Busted Bottom On The Oregon Trail

Monument Marathon
Scottsbluff, Nebraska
September 30, 2017

This marathon was about reconnecting. It starts out with reconnecting (or at least a good attempt) to my hardest but most favorite training plan. The marathon run and the days following allow for reconnecting with cooperative friends and “kids growing up” friends in Lusk, Wyoming.

Unfortunately, this chapter of my 51 marathon journey ends with me reconnecting with yet another injury. It is a bittersweet, good news – bad news discovery that my aging body continues to struggle to get back to where it was just a few short years ago.

I have never been a natural athlete. I simply have the mental capacity and discipline to push myself through even the hardest of training plans. I know that my best running self requires flat out hard work. I thought I was ready….

It was June 10, 2017 and I had just completed a trail marathon in Oregon. I absolutely could not get to sleep. I could feel my body saying, “What in the heck did you just do?” I knew the answer. I had pushed my body beyond its preparation for the race.

I thought I was saving my newly replaced hip by mixing in biking, swimming and elliptical work into my 4 days a week running plan. What I came to realize in the wee hours of that sleepless night was that nothing prepares one for the rigors of a marathon like pounding out the miles on the road and trails. I had my best marathon times when I was running 6 days per week.

Was I ready to commit to the rigorous Hanson Distance Project training plan once again? Attempts at speed work over the last year and a half proved too painful on the still recovering muscles of my left hip. So, I gave up and focused on long slow base mileage. While effective to a degree, it did not prepare me to race a marathon. I really wanted to perform at my best and not “phone it in”. My body was telling me that it was time to work harder or race slower.

Over the next couple weeks and after some good rest, I felt like I was ready to commit to the 6 days per week plan once again. I felt like I had turned a corner. I consulted with the kinesiology department at the University of Michigan to essentially “get permission” to start speed work.

They consented with the condition that I listen to my body and continue the regular foot and ankle stability work previously prescribed. So, I continued to religiously get in this extra work on top of my regular stretching routine and weight room work. It was a lot. But, slowly, I could feel my ankles and hips grow stronger and more stable. I was no longer clipping the inside of one foot with the shoe of the other when I ran.

What I have called the Hanson Distance Project developed a new name in the couple years since I had followed it closely. Runners on its Facebook page had adopted the name of the book put out by the coaches – “The Hanson Marathon Method” or “HMM” for short. I went to the calendar and counted 16 weeks back from the September 30th marathon date.

A July 1 start meant that I would be starting in week 15 of the plan. I was not worried. I had 2 marathons over the last 60 days. I was confident in my base. I was nervous about the start of speed work and tempo miles however.

The Hanson plan operates off of cumulative fatigue. There are 6 days of running per week and you learn to run on tired legs as the miles and weeks add up. Tuesday is speed work from 4 to 7 miles and Thursday is marathon pace work from 6 to 10 miles. The Sunday long run never exceeds 16 miles but it doesn’t need to. With the speed work, tempo efforts and daily miles, your legs will be ready for 26 miles at the end of the 16 week cycle. I knew this from the experience I had with the plan from January of 2011 to the onset of my arthritis problem in July of 2014.

So, on July 1, 2017, I laced up the shoes and went back to the plan that had made me the best runner of my life during that more than 3 year period. Tuesdays were speed work. In the months since my hip replacement, my attempts to run fast had caused the muscles around the new hip to hurt. I was pleased to find that this was no longer happening.

Thursdays in the HMM plan were also hard days. These runs required you to run at your desired marathon pace. As the weeks went by, I started to run out of time to get 8 and 10 mile runs done in the dark before work. In the afternoons after work, I wilted in the August heat and struggled with these workouts even though they took place after a Wednesday of complete rest. Still, my times gradually came down into the 9:30 to 9:45 per mile range.

Gradually, I could feel myself growing stronger. More importantly, I was feeling like a true runner again. My lungs were bursting on the hard days. My tired legs were carrying me to decent paces on the slow days. The HMM is not easy by any means but I wasn’t looking for easy. I was looking for strength to carry me to a marathon time of 4 hours and 30 minutes or better. I could feel the plan working. July and August were easily my best running weeks since the hip replacement.

Then, on September 3rd, I was on a 10 mile Sunday long run with good friend Dean Bott. Around mile 6, I stopped to take a picture of an eagle. When I restarted the run, “something” pulled in my right hamstring/groin/glute area. It felt like a muscle pull.

I cursed my luck but thought it would clear up in the days to come. It was 27 days to my next marathon. I was in good shape. I had enough conditioning to carry me through if I didn’t miss too many workouts.

I took the next 2 days off. On day 3, I attempted a slow 2 miles on the treadmill followed by 3 miles on a stationary bike. The next day, I managed a decent 5 miles on the treadmill. There was tightness in the piriformis muscle and the groin was sore but I ran under 10 minutes per mile. It was the same the following day. Five decent miles with the pain maybe a 3 on a 1 to 10 scale.

I did begin to worry. The pain seemed to move around from the hamstring to the glute and then deep in the groin. I wondered if the arthritis had returned. My orthopedic doctor, Todd Galdes, had told me that I would need a new hip on the right side in years but he could not say how many years. Could it really have happened in less than 2 years?

I called Dr. Galdes and asked him to check the x-ray from my March checkup. Were there signs of the arthritis progressing? It took a couple days but he did respond and assured me that the March x-ray looked good. He encouraged me to come in for another x-ray if I didn’t improve.

On September 9, I went for an 8 mile run outside. It was miserable. I slowed down after mile 3 and shuffled to a slow finish. The pain felt a lot like my left hip prior to surgery. I told Mary that I was sure I needed another new hip. I had felt this way before. I had run for 18 months with pain much like this. I wasn’t happy about my prospects at all.

I spent the next 3 days working out on the elliptical and spin bike. On September 14, I got in a 5 mile run outside but the hip muscles were still tight. With no improvement over the next 6 days, I went and got another x-ray. Doctor Galdes assured me that there were no structural problems and the hip socket looked solid. There were no signs of the arthritis progressing. He thought that it might be tendinitis. He also didn’t feel like I would cause any permanent damage if I ran the marathon.

I had a couple different massages in the 10 days leading up to the marathon. I got an evaluation by local athletic trainer, Joelle Beaudoin. I even got adjusted by a chiropractor twice. I went swimming. To replace a Sunday long run, I did 10 miles on the elliptical. It was a mix of everything I could think of to work on or evaluate my problem.

With just a handful of actual running workouts since the start of my problem, I still felt like I could handle the marathon. I didn’t feel like I could hit my 4:30 goal but I never doubted that I could ignore the discomfort and finish.

I had 2 glorious months of training where I felt like the runner of old. The last month was a huge disappointment. I left for Nebraska saddened because I knew the story would once again require painfully gutting out another 26.2.

Surrounded by family and good friends, I get through the marathon by focusing on the finish and the reason for the running.

Mary and I were up early on Friday, September 29. Normally, I like to get to the marathon location a day or two early. There is just less stress if I am not worried about airline service. Big Brothers Big Sisters held their annual large donor appreciation dinner and wine auction on Thursday. It was an event that I just could not miss. This time, I would have to count on Delta Airlines to get me to the start line on time. So, we headed to the airport a little bleary eyed from the night before and just one day to get to the starting line on time.

Delta delivered. The route took us from Traverse City to Minneapolis to Denver with no problems. After picking up our rental car, we stayed off the interstate for the most part and soaked in the wide open spaces of the west on the way to Scottsbluff. At Fort Morgan, Colorado, we spotted a Taco John’s. With corporate headquarters in Cheyenne, Wyoming, there are no Taco John’s in Michigan. I had never fueled up on fast food nor fast Mexican food prior to a marathon before but we couldn’t pass up a family favorite location.

In Scottsbluff, we met up with my mom and brother, Gordon (a.k.a. “Gordy” or “Pete” – it’s a long story). Gordy had taken off a few days from his ranch job on the Montana and Wyoming border to ride with mom from her retirement home in Belle Fourche, South Dakota.

Together, we walked a short distance from their hotel to the home of Russ and Mary Nielsen. I had first met Russ some 20 years earlier when I was working for Niobrara Electric Association (NEA) in Lusk, Wyoming and Russ was on the board of directors for High Plains Electric Cooperative in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. We had reconnected after we both joined the board of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) in 2008. Russ and Mary were now retired after selling their cattle ranch in eastern Nebraska. Russ had also left the NRECA board about one year earlier after stepping down from his local cooperative board.

We enjoyed a home cooked pasta meal. Russ’s Mary, who had also graciously picked up my race packet while volunteering at the race expo, was all concerned about making “the” best meal for her first ever marathon running guest. I assured her that it was excellent which was the truth. After some visiting, we walked mom and Gordy back to their hotel. Then, we settled into the guest room in the basement of Russ and Mary’s beautiful home. I needed to sleep like a baby and I certainly did.

My Mary and Russ dropped me off at the site of the finish line, Five Rocks Amphitheater, outside of town early the next morning. I was supposed to take a bus from there to the starting line. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that the bus driver had slept in and volunteers would be shuttling runners to the starting line in personal vehicles. There was a buzz of concern but it settled quickly. There was no panic among the volunteers or the runners. We just started piling in cars.

The starting line was at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center. This would be the highest elevation of the day at 4556 feet above sea level. (Average course elevation was 3900 feet) They had a nice warm building with coffee, snacks and indoor plumbing. With only 91 marathon runners, there was plenty of room for everyone to enjoy a leisurely hour or so of visiting. I chatted with a handful of runners who were also working on their 50 state quest.

After a nice national anthem, the 5th running of the Platte Valley Companies Monument Marathon kicked off at 7:30 a.m. mountain time. The first almost 6 miles was a steady downhill descent. I knew I needed to go out slow and steady so I just settled in to a pace just under 9:45 minutes per mile.

We turned the corner around mile 6 and the course flattened out considerably. There were a few gradual inclines as well. I ran from 10:09 to 10:49 over the next 5 miles. The muscle issue was present from the start but it wasn’t getting worse. It felt like a vice grip on my right back cheek. After 11 miles, I was a bit ahead of the pace I had talked to Mary about the night before.

I found Russ at his volunteer post at the 11.5 mile mark. We exchanged some quick pleasantries as I was beginning to tire. Shortly after that, both Marys, mom and Gordy were walking up to spectate. If I had been 30 seconds faster, I would have missed them.

As I pushed on, there were a lot of splits and more gradual inclines. The course was very well marked and populated with plenty of volunteers who also made sure runners were going in the right direction. Near mile 16, the course started the traverse through Mitchell Pass and around Scotts Bluff National Monument where the pioneers crossed with wagons and hand carts. Miles 12 through 17 slipped into a slower range of 10:47 to 12:45. More than 3 weeks of few quality workouts were beginning to expose my conditioning.

Mile 18 started a few miles of two track dirt roads through the visually stunning badlands of Scotts Bluff National Monument. There were also some sections of rocky gravel that was miserable to walk and run on at that point in my race. I assumed this was also the area where we were warned to lookout for rattlesnakes! I didn’t see any and I’m not sure I could have gotten out of their way either! Miles 18 through 22 ranged from 11:34 to 13:51 as I walked more and more.

I never really felt like I hit the wall. I used my Succeed powder in 2 bottles over the first 20 miles then switched to course Gatorade. I also took a Honey Stinger energy gel every 5-6 miles over the first 18. After that, I just couldn’t stomach anymore. My legs were tired and my right hip area was certainly tight. I simply didn’t have the conditioning to go faster. It was a beautiful day with temps from 45 to 70 degrees and only a slight breeze.

There was a nice paved bike/walking trail when the dirt and rock portion finally ended. At mile 25, Ryan Reiber and his wife Nancy were manning the aid station. Ryan and I were both young electric cooperative managers when we first met back in 1991. I had just started at NEA and Ryan was at Panhandle Rural Electric Membership Association (PREMA) in Alliance, Nebraska. We golfed together, attended meetings together, shared war stories and went to a Broncos game during my years in Wyoming. About the same age, we leaned on each other as friends in the same line of work do.

Ryan was on the board of the Western Nebraska Community College Foundation. This foundation was the recipient of the marathon profits. To date, the marathon had raised over $250,000 for the foundation that turned the money into scholarships for students.

Ryan and I had corresponded via email prior to the marathon and I figured I would see him at some point. Mile 25 was the best time. I needed a boost and it made my heart happy to see him. We traded smiles and a half hug, half back slap while I tossed out some colorful adjectives in reference to my old age.

After that the course just got completely cruel. After a flag lined, shady lane, the course veered around a cemetery (yeah, a cemetery on mile 26!) and for maybe a quarter mile, the route dipped steeply down a rocky trail. “Are you &^%$#@ kidding me?”, I muttered as the descent started. It was a miserable albeit short climb up the other end.
Finally, I could see the finish line at 5 Rocks where the day had started with a car pool in the dark. The last 4.2 miles had ranged from 12:16 to 13:54 (cemetery mile!). Mary, mom, and Gordy were joined at the finish line by a long time friend of ours from Lusk, Wyoming, Candy Dooper.

I crossed the finish line, collected my medal then just stood there and cried for a short time. It kind of caught me by surprise. I chalked it up to the stress of the past month and the pain of the marathon. All the monkeys on my back had mentally exited when I bent over to accept the hardware around my neck. I was one marathon closer to my goal. I dried my eyes and headed to the massage tent.

“Just thirteen more, just thirteen more.”, I whispered as I walked to that massage tent. It physically hurt but the thought of not reaching 51 was even more painful.

I grew up as an electric co-op manager at the smallest of electric cooperatives in Lusk, Wyoming. I often talk about getting my “co-op masters degree” at Niobrara Electric Association. It was also a time in our lives where we had the best of friends and some great mentors.

Reunited with my supporters, we headed out to get some food. “Runza” is a popular sandwich chain in Nebraska and it hit the spot. With no stomach for a sandwich or fries, I did have an appetite for a malt. Gordy was happy to get me one after I had collapsed at a nearby table.

We had a nice visit with Candy. She and Mary made plans to go shopping later in the day. Mom and Gordy headed back home after we wrapped up lunch. Ryan and Nancy pulled up as I was shuffling to the car and we had a brief, but much better visit.

Heading down the stairs at Russ and Mary’s house, I suspected there was something more wrong than a simple muscle pull. I had to take the steps one at a time due to the pain. After working my way through a shower, we put our feet up and watched University of Nebraska women’s volleyball. Mary Nielsen had been a long time high school volleyball coach during her teaching career prior to retirement. She was certainly a die hard fan. It made for a fun and relaxing evening.

The next morning, we parted ways with hugs and handshakes. The electric cooperative network talks about being a family. Our stay with Russ and Mary certainly felt like it. There was some melancholy in that final handshake with Russ. After all the years together, I think Russ and I silently were aware that this good-bye might be our last. One never knows where life may lead or where paths may cross.

We headed north as our trip would not be over for another few days. Having worked in 5 different states over the previous 30 some years, we had friends and acquaintances scattered about the country. I often talk about how many “wins” can you stack up in one activity. One of the “wins” of my state by state marathon journey was reconnecting with family and friends. So, I planned a trip up to Lusk, Wyoming where I was the General Manager of NEA from October 1991 to March of 1997.

On the way to Lusk, we stopped at the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument near Harrison, Nebraska. This facility is served by NEA and when we put in the underground service for the new visitors center during my time as manager, it was the first piece of underground wire ever installed by the little 2500 meter cooperative. I had gone over with the line crew to observe the connections being made.

I also wanted to stop at the visitors center because I was there when the building was opened and dedicated more than 20 years earlier. I had co-op brochures, some giveaway items and a cut-away Marathon water heater display at a table under a tent sent up for the facilities. I also had all 3 of my kids in tow because Mary was participating in a road bike event with some lady friends.

Collette was in diapers, Andy was 4 or 5 years old and Zach was going on 10. Zach was dressed in a Packer shirt and hat. Andy had his favorite blanket and stuffed dog. My little girl had her favorite blanket too. I laid out my wares on the top of a table with skirting around it and then put a sleeping bag underneath the table so the little ones had a place to play or sleep.

That day at Agate remains my all time favorite co-op day. I chatted with cooperative members. The kids were well behaved. Zach got into helping out his dad. Working duties and family responsibilities all clicked together. I put a picture of us together that day on my office wall wherever I went after our time at NEA. It felt good to walk the grounds and check out the displays inside. The only thing better would have been to have my now adult kids with me.

Once in Lusk, we caught up with John and Pat Bruch as they got out of church. John was on the board at NEA when I started there. His father was one of the original founders of the electric cooperative. As an EMT for Niobrara County, I had given his father his last ride off the ranch he loved. John and Pat had also hosted a farewell party for us. We had traded Christmas cards ever since I had moved on.

We went out to John and Pat’s house for lunch and a nice couple hour visit. We traded stories about our kids and grandkids, work, ranching, marathons and generally the years gone by. John was on oxygen for a health issue but other than that looked to be aging well. Pat was an avid walker and exerciser who Mary had in an aerobics class she led a couple decades earlier. She looked good as well.

John had taught me a great lesson on putting cooperative members first during my early management years at NEA. When I arrived, the board of directors were receiving 100% of their monthly medical premiums as compensation for their services. New to the board but not to the cooperative, John pointed out to everyone that the bylaws did not allow for this type of compensation. He felt like the members needed to be consulted via a vote on their bylaws.

We drafted language, put it on the ballot and at the annual meeting of the members, they agreed to pay their board members 50% of the medical premiums. John had taken money out of his own pocket while putting the membership first. It was the right thing to do and something that I never forgot.

After promising to keep them on our Christmas card list (Pat’s request as we headed out the door), it was back to Lusk. We settled into a basement room at Tom and Candy Dooper’s home. Tom and Candy were one of the first couples to befriend our small family when we moved to Lusk so long ago. We had stayed in touch over the years but had not seen them since they came up to Deadwood for a marathon run in 2012.

Tom and Candy had more old friends over for drinks and snacks that Sunday evening. It was awesome to see them all once again. We stood in the kitchen and sat in the living room catching up with Tina Carstensen, Shelly Larson, Jay and Leslie Hammond and the Doopers too. While we had many friends in Lusk and some weren’t available that evening, this was the core of our circle from “back in the day”. It was just like old times when we all had little kids growing up together. The sign of true friends is feeling comfortable in their presence no matter how many years have passed by.

On Monday, we had a completely full day of trying to catch up with our past. We started out at the Best Western Motel which was buzzing with activity due to the opening weekend of deer and antelope hunting. We were looking for the owner and another member of our circle of friends, Tom Wasserburger. He walked up to us and politely said, “Can I help you?” We hesitated before we sunk into his brain. His eyes got big and so did his smile as he apologized. It was a quick visit but just like years earlier, Tom’s enthusiasm and energy made it a good one.

Next up was a visit to the office at NEA a couple miles west of town. Time had rolled on but there were still a few people I had worked with long ago. The manager, Ken Ceaglske, and I had never met. Ken and I had traded a few emails over the years as Ken kept me up to date on the health of some of the former board members during my tenure.

As luck would have it, Ken was holding a discussion with his office staff when we walked in the front door unannounced. There were only 6 people in the office and I knew half of them – Chris Rejda, Twyla Barker and Rick Bridge. I had hired Twyla and Rick. It was great to see their eyes light up before a handshake and a hug. After some visiting, Ken gave us a tour of the office and newly remodeled manager’s house.

After that, it was a quick driving tour of cooperative territory. We drove a loop west from Lusk to Manville then north to Lance Creek before looping back east and entering town once again from the north. The wide open expanse never disappoints and the cooperative mission of serving where others won’t or can’t hits home.

I often joke that we didn’t have automated meters during my time at NEA. When we wanted to see if somebody had power in the dark, we simply got on a hill and looked for yard lights in the distance. It was a simple mode of operation and the territory hadn’t really changed much over the years.

We met Candy for lunch at a must stop location, The Pizza Place. More than 20 years earlier, a young couple from Chicago moved to Lusk to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. I don’t know why they stopped in Lusk but the town was fortunate that they never left. Their specialty was authentic had tossed pizza. For me, a connoisseur of bread in all forms, it was the breadsticks that had me craving for weeks prior to the trip. We had some of each and they did not disappoint.

After that we stopped at Tom’s place of work, Lusk State Bank, to see the remodeling that he had told us about. Friend, Jay Hammond, worked there as well. It was Tom and Jay who led an ownership change at the bank a year or two before Mary and I left Lusk. The old board members at the time were ready to sell and wanted a new group of buyers from the community to keep the bank local.

I was fortunate to be included in the new group of buyers during that long ago change. We were a group of mostly late 30 to early 40 year olds who scraped together cash and personal financing to make an investment in the future to keep the bank locally owned.

I had been the board president for a short time. This was the first time I had stepped back into the bank since departing. It was bittersweet. While it was nice to see that the bank had grown to 3 times its original size, there was a twinge of melancholy because I had not been a part of that growth.

Still, it was great to see the success. Tom, Jay and the rest of our friends had done a great job with the bank over the years. This was certainly not a surprise. I had successes of my own that I would not have had if I had stayed. Every decision has a price. I decided I was happy for us all. Our paths had taken different courses over the years but in the end, we were all where we truly wanted to be.

Next up was a visit to the home of Everett and Fredda Lou Kilmer. Everett was another NEA board member responsible for giving me the opportunity to manage as a young man. I had traveled to many meetings with Everett over my years at NEA. He was a mentor then and had held a special place in my heart ever since.

Everett taught me the importance of going to DC for the NRECA legislative rally. Our elected officials needed to know we were coming and they needed to know we were not going to stop coming. This was a lesson I would carry with me throughout my career.

Everett was a Democrat in a mostly Republican county and state. Wyoming had a democratic Senator named Alan Simpson at the time. Senator Simpson truly hated electric cooperatives. He felt our time had passed and that we didn’t need low interest financing from the government. Still, Everett would walk in with his wry smile, country wit and make the argument in support of all things cooperative.

As I look back through the filter of a few decades now, these verbal debates in the side rooms of the Senate building in our nations capitol were coy pitched battles by 2 titans in their own right. Everett, the rancher from the least populated county in Wyoming never backed down from the big utility backed, well spoken Senator. It was a fight for what you believe in lesson that made a lasting impression. I am forever grateful that I had Everett by my side as I learned what passion for a cause was all about.

As Mary and I stepped into Everett and Fredda Lou’s home, I knew they would not be the same as I remembered them from our last visit several years earlier and our departure back in 1998. Fredda Lou answered the door with her signature smile and Everett too had the grin I could never forget as he struggled to stand to shake my hand. I said, “You don’t have to get up.” He responded, “Yes I do.” I didn’t argue. They both were dealing with health issues and clearly the bodies were failing but the heart and spark was still inside them both.

Now 88, Everett had had a stroke and prostate cancer over the past few years. Fredda Lou had knee issues and a heart condition as well. Everett was always one to tell a joke. He talked about the last time Fredda Lou was in the hospital when he asked the doctor to slip her a “happy” pill. He said, “I’m still waiting for it to take affect!” Fredda Lou with comedic timing that could only come from living with a man like Everett for the past 60 plus years, calmly stated, “I was happy before I got married.”

We stayed less than 2 hours but it was a wonderful time. These 2 were good to us when we were learning and growing our family. To reunite for a short time and catch up on family and life was a gift. We drove away grateful and not knowing if we would see their smiles ever again.

The first Monday of every month is the Lusk Volunteer Fire Department holds its regular meeting. I introduced Tom and Jay to the fire department in my last couple years in Lusk. I had been a member of the department almost immediately after arriving in town back in 1991. It is a small, close knit group of volunteers who provide a valuable service to the rural community and surrounding countryside.

I attended the pre-meeting social hour to catch up with a few of the firemen that remained from my time there such as Royce Thompson, James Santistevens and Brett Roetman. I had ties to some of the new members as well. Doug Lytle had worked at NEA during one summer. Zach and I had watched him play Arena League Football in Green Bay when we lived in Oconto Falls. Shawn Leimser’s dad Dave was the fire chief when I came to Lusk. Dave was also one of my linemen at NEA. Ryan Meng’s grandfather Jim was on the NEA board when I was hired. I had also been a basketball referee for many of Ryan’s junior high games. So, it was a fine evening of reconnecting.

After that, I was off to the Pizza Place to chat with former NEA employees Jim and Twyla Barker. I had hired Twyla as the receptionist and Jim as an electrician when the co-op formed a beyond the meter electrical business to fill a community need. They met at work and later married.

Twyla and I had served on the ambulance service together as well as being co-workers. We had a few memorable ambulance calls during those years. There was a baby delivered at the woman’s prison in Lusk (thank the Lord Doctor Turner arrived when he did!), a pedal to the metal, lights flashing ambulance ride to Casper with an attempted suicide victim (I was in the back with Twyla behind the wheel) and the delivery of a terminal cancer patient to her home ranch for her last days (it was a quiet ride back to town that night).

While the commercial electrical service was still going after all these years, Jim had moved on to an oil field business. Twyla had moved into training and benefit duties at the cooperative. It was more time talking about family and life events over the years. It was great to see them happy, healthy and together.

Then, as I wrapped up that visit, Cal and Tina Carstensen walked in. Mary had invited them. We went from good bye hugs to glad to see you alive embraces. Cal and Tina had 3 kids similar in age to ours. Tina and Mary walked and exercised together. Cal and I played many a pick up game of basketball during those years. Cal, now retired from the railroad, had just arrived home from a motorcycle trip to Fargo, North Dakota. They too were happy, healthy and enjoying the new phase of life.

So very quickly, the busy day of catching up with old friends was over. We put our feet up and closed the night with Candy and Tom. The next morning, we gave our last good-bye hugs and put Lusk, Wyoming in our rearview mirror once again. The little town on the plains of eastern Wyoming will forever hold a special place in our hearts.

When I looked in the rearview mirror at Lusk, I thanked the Lord that my path took me through that small western community. I tried to give that town as much as it gave me during our time there.

Back in Michigan, I would finally get some definite resolution to my nagging problem. This journey was never about just one marathon. I knew I had to “get right” before I could get to the ultimate end.

It was time to get back home, back to work and back to working on the mystery that was literally the pain in my backside. After an MRI, Doctor Galdes called me to say he didn’t like what he saw. There was indications of a possible torn labrum and maybe a stress fracture in my pelvis. I made an appointment to get another x-ray and talk to him face to face.

In the couple days leading up to the x-ray, I googled torn labrum and got really concerned. The surgery was difficult and the recovery was longer than hip surgery. With the arthritis I already had, I began to contemplate just getting a new hip on the right side. It was a matter of 2 surgeries, 2 recoveries or just starting over with a total hip replacement a few years earlier than planned. I wasn’t happy. It was an agonizing wait.

Finally, Doctor Galdes and I were standing in front of my x-ray. Using angles different than the last ones that focused just on my hip socket, he found a fracture in the pubic bone that was already showing signs of healing. There was also a slight tear in the end of the labrum but he wasn’t concerned about it. The pain in my backside was the stress fracture. I had literally broken my ass bone.

Obviously, I couldn’t run a marathon in just 3 days. I didn’t argue when he suggested I cancel the Minnesota marathon and not run for 6 weeks. While not good news, I was actually happy because there was no surgery of any kind required. I could live with the labrum and the bone would heal. I walked to the car ecstatic in a weird way.

I had completed the Nebraska run with a busted pelvis. The mystery was in how it had happened. Doctor Galdes and his colleagues were puzzled. This mystery would be up to me to solve. I was okay with that. I was in control and moving on. This journey wasn’t ever about one marathon. It has always been about 51. I was broken but not done.

I dusted off the elliptical, found my swim goggles, oiled the stationery bike and made a new training plan to start on December 1.