Sunday, October 28, 2007

20 And Counting

Twenty years ago this Halloween I drove through a rainstorm from Kansas City to Chicago to take a new job writing about the grain markets at the Chicago Board of Trade. Not too long after I began my new job the corn futures market soared it's daily trading limit higher because of pending drought in the Midwest Corn Belt. It's been non-stop for me ever since and I've never regretted moving here.

My current editor-in-charge for my present company, Reuters News, treated me to a 20th anniversary lunch on Friday and it gave each of us an opportunity to talk about our respective dreams about eventually working here and at the Board. When you're a commodities journalist, correspondent or editor and assigned to report and write about the grain markets, the CBOT is the place to be. I told KT, my chief editor, that when I was a little farm boy growing up in Kansas, I used to dream and wonder what it would be like to live and work in Chicago, on LaSalle Street and get in the middle of the frantic action in the grain trading pits at the Board.

Boy did my dream come true!

It's been 20 years of ups and downs in the markets and in my personal life. KT asked me what I was thinking when I was driving here for the transfer and I told him I was thinking "I wish it would quit raining so I could see where I was going." I also told him I felt great when I got here and I still like it here. I thought I might stay a couple years and move on but I'm still pounding out the news.

My work life and career blossomed when I got here and I'm a very lucky guy but since this blog was originally intended as a running blog I feel obligated to write at least a little about my running life.

When I transfered here 20 years ago if you would have told me that I would eventually start running, complete six marathons, about that many half marathons, eight or 10 10ks and more 5ks than I can count, have foot surgery, IT problems, SI joint sprain, go into full cardiac arrest and die for a few minutes, get revived, have double by-pass surgery and start planning another running career I would have told you to get counseling right away.

My anniversary week has been a good one and it was nice to get some recognition from my boss for my 20 years of writing about the CBOT grain futures markets. Fourteen of those years have been with Reuters News and I've never regretted making the move to Reuters. Call me silly or old fashioned but the mandate within my company and within me has always been "get it first but first get it right." Always a challenge but it adds length to a company's life and to a career.

KT offered a toast to "another 20 years" and I'm not ruling it out.

My workout week has gone equally as well. Three runs on the treadmill, half hour each run at nice easy 4.5 mph, 13 min pace and a nice light sweat and I felt great. I've been doing nothing but walking since my release from the hospital the second week of August and all of the experts including myself insisted on letting the breast bone completely fuse before running a step. I think I"ll be okay.

I also went on a long bike ride Saturday morning to see two of my pace group friends Tim and Seiko run a marathon at the Chicago 50-50. The ultra was originally set up as a 50k and 50 miler but they added a marathon for anyone who had a disappointing run at the Chicago Marathon on October 7.

It took me about 40 minutes to ride down to south shore to saw howdy to them and 40 minutes back into a darned chilly wind. It really felt good to get some air, exercise and I think Tim and Seiko were glad to see me because there weren't very many spectators. I also saw a running bud Tom from work who threw himself into his first ultra, the 50k. His response for entering "why not!" Guess the running bug has bitten him too.

I walked the 15 minutes to my gym early this morning, Sunday morning, intending to ride the exercise bike but elected to jump into my first yoga class since I went down in early August. I'm happy to report the chest held up fine, no soreness at all but boy I'm out of shape and this yoga class was a bit more aggressive than I planned but I was able to hang on for the one hour session.

Looking forward to picking up the pace a little this week and also have this new dream that I might be able to run the annual Turkey Trot 8k (5 miler) this Thanksgiving morning in Lincoln Park.

Lying in my drug-induced fog in the hospital in early August I not only thought my running was over but thought walking and my very life had ended. The first month of recovery, walking with a cane for balance, brought thoughts that maybe some day I'll be able to walk at a steady pace and perhaps jog a little. Everything started falling in place my second month of recovery and I could see that not only would I be able to walk okay but possibly next year begin running.

Now, at the end of my third month of reovery and my 20th year in the Windy City, I'm thinking I'll get in a nice easy five miles Thanksgiving Day and the jury is out on where I go next year.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I have a lot to be thankful and grateful for this year and the opportunity to run is some delicious giblet gravy on that big pile of mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Half Hour Run

Okay, it wasn't fast and it wasn't very long, only 30 minutes on a treadmill but it was a run, my first run in something like three months, since the morning of August 4th. I remember that Saturday morning very well, five miles into a six mile run then kerboom, on my butt out like a light with my first and I hope last heart attack.

I showed up Monday evening for my prescribed cardio-rehab session at the gym down the street and my favorite cardio girl asked me "are you ready to run?" I could have cried, laughed, hugged her, jumped up and down screaming at the top of my lungs OH HELL YA!. But I quietly said "yes I am." And I confess that deep down inside there was a bit of fear that maybe I could not do it..

For around four weeks I had been walking the treadmill then striding on the eliptical trainer and waiting for the moment I could try a little run and it was a tiny one, but damn it felt good! I set out on a nice and easy 4-1/2 mile per hour pace, something like 13 min per mile and got this ol heart up to the low 130 beat per minute area and stayed there. I wanted to push a little more but I also want to ease back into this running biz and try to avoid doing something really stupid. Near the end of the 30 minute run my heart rate did climb up close to 140, so I FINALLY got in a workout, a good sweat to the point I toweled off a couple of times and soaked my gym shirt pretty well. Twas beautiful! And this from someone who used to despise treadmill work.

I even got an atta boy. "You runners are amazing, you did good," the beautiful cardio girl said. Of course I'm in love again. She had told me at my first cardio session they would have me up and running soon. She's just cool! Maybe she just told me runners are amazing to make sure I came back to rehab but I don't care, it worked, I'm going back for another session.

The five minute cool down was eventful too since instead of walking slowly on the treadmill I decided to walk around the track that circles the gym area including the cardio setup and didn't realize the heart rate monitor I was wearing didn't throw a signal to the monitors from the far side of the track, so I got scolded a little.

"Don't walk around the track because you flat-lined on the monitor and we thought we lost you," she said. However, she said it politely and with a smile and told me to just walk up and down the little straightaway so they can keep track of me and my healing heart.

So, as usual, I caused a little commotion but I apologized and won't do that again but I'm looking forward to my next run. It will be another easy one but it's a long way from flat on my back the first week of August with a fresh nine-inch incision through my breast bone. And I'm a long way from walking with a cane through much of August and early September.

Maybe there really is life after heart surgery?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I'm Eyeing The Road

I'm into my fourth week of cardio rehab and my third week back at work full time in my job as a correspondent for Reuters News, feeling pretty good and starting to eye the possibility that I'll be back on the road running soon.

I've been turned loose on the eliptical trainer and told I can now work as hard as I feel like working, so I turned up the heat on myself last Friday and again on Monday and bumped the ol' heart rate up to 120 to 150, a move that brought the cardio girl over to my side to ask if I was okay. "You're heart rate is really up there, are you okay?" she asked. I was better than okay and finally felt like I was getting somewhere, into a light sweat and feeling good about myself and my effort.

I think as a runner my idea of workout is quite a lot different than many others. My perception of really hard work is still somewhere between the 15-20 mile area of a marathon and very, very hard begins somewhere between 20 and 26.2. I suppose work and workout is all relative and really is a personal thing.

I jumped the work and heart rate again on Monday and the other cardio girl told me later "you make it look easy." People have told me that all my life and I don't get it. Nothing has ever been easy for me so it's true that looks can be deceiving.

I confess it was nice to get a compliment about my workout and I've come to the conclusion that I need or think I need more attention than I care to admit. The running community is one place I go to get fairly consistent positive feedback and almost no criticism. Wouldn't it be nice if more of life's experiences could include less criticism and more affirmations. I think there would be less depression and almost no paranoia in this old world.

Work is going great. I like my job, the people I work with and am becoming more and more aware that my work ethic, which I'm proud of, is also a bit of a handicap in my social life...maybe a big handicap. I tend to lose focus in a quiet or casual social setting and start thinking that we should get busy and do something. Needless to say, I have some work to do in order to get a better social life going.

Anyway, just rambling here while I heal from my setback in early August. It's been a challenging year for me. I'm trying to learn from it and continue to seek positives from what has been a difficult situation.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

30TH Chicago Marathon

Frankly, I don't want to write anything about what I saw today but since I started this blog I feel a certain responsibility to lay something down.

The 30th annual Chicago Marathon was held today (Sunday) and it certainly was one for the record books. The men's and women's finishs were decided by seconds and for the men micro-seconds, .05 second to be precise. They were possibly the most exciting head-to-head finishes ever although I confess I'm not a marathon historian.

That was the only positive I saw on the course today, unless you count the fact that only one person died in the ungodly oppressive heat instead of several dozen. And one death is of course very said and my heart, which is still beating thanks to my running buddy Tanya, goes out to the friends and family of this individual.

I was a spectator this year because of my heart attack and setback in early August so my son Jacob and I spent the day together keeping track of his squeeze Jessica who ran her first marathon as a charity runner for the Leukemia Society of America. Jacob and I were able to make contact with her within the first mile and she was optimistic and excited about her first thon. By the 4th mile she was already getting a bit concerned about having to slow her pace and by 12 miles she had slowed to a walk and said she was going to walk the rest of the damn thing. It was that bad, and I'm glad I didn't have to run it. When I looked east out of my window early Sunday over the lake, the sun wasn't coming up. There was water IN the lake and there was water OVER the lake, the humidity was obnoxious and I have often thought that had I been in condition to run, I just may have been one of those 10,000 prospective runners who decided to bag the race. That was just too much and depending on which news account you listen too something like 250 to 300 people ended up in the hospital. As it turned our, something like 40 ended up in the hospital and something like 200 to 300 needed medical attention on and off the course.

I do know from personal observation that ambulance sirens were wailing at a nearly steady pace from about noon to 2 pm. It was pretty ugly. The roughly 4 hour or slower runners were turned around past the halfway mark and sent back to the finish line in Grant Park. Jacob's girlfriend Jessica got her 30th anniversay Chicago Marathon medal, she raised the money for leukemia research, did the long training runs and other runs through the summer but most importantly she is well and is aware that the heat wave was a fluke. This wasn't what she or anyone else had planned, but it's what everyone got.

Isn't distance running a lot like life?:)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Marathon

The Chicago marathon is on schedule for tomorrow (Sunday, Oct 7) and if today (Saturday, Oct 6) is any indication and the forecasts prove true for tomorrow, it's probably a good thing I'm not running that thing.

It's hot and humid this first full weekend of October and while I at times welcomed the heat and humidity on my training runs as "character building" and an aid to physical and overall mental toughness, I can't think of a more difficult 26.2 mile race than one in hot weather. Last year the marathon was held on a blustery chilly Sunday with highs around the mid-30s and, while it was a bit tough on spectators, I felt fine on the course and finished without a hitch. I'll watch this year, and considering my setback in early August, it's truly a gift to be able to walk and watch the other runners.

I finished my first full week of work this past week and it went fine. My peers and I even managed to squeak out a news scoop on Friday, so the boss and we were happy and we ended the week in an upbeat mood. It's great to get my mind on something other than my poor little bumps and bruises.

Also, I finished my second full week of cardio rehab and that's going good too. My favorite cardio girl, she's my favorite because she told me early on that she'd have me running soon, got me off the treadmill "you walk all the time anyway" and put me on an elipitical trainer. I was feeling good so I kept upping the resistance level but she hollered at me to back it down so I guess that means my heart rate was getting up a little higher than she liked.

I managed to get in a light sweat in my 40 minute session and although I know my mind is geared to harder effort, I also know I need to ease back into the training I'm trying to be patient. A major concern of hers is my nine inch incision through my breast bone. The sternum needs to completely fuse or heal and I'm looking at early November as roughly the time frame that I might be able to get into a little light running, weights, yoga and pilates.

I miss the running and gym atmosphere and the people that I'm around when I'm working out.

It's lonely being a couch potato with no one around to bitch too. I keep reminding myself how lucky I am to be alive and that helps me get through each day. I also know that a lot of other people have some really tough serious problems to overcome and my healing heart goes out to them.