Friday, November 15, 2013

Quarterly update :)

Two months later, a few changes, new challengers, new accomplishments.

After the Beast I have been less focused on running and more on building strength. I certainly have a weakness to address. Not just upper body, but legs as well. I think I have strong legs, but with spasticity, I feel like I have to work them harder nonetheless. Weight carrying uses different muscles than running or soccer...

Also completed two additional obstacle races and a ruck march. I inspired a few people at work and we put in a ten person team to the Rugged Maniac and it was a blast. So happy I could bring people into my world! Here is a link to the video:

It was fun to enjoy the race, my teammates smiles, and not have to push it too hard, glad I have coworkers that are up to the challenge.

My best buddy at work also joined me in another race a few weeks later, we did this to push it harder and see what we were made of. It also went well, better even because my wife and son were there and we got a lot of great pictures.

This was also the first time I got to run a race using a GoPro, it was fun. But, first time... so I missed half of it, here is the 2nd half:

I was a little stronger for the monkey bars at this race, but it was a lot shorter than than the Beast! Nevertheless, this race was so much fun I can't wait to do it again in the spring.

Two other branches in the last two months for my fitness/health/well-being quests. First I started P90X to help out with my upper body strength, it is quite fun, but I now get so many of the jokes about Tony, he's such a dork/ass sometimes. But whatever, it works. I need it.

Second, I've started playing soccer again. Three weeks into the season and I finally scored, I am definitely performing better than my first week back, which was a disaster. This really does put the state of my MS in perspective. Fitness, strength, endurance - they have certainly suffered with my MS, but nothing compared to the balance, agility and coordination needed to play soccer at the level I'm accustomed to.

It really is not going that well, my legs are going lead like in the middle of the Beast, but after only 15 minutes or so. It makes it hard to be quick on my feet, the ball getting stuck under me, and wiping me out are hard to stomach. My fitness is probably the main thing saving me, I'm not tired, but my legs are dragging trying to recover on defense or push the point of attack. I'm just not used to it and reminds me one of the reasons I stopped playing in the first place - the demotivation a night of soccer has compared to a simple run. However, I actually scored last night, had more shots on target and felt more adept. It was just the legs.

My next steps for the MS are pretty clear to me. Ideally I will follow up with my neuro next week and sechedule an MRI. I want to see if there is any evidence of further inflammation. Then, if there is, I'll ask for the ACTH instead of the steroids for a number of reasons:

  1. Simple to self-administer compared to the infusion suite
  2. No annoying needle hanging out of my arm or necessity to miss work
  3. Hopefully the same results and then some, it is HGH after all..
Then we'll see. Going to try some more races, continue the momentum in the winter. Join me at Blizzard Blast in January!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Race Day - Spartan Beast 2013 Killington

spartan beast, killington, vt - 2013

getting here

I started training for this after the MS Muck Ruckus event in April 2013. That was my first obstacle course, 5 miles, 12 obstacles if I remember correctly. I was bitten by the bug, I love running, but this took it to a whole new level for me. It required athletic ability, balance, strength, endurance - everything I want to improve within myself. I'm fortunate to have a deep, real motivation  to push myself and challenge myself.


When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) 7 years ago I had two conflicting emotions within myself. On one hand, cold fear for the potential course the disease could take by destroying my ability to move. But also a glowing ember of motivation to build myself up higher and higher so no matter what the disease took from me - I would always have more than it eroded. Over the past two years the ember turned to a flame. My motivation has been on a high, building up through 5k's to half marathon in 2012, building strength and speed and agility this year training for the Spartan Beast. And it takes motivation, there is no other way around it - some days my MS is bad, my legs are numb and the bed sheets irritate my skin. Others, my legs are tight and I can't straighten or bend them. I've been through PT for so many different issues in the past 7 years. The race would test my motivation, my desire. I would face the choice to quit once, stomp it back down, then continue on until the next time. By the time I finished, I knew that all my training and preparation, all my gear and planning couldn't take the place of my motivation. I knew I would not quit and I was mentally strong enough to finish. Without that, giving up would have been easy, and even after seven miles and four hours I would have been proud.

race day start

Driving took longer than I thought, I arrived late, my team - the New England Spahtens - was already in the gate and I had missed them. I ended up going back and forth from the gate to the team tent to the entrance where I was waiting on my family for an hour. Instead of jumping in and catching up I waited and got the motivational hug that would carry me through the first 7 miles from my son.
I am a lucky dad

the race

I knew it would be hard, I knew it would challenge me beyond anything I could prepare. I was hoping that I was wrong. But I was right. The only easy run of the entire race came in the first quarter mile, everything after that point was up or downhill.

geared up and ready

Everyone quickly settled into an inspired trot, pausing to calmly conquer the first set of obstalces, then we headed toward the bottom of a trail. From there, we headed straight up the mountain for what seemed like a mile. I met challenges from that point forward that pulled every ounce of strength and willpower out of my body. Carrying enormous sandbags up a ski trail, they said if you dropped it you had to do 30 burpees. Well, I dropped mine at least 15 times but I made it. I had one of those annoying sandbags without leaks, some people were carrying empty sacks. This drained a ton of energy, then around the corner we were sent back up the mountain again.


I never consider my legs to be a weak point in my conditioning - I have soccer player legs - and I need to builder more upper body strength, that I know. The MS has been cruel to my legs, they are still strong, but I suffer spasticity, where small spasms are always going on in my legs and cause them to cramp, they are always stiff. When I was first diagnosed in 2007 I could not climb up the hill in my backyard without immediate fatigue. Time, a few relapse-free years, medication and physical therapy have all helped, but there are certain things I normally avoid. Hills are hard for me but I pushed it this past summer. More and more hills, technical trails through the woods, rocks, mud, tree stumps, it was a mess out there and the first half of the course was more of a madman's hike than an obstacle race. I was grateful to have help from my gear on these trails -and all day.
I was wearing Icebug running shoes with carbide metal tips. I made it through the entire course with sure feet and felt like a mountain goat on many trails with people slipping on every side of me. Not to mention how well they did on the verticals walls and the slippery wall - almost felt like cheating! The last five miles were torture on my legs. I struggled to stand up straight and spent a lot of time climbing on all fours. My legs burned and on certain parts of the course I had to take 1 minute breaks after every minute of climbing. Herein I learned that the strength of mind I developed from motivation, from adversity, and from defeating challenges was the only thing that kept me going. I worked harder than anyone else that I saw at the stone carry - 90 lbs of concrete, 25 feet there and back. This was complete hell for me, I am not a big guy and it felt like the weight was heavier than me. It took me a while but the encouragement of strangers once again buoyed me and I made it past that obstacle.

back at base camp

right in the middle arms at 90s
Around mile 7 we finally came back to the base lodge. My family was there rooting me on! By this time my son had already completed his own Spartan Race and his beaming face and smile gave me at least another 3 miles worth of encouragement. My wife gave me a kiss and braved a hug from my dirty sweaty mess of self. Then, they watched and cheered as I completed the rope climb!

Several more obstacles right at the base - at the same time the weather changed and it felt like the temperature dropped 20 degrees. After crossing the cargo nets we came to the first water obstacle. I swam out confidently to the rope climb but couldn't repeat my effort. Burpees, again, I lost count, around 90 at that point. Then around to the sideways wall which I did manage in spite of some bitter cold wind. At this stage I was shivering and my teeth chattered. I considered giving up even though I knew I couldn't. Stray thoughts entered my mind: "how nice would a sweatshirt feel right now?", "I could be sitting in the lodge eating". After seeing civilization again it was a challenge to continue.
swimming to rope

back uphill

I knew I had to get moving, and the course offered a chance as it was a bit wider path and I was able to actually run for a while through a drainage hole in the middle of the woods, then back up more and more hills and trails. My legs starting to tire at this point, but not completely caving - that would come later. At some point we reached a pair of cargo nets which teamwork might have made easier, or harder, I couldn't tell. People were pulling the nets backward and forward instead of straight down. More hills, more trails, more burning legs, starting to feel like I should quit.

true strength

After the Tyrolean Traverse we cover a trail that barely deserved to be called one and merged up another skit trail climb right next to the finish line. I don't know how steep the uphills were, but with the finish line in sight it was cruel, cruel torture to head back out into the trees between trails again. Night was falling but I had conquered the chills. My legs screamed and I had to take breaks more frequently on the ski trails. I was doing better on the technical paths between trails. But also the voice telling me to quit, or just head back and not follow the trail started to get louder. I knew my body was in a difficult place, but I also knew that after each rest I could push on.
cargo net at base
I ran into a couple of Spahtens somewhere in this later part of the course and they offered encouragement and I ran with them for a while. Eventually it got dark, really dark and I had to follow the headlights. Every time we came out of a trail and did not turn back toward the finish I felt such a huge wave of disappointment. At that stage though, it was easier to follow everyone back. It didn't get easier, and the same wave appeared often as the last few miles seemed to last forever and the final turn always turned out to be one more turn away. Nothing could stop me at this point though, I had conquered so much and felt such an accomplishment. I was pushed past my limit time and time again, the fact that I could continue I still can't explain to myself. I wanted it bad, I wanted it for ME. To prove that I didn't have to give in to my disease, that I didn't need an excuse. I could just do it. And I did.


I finished strong with the pancake hike, climbing some things that I couldn't even see because it was dark, under barbed wire and over some nets. Then at the slippery wall I once again heard my family calling my name! I couldn't believe they were still there and waiting, I'm so grateful to my wife for her persistence and desire to be there for me, and my son, for his race, and for wanting to see me do mine.
Their excitement was infectious and everyone in the crowd enjoyed seeing my son's reactions. I was proud. I made it up the slippery wall easy with my BugGrip shoes, jumped over the roaring fire, imagining how excited my son must be to watch me flying over fire, then ran past the gladiators who each gave me massive hits with their sticks and across the finish line. When I got the medal over my neck I knew I had earned it. I knew I had learned a lot about myself and my family and strength. We have it.



the race

Here is my GPS map of the course. Battery died before the finish:
And here is a NE Spahten teammate's map whose battery lasted for the entire race:

And for the full story, another NE Spahten, Vince Rhee put this together!
annotated beast course

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

One month until the Spartan Beast

I'm starting to get a little nervous, haven't felt this in any of my other races because I knew that I was prepared. I am hoping that I'm perfectly prepared, but I wish I was stronger, could run uphill better and all that! I'm nervous I'll fail some obstacles and just get wiped out doing 30 burpees each time. Especially if they enforce the hardest form of burpee...

My training is going pretty well, I am definitely stronger and if I can lose 5 more pounds before race day I will be in really good shape. Two vacations in the last month have slowed down my progress a little bit. And today I have a corporate league softball semi-final game so I won't be able to get in my planned double session.

Both of the session look extremely challenging. 60 minute trail run with 10/15/25/30/35 reps of curls/shoulder press/squat with a rock from the woods. Followed by what looks like an intense lower bod workout with dumbbells/squats and box jumps.

It's going to be hard, especially the race, but I have a lot of strong motivation that will keep driving me to finish. I joined an OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) team after seeing a lot of them during the MS Muck Ruckus. I'm hoping that will buoy me through the challenging pieces of the uphill Killington climb. I was hoping to do another race or event with people from the team before the race, but with summer vacation, trips, and now coaching soccer again, there was never any time!

Alright, some last few things to take care of for race day:

  1. hydration pack - geigerring 500 - ordered
  2. running shoes with trail grip - not sure! ugh, what am I going to find here after so many failed attempts this summer. my trail gloves have no grip left, and i loved them, perhaps i should just buy a new pair? I think I will end up doing that.
  3. equip all my gear and do some training runs
  4. prep all my stuff and make a plan for race day and family trip up to mt. snow to cut down on the drive a little bit on race morning
  5. anything else!?
Well how about some motivation! These are two shots of the trail on my last couple runs!
Upton State Forest. Old Hopkinton Spring Trail.

Upton State Forest. Middle Rd.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Strength training added to running

The theme for the past few weeks has been adding strength training days and even strength training intervals to my runs. The goal remains the same - Killington Spartan Beast. Every bit of preparation will help in that gauntlet.

I've moved to 90% or more of trail running and what a change it has been! Trail running frees my soul from cars as well! Wow, who would have thought it would be so amazing to get off the roads, but it has been. I've also noted that trail running is a bit harder, and some trails are actually MUCH harder.

My nearest loop is the local cross country course here, it is about 2.5 miles, can be run as a 3 mile loop or out and back for 5 miles. Here is an example:

That one is fairly flat and mainly fire roads, some gravel and old roads too. A couple hills in one section, but nothing major. That leads me to a run I consider perhaps my hardest ever - in a different way than the half-marathon was. This was just brutal, add in bugs and the threat of getting lost out there - and it was AWESOME!

I would love to  be able to find a nice consistent 8 mile trail in F. Gilbert Hills State Forest. That day though, a few wrong turns.

So that leads me to two other gear quests that I am now engaged in.

  1. Trail running shoes
  2. Hydration pack

I used my Merrell Trail Gloves in the long run, maybe just regular running shoes on the short one on the flat pond. I love the Trail Gloves, they are my favorite shoe I've ever owned. However they are getting low on tread and have been through the wash a few times making them fit ... differently. I'm nervous to try the Trail Glove 2 for some reason. Mostly because I was not happy with the Road Glove 2 and they have the same basic shape.

I recently bought a pair of Salomon Sense Mantra trail running shoes, they were OK, but tight in the toe-box and I got a blister on my right middle toe. I don't think they fit right. Hopefully with my purchase I can return them. The other shoes I got and haven't tried are Hoka One One Mafate 3 trail shoe. I had the 2 and they didn't fit right.

Planning to try them this afternoon.

Second on the agenda is a hydration pack for the Spartan Beast, and the rest of the summer to get used to it. I am pretty sure I will go with the Geigerrig Rig 500. It has minimal carrying capacity, but a strong, easy to clean bladder and after you inflate it, it sprays - you don't have to suck! Also useful for cleaning scrapes and sharing.

I am starting new medicine soon, when that come in I will post. Tecfidera.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Spartan Beast 2013 Killington

Sometimes a lot happens between posts. This is one of those times. Here are the highlights:
  1. new MS medicine starting soon - Tecfidera, no more shots!
  2. new goal race for the year!
  3. new training program and app!
  4. FUN new gadgets, shoes, and stuff!!
Clearly the most important thing for this blog is my new prescription for Tecfidera - which is one of the new breed of MS drugs which are taken orally and no longer require injections. I've been suffering from shot fatigue for more than year - really ever since stopping Rebif. I was on Avonex for a year, which was a nice change from 3 times/week to once per week injection. However, I had a hard time sticking with it. Which is odd because IM (intra-muscular) shots really hurt a lot less than SC (sub-cutaneous) shots overall. But I couldn't get past the side effects, fever and stiffness. When Tecfidera came out I knew I would switch some day. My neighbor was a marketing director for the drug and had been filling me in on it for years. Efficacy is high and I have good expectations -- how else should I go into this? :).

Anyway, it was really hard being on the Avonex and staying on my fitness plan. Spasticity was getting really bad, getting in the way of my choice to be highly fit. Not sure if I was going to be able to stay on track for a marathon and complete one of my Year 40 objectives. Now that I have been off it, unfortunately, there are more obstacles to overcome. I'm not nearly spasticity free, my muscles are tight in my legs and back. As either a cause or affect of this, my knees are sore. It doesn't help that I have osteo-arthritis in my knees.

Which leads me to another decision-point. I have decided to aim lower distance-wise and instead of focusing on the marathon I'm going to try to achieve much greater overall fitness and complete the Spartan Beast at Killington. For this, I'm hoping my place in the NE Spahtens obstacle racing team will provide me with camaraderie to push through the pain and complete the race! I saw these guys earlier in the year at the MS Muck Ruckus and it was inspiring to see such a large group of people helping the cause for MS. Previously I had created a team and 9 of my family, friends and coworkers joined to raise over $2200. What an experience, I'm 2nd from the left, top row!  

Alright, so on to the next item of interest. Since talking to an old soccer friend from high school who has been through more than a dozen knee surgeries, and seeing some interesting articles. I have been trying to find Hoka One One running shoes to see if I can give my knees a rest. So far, I'm using the Bondi S for my street runs, and not exactly feeling the knee relief I was hoping for. Perhaps because I am so used to minimalist shoes now? Not sure, but too late to return them. Still hoping to order a pair of their trail shoes since the majority of my runs are on trails now. However, two different sizes of the Mafate 2 didn't work, so that is a dead end so far. I may have to try some New Balance minimalist trail shoes. Who knows, in the end I may decide my Merrell Trail Gloves (favorite shoe of all time) are actually the best option for me, on the trail at least! I expect to try another Hoka One One trail shoe middle of the summer. Zappos has been a great place to order with easy free return shipping.

With the Spartan Beast as my goal race for the year I have been able to dial back my road running, bump up my trail running and a LOT of strength/cross training. This has been great, no separate muscle building/marathon programs. I got a 16 week program from Training Peaks. I'm in the middle of week 4, a bit of a rest week, about an hour less time than last week. I think last week was the hardest I ever trained. Double sessions most days a lot of jump rope and squats. My knees are suffering a bit, hence I gave myself and extra rest day this week - iced them... Not sure what else to try, this could be a limiting factor, or the jump rope and/or squats could just be too much for them. Time will tell.

Alright, I'm still super-motivated so I got one of the new Fitbit Flex bracelets because I thought it would be fun, and I'm interested in the sleep tracker. Only a few days in so nothing to report, but it should prove interesting and I just can't resist gadgets. Now I have a lot of bling on my wrists. Watch/flex on one, RoadID on the other!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

May... and running outside again

I can finally say that it feels normal to be running outside again. Seems like the days of starting at stupid numbers on a treadmill are far behind me, and it is a good feeling. Mixing it up more with trail, road and track this year already - it is such a good feeling.

Still not feeling comfortable in any shoes - I guess that is not surprising. Even when I am running I am not comfortable in any shoes. In fact, my feet feel the worst lying in bed. So, it is just the MS, kinda doesn't matter about the shoes. But that won't stop me from finding the most comfortable shoe for me...

After talking to a friend and runner I am seriously considering the Hoka One One's. They are kinda crazy out there as far as shoes are concerned...

Massive cushioning and unapologetic about it. This may be better for me than my not quite successful attempts to minimalize. My greatest success was in my Brooks Adrenalines last year, so either I was not able to, or just couldn't fully convert to minimalist. I'm not going to stop trying though. I still firmly believe in natural running form and the foot-ground experience. I still want to be a barefoot runner, but my lack of sensation in the soles of my feet is a pretty big challenge...

So, trying to get in a groove, run slow and increase my miles per week. Also planning to add fun 5k's and obstacle courses throughout the season, leading up to my marathon attempt in October or November. Right now I am thinking Newport Marathon on Oct. 13. But may push it out to a November marathon.

Signed up the whole family for a 5k trail run this weekend! Pictures next week!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Muck Ruckus for MS 2013 Boston

First race of the season was so much fun.

Raised nearly $2100 for MS. A cause obviously near to my heart. Thanks to my wife, family, friends for the support and making it a blast! Can't wait until next year.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Quarterly update!

Yeah it has been a while. I suppose that is a good thing, I tend to think about my blog when things are not going well. Recently as far as running and working out - they have been.

I've been going at a steady clip of 3 runs 2-3 lifting sessions per week for a good 6 weeks now. I feel great except a little sore hip flexors today. I will have to work that out on a foam roller and stretch a bunch.

Some news on the gadget front - I have been playing Zombies, Run! on my iphone while running recently. Though I am starved for some nice weather - I have managed to get in quite a few outdoor runs. Listening to the story unfold is pretty fun and engrossing. I feel like I am really part of the game. It has cool statistics and you gather items you can user later to build your base. Perfect for a gamer/runner like me! Looking forward to Zombies, Run! 2 which is due out this month.

Averaging about 12 miles per week which is nice - but not comfortable in any of my running shoes at the moment. I've been alternating between my Saucony Grid shoes - 8mm drop and my Newton Motions. Both with some pretty severe stability control. I was running more on the treadmill in my Merrell Trail Gloves but they were getting a bit ripe - so put them in the wash last night. I enjoy running in them, but lately my feet haven't felt good in any shoes. Parasthesia acting up lately - no matter which shoes I wear or what activity I am engaged in - desk-sitting included.

I'm going to try to get a soccer game in one of these Thursdays and use that as a benchmark for where I stand in the battle with MS. I have a hard time comparing my runs because I wasn't really a runner pre-MS - at least since high school. Soccer should give me a good indication.

My last run:

Hoping to stay with the steady increases to my run distance over the next 2.5 weeks before the MS Muck Ruckus 5 mile obstacle/mud run. Hoping my lifting routines will help with upper body strength during the course as well. I am feeling stronger, but still haven't lost my 8 lbs of winter insulation! I'm looking forward to getting back under 150 - I was 156 on the gym scale today with flip-flops on.

A few weeks after the mud run I plan to add another day back into my running plan. From 3 to 4 days per week, then cut back to 1 or 2 days strength training until the off-season. For now I want to concentrate on races - getting under 23 minutes for 5k and under 50 for 10k. Not sure I'll run a half or just a marathon this year - right now my plan is marathon for October. That seems far away, both time and fitness-wise.

Hoping against hope that my new shoes - which are out for delivery according to fedex/usps - will reinvigorate my feet, reduce my worries about my knees and straighten out my lower back, which has been suffering post-run lately.

I ordered two pairs of shoes - one for longer runs, and one for shorter 3-4 mile runs and races! Since my Merrell's were my favorite shoes I order a couple more pairs. The Road Glove 2 and the Vapor Glove. The Road Glove is for distance. The shoes look super-sweet!

And the Vapor, which is super-light, super-flexible!

I'm interested to see how they feel - hopefully I will have positive results next week!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

slowly picking up the pace

I have been back at running for about two weeks now. I am starting slowly, today, I clocked in at 4.01 miles, my longest run since December.

But there is a lot to catch up on, so here goes.

The orthopedic surgeon said that I have some osteo-arthritis in my knees. But didn't think that was the root cause of my knee pain, there is no reason to believe it hasn't been there for a while. They normally form after minor injury recoveries, which is reasonable from a lifetime of soccer with no major knee injuries. He also noted my right patela is out of alignment. Now, there we go, that makes sense. I've always noticed my right arm tends to go out of the path. Not to mention I have felt out of alignment since going to see the chiropractor. Well, great, but how to solve it. I am taking a dual approach. Seeing a Physical Therapist twice a week, for strengthening my balance, some taping and stretching, as well as ultra-sound on my knees. Also I have a running coach at my gym now, he is a core running guru and will help me adopt minimalist running style by strengthening my core and working on hip flexibility and proper stride. PT is already paying off, the running coach is still a work in progress after only 2 session.

As of now, no new knee pain after two+ solid weeks of running. Oh, I am also reducing from 4 to 3 days of running per week and working on upper body strengthening because of my new April race objective! MS Muck Ruckus in Boston. I have a team, with family, friends and coworkers:

And please don't hesitate to donate to bring us closer to a cure, new medication, treatments or anything to keep all of us MS'ers as active as possible!

Search for my name and click "Donate."