Archive for the ‘my day’ Category

On Saturday, December 21 it will be four weeks since I dislocated my knee while trying to be safe while running in Johnson Park in Kent County, Michigan. It’s funny how I have played the scene over and over again in my mind. I keep asking myself, “how could I have avoided this injury.”  The more I think about it, the more I realize this wasn’t an “accident.”  This was planned. It wasn’t MY plan, but God’s plan.  I’ll explain that in a minute.

My knee December 19, 2013

My knee December 19, 2013

Today marked my fourth physical therapy appointment. I have made some significant progress. I’m now bending my knee to 130 degrees, I’m doing step-ups, leg extensions, squats, and other exercises. The swelling is still there, but it’s much less than it was 10 days ago. What is the goal? According to my physical therapists, “it’s to get you to Sochi, Russia.”  At least that’s what she said today. I said, “I thought it was to get me running again?”  She’s pretty cut and dry. She said, “Do you want your knee going out before you leave, or while you’re there?  Don’t plan on trying to run until you return.”

What does that mean for my recovery, or the possibility for surgery? It means I’m going to continue with therapy until I have to leave for the Olympics, hoping the strength in my quadriceps improve to where I won’t need surgery. The knee cap isn’t as stable as I would like right now, but it’s making progress. If I was allowed to, I could jog and run up stairs. But, I am only allowed to spend as long as I like on a stationary bike. I enjoy that. I’m finally working up a sweat.

Why do I think God planned this for me? As I look back on the past four weeks I’ve been forced to slow down. Instead of focusing on make my mileage goal for the week or month, I’ve been focusing on my family. I’ve spent more time keeping the holiday traditions alive. I actually made Christmas candy this year. I’ve spend more time in God’s Word than I have in a long time. I’ve been forced to trust the Lord more.

What are my plans? I plan to work hard and run again. While I may not be  able to start running again until February, I may be forced to run the 10K at the Fifth-Third Riverbank Run, rather than the 25k. But, we’ll see.

 

Advertisements

Setbacks and trials

Posted: November 24, 2013 in Health, life, my day, spiritual
Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s amazing what can happen even when you’re being careful. Let me explain.

Saturday is typically the day I run long distances. I try to run between 14-20 miles a week, depending on how I feel and if I’m training for something. Yesterday (Saturday) was an easy day. To stay on target, I needed to run five miles. I decided to over-achieve and run six. It was cold. I believe the temperature was in the 20’s. The windchill was in the teens. It had snowed, but there wasn’t any snow on the road. So, I decided to head to Johnson Park to do my running.

When I arrived, there were few runners. But, I headed out anyway. It was a difficult run. The first time running with winter gear is always hard. I made it to the 1.5 mile mark and noticed a little patch of ice. I found the shortest distance across it and gingerly tip-toed across it — only slipping a little. I ran out to the bridge across the Grand River and started heading back. At one point there is a spot where you can choose if you want to run on the road, or take the trail. I decided to take the trail because I figured it would be more protected from the wind. As I approached the icy spot I decided I would walk across the ice, just to be safe. So, I started walking. I put one foot on the ice and the next thing I know my right foot is slipping out to the right and I felt this incredible pain in my knee and fell in a heap.

I landed hard on my hind-end and my knee cap slid over to the outside — dislocated. The exact same injury that required surgery in 2010 that took a year to heal. The pain was so intense. I was in the middle of nowhere with nobody around. I quickly reached down and pulled my knee cap back in place and sat there in pain wondering how I was going to get back to my car 1.5 miles away, or be found by someone who could help me.

I use the Nike+ Iphone app to keep track of my runs. I quickly turned off the app and tried calling my wife. In God’s providence, Ann was calling me. She doesn’t typically call while I’m running because I don’t typically pick up. I told her I was hurt. I had fallen and dislocated my knee again. The problem? I was on a trail, in a valley, away from the road. How would she find me?  I knew I was near Veterans Memorial Park Road, but not really sure where. So, I told her I would try to get to the road. I said, “Go to Johnson Park. Drive by Johnson park and at the first right, turn right. You’ll run into me.”

I made it to the road. A few cars drove by. I tried flagging them down, but none of them stopped. I just needed a 1.5 mile ride to my car, so I could either get home or go to the emergency room.

SwollenKneeNov23-13Unfortunately, I was now in the teeth of the wind — sweaty and in pain. I decided I needed to keep moving or I was going to freeze. So, I started walking. The pain was intense. I tried keeping my right leg as stiff as I could. Ann finally found me. Isn’t it amazing how God works these things out? My wife drove me to my car and I INSISTED that I drive myself to the Sports Medicine Clinic, which I did. They took x-rays and made sure nothing was broken, which there wasn’t. But, as you know x-rays don’t show soft tissue damage. Now, I’m waiting for the swelling to go down to figure out what’s next.

Now, however, I’m dealing with frustration. I have been working so hard to stay in shape, keep the weight off and take care of my knee. I have been lifting weights, working out and doing everything I thought I needed to do to avoid having to have surgery again. I wanted to reach my goal of running 700 miles for the year (I’m about 40 miles away with five weeks to go). I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen unless I have a miraculous healing (which could happen).

I’m also asking the ‘why’ question. Which, is very frustrating to me. I keep thinking, “Thanksgiving is coming. We need to get our Christmas tree. We have a lot going on. I have to go to Russia in February. Surgery just isn’t part of MY plan.

MY plan. I wish MY plan was God’s plan sometimes. In my head I know that God does everything for a reason, or as my friend Steve says 10,000 reasons. Some we may not even know about. For whatever reason He has me side-lined physically. I’m praying that through this new season of uncertainty, that God would make himself even more real to me — especially at this time of year.

But, I’m also praying for quick healing. I don’t want surgery again! Pray with me, would you? I’ll keep you post.

(more…)

Greg just before the start of The Crim

Greg, without his glasses, already looks like he’s run 10 miles, but really he’s thinking about running 10 miles and wonders if he’ll finish because of his cold and nagging cough.

After I ran the Fifth Third Riverbank Run in Grand Rapids, Michigan in May, I needed motivation to continue running. So, I set my sights on the Crim 10 Mile Road Race in Flint, Michigan. I grew up in the Flint area. In 1982 I ran The Crim. At 16 years old, not much of a runner, I ran 10 miles in 1:17, that’s about a 7:40 a mile split. I was 2, 224 place. That was better than half, I guess. That was 30 years ago to the day.

Well, I’m not 16 any more. And, I’m probably 50 pounds heavier. But, I competed and I finished!

On Saturday, August 25 I was hoping to finish at 90 minutes, or a 9 minute mile pace. Unfortunately, I had a couple of things going against me.
1. I have been battling an upper respiratory infection and my cough has prevented me from training the last 10 days.
2. I’m older, and I had forgotten about all the hills on this course.
3. My will to push on this day was — well — NOT THERE.

I started my day with little sleep. My cough from my cold kept me awake. I maybe got five hours of sleep, if that much. An hour here, 90 minutes there, not very restful. I woke up tired, not very excited, and worried whether or not my body would let me run, let alone meet my goal.

My dad dropped me off on the U of M, Flint campus and I walked the rest of the way to the starting line. There were surprisingly few people there one hour before the race. I watched the wheelers start, then the 30 year runners, and then it was our turn.

I was in wave C, based on the pace I had select when I registered. So, about three minutes after the front runners started, our wave was allowed to start. I actually felt pretty well. My fist quarter mile spit was about 2:15. My first mile was 8:50ish. And, no coughing at all. I made it to mile four and I was still at about a 9 minute pace. Then at mile five I hit a gradual hill. Then, turned a corner and there they were — the dreaded BRADLEY HILLS. This is a section of the race course that has a series of three hills that climb about 100 feet in about three quarters of a mile or less. These hills kicked my tail. When I saw them, my goal was to run up all oft them.

I did it! But, I was spent.

I got to the top of the last of the three hills and there was another one — a gradual one — but a hill none-the-less — and WATER. The last four miles of the race my body kept saying, STOP, walk a little. So, at each water break I walked through them. It was so frustrating. I had trained all summer to RUN the Crim, not walk it. Not just run it, but do it at 90 minutes.

So, how did I do? My official time was 1:41:44. Not what I was hoping for. 11 minutes and 44 seconds slower than I had hoped.

But, I did finish and I did my best. Next year, IF I run it again I will do a couple of things differently.
1. I will do more hill training.
2. I will do everything in my power NOT to get a cold.
3. I will conserve a little more for the dreaded Bradley Hills.

I will say this, going back to where I grew up was kinda sad. A town that used to call itself, “Buick City” or “Vehicle City” isn’t much of a city anymore. Most of the GM plants have been completely torn down. The home of the famous Sit Down Strike is gone. GM and the Unions have pretty much destroyed a city that was once a bustling city full of hope and pride. Now, the main focus of downtown Flint, colleges and universities.

I’m glad I was able to do my part to give this city a boost. If you remember to, pray for the city of Flint. It really needs it.

What an experience. Two years of work came to a conclusion this weekend. What a weekend.

It all started about two years ago when I blew out my knee playing basketball. After surgery ended my basketball playing days. I began strengthening my damaged knee. Elliptical, bike and the running on a tread mill were the tools used to get me to even consider running. I worked hard. I worked my way up to 3 miles each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In January, my sister Laura challenged me to start running a little further. Then she started talking about running in the Fifth Third Riverbank Run.

In January, we run four miles. A few weeks later five miles. Then I thought, Hmmm, I might be able to do it. So, I started training for the 25k.

Laura and Greg finish Fifth Third 25k

Laura and Greg finish Fifth Third 25k

Thanks to Patty Riva at CU Radio, she was able to get me a complementary registration and I registered for it. I ran four times a week…running up at 13.5 miles in preparation for the race, which is the largest 25k in the United States.

The day before the race, my sister and I picked up our registration and took a tour of the course.

Then, on Saturday May 12, we ran. And, ran, and ran. 15.5 miles later, we finished the race together. It’ll be something I’ll never forgot. An overweight 46 year old guy was able to finish 15.5 miles. Not too many people can say they did that.

I just thank God for allowing me to do it. Pretty cool stuff. Even though I still hate to run — I loved the discipline that came with it. It’s really taught me a lot.

Will I do it again? If my body holds up, absolutely!

I would like to thank the hundreds of volunteers who gave up their Saturday to help give us water, Gatoraid, Oranges, and ice.

It was an amazing day. Hard to believe it’s over already. I can’t hard wait to get back to running 9 miles a week. That sounds so much better than 25 to 30.

Kristin Plummer

Kristin Plummer befriended by a little girl at camp.

Thursday, August 19 was a challenging day for the team. Many team members were coming off a high coming off the camps Monday through Wednesday. So, going from those two groups to the new groups was a bit difficult for a few, including me. The first group we visited was Orphanage #40. These were special needs children. They were kids with physical or mental challenges ranging in age from 3 to 12 (guessing).

We weren’t able to do everything we did at the other camps. When we arrived the kids were SO excited. They

Autumn Gilbert with girl

Autumn Gilbert attracks this girl's attention. They kind of look alike.

rarely get visitors. So, they were so pleased to have people pay attention to them. The first group I visited seemed to be moderately affected by fetal alcohol syndrome. They seemed starved for attention. When we gave positive attention they laughed and screamed. But, when we moved to someone else, they would lash out in anger to get the negative attention.  This girl with Autumn just loved to be tipped upside down over and over and over again.

The camp was set up by cabins. Some of the severe issues were in one cabin. Less severe in another cabin. And, the even less severe in another cabin.  The team split up into three groups. A group for crafts, which only worked with one group of kids. A story group. And, a recreation group. Mostly what we did is played with the kids. We ran, bounced, tickled, gave piggy back rides, held and did more of the same. The kids just loved the attention.

Little boy at Orphanage 40

A little boy looks over his shoulder at me.

I’ll be honest. This was a difficult place for me because I knew many of these kids have no future. The ‘system’ will marginalize them, institutionalize them and mostly forget about them. For the caregivers, it’s a thankless job. For the kids it’s utter hopelessness. For God, it’s great way for Christians to show the love of Christ and be an example of unconditional love to kids who are forgotten, but also show their caregivers what a difference they can make in these special little ones lives.

After a brief stop at the beach and then lunch, we traveled a camp for Orphanage #14. This camp was different, too. The caregivers seemed cold. The kids seems distant. And, we weren’t sure what was going to happen. Few of the kids actually participated. The ones that did, opened up a bit. Katie Johnson presented chalk art along with a Bible story about David. She told me that at least one boy seemed to connect with the story. After she finished the story about David and his unlikely choice for king, she talked to them about the ‘marks’ of life and

Katie Johnson's chalk art

A boy looks at friend and smiles as Jesus' face comes to light.

how God can remove them. As He does, Jesus is left behind. It was a beautiful picture of Jesus in the black clalk.

At this camp we split up into four groups. The story team. The craft team. The memory verse team and the recreation team.  Many of the boys watched Katie’s art, telling her “you have to be a professional to do that, don’t you?’ (she is, by the way) The girls loved the craft for day one — friendship bracelets. But, we had trouble keeping the interest of the young people doing recreation. We tries basketball. American football. Soccer. We tried strange games. Nothing seemed to work.

I went back to the hotel a little discouraged about the day. However, others were encouraged. It just goes to show that everyone’s different. Many thought they were able to get through to the kids.

We’re praying that’s the case.

kids listening

Kids listening to story times in the morning.

Gray skies greeted us Wednesday, August 18, 2010 the final day with kids from orphanage 2 and 60. We started off in the morning with the little kids again. We shared the verse, Isaiah 49:16, “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands: your walls are continually before me.” Many of these young people seemed to respond to this verse. Many understanding it and talking about it. The craft today was making picture frames. Then we took each child’s picture. We were going to print them out at lunch time, but the printer malfunctioned. So, we’re going to print them in the city and Olga and her team will take them back after we’re gone.

Unfortunately, I spent most of my time with the memory verse group because of a couple of issues, so I didn’t get to see much of the other groups. I know they told a story, and there was game time, but I have no idea how things went.

Little boy listening to directions

Little boy listening to directions.

Just before we left for the morning, we presented Orphanage 2 with donations. We had underwear, socks, clothes, lice shampoo and lots more. I was able to thank the ladies for their dedication to the kids, telling them it was a thankless job. I also quoted James 1:27, “Pure religion is caring for the orphans and the widows….” and I encouraged them to trust God for guidance and wisdom.

The after noon was full of excitement. We started off breaking the teens and older elementary kids into four groups. We actually had more kids than we had the previous day. One little boy was NOT getting along with anyone. It finally culminated when he bit the neck of another boy and wouldn’t let go. He bit so hard it was back and blue. When asked why he did it, he could only tell us that the other boy had taken a blue dolphin bracelet. Not sure that was true. I actually pulled the kid off the pile and put him in a wrestling hold so he

watermelon party

18 watermelons helped us celebrate our last day.

couldn’t bite me and tried to take him back to the dorm. An older teen ran over and encouraged me to put him down. Mistake. She grabbed her hand and bit her hard, leaving a back and blue set of teeth marks.

After he was taken away, we had a great day. Paul told his testimony along with a story out of the Bible. Then

Sasha and Nastya

Nastya and Sasha eating watermelon.

Jenn shared her testimony, which also was able to connect with the other teens who were listening.

The day ended with a watermelon party. We’d purchased 18 watermelons. It was gone in 10 minutes or less. It was great fun. It was sad leaving. Be praying for Elya, Alena, Nastya and Zyna. Elya is 14 and we believe she’s close to seeing God do a work in her heart. These others who were special to me. They need Christ’s love, too.

Nastya and Sasha play with 'clay'

Nastya and Sasha play with 'clay'

Tuesday, August 17 was the first day of vacation Bible school at the camp in Zelenogorsk, just outside of Saint Petersburg, Russia. We arrived at around 10:30 am to teach the little children at the camp for orphans about the Potter and the Clay. We sectioned the kids off into three groups. And, simultaneously we would hold story time, craft, memory verse and recreation, then rotate throughout the morning.

The kids seemed really receptive to hearing the Bible story. Olga, the Orphan Outreach Director in St. Petersburg, has done a great job teaching these kids. Many of them already knew the songs, Bible verses and at one point even helped us through the days of creation.

Zyna is new to Orphanage 2

Zyna has only been in this orphanage for a few days.

Following our formal VBS, we just PLAYED with the kids. It is truly amazing how spending a little time with a child who feels worthless can pick up their spirits. There are three kids that seem to be ‘hanging out’ with me. Nastya, Alena and Sergey. These little ones so want to feel worth. The want to be loved. They want to be important. That’s been my focus all week. Just to give extra attention to a few kids who don’t get one-on-one time with adults.

Today was an emotional day for a few in our group. They haven’t verbalized why there have been tears. I’m sure they’re processing everything.

Chelsea stands with Elya

Chelsea (left) stands with Elya (right) as they listen to verse together.

Perhaps they’re feeling badly that these little ones have no where to turn, no one to love them, no one who cares. Perhaps they’re feeling guilty because they’re going to leave and then these kids will be right back to where they were before we came.  Or, maybe they are concerned for their souls.

We got a taste of what’s it like in the orphanage when a fight broke out between two boys. These two boys were sitting in craft time when one tried to take something from the other. The other objected. The one got up, stood above him and (before we could do anything) cold cocked him right in the face. It had to hurt. That drew MY attention obviously. As I stood to get him off this unsuspecting kid, he took off. We tried to get the situation under control. The next thing we knew the ‘victim’ took off after the boy.  That’s the picture of orphan life — looking out for self, because nobody’s looking out for you.

Officially, there are about 800,000 orphans in Russia. Many of these kids have been abandoned at birth, have

Teen girls orphanage

Teen girls get their name tags before VBS starts.

been taken away from parents, or both parents have died. A few of the teenage girls look so hardened by years of institutionalism. One teen, 16, has been in the system for more than 11 years. It’s heartbreaking to hear that many of them have no dreams — other than leaving the orphanage, getting an education and find a job. They can’t tell you specifically what they’d like to do. The reality is most of these kids will end up selling drugs, other organized crime, prostitution, or dead by the time their 18.

These girls listened to every one Emily’s testimony. They appeared to connect with her. Then, Katie was able to share the Gospel through chalk art — telling the girls that our sins put black marks on our lives, but God removes the marks through His blood and changes our ‘marks’ into a portrait of Jesus. They just LOVED watching her do this. Rather than being cold and inattentive, they became warm and open.

Wednesday, we’ll be doing ‘Part 2’ of our VBS with this same two groups, (Orphanage 2 and 60). More posts to follow.

Zelenogorsk – Day 1

Posted: August 17, 2010 in my day, travel

On Monday, August 16th we traveled (by bus) about an hour from St. Petersburg, Russia to Zelenogorsk, along the Gulf of Finland. It was a beautiful drive to the northwest. The winding road took us through the forests bordering St. Petersburg. It reminded me a lot of home — green pine trees, along the calm waters of the Gulf.

We arrived at our hotel at around noon. We got unpacked and made our way down to lunch, which consisted of the same thing we had everywhere else. Fish in white sauce, pork in white sauce/cheese, cucumbers, cabbage salad, and similar foods. It was good. What I need to do is pick one thing — eat that for that meal, and then eat something else for the next meal. I guess I like variety in every meal. I keep eating a little of everything.

Team plays with parachute at camp.

Team plays with parachute at camp.

After lunch, we traveled just a few minutes to the first camp. It was just off the main road, but deep into the woods. The camp is a former Communist Summer Youth Camp, where young people during the days of the Soviet Union were trained in the Soviet system. Many of these camps have been converted into new types of summer camps. Some have because Christian camps, others have been converted into summer camps for orphans.

This camp was the summer home of Orphanage #2 and #16. Monday’s visit was focused on just play. So we did. We just played all afternoon with the kids. I was so frustrated with my physical situation. I wasn’t able to play soccer, volleyball or basketball. For the first time EVER — I felt old. Many of the team were able to reach out to these kids. Some of the team stayed on the soccer field showing the kids their best moves (some were awesome, too – watch the video). Others made balloon animals (like me) for the littler kids. While others went back to the main building and did face painting and did the girls nails.

One of the little girls took a liking to me. Her name is Lulya. She’s a eight year old who just wants to feel loved. I told her (in the little Russian I

Lulya blows up beach ball.

Lulya blows up beach ball. Not sure she trusts me yet.

know) that she was pretty, to which she infaticly denied. She obviously has a very low self esteem. However, I was able to spend a little bit of time with her — carrying her on my shoulders, spinning her around, tickling her and just trying to talk with her. By the end of the afternoon she was holding my hand, as if we were good buddies and as we parted she told me she loved me.

A few of the other teammates had similar experiences.

Tuesday, we’re heading back. We’ll spend time sharing Bible stories with the little kids in the morning. Then in the afternoon, we’ll tackle a harder issue — teenagers. They weren’t very warm to us when we arrived — typical teens. We’re praying God will do a work in their hearts as we head back.

Thanks for praying and continue to pray for health issues. Everyone’s doing pretty well. I’ve been struck with a cough that’s dropped into my lungs. It’s not TOO bad yet, but I don’t want it to get worse.

We’ve be planning for this for several months. Finally, we’re on our way to St. Petersburg, Russia. We have a group of 21 heading there today.

We were all ON TIME. I was the last to arrive because I had to stop and get my Russian Dictionary and practice my Russian on the airplane.

We didn’t have any major kinks. When we arrived the United ticket agent didn’t know what she was doing and couldn’t find our tickets. But, after a telephone call to MTS Travel (our travel agency), they were able to get our tickets with little trouble. A few of us, however, weren’t able to get boarding passes all the way to Saint Petersburg, me included. So, we hope to be able to get them in Chicago, when we land. We have a three hour lay-over, so hopefully we’ll be able to get them.

We’ll keep you posted on what’s going on right here. This is suppose to post to my Facebook page, so we’ll see.