What is this blog about? Laugh, Think, and Cry...

My blog is for you and for me. I hope you find some inspiration here. I follow a "laugh, think, and cry" pattern based upon the following quote from Jimmy V (Jim Valvano, former N.C. St. basketball coach) during his final days of battling cancer in 1993. Btw, It it is quite OK for you to cry in the laugh section, think in the cry section, and laugh in the think section... :) Click here if you want to view the entire Jimmy V speech.

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week; you're going to have something special.”


A lot has happened since I began this blog last fall. When I selected Jimmy Valvano’s “Laugh, Think, and Cry” speech to use as model of inspiration for my theme I had no idea that cancer would strike my family like it has in the last year. My older sister Susan recently buried her husband Glenn E. Hall (49) after an incredibly grueling and difficult battle versus a very rare and aggressive cancer called alveolar rhabdomyosacrcoma. It began attacking his brain last fall in what initially appeared to be a sinus infection. There was no indication to think it was anything else. By the time it was detected it had left a trail of destruction of irreparable damage.

My younger sister DeAnn currently battles ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed on October 5th, 2010. Her fight continues.

On September 13th, 2011 my beautiful queen Stephanie picked me up from the gym after a long workout. Moments later I learned that my wife of 25 years, my best friend, the mother of our four amazing children, confirmed one of our worst fears. Stephanie has breast cancer. We held each other tight and the tears flowed. Our world has been rocked yet we are certain we can and will still be standing after it is all said and done.

Stephanie and I have decided to share her battle. We have been preaching and living the word “challenge” over the past few years. Our lifestyle has changed and we have been blessed to meet so many wonderful people through our running adventures. This is something that would be impossible to keep hidden so we choose to open up and invite others to come along for this “run” with us.

Stephanie and our family now face something much more daunting than a mountain marathon or an Ironman triathlon. We understand that many are confused as to why this has happened. We get it that some people don’t know what to say or how to react to the news. It’s ok. We have accepted it for what it is. Cancer is here, it is real, and it is us. Stephanie has it and so our family has it. We are a team. One for all and all for one. We are fighting to save our Mommy, our friend, and my wife. Early detection and current medical technology coupled with faith, love, and hope give us a fighting chance, a chance that not all cancer patients receive. We are grateful for this. Stephanie is young, strong, and tougher than nails. Our family and the doctors are doggedly determined that we are going to defeat this foe.

We plan to use this opportunity to become stronger, better people. As the storm clouds gather and the rain comes pouring down as it most assuredly will, we hope you can find the rays of sunlight with us and in some way become a stronger person yourself. The goal of my blog was to inspire and be inspired. Stephanie shares that same wish as she tells her story... stephsfight.blogspot.com

Tick tock...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Plugging along...

February 1, 2011
Hello family, friends, training partners, and fellow endurance sport nut jobs,

Well, it’s been a few weeks and a lot has happened in the world of the wannabe Ironman.  If you didn’t read the first blog entry, you may want to do that now so what this one makes more sense. Thanks for joining me on this venture and I hope you find a little entertainment and inspiration as we Laugh, Think, and Cry.  I apologize in advance for making this blog longer than I wanted. It really is more like two blogs than one since the holidays, basketball, etc. got the best of me. Oh well. Enjoy! I currently have 7 followers. Overwhelming. If I get to 10 I win a bag of celery.

Goal:  Finish the Ford Ironman Florida Triathlon, November 5, 2011, Panama City, FL
Current Weight: 202 (-11 lbs. in 4 weeks)   Ironman Goal Weight: 189
Current Training: Light swimming, biking, and core strengthening. I have gone mostly “Primal” in my eating and I am loving it. Perhaps I will share my “Blueprint” in a future blog as my experiment continues. My main focus is 1) changing my body to prepare for things to come and 2) overcoming my chronic calf injuries.
Current Injury Status: Dramatic improvement has been made in this area in the last 6 weeks. I give mucho thanks to my friends at Registered Physical Therapists/Riverton Office (www.rptutah.com) for their outstanding work on my lower legs.  From Greg, Jared, Larry, Laura, Jess, Riley, Eric, Steph, Chantel [did I get it right this time? ;)], and Darcy, I am so grateful for everything you have done for me. There is no way I could do this without your help. More on this below, let’s roll… 

LAUGH: Lessons in Swimming
If you have ever thought of “triathloning” (is that a word?), but are terrified of the water (think 1975 and “Jaws”, dun duh, dun duh, dun duh!) and think “I’d do it but I just can’t swim”, then perhaps this section will help you consider dipping your toes in the waters of triathlon. Then again, maybe it won’t! But remember, I’m not an endurance athlete. Really, I'm not! If I can become a distance swimmer, so can you…J The keys for me are to not take swimming or myself too seriously and to work for consistent improvement.

2007 swim lesson. Site: Holiday Inn pool, Denver Colorado. Student: Yours truly. Teacher: Greg “here’s the deal” Peterson (trusted friend, Ironman, horse trainer, dog trainer, people trainer, entrepreneur, bishop, and at least 276 other things—the guy is amazing). So, there we stand in the pool at a very late hour. The vacationing kids have emptied their bladders (lucky us) and left for bedtime in their rooms. After GP convinces Larry the maintenance guy that we will be ok and need to swim a few laps, I ready myself for the lesson. Keep in mind I have not “swam” (“playing in the water is not swimming”) since 6th grade, but hey, I can do this, right? Uh, wrong. So GP gives me his standard “here’s the deal” speech which includes the prescribed distance, a few technical tips, and the “you can bust this out, bro” line. I put on a pair of goggles, something that felt very foreign at the time. I might as well have put on a bra.  GP starts swimming (short pool, it takes him 2 ½ strokes to go from one end to the other) and I start flopping, flailing, inhaling, and exhaling all at the same time. I wish I would have had some video of this. I couldn’t even go one length of a hotel pool as my form was pathetic and my breathing was worse. My head was craning out of the water like a bent periscope and my legs were sinking to the bottom like an anchor. I had become the poor kid in Levis showing up to my basketball tryouts with no clue or idea what he was doing. Mercy, please. It would have been easy (and probably wise) to end my triathlon career right then and there. But, I’m not gonna give up that easily…

After some more swim lessons, a Master’s swim class (what a joke of a name), and thousands of laps later we fast forward to the 2008 Bear Lake Brawl Sprint Triathlon.  My first “real” open water triathlon. The tri folk call the short course a “sprint”.  Ok, who is the clown who came up with that title?! A “sprint” is supposed to be a “short” race. I’m thinking a 100 meter dash or a gunny sack race, not a 750 meter swim, 12.5 mile bike ride, and a 5K run. Ok, let’s go to Bear Lake. This is a little scary, folks. Deep water inhabited by fabled creatures (various legends tell of the mysterious “Bear Lake Monster”) and fish that poop where I’ll be inhaling air and at least a half gallon of water. It is dark and it is cold outside. I can see my breath. I am feeling like a rookie fish/triathlete out of water.  And, to make matters worse, there were no painted lines in the lake to guide my path. Yikes. And, oh yeah, the water was really cold (Labor Day weekend).  I was with GP again on this trip (my trusted tri coach) along with two She-men batting for the other team. Well, let me clarify…we weren’t actually “with them”, but they did keep following GP around and striking up conversations with him. He just has that magnetic personality…J Ok, really, back to the “sprint”. In the prerace prayer GP forgot to request a warmer water temp. Lame! While I actually like cool water and take cold showers frequently (not for the reason you just thought of!), I could not believe how ridiculously frigid this H2O was! Ok, it was about 66 degrees, but in swimming terms, that is @#*&$&#@% FREEZING!! I was pretty sure my wetsuit wasn’t going to help me survive and I really was not feeling right or ready.  Trepidation set in. Serious questioning of my sanity set in. The proverbial butterflies were doing figure eights in the tummy while I tried to fake it and act like I knew what I was doing. Pretty much I felt like the terrified youngster standing on the high dive looking to turn around and take the “descent of shame” back down the stairs. The inevitable horn of truth sounded and off we go. 100 meters into this thing and my face felt, uh, frozen. I flopped and floundered and desperately tried to recall all I had learned about swimming (that didn’t go so well).  My main focus became pulling my head out of the water every 15-20 strokes to see if the rescue guys in canoes were ready to throw me the doughnut. I saw them, but avoided eye contact and quickly stuck my head back in the ice bath, but not before I also noticed the struggles of many wannabe swimmers in the arctic blue of Bear Lake. Ah, it’s nice to see others suffer along with you… J Now fully uncomfortably numbed I thought of the reward of warmth promised by getting back to dry land and I so started to swim faster than my recommended pace. OK, I panicked a little and for some odd reason my thoughts momentarily turned to drowning and bottom feeding suckers with grotesque mouths latching on to my dead body! What seemed like an hour later (actual time 15-20 minutes) I passed the last buoy and there it was, yes, I could see the shore! I am going to do this, I can almost touch the bottom again! And then… I puked. What in the heck? Yep, I hurled. I spewed fish food all around me.  But it was more than ok because suddenly I felt lighter, faster, and calmer. Ahhhhhh, yes.  Nothing like a good choking of chunks to get rid of some extra weight and nerves! I really didn’t care that I had just turned the “Bear Lake Brawl” into the “Bear Lake Barf”! No one was near me (most likely because they were either already finished or thinking “stay away from the vomiting sea lion who is drowning!”) and I was almost done with the dang thing. Moments later I staggered out of the lake…mission accomplished, sort of. J 

Swimming has gotten better for me. I can now swim for miles and so can you with some lessons and the right attitude.  Note: I won’t be doing Bear Lake again.

THINK: Getting worse in order to get better
Have you ever had to “get worse in order to get better”? Successful golfers will change their swing and initially “get worse” before they see improvement. I see this same phenomenon in my basketball players. When we change a player’s shot, he usually experiences “failure” and feels very awkward which is why most return to bad habits!!

To expect different results without making a change is silly. Yet if you make the necessary change(s) and stay the course, the improvement and success arrives. Conventional wisdom would say that to prepare for a November Ironman I should keep running hard (to stay in shape) and just deal with my calf pain. Or perhaps conventional wisdom would say stop running altogether and let them heal! Well, I’ve tried both over the past 3 years and my chronic calf injuries continue to plague me. So...time for a new strategy. I was steered in the right direction by a runner friend, the ferociously fast Rachelle Anderson. She had jacked up a calf (those pesky muscles!) and had gone through a painful, yet successful, rehabilitation. It was a reminder of what I knew had to be done. Bear with me as I go back in time a little so this will all make more sense… (thanks again, Rachelle).

In August of 2007 I ran my first marathon with a partially torn calf. I know, bad idea. Wait, stooooopid idea. But, at the time it was an important goal after losing 50 pounds, I had raised money to begin a scholarship program at Riverton HS, and I just plain had to do it (stubborn gene kicks in again). My physical therapist at the time (Bruce Applegate, a marathoner himself) clearly explained to me the difficulties I would face. He duct-taped me up and the many therapy sessions helped me limp my way through it. It was brutal, painful, yet one the best experiences of my life. I look back now and wonder how I did it in that condition.  But, the fact I did pull it off fuels me still and helps to attack current challenges that face me…

During that time I remember Bruce telling me that short of surgery, “deep tissue massage” (which is another name for “this is going to hurt really bad”) was probably the only way to rid my calves of the scar tissue deposits from multiple calf tears in past years. I said “no thanks, I’m not a fan of pain.” So, for 3+ years I have dealt with some minor and not so minor calf tweaks, twinges, and tears along with major tightness and discomfort as I impersonate an endurance athlete. Not exactly the best scenario for Ironman training or racing.  Gotta fix it or this Ironman quest is going to turn into Girlyman quest. Sorry about that comment ladies, please don’t be offended. Anyone who knows me well understands how much respect I have for the women who pass me at
every race. More on that subject in an upcoming  blog. J

Fast forward to December 2010: I’m getting “worse” in order to get better. I am going to hurt myself in order to heal myself. Sounds bizarre, huh? Here is what I am talking about: “stripping of the muscle fiber”, “breaking up the scar tissue”, “cross friction” or in other words (say this next sentence in one breath with a crescendo for proper effect):  “hellacious calf massage so nasty that the only thing keeping you from curling up into the fetal position is the painful hamstring spasm resulting from the near panic that sets in when the physical ‘therapist’ buries his spear-like thumbs deep into the inner recesses of your freakin’ gastrocnemius!!” Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikes!

On the first day of therapy Jared located no less than 9 “spots” that needed loving affection (sarcasm attached).  Listen folks, there are more knots in my calves than a Scout-a-Rama (I still resent having to sell tickets to one of those when I was 12).  This was going to take some time and a lot of patience to deal with the discomfort and pain. No running. Dangit. They basically have to break up the scar tissue a little at a time. It then supposedly is eliminated through the lymph system (this is the point of the conversation when the RPT guys start throwing around 7 syllable medical terms to make you feel inferior).  A not so funny thing happens during this process. The good muscle sustains some bruising. You get sore at therapy and the days after. Hurting in order to heal…

Hop on the table with me. I’ve just finished 10 minutes in the hot tub (the best part of therapy!), a series of eccentric exercises, a little bike and/or Total Gym (watch out Chuck Norris!), some friendly banter with Riley (another former student), Jess, or Eric, and a deep ultra sound session with the two-handed talents of Laura (one of my former students at RHS). The “men” of RPT stand and gawk in awe as they watch Laura handle two ultrasound thingamajobbers at the same time for a full 10 minute session. She has mad ultrasound skills! Meanwhile, Jared, Greg, or Larry  warm up their evil thumbs.

The Abolene (I thought my mother-in-law was the only one buying that stuff) is applied, the spots are located, and the torture begins. Lying face down, I bury my face in a pillow while the evil ones bury their thumbs. Up, down, and side to side. Here, there, everywhere. Strip the muscle. Loosen the scar tissue. “Oh, is it sore there?”, they ask as my lower body spasms. I eek out a whimpy  “yeees, a little” all the while thinking to myself “Does a bear take a dump in the woods, Einstein?!” Holy bear stuff, this hurts! Here, let me take a hole punch to your leg with my best Clint Eastwood thumb and see if it is a little sore!! “Is it sore?!” Uh, yeeeeeeeeeeeessssss! (Jared in action photos below)

Now, I have no clue as to why my gastrocs are so dang sensitive.  Maybe the damage inside of them is worse than I thought. Maybe me be a big giant baby?! While there is no question I have a low pain threshold, this seems a little ridiculous.  Holy Hypersensitivity, Batman!” Oooooooooouch!

I can honestly say that I would never let anyone else do this to me (deep tissue massage on damaged muscles) and I also disclose here that I am not cut out for childbirth or removing my own splinters. I just don’t like pain. If I were not in a public place, surrounded by other patients and therapists/personnel who know me as “Coach Galley”, the guy who pleads with his players to “toughen up”, I would put an immediate stop to this dreaded agony! My eyes are watering and I am trying to find my happy place, but it is not working. I want to curse, I want to squirm, I want off this table. But, I keep thinking, I have to do this. Toughen up!

Finally and mercifully, the session ends. Laura applies the ice packs and 8 electrodes for a little muscle stimulation. I ask myself, “Is this working? How long will this go on?”

Fast forward to January 18. About 5-6 weeks of torture/therapy.  Done? Maybe. I hope.  The moment of truth. I’m going to run. I’m going to test out the wheels. Give ‘em a spin on the RPT treadmill. Five miles and some great conversation with Jess later, no pain, no tightness. Smiles all around. Is this happening?! My legs haven’t felt this good since…

After 3+ years of running with varying degrees of discomfort and pain, this is a glorious day! The next 2-3 days validate what I believed.  I am confident that much of the scar tissue is gone. Of course, time will tell for sure, but as I type I am encouraged, energized, and enthusiastic about the current condition of my calves. Yippee! Thanks again RPT!

CRY: Running for someone
Last time in my first blog entry, I discussed running with my Dad. Now, I want to explore running “for” someone. My running for people list is long and getting longer. These wonderful guys and gals motivate and inspire me. I will be sharing some thoughts and stories about those special people with you in future blogs.

I love to run for others whether it is to support a cause, a victim, or simply just running for someone who cannot run for him or herself. I feel less pain and enjoy the experience so much more. It is hard to explain, but I feel empowered and inspired when I run for someone. What a great feeling…

As I blog (Steph is doing a great job of driving through some nasty fog banks), I am traveling north to Idaho to spend some time with family. My brother-in-law, Glenn Hall, is battling brain cancer. It has been rather sudden. It is humbling. It is tragic. It seems very unfair. Glenn is one of the toughest guys I know. He is also one of the nicest people I know. He is a “give the shirt off his back” kind of guy. Loving. Giving. Hard-working. The best of the best. This is a hard thing for our family. It is a stark reminder of how fragile life is and how things can change so quickly. I will run for Glenn.

We get 86,400 seconds per day. Use them all. As Tim McGraw says, “live like you’re dying. Love deeper, (speak) sweeter.” Hug the ones you love. Get active. Start somewhere. Start today. Eat better. Laugh more. Be nice. Do something now to make yourself and others better. Give real life a try. Give a tri a try. What the heck?  Sign up for a walk or a run. Send in the entry fee instead of buying crappy stuff that ruins your body. Make it happen. Bust some stress. Go for a walk. Run. No, don’t just run. Run for someone.