Mr. Toads again?

My recent experience at Hart Park, where I kissed the trail and finished my hike with my face covered with mud, has not killed my desire to run the trails. toad-logo-for-mr.-toads-1Parkinsons may have taken my ability to safely run trails, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t hike them. And so I will. I use my trekking poles and that keeps me stable enough to feel confident on the trail.

This morning I am supposed to go to Hart Park with my step-daughter but it may not work out. I am in what is referred to as an ‘off’ period with my Parkinsons which leaves me feeling weak and unstable. Nevertheless, there will be better days.

Now, what you may ask is Mr. Toads. This refers to an annual trail race put on by our local running club, and it is called Mr. Toads Wild Run. And believe me, it is wild. There is a 20K distance and a 5K, but they both start and end the same. The start is 1 mile of a steep uphill climb to the top where the two races split. The 20K continues on with lot’s of miles of rolling hills, including at least one challenging climb. toads_2014_map_5kThe 5K becomes mostly level until it reaches a steep downhill where it joins up with the 20K runners again. This downhill leads to the entrance to Mr. Toads Gully which is truly wild. Downhill, constant curves with berms on both sides and very narrow, making it difficult to pass. After exiting the gully, about a half of a mile, it is a fast downhill to the finish.

I have done the 20K version and the 5K in various years. I think the 20K is definitely not in the cards for me, but this year I plan to do the 5K. It will be my first race I have ever done with trekking poles, but I am confident I can pull it off. I will have plenty of support from my step-daughter who is going to run it. It will be her first trail race.

This race is not until December so I have plenty of time to train. As with everything else, I leave it in God’s hands.Walking Parkinsons

 

Return to Hart Park

Today it was time to find out if I could still go for a hike in the hills. Ever since I started losing stability and balance due to Parkinson’s disease I have had to give up running and only do fast walking if I have my rollator with me. Whether or not I could tackle the hills of Hart Memorial Park had yet to be tested.

I had used these trails many times in training runs as well as races, so I knew what to expect as far as the extreme hills. In fact, I picked the hike I intended to do because it included a steep 1-mile hill right out of the parking lot. What I didn’t expect was the mud.

Jason and I met up in the parking lot and we set off for what should have been a two-mile loop up the hill and then down through what is known in these parts as Mr. Toads Gully, the site of the annual Mr. Toads Wild Run 5K and 10-Mile trail races. For the first mile, I felt really strong and powered up the 1-mile hill with my trekking poles in 20 minutes. Considering how muddy it was, that wasn’t so bad. The problems started when we topped out and bore left to what should have been a trail leading down to the gully.

Now, as I said, I have run and hiked these trails many times. There was no excuse for me not to know exactly how to get to where I wanted to go. Not so much. That’s right, I lost my place in the geography and we wandered a bit trying to get back on track. I finally decided we were better off just back-tracking and returning back down the 1-mile trail. The problem was, I lost track of that also! Fortunately, Jason had his GPS running, so we were able to get back on track and follow our trail in reverse to get back to the parking lot.

The problems were not over. While hiking the steep downhill in the mud I put my foot in the wrong place and quickly found myself face down in the mud. Half my face was covered in mud as well as most of my sweatshirt and jeans. I had a small cut on my forehead which was putting out more blood than it should have. The worst part though was the severe injury to my pride. I had been doing so well overcoming my Parkinson’s and its limitations and then suddenly fell on my face like a newbie right in front of my good friend. But, he was gracious and we finished our hike without further incident, although we logged 4 miles instead of the planned 2!

So is my little incident going to keep me from going back to Hart Park? Not likely! I will, however, wait until the weather dries up a bit. I think my wife is right, also, that I should try to always go with someone else.

Finishing Strong

     

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (2 Timothy 4:7 NLT)

As a long-distance runner I know what it is to run the race. I was always conscious of the need to start well and establish my pace early. As a new runner I often fought the temptation to go out too fast and then I would pay for that enthusiasm later in the race. I would settle into a good pace and always tried to make sure I had something left in the tank to assure a strong finish. There was no better feeling than finishing a 10-mile race with a sprint to the finish line.

I am in the last stages of the most important race of my life. This race began in 1969 and I am still running. The starting line was in Gilroy, CA when I knelt at a pastor’s couch and accepted Christ into my life. I committed myself to a life-time race of representing Him well in the world around me. There have been stumbles along the way. There have even been a few falls, but I managed to pick myself up each time and continue the race. I am still running.

I have been running this race for almost 50 years now. I am beginning to understand that the finish line is not far ahead. I recognize that my overall pace during the race has been good, because I am feeling a surge of energy and am beginning to slowly pick up the pace. If I finish successfully I will be up for the greatest race award ever. “And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.” (2 Timothy 4:8) And I will hear those welcome words, ‘well done, good and faithful servant’.

Father, I thank you for the privilege to run in this race, and for enabling me to run well, give me the strength to finish strong . Amen.

End of a career?

Sounds dramatic, but refers to the choice I have made, at 72, to give up running for good. I have been a runner since my late 20’s and have competed in 5K’s up to half-marathons and 15-mile trail races. When I was diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease 3 yrs ago I stopped running for a while but then started training again recently to try to work back up to at least doing another 5K. The extreme fatigue that I experienced due to the PD made it very difficult but, at the encouragement of my neurologist, it seemed appropriate as I really missed it.

Then we come to this morning. I left the house at a slow jog, aiming to complete .3 miles of running without stopping and then continuing with some run/walk intervals. About 5 minutes in I suddenly went down, doing a face plant on the sidewalk. Cut over my eye, cut my lip, cracked or bruised a rib and acquired a giant strawberry on my leg. I slowly got up, evaluated myself and turned for the slow walk back to the house. By the time I arrived at the house I had made up my mind – running was out for good this time.

Time for the rocking chair? Not hardly. I can still walk, lift weights, do running workouts in the pool etc. This old man is not ready to sit down yet!

Does God want me to fight?

For several years I participated in a gym class called Les Mills Body Combat. I spent 1 or 2 hrs a week punching and kicking without ever hitting anything. It wasn’t that my aim was so bad, it was just that I was concentrating so hard on the choreography that if there had been something to hit I would have been even more confused.

I was in my early 60’s and was in peak physical condition. I ran two half-marathons and two 25K trail races. I was trail running, swimming, doing spin classes, pushing weights and even did a triathlon. I liked to say that I would be running forever and would live to be a 100.

Then, in June of 2015, after experiencing a few weeks of tremors in my right hand and foot and a couple of stumbles while running due to dragging my foot, the doctor told me I had Parkinson’s Disease. I took the news rather well. I could deal with a little shakiness and I just needed to focus on picking my feet up, especially when I was running.

I quickly realized that it was a little more involved than that. I would go out for a run and fatigue would set in so quickly that I couldn’t do more than 30 seconds at a time. As Parkinson’s progressed even walking fast became a bit of a challenge because of increasing stability and balance issues. I went to a Spin class and had to leave after about 15 minutes, totally exhausted. The same thing happened when I tried to do a Body Combat class.

Don’t think for a moment that I am celebrating at a pity party. Not so. Quite the contrary, I am more encouraged than I have been since my diagnosis. You see, I realized that if I want to participate in a particular activity, I can. I may have to modify my expectations but I can do something.

So I am currently running again.  I run for one minute, then walk for a minute, then repeat for as many segments as I can on a given day. I usually complete about 2 miles  total. I will do a 5K soon, probably in the fall. I intend to go to a Spinning class soon and do at least 15 minutes. And I go hiking every chance I get.

The grace of God and the encouragement of friends and family have carried me this far. I really believe He wants me to continue to do all I can, as a testimony to His power in my life and as an inspiration and encouragement to others who may be struggling with whether or not they can do something.

So, the question is, does God want me to fight? I of course am referring to Body Combat, Rock Steady boxing and cardio shadow boxing routines, not causing someone to require maxilla-facial surgery or expel excess amounts of air from their solar plexus.

Well I successfully completed 15 minutes of Body Combat class this past week, so I think the answer is yes. God wants me to fight, literally (non-contact) and figuratively, He wants me to fight with all I have to be as healthy as I can so that I can be the most effective disciple and lay minister that I can be.