

I cannot adequately describe to you how good water, coffee and food taste after long runs. It must be experienced first-hand. It is amazing!

This is how Annie feels about Bloomsday each year and about adventure in general:

This is how Annie feels about Bloomsday each year and about adventure in general: “Let’s do it!”

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Portland Marathon 2013

Portland Marathon 2013

Yesterday was one of the toughest days of my life. How lucky am I!

Some people run marathons with very little training. We might call them silly; perhaps even laugh at them. Some of these folks post amazing performances, however. Such is the story of Zachary, Annie’s husband. He works full-time and carries a full-time college schedule. Despite minimal training, including no recent runs longer than six miles, Zach hung with Annie for most of the 2013 Portland Marathon, slowing only for the last few miles. His time of 4:58 was better than Annie and I ran at Coeur d’Alene in May, after substantial training. Who would have guessed he’d pull this off? Not me! Maybe it was the Lebanese food we powered up with on Saturday evening?

Zach's not crazy. I promise! Wait...am I a qualified judge?

Zach’s not crazy. I promise! Wait…am I a qualified judge?

Life is a bundle of richly varied experiences, which we can choose to learn from at our own pace. After moderate training for a marathon, then tapering, I felt pretty strong. 26.2 miles is a long ways, however, no matter how strong one feels. We all get to decide what pace to run. Portland’s lizard pacers offered help, but which group to choose? For me,  a targeted finish of 4:25 or 4:40? My spunky ego took the 4:25 sign in front of me at the start as evidence enough.

I soon learned two important lessons: (1) Many people bunch near the pacers, at least early in the race. (2) Pacers don’t stop for drinks or porta-potties. What to do? Get ahead of them! Having tossed out the good advice to start slow, I sped up a little more! The tantalizing feelings of strength and optimism fueled my ego and ramped up my hopes. Goodbye 4:25ers! I became mostly convinced that I should run faster while I was feeling good. I wasn’t a rookie, so I knew tougher times were coming. But why not make hay while the sun was shining?

Several minutes after a hairpin turn, as we met oncoming runners, I heard Annie yell “Go Frankoshanko!” I smiled and yelled back.  I did likewise for the dozens of people who yelled “Go Cougs” in response to my shirt. I kept a pace that felt good. So I enjoyed many miles faster than my ten minute per mile target. When I ran a mile in 8:40, I questioned the measurements, before realizing how much I had picked up the pace. Was I going too fast?

My muscles started to feel the effects around ten miles in. It’s a progressive thing, so I was curious how I’d hold up for sixteen more miles. What could I do? It seemed reasonable to keep running the best pace I could, hydrate often, eat periodic gels and see what happened!

Portland is a big race. Unlike Coeur d’Alene, there are a lot of competitors. It feels like a long version of Bloomsday. But as tough as Bloomsday is, this race is much tougher. Simply put, it’s three and a half times as long. Other runners can affect us, if we choose. Some finish strong and fight off the overwhelming, compelling urge to walk, especially near the end. But a lot of people do walk. I mean a LOT! Where do I fit in?

I didn’t want to live with remorse throughout the winter! I decided to stick with the winners! The truth is, I really couldn’t stick with many of them, including the 4:25 lizard who passed me late in the race. But I tried! I gave the race everything I had. There is satisfaction in that. My pain was real. My left leg almost gave out on one step. My right leg spasmed on another. Both legs felt the heaviest they ever had. My groin tightened. I had little energy. I was down to a plod at the end. It seemed like each step was a monumental achievement. The course just wouldn’t end! My 2:07 first half was followed by a 2:22 second half, including 13:08 on mile seventeen, which had the big hill. But I stared fear in the face and fought back. I gave it all I had! I was more tired, wobbly and spent in the finisher’s corral than I’ve ever been before. I had trained moderately well. I got what I deserved. I didn’t quit. I finished strong. It felt exhaustingly good!

Wildass Adventures!

I had just started to eye the post-race refreshments when I heard “Hi Daddy!” What? It was Annie. “How’d you get here?” was my immediate response. Post-race delirium and best-of-life surprise gave way to fatherly pride. She’d nearly caught me over the second half of the race, overcoming her knee injury, which limited her training, and her busy schedule of nursing school, work and homemaking. Perhaps our wild adventures helped? Annie and I each shed about half an hour from Coeur d’Alene, with less training. Annie, Zach and I all ran way faster than I thought we would. How’s that for miraculous?

The marathon couple!

The marathon couple!

The friendly people of Portland did many things very well, including water stops, a well staged start, traffic control, encouragement, shirt and medal design, space blankets and delightful frozen strawberry bars at the finish!

Today was a day for excruciatingly painful quadricep massage. The Stick is my best friend and my worst enemy! After work, I spent an hour at the gym lifting weights and stretching my leg muscles. I’m grateful for the pain.  It means I’m still on the road to a better life. I’ve seen no other road I’d rather be on!

Big Red and Super Peach, just before Bloomsday 2012.. What will be new for 2013?

Big Red and Super Peach, just before Bloomsday 2012.. What will be new for 2013?

I get to race again on Sunday! That’s evidence of a youthful heart, is it not? I hope my legs feel young and strong! Cool, clean air and clear lungs would be great too.

It’ll be fun and revealing, however it goes. I’ll see how I am. All kidding aside. Me, my shoes and shorts and twelve kilometers of rolling asphalt. Plus over forty thousand other people, firing energy into each others souls. I’ll feel alive! Eventually I’ll be out of breath, spent and then on a natural high! Along the way, a part of my mind may try to get me to slow down. Another part may want to press on, push the envelope and go to another level of exertion. It might even come down to a sprint to the finish, side by side with Annie. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Bloomsday is a rite of spring, a tradition of exertion, a display of wellness and a challenge to our spirits. It is short enough to attract diverse people, yet long and hilly enough to challenge serious runners. It draws me back, hoping that one day I’ll zoom up the infamous Doomsday Hill.  Will this be the year? Now I’m really getting excited!

I feel like a kid again!  Was that a Heinz ketchup commercial that sang about anticipation?  Just testing to see how old you are.  I’m excited to do a footrace in about an hour and one-half.  Even though I’m a little slow.  Even for me!  I’ll finish in the middle of the pack, and this pack will not be 50,000 like at Bloomsday.  Maybe a few hundred, on a good day.  I’m still excited!  I guess I’m a social creature, because I love the pre-race and post-race interactions.  I hope I survive the in-race trials!  My mother promoted to heaven last year on Mother’s Day.  I will run in her honor.  I owe this amazing life to her; she gave me the gift that makes other gifts possible.  Her incredible faith molded who I am today.  Thanks Mom!!!  I am a very blessed man.  I will also run in honor of my children’s mother.  She gave me the next two most incredible gifts of my life.  Thanks Marie!!!  I will also run in honor of my psychotherapist, my AA sponsor, my children (Super Peach Annie and Hackysack Nick), my siblings, my in-laws, my nieces and nephews and all the amazing friends I’ve been honored with so far.  Holy Smokes!  It really does take a village to raise a rebel!  ( :

 

Surrendering  my holdout compulsions is setting me free!  I have faith that I can become a better version of me, in so many ways!  I have avoided compulsive, emotional eating for two nights.  Last evening I ran my favorite training loop in my fastest time in nearly two years.  I started out slowly, with an ache in my right ankle, but I got stronger as I ran, peaking around the four mile mark.  The flow felt good, so I brought it home with a negative split, similar to our finish at Bloomsday.  The Balloonsday run is this Saturday; I’m excited to see if I can get even faster!  I’m also excited to see who will show up for this event.  I’m hoping to find someone a little faster than me to race!  ( :

The dynamic duo!  No mountain is too tall for this tandem!  Nothing could stop us!  On Saturday, we picked up our race packets, fancy new running shoes and shorts.  My new shoes are red and Annie’s are peach.  Our personalities don’t really lean towards blending in with the wall.  Play the cards you’re dealt!  For dinner, we enjoyed great company at Barb & Ryan’s home and loaded up on Annie’s delightful creations:  avocado pesto over whole wheat pasta, with a side of roasted vegetables dusted with parmesan and feta.  Finishing with Weight Watchers frozen confections, we were ready for rest and rejuvenation.  Bring on Bloomsday!

Sunday morning arrived.  It was race day!  Let’s get to it!  A few nervous pre-race thoughts threatened to attack, but we were very calm.  We enjoyed a perfect breakfast of bananas, Annie’s homemade whole wheat bread with almond butter and jelly, a little coffee/cola and orange juice.  We enjoyed a relaxed drive down to park the car and then jogged slowly to warm up, in the cool shade of tall buildings.  We arrived in time to wait for the porta pottys, do our business and jog to our starting spot, just a few minutes before the start!  Sweet destiny!  Just like Saturday, when we found an open parking spot very near the entrance to the parking garage, immediately in front of our destination.  God seems to enjoy teaching the beauty of going with the flow.  ( :

The flow didn’t seem to be working when the race started!  We had WAY too many people to pass, so the early downhill miles took longer than we had planned.  Our strategy was to go out fast, on the easy miles, then hold on at the end.  Oh well!  Acceptance again saved us.  Annie didn’t even see the guy hurling on the bridge; she was fully involved in running the best possible race that she could.  Exactly like she lives her life.  Yay! 

We were so focused on our path through the maze of people that we missed a lot of the distractions.  I did offer a half-dozen raised arms salutes to the up tempo bands, as well as multiple wild screams to set the mood.  Hey!  Have fun or go home!

I remembered two hills on the course, but in truth there are four.  Two of them are doozies!  The smaller two just suck a bit of energy out of you.  The last hill is called “Doomsday” hill, and it is as merciless as its name.  It’s a ratbastard of a cruel joke, punishing participants about 4.7 – 5.2 miles into the race.  Annie and I were committed to running as a team, and I let her make the call on how to approach our doom.  One of my best laughs of the day was watching Annie’s speed walk up Doomsday overtaking someone’s running pace.  Annie’s 34 inch inseam challenged my 32 inch legs, so I had to jog a bit to stay up with her.  Not fair!

The best part of the race for our egos was after we summited Doomsday.  Annie and I passed a LOT of people over the last two miles of the race, including a frenzied, climactic last quarter-mile.  We sprinted down the hill with clasped and upraised hands at the finish, relishing our successful teamwork!  ( :

After finishing, we could relax.  One of the most amazing sights was green man!  Sporting a body that rivaled Under Amour mannequins, he was completely covered with a fine green netting, plus black running shorts.   He said that trying to get a drink of water into his mouth through the netting was nearly impossible.   I can picture the entertainment!

Our return walk to the car offered soreness, gratitude, relief and accomplishment.  We were glad that we ran the race, and immediately made plans to run again next year, perhaps a bit faster and a little smarter.  We can do this!  ( :

Spring is so beautiful; there are so many flowers to admire!  My Bloomsday anticipation is like life in general:  I don’t know what will happen, but it’s likely to be quite an adventure!  Interesting people, high energy, sensory overload and physical challenge should make Sunday exciting.  Challenging ourselves to grow in one area of life often promotes growth in other areas.  So far the Bloomsday challenge has grown my belly with Annie’s “best of my life” pizza!  Yay!  Now she’s pulling fresh bread out of the oven.  This may take carbohydrate loading to an unprecedented level!  Ice cream anyone?

I don’t rhyme all the time.  Were it true, I’d be screwed!  Massage felt great, so I made a date.  Grabbed my shoes, set out to cruise.  Wondered how far I should go?  Soon enough, I would know.  Absent pains at the start; could this be the best part?  Energy levels rose up high, majestic birds were in the sky.  Striding long felt so good, like I always thought it should!  No nagging pain, no threat of rain.  Second wind lifted me up high; I almost felt like I could fly!  Natural highs feel so sweet!  God, this life is such a treat!

PS – The ice bath afterwards was SO COLD!!!  I let my body cool down too much first, doing chores and such, so I was shivering in the bath.  Now THOSE were fervent prayers!!!  Now I may start to taper off for Bloomsday on Sunday…..

Yippee!!!  I’m getting excited about Bloomsday 2012!  Fifty thousand people rendezvous for health.  Plenty of people to race!  The energy of the crowd is indescribable.  Pre-game jitters multiplied by thousands and thousands.  Anxiety about surviving the first mile without getting tripped, run over or stepped on.  Doomsday dread.  Okay I said it.  I dread that fricking hill!  It’s not just a big, steep hill.  It comes after miles of racing, including another challenging hill.  It’s ominous.  It blasts into view, nature’s blatant attempt to psych us out.  How deep does our determination run?  Are we ready for the mind games?  Is it really bad to walk a little?  Does that make me a wimp?  Is it not actually healthier for me to walk, avoiding dangerous health complications?  It’s okay to walk, it’s only a run for fun.  Don’t worry, you’re still one of the healthier people, just being out here.  It feels too hard to keep running; I should walk.  I can’t breathe!  I can’t get enough air!  It’s too hot!  My ankle/foot/knee/hip/calf/quad/hamstring/glut/toe hurts!  Yeah right.  Annie, I’m coming for you!  This is a challenge of the wills!  May the best runner win!!! 

frankoshanko

I love health, humor, adventure, exercise, romance and competition. Well, I just love life! ( :

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