And so we begin…
There are blogs all over the intrawebs talking about everything from how someone may brush their teeth every morning to their adventures in wonderland (yes… there are special people too!) Never did I expect that my running experiences, pains and joys would find their way to the masses and be read by insomniacs around the world who stumbled upon the “end of the internet”.
So here we are. How in the world does one get to this point in their life that they begin blogging? For me, I think it boils down to an attempt to self-witness my experiences and adventures in running.
First, my name is John Stasulli…and I have a problem.. the best problem EVER! I’m a runner! I am married to my beautiful wife Elizabeth, have three amazing kids (who are all grown), and 3 1/2 dogs. 2 Labs, a Husky Something-or-other, and a Maltese (now you know where the 1/2 comes from).
So why in the world do I run!? To start the discussion on my current life, we need to go back to my previous life. I retired from the Army as an Infantryman after 14 years and ran throughout my time in the Army… To make it short; I DESPISED RUNNING! There was nothing I hated more than running every morning with my various units. For me, simply running 2 miles during Physical Training (PT) was dreadful. Seriously.. why in the world would you want to run anywhere! Oddly enough, when I retired in 2004 I realized that the PT that I endured in the Army was actually keeping me in some type of shape and when I retired, I quickly discovered that without PT, my body took on another “shape”. Here is where my journey began. (No…we are not sharing those pictures!) 😀
For the next few years I maintained the status quo from the Army and drug my body along the 2-3 miles… not worrying about increased distance, speed, training, races, or anything… I just kept moving forward for the sake of finding a new shape. This is when I began to notice “5k” runs that existed in my community. While I was in the Army, I NEVER even looked at one, watched one, or even thought about one… I was up at the crack of dawn 5-days a week already, there was absolutely no reason for me to ruin my completely good weekends by getting up early then too! (boy have things changed).
The running continued… Soon I was running in all of my local 5ks (notice I said running vs. racing); this body doesn’t move fast…it just moves. I continued down this path for about a year until the early part of 2011, then my idea of running to prevent a “shape” started to unravel. I was getting terrible pains in my left ankle when I ran, was getting more unstable (meaning that I would roll it on a dog hair) and got to the point that running was again simply wasn’t working for me and transitioned over to cycling. Cycling was great! The best part about cycling is that I was cycling with the Chief Physical Therapist at our local military hospital! Over my time in the Army, I had repeatedly had ankle injuries. In fact, I had broken my left ankle 9 times. Lets just say it was pretty bad. Well one thing I was never able to do in the Army was actually get a referral to have it REALLY looked at. I just knew it sucked and it was simply going to follow me. I simply needed someone to put a referral into the system so I could see Orthopedics and find out how I can fix it.
Well thanks to my new cycling friend, I had a referral to whom I considered to be the best orthopedic surgeon in the military!! In July 2011 I had reconstructive surgery on my left ankle. The surgeon, as amazing as she was, told me that any chances of my running again were gone due to the condition of my ankle. During the numerous MRIs, XRays, and surgery, she identified a cyste on the bottom of my tibia and was suffering from degenerative arthritis. I simply won’t allow someone else to tell me what I can and cannot due. Her telling me that it was started my REAL desire to run! Keep in mind, up to this point, my longest “run” was really only a 6mi run that I did while in the Army and that was only once. After completion of my surgery, my mind was set. I was going to prove her wrong!
While laying around recovering, I began looking at runs in the area that I could use to celebrate my surgery and show that I COULD still run. Well I went above and beyond… Not only was I going to register for a race, it was going to be a distance that I never even imaged running! I registered for the Livestrong Half-Marathon, 6 months after my reconstructive surgery. (Once you take away the 2 months of recovery and physical therapy, I was essentially left with about 3 1/2 months of training). I drudged through my made-up training plan and begin running… starting with a 1mile walk/run to build the strength back up and increasing my mileage weekly (well more than the 10% recommended) until I started feeling good again. I did actually listen to the body though… If it hurt, I walked. If it still hurt, I stopped (and complained). I knew that I need to listen to my body in order for this to work. I learned to separate injury/pain from growth/pain. Before I knew it, I had built up a base to allow a 6mi continuos run! I was doing great!! At least until I realized I was only a 4 weeks away and my longest run was 6 mi.
Over the next 3 weeks, I began pushing it further and further to get my base mileage out to a whopping 10mi! I knew this wasn’t optimal for a “good” Half Marathon, but it was going to allow me to reach my goal! I was going to finish a half marathon despite my doctors advisement! Hah… Guess who is right now!
Race day arrived… It was 44 degrees that day among the other 20,000k+ people that were there running the Half or Marathon. As I look back at that day, there are only a few points to that day I REALLY can vividly recall. What I do recall was the pain of running up the 15th street hill at mile 10, how slow the remainder of the run seemed to me, and how AMAZING it felt to cross the finish line of my first Half Marathon, longest run to date, and seeing my wife standing at the finish line waiting for me. My first Half Marathon was in the books with a time of 2:08. This finish meant MORE to me than just a medal or the completion of my longest run; on that day, my wife also did something new! Typically, when I would be out running, she would push me off to the shower before I would get a hug.. (eww… sweaty!). On this day, my wife came up, put her arms around me, and gave me a big hug! 😀 My wife has always been there to support me on my runs, and today was no different! She is my rock! I love her!
From here on out, my running just kind of moved along. Never gave any attention to gear, proper sneakers, nutrition (yea.. I eat pizza…that helps right?), hydration… I was a walking (running) accident waiting to happen. I began running more and more and realized there was a big world out there that I knew nothing about! I began learning as much as I could on everything that I could. I also learned that up to this point, I was wearing the absolutely wrong pair of shoes. Not only the wrong kind of shoe, but the wrong size of shoe! One of my business trips to Colorado, I stopped into Colorado Running Company. This was my first time in a “Running Store”. Prior to that, I went to Foot Locker and grabbed whatever shoe looked cool that time around! My visit to CRC changed that. They put me on a machine that measured my foot and obtained my center of balance and then they tossed me on the treadmill to see “how” I run! The only thing I had going for myself is that I had already ridded myself of the heal-strike style that I acquired in the Army. Not that I was told to; it just made my ankle feel better to not be going through bone-on-bone abuse. The salesman put me in about 5 different pair of shoes and had me running up and down the block, and putting me back on the treadmill for more video recording (rinse and repeat). I left with not just one shoe, but TWO! That day, I also learned the importance of rotating your shoes! For the first time, I was starting to feel like a runner!
My training continued as it had been before. Not really targeting a particular race or goal. I just wanted to maintain my current base. I completed in several 5ks & 10ks, routinely placing in the top 3 in my AG. The following year, I once again made my way to Austin, TX to run int he Austin Half Marathon 2013. Didn’t really train for it, I just went and ran. This time, I finished slightly faster and finished with a time of 2:03. So what did I learn? My running may as well be growing mold…I was stagnant. I wasn’t improving in terms of speed or distance…I was just moving forward. While this is still great to maintain a healthy lifestyle, what was it doing for my running? What did I want to do with my running? I did what every illogical person would do! I challenged myself again! This time, I was going to toe the line for the 1st Army Marathon in Killeen, TX Woo Hoo! I had home field advantage! In just about 2 months I was going to not only run, but I was going to DOUBLE my furthest distance to this point!
Not only was I doing the Army Marathon, but our youngest son Anthony, also decided to his first Marathon at the age of 18. Just like his father, we both toed the line for our first Army Marathon with probably not nearly enough training. Due to an overuse injury, my training was cut short and my longest run was only 18mi. My son on the other hand hadn’t even run a half marathon prior to this day. The gun went off and we both took off running… At this point, all I could do was laugh…
With my training cut short, I had to adjust my running. I knew taking on the read headfirst was going to result in the marathon winning, which was not an option! As I started off, I decided that I was going to use the “Galloway Method” to get through the marathon. My plan was simple. I was going to finish and to do that, I was going to run the first 5mi and then break off into a 3/1 split! As I started out down the first mile, I began fumbling with my Garmin to setup the running timers to get myself on track. before I knew it..I was well on my way! I was going strong, but the closer I came to the finish, the slower I became until my rotation turned into a 3min walk 1 min run. It didn’t matter… I was approaching the end, and I was going to finish! I crossed the line at 4:59. My goal that morning was a 5hr finish and I was within my goal time! I was thrilled! Just like my first half marathon, there was my wife proudly waiting for her… along with my mother-in-law and son. SON? Really! the one who didn’t train and hadn’t even run a half marathon beat me! In all honesty, I was very proud of him! He finished just right around 4:40! The lack of training on his part became evident in the days following. The following day, I went out for a 5mi recovery run… My son… he crawled everywhere he needed to go… He realized what happens to the body when you don’t train! I was now amused.
Since that day I not only joined, but became the Chapter Captain for Team RWB Fort Hood! Through this amazing veteran organization, I have met amazing like-minded people, repeatedly run with others as they trained for their own races from a 5k to a 100mi, and found several people that I really call good friends. While I am now running both on the road and trail, I have fallen in love with trail running! During the summer of 2013 I entered my first Trail Race! It was a 30k Nighttime Trail Race at Reveille Peak Park, part of the Capt Karl series! I had an ankle injury (surprise, surprise) and ended up finished in 5:30…Redemption time this year!
What can I say! I’M IN LOVE!
You have now caught up to my running adventures… there were tons of other races and adventures thrown in there, but these captured the milestones that have gotten me to where I am today.
What’s next? I now embark on a journey that will take me to my first 100 miler! What an amazing ride this will be!