Wednesday, August 12, 2015

#49 - For My Mom

It's taken me nearly 3 months to collect my thoughts and emotions enough to write this entry. Here goes...

On May 13th, 2015, my beautiful mom - Sheila Kathleen Williams - passed away.

In September of 2014 she was in the kind of shape most 30 year olds would kill for:
In that month she hiked the final 200 mile stretch of the famous South West Coast Path in England ( This was her 3rd trip across the pond to tackle the entire 630 mile walk.
Did I mention she did this last section solo? In less than 3 weeks? At 65 years young?

Sheila was the person who is 100% responsible for instilling a love of the outdoors in me and sharing her infectious adventurous spirit with me since I could walk. I would never have gotten into hiking, backpacking, or ultra-distance running if it wasn't for her.

Fast forward two short months from her trip to England and my mom is in the hospital being told she has bladder cancer but that it is likely contained and easily treatable. Fast forward another 6 months and I'm holding her in my arms as she takes her last breathe...

I cannot express the level of loss I feel, the pain & sadness I deal with on a daily basis, or the regret I live with, thinking of how little time I spent with her over the last 10 years of my life.

In April, as she was undergoing chemotherapy, I ran my first ultra of the year - Desert Rats Double Marathon. I took 3rd in a time of 8:35. My mom was so proud of me and shortly thereafter I signed up the Silverheels 100 in Fairplay, Colorado. The hope was for her to be well enough to be present to share this 100 mile adventure with me. It had been over 3 years since I attempted the distance, and I was so looking forward to having Holly, my mom and my dad there to crew for this one.

Unfortunately, one of those special people was not there last weekend as I toed the line.

I'm not going to go into too much detail regarding how the race unfolded.

What I can tell everyone is that this was a beautiful and challenging course that was far more difficult than any of the 5 previous 100 mile races I'd finished. I pushed myself for the first 83 miles in 2nd or 3rd place nearly the whole time. I then hit a low worse than ever previously encountered... and then another... but rather than quit, I found a way to literally get up and keep going each of the 3 times my body became so fatigued I needed to lay down and sleep.

I've always had enough of a competitive drive that I couldn't bear the thought of "just finishing" if it meant an atrocious time. It had seemed far more palatable to DNF the two other times my mind & body started shutting down during a 100 mile race (2010 Hardrock & 2012 Leadville), but this time was different.

This time I was not running for myself, but for my dear mother who I miss so much. My mom was born in 1949 and I was given bib #49 for this race. It took me nearly 9 hours to cover the last 20 miles, but 28 hours and 28 minutes after toeing the line, I completed what I'd set out to do.

 I so wish she could have been there to see me finish...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Looking Back. Looking forward.

As I get older and slowly near the age of senility and memory loss, I'm realizing the need to document my life and memories via photos, this blog, etc., thus the reason I'm now taking the time to catch up on what's happened in my life since last summer.

With no further ado...

  • July 2014
    • Hardrock Pacing: Having been humbled by the mountains on the HR100 course in 2010, it was with great trepidation that I agreed to pace Sharpie for 30-35 miles of the course last summer. At minimum it was a good motivator to up my mileage in hopes of being at least somewhat prepared for what laid ahead. At the end of the day, pacing ended up being a rewarding and inspiring experience... especially when Mr. Sharp ended up snagging a huge PR! (I'd like to think I had a little to do with it...). It was a physical and emotional roller coaster for 18 hours through rivers and rain and lightning and snow and heat, and I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. At one point in the race (after going through the night, and facing certain death in a lightning storm at 12,000ft) I was so overwhelmed by the magnificence of my surroundings that tears began welling up. The only other time this happened was en route to my first Leadville finish in 2009! I can honestly say, my love for running and the mountains fully returned while on that course, and I will continue to have deep reverence for the San Juans and the Hardrock course until the day I am both fit enough and fortunate enough to toe the line of that race again.
    •  White River 50: Several weeks after the above mentioned experience, I returned to Washington for my first ultra-marathon since September 2012. As my last blog post indicated, my goal was primarily to finish, and I was thinking sub-10 was a reasonable goal. When all was said and done, I finished in 9:21.xx, no worse for wear, and was officially able to call myself an ultra-runner again!
  • August 2014
    •  Pikes Peak Ascent/Leadville Pacing: August 16th was a full day. I finished my 5th Pikes Peak Ascent (1st time since 2009) on that day, and was there to see Holly finish her first! My time of 3:33.37 was my 2nd slowest ever, but a PR wasn't a concern as I was equally excited for my return to Leadville later that evening. Around 8:00pm my pacing duties for 100 mile rookie Tyson Nunn began. I was to take him through the final 24 miles of the course from the new Fish Hatchery aid station to the finish. Personally, I've never had a good experience from Mayqueen (13 miles to go) to the finish, but after my DNF at mile 97 in 2012, I needed to be there for Tyson and keep him going (and prove to myself that I can fight off the sleep deprivation, discomfort, and desire to quit) and finish strong! I'm happy to report both of us were able to successfully pull through and get Tyson a big  buckle in 24:00 flat.
    • High Altitude Beer Mile: Unofficially, Carson Rickey, Liz Sanchez and myself completed the inaugural Pikes Peak Beer Mile on the 14,110 ft summit of Pikes Peak. As usual, I vomited and it turned into a Beer 1.25 mile after the penalty lap, but the experience was awesome none-the-less. Somebody needs to call Guinness...
Holly and I ended up taking a complete hiatus from running in September and October to focus on selling our home and preparing to move into our new house which was to be complete in late November. During this time period, we apparently forgot that we were signed up for the Catalina Eco Marathon & Half Marathon in California...

What this resulted in was a 100-degree suffer-fest and my slowest marathon time ever. Granted, it was on trails, it was hot, and the course had lots of climbing & descending, but regardless, it's never a good idea to run a marathon with a total of 7 runs under your belt in the 8 weeks leading up to it. Lesson learned.

The rest of 2014 was focused on moving and making our new house a home. By late December, the dust had settled enough in our lives to enable me to focus on exercise & running again...
  • 2015 (so far)
    • I have run every day since December 23rd, 2014 which will make my run after work this evening my 100th consecutive day!
    • Due to this consistency, I'm beginning to get some speed back. While my endurance is still lacking, I've managed the following this month:
      • 18:41 5k (35 seconds off my PR)
      • 4:56 mile (PR, but downhill-aided)
  • I'm signed up for the Desert Rats 50 Miler in Fruita, Colorado on April 18th. I ran this event in 2009 and 2010 with a personal best of 8:49 on the course. I honestly believe 8:30 is a reasonable goal this go-around.
  • No Leadville in my future*. I'm pretty sure I'm the only individual who wasn't selected in this year's inaugural lottery. This is actually quite disappointing since I was hoping Pb 2015 would be my return to the 100 mile distance...
  • (*If I run well at Fruita and continue building strength, I am wildly considering trying to win a spot in Leadville by placing high enough at the Silver Rush 50. I've never wanted to race this event before, but if it's my only "hail mary" last-ditch chance to get in, I'd consider giving it a shot. This will mostly depend on my conditioning... if things continue the way they're going, it might be a solid bet.)

Until next time...


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summertime. Life is good.

Wow. Time really flies when you're having fun. I had no idea it had been 3 months since my last post, but it's not for lack of new stories and adventures... but rather, because I'm too busy living them!

Here we go:

As you'll notice at the top of the page, I now have a REAL race on the schedule. In less than 3 weeks, I'll be returning to Washington state to run one of my favorite 50 milers, the White River 50 which I originally ran in 2011. Back then I was able to run 7:48 and place in the top 10... this time I just want to finish. I think sub-10 is a reasonable goal, but regardless of my time, after a 2 year hiatus, just crossing the finish line will be a huge personal achievement.

While I might not have a 100 miler on my race schedule for the foreseeable future, I won't be completely out of the loop this summer. I've been given the opportunity to pace some friends as they tackle the best Colorado has to offer. First, in 5 days I'll be in Silverton to get my buddy John Sharp through the night hours at Hardrock, and hopefully a huge PR on that course! I had my crack at Hardrock in 2010, and was humbled with my first DNF after only 44 miles. In a coincidental turn of events, I'll get to pace Sharpie through the miles that immediately follow Ouray, the site of my throwing in the towel in '10. Can't wait.

I'll also be in Leadville to bring a friend and first time LT 100 runner home from Fish Hatchery to the finish. While Leadville is a circus these days, the race will always hold a special place in my heart based on the range of memories associated with the race... both good and bad!

In the morning before I head up for my Leadville pacing duties in late August, I'll be running the Pikes Peak Ascent for the 5th time, and first time since 2009. I'm not shooting for any PR's this season, but rather, I'm just enjoying the experience like I did when I originally ran the Peak in 2006. This was the race that originally piqued my interest in trail and distance running, so how fitting that I run it again as I'm slowly getting high on adventures in the mountains all over again!

Wow, I forgot to mention that I finished my first marathon since surgery in early May. Nothing special, but I finished the Colorado Marathon in Ft Collins in 3:34. More importantly, Holly ran a new 1/2 marathon PR in 2:09 at that race, making for a special weekend running the roads.

Not necessarily sexy, but I decided to give facial hair an attempt starting at the beginning of June. For fear of losing followers or what remains of my self respect, I won't post any photos today. Hoping the 'stache helps John Sharp and I harness the spirit of Pre' in Hardrock... then I'm shaving. Holly only needs to tolerate the grossness a few more days!

Last but not least, I had my 6-month post-surgery follow-up colonoscopy in May. It was expected that at this time I would be given a plan of immunosuppresive therapy based on the severity with which the Crohn's was manifesting itself...

Surprisingly, I have no signs of recurrence of the disease. What?!

This would rightfully be the highlight of my year so far.

So in a nutshell, I'm slowly but surely returning to my old self. My physical and mental health are the best they've been in 2 years (if not ever), and everyday I run is new and exciting. If one good thing came from the recent health trials I've endured, it's that I LOVE running again! No time goals, no watch, no GPS, no mileage tracking, just pure, unadulterated fun in the mountains the way it should be!


Monday, April 7, 2014

Building Momentum...

It's been one week since my last post in which I'd just finished a very long run for the first time in over a year and a half.

My knee hated me for 2-3 days after the 42 mile effort on 3/29 so I was only able to muster 10 total  mid-week miles, but on Saturday I was feeling pretty fresh again so I got out with a couple of friends and managed a hilly 20 miler through the foothills of Colorado Springs with about 2500ft of gain.

With the vertical, this 20 miler took about the same toll on my legs as the pancake flat 42 miles did, but all-in-all I'm feeling pretty healthy, and just being able to run longer distances again is encouraging. If I can manage to string a few more consecutive weeks together, this could be the start of an exciting summer.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Don't Call it a Comeback (Been Here for Years)

Last time I posted, I was proudly announcing my first 3 mile run post-surgery. A lot has changed since then...

I've gained 26 pounds since November, and am now at a healthy 154-155lbs thanks to gallons and gallons of chocolate milk. Going along with this new found weight is a level of strength I've never experienced in the past. So while I can now do pullups and pushups like nobody's business, running & cardio-wise I am truly starting from scratch again.

This has forced a totally new mindset as it relates to running, specifically, I've decided to start counting PR's as pre-surgery and post-surgery.

Otherwise, it would be too depressing starting from scratch again (athletically), trying to improve on where I was at in 2011-2012. Since I'm not going to be running any sub-2:50 marathons, sub-7 hour 50 milers, or sub-15 hour 100 milers anytime soon, I need to (and do) appreciate every little accomplishment during this comeback period.

Case(s) in point:
I ran the St Patty's Day 5k a couple weeks ago. It took me 20:40... NEW PS (post surgery) PR!!!
I ran a 5 mile run in 37 minutes last week. NEW PS PR!!!

It's the little victories along the way that make getting back in the saddle easier.

This last weekend was no exception. While I've not run anything over 12 miles long since the operation, upon discovering a local 24 hour timed lap event last weekend, I decided to sign up morning of, and see just how far off of my old ultra form I really am. The results were surprising...

Running into a fellow runner who was making his return in 2014 after battling injuries for the last year, we pushed each other for the first 20 miles of the day, finishing just a few minutes over 3 hours. NEW PS PR!!!

After that, I was content calling it a day, so I decided to walk for a while and enjoy the weather a little longer. That turned into me deciding a marathon would be awesome. After being out there a little over 4 hours, I hit the 26.2 mile mark. NEW PS PR!

At this point I wanted to quit, and could have done so unapologetically, HOWEVER the thought of trying to hit ultra-distance again was too great, and I kept alternating walking/running. Around 5:25 in, I had gone 50k. Booyah! NEW PS PR.

Once again, I should have quit. NOW the reason to continue was strictly me being overly competitive and wanting to beat a couple of friends who were there (who will remain unnamed). Long story short, I ended up running 41.82 miles around Palmer Lake on Saturday (51 laps). It took me 7 hours and 24 minutes. While much slower than I used to be, this has given me the psychological boost I needed to get back into it. I never thought running 7+ hours around a gravel hamster-wheel would be so rewarding...

Still don't have a 2014 race plan, other than now wanting to finish a 50 miler... any 50 miler. If my health continues to hold up in 2015, I can start thinking about longer & faster races, but for now I couldn't be more content with my fitness and overall health!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Good News?!

It's hard to figure out if this is awesome news or hard fact I'm about to describe, but either way, big developments have been made regarding my health since my last post.

Two weeks ago, I went under the knife and had surgery for my ongoing GI problems. At the end of the day, I had 16" of my colon removed, along with my appendix and a short section of my small intestine. The surgery went as planned, albeit, my belly had to be cut open slightly more than planned due to there being more colonic inflammation  than expected.

The following two days were absolute hell, and I was on an "ice-chip" diet during this period. In all, I went without food for almost 4 days. The pain & discomfort during this time were horrible, and the pain medications that were being injected into me were, without a doubt, the worst part. I was nauseous, dizzy, my eyes were crossing, I was choking on an inflamed uvula, and I couldn't speak due to the severity of my dry mouth. Not at my best form...

However, after a rough Monday and Tuesday, I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel by Wednesday. I got out of bed, spent about 30 minutes walking around, and no longer needed pain meds to tolerate the discomfort (thank god...).

We still had no idea what was causing all my problems, but we knew that the damaged section of my colon was gone...

Fast forward 11 days, and I finally receive the news I've been so desperately seeking since January: Conclusively, pathology shows I have a sever case of Crohn's disease. Done! Do I care that this is a serious chronic disease?? Nope! I have the contentment of knowing what has made my entire 2013 unbearable, and can now start treatment, and the slowing of my demise. While struggles still remain, I haven't been this happy in months!

Fast forward: I went for a 3 mile hill run in the Garden of the Gods yesterday... 13 days after surgery. My docs might not be stoked to hear this, but it was necessary for my mental and physical progression. It proved to me that I'm on the road to recovery. Enough said.

Obviously, I'm looking forward to future decisions regarding what my ongoing treatment will be, but an accurate diagnosis is the start. No need to shed tears over water under the bridge... here's to 2014! I might suck at my old sport of choice, but here's to a comeback.


Monday, October 28, 2013


It's been two months since I last posted, and I wish I had better news to share.

I spent 4 days in the hospital in late August to both improve my lung function and try to diagnose the worsening stomach issues. 4 hours of therapy a day, another colonoscopy, and a PICC line in my arm for two weeks and it looked like I might be doing better. While the pathology was still inconclusive, my condition was at least narrowed down to either Fibrosing Colonopathy or severe Chrohns.

At the end of the day, the images from my last colonoscopy were shocking even to the panel of GI specialists who we're working with me. Everything was mangled, swollen, ulcered, and nearly impassible with the scope but at least we were narrowing it down. There was strong reason to believe that switching to a new digestive enzyme might be all it takes to improve my condition.

The first 4 weeks out of the hospital nearly had me believing this was the case, too. I regained my appetite, put on 6-8 of the pounds I'd lost, and had lots of energy again. Unfortunately, this was all short lived. I began worsening again after about 5 weeks and have since had all my original symptoms in full force...

Fast forward to today: I had a follow up appointment with the GI specialists at University Hospital today, and the decision was made that my condition is not going to improve without first surgically resectioning my bowels. Basically, we need to remove my appendix and half my colon before we can even begin treating the root cause of my pain, fatigue and weight loss. Once this is done, they will have a large enough tissue sample to conclusively diagnose the root cause of all my issues.

Surgery is scheduled for next Monday and I'll be in the hospital for a total of 5 days. After that it will be at least a month before I'm able to attempt any form of exercise. While this is a bleak concept, the thought of getting better and not being in pain so frequently more than outweighs the negative.

On a positive side note, yours truly is featured in a recent documentary that was released which highlights the stories of several CF athletes who are using exercise to overcome the disease. I hope I can return to that form again someday soon. You can watch the whole documentary here:

Better news to come!