(Edited by Brad Minus) The Decision My 3 years of running experience started with multiple injuries including a couple of ankle fractures. However, I still managed to complete a marathon, a 50K and...
My Why – PKD
The human brain is an advanced computer that controls many different systems. The body is like a room full of servers each independently managing a different system with one major system, the brain, as the master controller for all of them.
When the master controller has a difficult task to undergo, the systems will cluster together in order to complete the task as efficiently as possible. If one of the systems begin to fail, it doesn’t mean the task will not be accomplished it just means another system will take over the lack of work. The work may not be handled as efficiently, but nonetheless, it will be completed.
Only when the master controller issues a command to stop will the other systems desist what they are programmed to do. The question would be “Why did the Master Controller issue the command?”
This long analogy comes right down to a quote I use all the time. Internally, and with my client athletes. “The mind will quit 100 times before the body does.” Every excuse will come to mind while an athlete may be suffering, but it is the reason “why” they are challenging themselves that will override the mind’s command to stop.
My 15th Marathon was the 2015 New York City Marathon, and my “Why” was tested.
In 2014, at the completion of the New York City Marathon, I said to myself, “Self, I am really happy I did it. It was a tough race, in tough conditions (sub-40 degree temperature with 33 mph winds), but we did it. It may not have been the time we wanted, but scratch the largest marathon in the world off the list. I will probably not do this one again.”
My reasoning was the logistics of the race.
First, it is located in New York City. That just says a lot of $$$ is going to be spent.
2) Getting around the big apple in a timely manner is difficult for someone not living there.
3) I have a lot of friends that live in the city and I want to see them, which means, more travel, meals and more $$$ spent.
4) The race doesn’t start until 9:50 which at 4 hours means 1:50 which is after the usual 12 pm checkout time. Again, more $$$.
5) In order to pack the corrals with 50,000 runners, it is required to be in the runner villages close to 3 hours early, and in sub-40 degree weather for someone from Florida is somewhat uncomfortable.
6) After leaving the finish line when the legs are burning and everything is getting stiff, it is another mile to get to checked bags and then another half mile to get out of the park where there are no cabs. Then another 5 block walk to the subway.
Other than that the race is amazing.
This year, the reasons above meant nothing to me, because I ran this race not for me, but as a member of Team Tampa PKD for Erika Bragan, Jennifer Thomas and all of the other people affected by Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).
In 2009, Scott offered me a chance to run the Chicago Marathon for the Polycystic Kidney Disease. At the time we were both in a boot camp class at a Lifestyle Family Fitness. He mentioned it to a few others as well, so I brought up the idea of a team concept, where we could organize events to raise awareness and funds for PKD and then split up the money so everyone could reach their goal. it actually worked for the 10 of us that competed that year, as we raised around $26,000 for the PKD Foundation.
In 2011, we resurrected the team and signed on twenty-two members and raised over $56,000 for the foundation. Again in 2013 we had just Five members and raised over 25,000 that year as well.
This year, we again signed five members. Scott, Rich, Myself, Kevin, and Karen. we raised over $25,000 again, but this year we also accomplished something else. Over the last few years, Erika’s kidney functions were reduced to less than 5% apiece. A normal human being can survive on 5% of one, but with PKD it is inevitable that the kidneys will fail.
Erika had already been put on the donor list for over a year, but it had yet to pan out, so we added not only raising as much financial assistance for the foundation but finding a donor for Erika as well.
For over a year, Erika has been in pain, not sleeping and basically been in a state of misery. Scott has recounted this for me numerous times, so when he said that it was time to start thinking about a transplant, I immediately asked him for the details to get tested. I wanted to help any way I could and if it meant giving up a kidney so be it.
The Bragan’s waited to see if being on the donor list would pan out, but as Erika’s kidney functions continued to deteriorate, family and friends stepped up to be tested as donors.
I was tested as a kidney donor, with the preliminary tests proving positive, meaning I was a match.
However, the secondary tests diagnosed protein in my urine which is common in endurance athletes. Unfortunately, for the medical staff, it is a risk for kidney stones which have a small probability to clog my ureter and if that was the case now, I would have another kidney to fall back on. If I donated one, it could be fatal.
I was heartbroken when I found out, but I understood the reasons.
On July 10, my friend and Team Tampa PKD teammate, Rich O’Dea was on a blind date at the Imagine Dragons concert. While getting to know each other Rich made mention of Team Tampa PKD, the marathon and Erika. At first, it seemed a nonchalant question when she asked how to get tested, so Rich took as her just being nice, but even after she ended up returning to a long relationship, she still communicated with Rich she wanted to get tested.
Her preliminary tests proved she was a match, and the secondary tests proved she was healthy enough to donate, so on Friday, Oct 23, the Tampa General Hospital Transplant committee approved the living donor kidney transplant from Jennifer Thomas to Erika Bragan, and scheduled the surgery for the 18th of November.
When I found out that Jennifer passed the second round of testing, I was absolutely ecstatic that she would be able to do what I and three other people could not. I am still absolutely overjoyed that Erika will lead a longer more normal life and Scott, Madison and Spencer will continue to have their wonderful wife and mother.
While in an interview with ABC, Jennifer was asked why should give up her kidney for a total stranger. Without skipping a beat, or even taking a breath she said, “Why wouldn’t I? The more important question should be, why is it so shocking that I would.”
I happened to be in the room when she was getting interviewed and I just about fell over. Without trying to sound conceded, or take away any thunder from her, but I felt like Jennifer was someone who actually thought just like me.
Jennifer’s medical bills will be taken care of 100% by the Bragan’s insurance, but the recovery time may cause a little bit of financial hardship.
Of course, Team Tampa PKD is stepping up and hosting an event called Tailgate for a Transplant prior to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New York Giants NFL Football game on November 8th at 1 pm. (If you would like to help, but cannot make it to the tailgate please click here)
This is my “Why”.
What is your ‘why’?
Notice the title of this blog is not Psychology of the finish which I could probably write another full posting on. This is “the end”, because within this life we have a number of endings. Some of them open new doors, some of them just mean we have more to go. In triathlon, we end each event just to start another one. I have noticed a few things about myself that I need to overcome and maybe they may just be similar to what you may be going through. Some of the tips and tricks I have learned may help, and if they do great, if not you have another tool in your bag to pay it forward to others.
The idea for this posting hits me every time I am in the pool. As I stated numerous times in early posts, I am not a good swimmer by any means. I try though. What I notice is when I am in the pool, I speed up a bit when I see the wall coming up. I end up a little more winded than planned and I stop after 100 m. Interesting enough, I do make my turn at 50m, but the 100m wall I want to stop. This is what I reference as the end, not the finish. In the beginning of the workout I have many more laps to do, but I end up grabbing an extra breath and a few seconds of rest at each 100m turn. I know it psychological, because in open water I can just keep going. Do I change strokes occasionally to check the distance on my watch? Sure, but I continue on in just a few seconds. So why the difference? Is it discipline? Yes, that’s part of it, but it is also, the idea that the wall is right there seems to put the idea in my head that it is the end, so automatically speed up and my breathing changes. Obviously, this is probably not a common problem because I see a lot of triathletes swim lap after lap after lap.
Swimming isn’t the only event where the psychosis of the end comes into play. Have you ever gone out on a run knowing you are going to do six miles and at the end you are exhausted even though you might have run conquered much longer distances? I personally see the end of the workout and something kicks in and I am ready to stop for at least that portion of the session. I am not talking about a tempo run or a track workout. I am talking about just your basic run workout. Different workouts obviously dictate different intensity. For example, a 6 mile tempo run will require and higher intensity level then a long slow distance run, just as a track workout has a higher intensity level than even a tempo run.
The question is how can this obstacle of the end be broken? I have started coming up with a few ways to break through the end in order to keep going in the pool, do the optional mile after a hard track workout or even do that insurmountable transition run after a long hard bike session.
1) Swim – Learn to do flip turns if you don’t already know. My last workout I started to incorporate flip turns. I still am learning how to do them correctly, but because I took my 1000m continuous swim to learn to do them, the wall became an opportunity to practice the flip turn, and the 50m swim became the time I assessed how I did, and what I needed to make them better.
2) Run – there are three ways I usually get through this:
- The optional mile becomes not optional
- Fake it – no matter how slow you end up going do not worry just get it done and after a while your body will learn to expect it
- Give yourself a little extra time for recovery. In our speed workouts the coach gives us a pre-determined amount of recovery prior to the optional mile. Sometimes I need more, so I take it and then run the extra mile on my own.
3) Bike-to-Run Transition run – I have only found one real way to get through this myself. Have your running shoes (and socks) ready to go when you get back and in full eyesight when you either open the car or even pull up. My friend Nick sometimes trusts his shoes right under his car so he can hang his bike and go. If you trust that they will still be there this is the best way. When I personally see my shoes there ready and waiting, I would feel guilty if I didn’t run. Of course guilt is a more negative emotion, but sometimes the negative emotion can be used for a positive outcome. In my experience, if I decide to wait, I usually end up cooling down and I just have no desire to run. If I jump into my shoes and start the run, I feel like I am already running might as well work it the best I can.
In life I have had numerous endings that have also opened new doors to experiences that I would not have had if I didn’t recognize it. The end of my military career brought me to the corporate world where I have been succeeding. I had the choice to either stay in the military and continue my career or leave and start another one. I may have never started on this journey into endurance running and triathlon if I didn’t move on from the military. At the same time I have been offered numerous times after I finish a project to stay at the same location. Almost every time I have decided to move on and my following project has always given me the opportunity to learn something new.
In each of our lives there are “ends” to experiences, jobs, education, friendships etc. I believe the secret lies in recognizing whether it is actually an end or a finish.