Sunday, April 26, 2015

Getting Back on the Road

Hey All,

So April is close to ending and I’ve enjoyed a month of blogging. It’s also been a pretty good month of running. Highlights include getting some revenge on the Tely route, seeing a finish line in the Flat Out 5K, nearly drowning while running on Saturday, and getting a sub-24 minute time at the Mundy Pond 5K today.

I’d never have been in the position to accomplish anything if it wasn’t for all the support I received this past summer/fall while recovering from the heat stroke at the Tely.

After my friends/family finished the Tely for me, they never just went home. They were by my wife’s side in the hospital every day. Whenever people could get there, they came. Morning, lunch breaks, evenings. My wife and mother always had a support system there. I remember waking up and being overwhelmed at the people in waiting room at that very moment.  Despite being weak, a little yellow, with eyes that couldn’t focus, and speech resembling the adults from Charlie Brown, I wanted to thank everyone then and there.

The 3+ weeks I was in hospital there was a steady stream of visitors, well wishes, cards, and food. I was desperate to show these people improvements, and get out of the hospital so they could get on with their lives. I can’t express how much I appreciate the staff at St. Clare’s. The nursing staff were very supportive and did a great job of keeping my spirits up, and making humbling situations seem very normal (Although, nothing motivates you to learn to dress/wash yourself then the day a male nurse shows up to do it for you).

The St. Clare’s PT staff did a great job getting me back on my feet. It was slow. Standing and sitting was exhausting. I remember being elated to stand on one foot for an exercise.  

I was super anxious to get home, wanted my wife to go back to semi-normal existence, I missed my dogs, and I was tired of that room. Every morning I’d have hope that I’d be able to get home, only to be crushed over and over. Finally, when word came that I’d go home, it was one of the most joyous moments of my life. I’ll never forget that car ride home, never knew Topsail Road could be so scenic.
Once, I was home, and off an IV, the real work began. Right away, I put the walker out in the vehicle for trips out. At home, I was going to walk. A trip down the hallway could be pretty tiresome.

I started at the Miller Centre that week. I was hesitating to go there, debating a private physiotherapist, but I had no insurance at the time, so I said I’d give it a shot. I have to say, they do an amazing job. Just like the nurses, while they are overworked, when the focus is on you, you have their complete attention.

I will always be grateful to Cindy, my therapist. I had 3 sessions a week, and every time I had measurable improvements. I gave everything I had in the 3 weekly sessions. The day they let me go on a treadmill I was delighted (the appreciation for treadmills soon passed again). Despite Cindy keeping me in line with training.

When I left the hospital, they warned me it’d probably be late October before I got back to work. Once I got clearance to drive. I pushed Cindy and my family doctor on this, working hard to prove I could handle it. I walked through the doors of my workplace on September 15 (on a limited schedule). Well ahead of expectations. Perhaps I did overdo it a little, days were a bit more tiring then I’d admit back then, but it was great to have something resembling a normal life.

On September 17th, Cindy surprised me by asking if I’d be up for trying some light jogging at Quidi Vidi. I wasn’t going to say no. Quidi Vidi was where I’d learned to run, and here I was going there to re-learn to run. I was on a tight leash, 3 and 1’s with heart rate limitations. That first day out we did 4.5 KMs in 47 minutes, but it felt like I was flying when a month earlier I was happy doing a loop of the nurses station with a walker.

I started running outside of physio with rejoining New World Running Club. I was still on heart rate limitations though. Had my watch set to beep once I hit a certain heart rate, meaning it was time to walk for a minute. Janet and the others were great at keeping me in check. Making me follow orders that I probably wouldn’t have if I was on my own.

In January, it was time to start really running again. I knew I needed a running group to be part of, I was hesitant to run on my own. After moving Paradise in the late-Fall, NWRC wasn’t very convenient to get to. I instantly thought of the Paradise Running Club. I’d always seen the crowds of yellow and black at races. It seemed like a large enough group that I’d likely find people running at whatever pace I was capable of. Also, after I’d been out of hospital a couple of weeks, I discovered the ‘Other’ box on Facebook messaging. I had about 30 messages sitting there from people I did not know, but who had sent well wishes while I was in hospital. There were a number of these from people who identified themselves as being with PRC. I wrote everyone who wrote me back, thanking them for the support.

I did my first run with PRC on January 15th. Right away I knew I’d enjoy the group, and I’d definitely find the support I needed to get up and running.

Despite slower paces, I feel like I’m a better runner than I was last year this time. I’m running smarter. I’m willing to go easy on runs, take regular rests, and just enjoy the runs.
A lot of people are surprised I’m running again. Wonder if I’m worried about what happened last summer, happening again. As I said before, that was my fault. My own poor awareness. What will keep me in line is remembering the people who gave up time in their lives to wait around for me to wake up.

The first night I was in the hospital my wife decided to deal with the stress by writing in a journal. She wrote down what the doctors told her, what she saw herself, how others supported her, and most importantly her feelings. She kept this up until it was clear I’d recover. About a week after I got out of the hospital, I had her read it to me. I learned many things about that week I never knew, piecing together timelines and events. It was hearing exactly what she went through though that week that I rely on keeping me grounded to reasonable expectations. To train for things properly.

I look forward to continuing to run with all of you, supporting each other in whatever goals we have for the year whether it’s the Tely 10, a marathon, a triathalon, each and every goal.

You are all welcome to share in my goal for the year as well, coma free in 2015J

Thanks for reading everyone!


PS. Congrats to all our Mundy Pond 5K racers today. We had a number of PBs. We had some first time racers for the LTR group (who put up some very impressive times). Congrats to Madeline for earning her first running medal, hopefully the first of many. Remember you need to remove it before going through airport security!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Beat the Clock...

Hey All,

So as some of you know I’m an accountant by trade. I’m also a big baseball fan. Both are numbers heavy. Between cost reports, forecasts, budgets, ERAs, batting averages, WAR, this time of the year my days are completely full of numbers.

Due to this love of statistics, right from my first run I started tracking my times and distances. The first couple were with a s stop watch and Google pedometer to get the distance. Of course I plugged these into a spreadsheet and calculated my pace and a few other things. Shortly after that, I discovered running GPS apps. My first was MiCoach by Adidas. It was a nice little app, which accurately tracked all pertinent details of a run (GPS location, distance, pace, etc). Loved to see my new achievements, a new furthest distance ran, a new fastest pace. It was very encouraging to see progress.

After 4 months of running, I decided I might just be sticking to this, and it was time to make an upgrade. I purchased a Garmin Forerunner 305. This changed the way I ran. I had an instant live look at how I was doing during a run. I like a view with 4 data diplays, showing my overall time, my average pace throughout the run, my distance, and my heart rate. Pretty standard metrics, a lot of people use current pace instead of average, comes down to preference. You can have less in your face, or set things to scroll.

When I started with the Garmin, I was constantly looking at the watch. Every run I wanted to beat my last pace. My expectations became much higher for what I accomplished on each run. Every run would pretty well take the good out of me because I was always running at my max. It always became a race. I didn’t have what I call recovery runs, light runs where I get out, do a nice easy pace that just loosens up my legs, and feel good.

I ran like this for over a year. In 2013 I turned most of my best race times. However, by the fall I felt my legs were dead. I didn’t have a whole lot of desire to get out on the road. I’d run myself into the ground. I did the Cape to Cabot, out of obligation because I’d registered, I feel like I could have been 8-10 minutes faster.

The constant physical effort to set new highs burned me out. I took most of November/December off. The next year, I went with a fresh mindset, just run. Make sure I get in those runs where you just go out and enjoy everything about it. Check in on the watch, get your distance, see how you are doing, but don’t let it dictate everything you do. Run what your body feels comfortable with.

Obviously, we all want to see improvements though. You need your intervals, your hills, other things where you push, and make physical gains. You want to be checking your numbers. Like most things in life, it is about balance.  Don’t be afraid to have a recovery run or just to enjoy the moment.

As I continue to recover, I’ve been focused on running comfortably. I’m not worried about pushing the pace. Just want to log the kilometers and enjoy the run.

I still love the numbers though, especially seeing the total KMs in a month, year, or total to date. Checking to see where I’m at in my trek across Canada (somewhere in western Ontario). My goal this year is to log more KMs than in any other year. Was on pace last year, but that got rudely interrupted.

So in short, run with the technology we have these days, but don’t let it run you.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Runners Mind...

Hey Everyone,

When you’re in the middle of a long run, you’re feeling cold, wet, like you’ve hit the wall, you just want to pack it in and go home, what keeps you going?

For me, like many, I’m sure it is words. Sometimes it’s the right song at the right time on your iPod which can lift you up. Sometimes it’s your running buddy, sensing you reaching your limit, speaking up “Only 3K left! You can do it, let’s go!” I’ve had those moments, but I also have a very active internal dialogue.

When I’m running, I’ll argue with myself, convince myself to keep going, get mad at myself when I think I can’t. In the end, I always come back to a personal mantra/maxim/motto, whatever you want to call it. Unfortunately, you’ll have to keep reading before I get to it.

The particular one I live by comes from a book called “The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game”. It’s part of a series of books that tries to zero in on what makes a professional fighter (specifically mixed martial artist) tick. It looks at the mental aspects of pushing yourself to the highest levels, by exploring other onerous tasks that humans participate in. I had been running for about a year when I came across the books (including “The Fighters Heart”), and the chapter on Ultra-Marathoners caught my attention (See link for a copy of the full chapter).

These people are out running races that exceed 100 miles. There are Ultra-Marathons that stretch a continent and take place over months. Imagine running 40+ miles a day for 52 days. Where do you find the will power and motivation to keep going? Well one of the featured runners explained that he would use two statements to motivate him to keep going. The first is one I’m sure we’ve all heart somewhere along the line, “This too shall pass.” The book sums it up nicely “It will end. It can’t last forever… because sometimes things will feel that way.”

The one that really stuck with me was the second, “It never always gets worse.”  Stop for a minute and think about it. Once again, I’ll let the interviewee explain it, why re-invent the wheel.

"A lot of people think this way. If you said you just ran ten miles they'd say, "That's great!," or if you said you just ran a marathon they'd say, "That's fantastic!" He sighed.

"You run a fifty-mile race and they say `That's stupid, it's crazy!' Now why is that? The reason is, people theorize, I know how I feel when I run five miles, or twenty-six miles, and that hurts! So fifty miles must be twice the pain and torture!

How many people here ran the Tely 10 before trying a Marathon? I’m sure when you pushed yourself to finish the Tely, remembering how those 10 miles felt, the mere suggestion of running 21.1 miles seemed absolutely insane. Your legs would be aching twice as hard, that blister would hurt twice as much, every miserable feeling would just be magnified. But when you run that longer distance, when you push further, you know what? It never always gets worse! I’ve started a run, a kilometer in, I’ve said to myself “Shit, this sucks. I’m tired. I’m aching. I’m already winded. No way I’ll make it through this”! Then in kilometer two, I’m finding my stride, mentally I’m melting away into the run, not dwelling on every step, but embracing it. It never got worse, it went away, you just needed to loosen up. Maybe it just never got worse and you learned to tolerate what you were feeling.

So when I’m feeling like crap, I like to take a nice deep breath and just remind myself, it never always gets worse.


Blogger Disclaimer:

Please don’t run on a broken leg or with severe asthma or something! Watch out if you’re pushing real hard on a super warm day. The quote says NEVER ALWAYS not DEFINITELY NEVER!  

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Flatout 5K Recap

Hey All,

Just a quick post after today's Boston Pizza Flat Out 5K.

Felt great to be back there again. Stuck to the game plan, ran what was comfortable, never really pushing too hard, just enough. Was really happy to do that and still come under 25 min.

This was my first race a member of PRC. While I've usually had a few buddies on the course, it was nice to see a constant stream of yellow jackets. Very motivating. The finish line experience was great, just a large group of great people supporting and encouraging each other right to the end. I never even thought about any personal significance of completing the race, just wanted to help encourage the next person along.

While running is considered an individual sport, you can still be part of a team, and this is a pretty great team.

Congrats again to everyone who ran. It was pleasure

And great pic Renee, I'm stealing it for the blog.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

To Race or Not to Race...

Hey PRCers,

A lot of us begin to run with the goal of completing the Tely 10, but most new comers do not realize that there are a number of other annual races overseen by NL Running or Running Room. The Flat Out 5K, Mews 8K, Downtown 10K, Huffin Puffin Half/Full Marathon, and Cape to Cabot are just a few.

I don’t think new comers really view the Tely as a competitive race, more of a goal or an accomplishment, internally competing with yourself.  I remember thinking the other races would be for serious competitive runners, and did not give any thought to entering.

After I ran my first Tely in 2012, I started thinking “what now?” I know people who have started running, completed a Tely 10, then just gave it up. Crossed it off there bucket list and moved on. I enjoyed running though. It is much easier to stay motivated when you have a goal. Although there were plenty of opportunities that fall to do races, I kept putting it off until I finally gave in an entered the Run to Remember 11K.

It was a small race in terms of participation. I was nervous about what I’d encounter, but as soon as I got there I was at ease. It wasn’t all seasoned runners. There were people there doing their first race, people running in memory of someone, acquaintances I had no idea ran, and of course a handful of high level competitive runners.

I had run into an acquaintance and he asked if I wanted to do a warm up run, I passed, thinking I’m about to run 11K, I need to save all the energy I can. Would later come to appreciate a nice light warm up run, much better than spending the first 2 or 3KMs loosening up, it definitely helped at the next years Tely as well.

Even in a smaller race, gathering behind that start line is a nice feeling of excitement and nervousness. I still love those final pre-race moments of buildup, then the release that comes when the gun/horn goes off and you just start running.

At the beginning of a race, it’s hard to avoid getting caught up in the initial rush of everyone out of the gate. The top competitors just bolt out, leaving you in their dust. Everyone else is also full of energy and pushing hard. This is great, and you feel awesome, and will likely start at a faster pace than you’ve ever ran before. THIS IS A TRAP! At least for us “Recreational Racers”. This adrenaline will die off and you’ll suffer for it later in the race. My constant self-reminder in a race is to “run my own race.” I have goals in mind leading up to an event. It’s easy for those to go out the window and end up in a mad scramble. But remember them, and stick to them!

A piece of advice for first-time racers. I learned a very important lesson about pre-race meals. Nowadays I usually go light with a peanut butter English muffin, a banana, and some water. Back then, there was no plan. I ended up drinking a Carnation instant breakfast. At about the 8K mark, I started feeling that milk nice and heavy in my stomach. It kept getting worse. I was loosening my coat around my neck, just trying to breath and forget about it. At 10.5K, near the finish, there is a turn in the trail, luckily I ended up completely on my own. No one visible in front, no one close behind. With that I pulled off to the side and promptly threw up my breakfast drink. Instantly feeling better, I pushed onto the finish. Just like the prior Tely, it felt awesome to cross a finish line.

I’m happy to see some LTRers are trying the Flatout 5K. It’s a decent little race that’s not too challenging. It’ll be a fantastic group and you’ll start to see lots of familiar faces. Usually end up running with the same groups of people. Often improving in times, race to race with each other.

I’m now registered, it’ll be my first starting line since the Tely, and hopefully my first finish line since the Carved by the Sea 10K. I’ve promised my wife I’ll take it easy, keep my heart rate under a certain rate, and just not push to hard. Definitely gonna have to mentally work to hold myself to just run my own race. Just can’t wait to cross a finish line again!

See you all on Sunday!


Friday, April 3, 2015

Tely 10 (Teaser) Redux...

Hey Everyone,

The Tely Teaser was an excellent time. The conditions were better than we could have hoped for early April. The Tely Teaser is a fun run, a chance to see where you are at after the lazy winter months. However, it meant more for me to complete it this year than in would in the past. It wasn’t just a throw away fun run (but it was fun… well runner’s fun) for me. It was a chance to tackle something that not just beat me the last time I ran it, but chewed me up, spit me out, and left me for dead.

For those who are unaware (LTR group), if you Google my name one of the top results will be “Tely 10 runner Mark Didham out of coma-CBC”. I was one of a handful of people hospitalized for heat related issues during this summers incredibly hot Tely 10, one of two diagnosed with heat stroke, who had prolonged hospitalization.

Please note, some details may not be exact. While writing this I realized there are a lot of fine details I still have not asked about, just have the general knowledge.

I collapsed little after the 9 mile mark, around the Central Fire Station, an ambulance was called, I was brought to the ER at St. Claire’s.

The staff worked hard to start getting my body temp down (it exceeded 41 degrees). I was placed in a medically induced coma in order to stabilize my critical condition. I would spend the next six days in a coma (they tell me they woke me occasionally… but I may have been a bit to stubborn to keep awake), much of it packed in ice. There were a few complications: pneumonia, blood clots, and the one that almost beat me, liver failure (this also left me looking like Bart Simpson’s cousin for about a month).

Eventually they were able to ease me out of the coma for good. I spent the next 2 ½ weeks on an electrolyte IV trying to control the enzymes that were causing severe muscle damage (again, may be medically off here, I’m no doctor and didn’t ask a lot of questions, just “When can I go home?”). It was a great effort to stand, and walking a few steps assisted started as a great accomplishment.

My case ended up with the news coverage because my amazing family and friends decided to finish out the race for me. They walked the last KM or so that I did not finish and the media was tipped off (Mark Quinn, a fellow runner, with CBC did a greatjob).

Most people want to know what happened. I strongly disagree with the Telegram article that tried to portray it as if I ignored water stations and was a casual person who woke up and decided to go for a nice brisk 10 mile stroll. By the tone of the article I might as well have stumbled out of Darnell’s Pub and decided to see where the crowd was going.

I drank from all the water stations. I had water bottles and sponges of water from spectators along the routes. My last tangible memory is taking a water bottle by Craigmillar Ave. I was prepared. I had run two Tely’s previously (a few Tely Teasers as well), I had done the Cape to Cabot (just a wee bit tougher) and numerous other races. I ran through the winter months. Two weeks prior I had run the Mews 8K in just over 35 minutes on pace to peak for the Tely 10.

I will agree on one thing with George Stanoev from the Telegram article. He said “People have to exercise judgment.” I knew it was warmer than I was comfortable running in. I watched my heart rate averaging 185, well above the recommended rate to maintain for long time. I knew I was pushing harder than I should for my goal. I had a moment of clarity and abandoned my 70 minute target around the Village, slowing to a walk and getting the most out of a water station. Clarity was fleeting though, and I decided I could still get a personal best and started off in a run again. I don’t remember much more after that.

If I’d have exercised judgment, slowed my pace, brought down my heart rate, taking the strain off my body, I probably could have coasted to the finish. But you can’t change the past or dwell on it, only learn from it and move on. I can’t promise anyone I’ll exercise strong judgment next time I’m in the position, but I do hope I remember what all my friends and family went through during that week. We need to push ourselves if we want to become stronger runners. Take yourself to the edge. But you need to recognize when your benfitting from being at the threshold verses diving head first across it.

I hope I don’t scare any of the LTRers away from the Tely.  It is an awesome race, and an excellent goal to get you out on the asphalt. It’s probably one of the best 10 mile courses you can run as a beginner. I wouldn’t change a thing about the race.

So today, while the conditions and stakes were different, I wanted to run the route just to see if I remembered anything new, curious to see if I’d have any anxiety (admittedly, did feel a little jump in my heart when the fire station came into view). In the end, my main feeling was the satisfaction of finishing a run (congrats on all the PRC PBs out there today) with a great bunch of runners, and amazing running support system.

And for you LTRers, I can’t describe the feeling in July when you finish it with about 4000 other people and your loved ones cheering you on along the way.


A lot of people to thank for me being back out there today and I feel like they deserve their own entry later on in the month.