This does not suck

This title, this does not suck, is thanks to a lady, Jamie, that we met on a Marathon Tours and Travel trip last year, Napa to Sonoma half marathon.  She used this term when talking about how things are not perfect but at the same time it could be a whole lot worst.  You could also look at the other way things are pretty damn good.

I guess it would easily sum up our life.  It is not perfect and there are things that come up from time to time but in reality it does not suck, at all.  Health issues come up, the lost of loved ones and acquaintances and all that is going on around the world but you have to look at life in a positive light.  The glass is always half full for me.

On our way to Park City, Utah and we don’t even ski.  I use to, when I was younger, but now feel like being in the cold for extended periods of time, no longer appeals to me.  Our plan is to some serious exercising while there.

Watching CNN while in flight and understand there was a shooting at the FT. Lauderdale Airport.  Once again somewhere we have recently been and this time 5 lives were lost.  Not going to soap box here but this is getting crazy really quick.  We usually don’t worry as we travel but you have to stop and wonder.

It was strange how when Catherine and I were walking the terminal to get our steps in, prior to our flight, we noticed all the flights to somewhere warm including FLL.  We wished we were headed south but knowing that we could have been in the area at the time is a bit much to wrap my head around.

As Catherine often says you can get hit by a car crossing a street but I must admit I do take in my surrounding as we come and go.  As we travel all over the world my head is on a constant swivel.  I use to tell my kids, as they were growing up, if something happens around them they need to move away as opposed to standing around watching.  You see all the time people taking out there cell phones taking pictures but for me, head down and run away is my plan.

I had one regional upgrade left from last year so I am sitting in First Class and Catherine is back in Economy Comfort.  The guilt is overwhelming and I did offer her the seat and I guess in her mind it was my turn.  I am going to pay for the upgrade for both of us on the 10th back to ATL

Lucky for us it is warming up in Utah so the high and lows should be in the 30’s and it will only be 4 nights there.  My sister, Gwen and my sister-in-law, Joan will also be there so we should have a great small family reunion.  The last time we were all together was when my son, Shawn got married, last May.

My brother, Garrett and his family love to ski and Gwen was talking, sled rides and snow shoe tours and I mentioned that I love to remain warm so we will probably spend our time in the lounge drinking warm beverages.

We are all here to Celebrate Garrett and Helen’s 45th wedding anniversary.  Turns out at 16, I was their best man and made quite an impression on everyone during the wedding with my hour-long, stand up comic, toast.  I don’t remember much about what I said at the time but do remember that I might have sneaked a glass of wine or two before the festivities.

As close we got to skis

Happy couple

Speaking of warm, after this trip and three days back in ATL we are off to one of our favorites places, Key West Florida.  We are going do a half marathon there and really looking forward to that trip.  We were there twice last year, once on a trip and again later that year with the motor home.

Unfortunately I will have to walk that race since I just found out that I have an aneurism and dissection of my right common Iliac artery.  I am going to have a CT scan of my groin area when I am back in ATL to see the extent of the aneurism and discuss best course of action moving forward.  It is like whack a mole, once you figure out the solution to one health issue another one pops up.

They talk so much about heredity and how it plays a role on life expectancy.  It is a double edge sword since you can do your best but it is what it is.  Both of our parents lived into their late 80’s and early 90’s but you have to also take into respect their health history and they both had history of aneurysms.

I first thought there was a problem with my Aorta leading to my aorta valve that was replaced over two years ago but turns out it was fine but thanks to my Cardiologist who asked for a CT scan of my stomach area they were able to find the Iliac problem.  They call that an incidental finding.

Garrett also has an aneurysm in his stomach that is under surveillance so it was no surprise to me that I would also have a problem.  I have decided to stop running just from the concern of impact of running and also to keep my blood pressure down.  I might end up back at the Cleveland Clinic if surgery is necessary since you want someone who does a lot of these types of surgeries and they did a great job with my heart valve replacement.

I have a few open time slots in the early part of this year so I should be able to schedule the surgery, if necessary and keep up with our Nomad lifestyle with style.  This is a great example of this does not suck.  It might be inconvenient, not perfect, but I have great insurance and I think I have a great team on top of the situation.

In comparison to all going around me right now I can’t complain.  Some people might say it is the worst of times but for me I tend to disagree.  The difference now is that we are getting information, good or bad, from around the world at a moments notice 24 hours a day.

The CT scan showed that it might not be a simple procedure thru the groin so I will have to find someone else to asses the problem and probable solution.  No better place to wait for a phone call than Key West Florida.

It is bit expensive here but in the big picture not so bad.  If we were to come back for a while we could bring the Motorhome, once again, or find a nice AirBNB.  Eating out is the most expensive part of the trip and if you stay awhile that dilutes the price of the airfare.  Great place to run and there is water everywhere with really friendly people.

A mystery developed while there and that concerns all the people working in the service industry that were from somewhere else, as in, not the USA.  The Marriott beach side, where we stayed, the entire staff had slight accents and some mentioned they were from Romania.  I have to figure that one out.  It was like being on a cruise ship.  The were really busting their tails and over the top friendly but makes you wonder why them and not us.

The hotel was great and even though they sent me an email asking if I wanted to pay for the upgrade, I declined but got the presidential suite anyhow.  I could definitely live there at $350 per night.

I had a chance encounter with someone famous while we were there.  I walked up to who I thought was Joe Johns, with CNN, and said to him, “you know many people think you are someone famous”  he said, “we were just saying the same thing about you as you approached us”.  I then said “after hearing your voice I now know that you are famous” and he simply replied, “you are right.”  He asked my name and introduced me to the lady he was sitting with but never said his name.

I do get that a lot with people thinking I am some famous random basketball player but rarely are the tables turned.  I usually just answer that I am a long distance runner since my 37 year profession as a pilot/manager is not the answer they are looking for.

We had a great race while in Key West.  At first I was not looking forward to it since I had decided to walk the entire 13.1 miles for the first time, but after a few miles I was able to get into the swing of things.  We started at the very back and first was able to go by slower walkers.  As time went on I was able to pick up the pace and was doing about 14 minutes a mile.  I had planned on 15 minutes a mile so I was presently surprised.

Walking at that pace was hurting Catherine’s shins so she decided to jog along side.  Like I said I had never walked that far before during a race so I made a game of it.  I would see someone off 1/4 mile ahead and would then try to catch them.  One by one I would go by since by then I had figured out I actually had two speeds.  With my arms up I was able to clip off a mile in 13 minutes.

The last three to four miles were the best since by then a lot of runners were now struggling and walking slowly so I was going by them like they were standing still.  The original plan was to finish in about 3 1/2 hours but actually got it done in around 2:56.  Very proud of my sub 3 hours walk of a half marathon.

You could say that was a PR, personal record, since I had never done that before.  The next day some of my muscle groups that usually are not used in that way were not very happy with me but no big deal.

I did have a bit of a problem near the end when I woman grabbed her husband’s hand, he was clearly struggling and made him start running so they could finish under three hours.  You could tell he was not very happy with the idea and as I went by I mentioned that this is how people die at the finish and she yelled back, “you don’t know my husband”.   I threw up my hands and said, “you are right but please be careful”.

He took that to heart and walked the last 1/4 mile and still finished under 3 hours and I congratulated them at the finish.  You hear all at the time about people dropping dead at the finish as they tried to accomplish something their heart had not signed up for.

Of course I did

Happy Finish at Fat Tuesday

Presently on our way back to ATL and I gave Catherine the last First Class Seat.  Still waiting for a call for an appointment but such is life, because this does not suck, at all.  I have my Doctors cell phone number so will give him a call tomorrow If I have not heard from anyone.  I guess we might be off to Cleveland in a few days.

It was two years after I first heard about my heart murmur before I had my operation so I am hoping with the same every 6 months look-see approach we can hold off another surgery for me.  If not we will get it done and move on with whatever twists and turns life has in store for us.

I decided to get a two opinions so next week we are off to Seattle to see a great group of Surgeons at Harbourview Vascular Medical Clinic.  I very good friend of ours, Kim, is a trauma nurse at the same hospital and she recommended I see them.  She actually knows the surgeon that I will be seeing and we are planning on Lunch or Dinner after the doctor visit since she lives there.

After that we are off to the Caribbean for two weeks this time.  The first week will be with our friends and the second week we are going to go back out from San Juan.  My sister, Gwen and sister-in-law Joan will be in St, Kitts so planning on seeing them when we go thru there on the cruise.

After that trip we are off to the Cleveland Clinic for their assessment of my aneurysm.  With that I think I will have a good game plan moving forward.  Like I said before I am hoping for a every 6 month look-see plan of action.  If not, then I guess we will have to just plan the surgery and recover just like I did the last time and move forward because this does not suck.

After ATL we took a side trip to Tampa, more specifically Largo Florida.  While there we visited Catherine’s brother Greg, wife Sara and kids.  While there they did have a half marathon but due to some storms over the weekend the race was cancelled.

Which one first

Right now we are headed to Gulf Shores Alabama.  We had a few days between Seattle and San Juan so since we have to be somewhere it might as well be somewhere relatively warm and they have a half marathon on Sunday so sounds good to me.  I cold front went thru so the 70’s are now going to be the high 50’s but no big deal because this does not suck.

We loved our time there but kinda wished it was a bit warmer but at the same time it was great for the race.  The race took us mostly through the trail system and the views were great.  The last 4 miles were along the major road along the coast and the strong wind was in our face.  I put my head down and was still accomplish another PR shaving another 1 minute off my previous walking half marathon time.

It was definitely off-season which was good when it comes to the price for everything and we both agree that we are going to make a trip back here during warmer temperatures.  It was told that you really don’t want to be here during Spring break, however.

Before and after

Doing something different when it comes to our travel pattern.  Usually we come back to ATL for a few days then move on to our next destination.  Due to time constraints and trying to get several things done we connected thru ATL as we are on our way to Seattle for a doctor appointment for my aneurism evaluation.

We are now off to San Juan to start 2 week cruise unless they come back with a finding that I need to be operated right away.  I doubt that but you never know.

The appointment in Seattle went well and it was great for Kim to take the time to go with us.  There was a lot of information to take in but basically I am clearly two different people.  On the outside and listening to me, one would say I am very healthy but on the inside I have some strange things going on.

They are not sure why I am having these aneurysm issues especially at such a young age.  A thought came to their minds that either this current one is from an injury or a collagen problem.  Collagen is like the glue and if you are deficient things like this are possible.  They also find these problems in smokers and I did smoke over 40 years ago for a very short period of time and do they do not think that is the problem.

When I first had my heart valve problem they looked into possible Marfan Syndrome.  That effects people who are extremely tall.  I did have a very late growth spurt.  I was only 5’9” when I went off to college and basically grew 9 inches in two years.  The test came back negative but they are going to confirm that.

They did do some studies with long distance bike riders and found that they were more prone to aneurysm in this area of the body.  I did a lot of bike riding while training for the iron man back in 2011 so that might be the cause.  Another possibility is the fact that they had to go thru my groin for the cauterization and maybe the pressure might have caused the problem.

They are going to track down my records from my previous doctors and work on a game plan moving forward.  Bottom line is that they do recommend surgery but they are not sure if they will be able to do it vascular thru the groin or open surgery through the stomach.

Good news is that it is not something that needs to be done today but will probably have it done in the next 3 months.  I was told to continue doing what I love to do but not try anything new right now.  Also to keep the strain off my midsection not to pick up anything real heavy.

Catherine and I have devised a way to move our two 50 pounds bags around.   It was reassuring for the surgeon to give me her card with all over her personal contact information and was told to keep it on me in case there is a rupture before it can be repaired.

She also said that she belongs to a world-wide vascular group and could recommend where I should go if there is a problem during my travels.  I am pretty sure I will have the surgery done there.  I felt extremely comfortable with the entire experience there so I decided to cancel my appointment I had scheduled with the Cleveland Clinic after we come back from the two-week cruise.

I will say I did get a bit of a run around when trying to set up an appointment with the Cleveland Clinic.  I read the scan report to them and kept getting passed on to one department to the other.  After about an hour on the phone I was initially given an appointment for late March.

Since that was unacceptable I was handed off to their triage department.  These folks look at cases and decide if they can find an early appointment because of the relative urgency of the health issue.  I got a follow-up phone call but was never asked to send in the Cat Scan paperwork or where they could get a copy of the scan itself.

Whereas the folks in Seattle had me fax the report and called to have the actual scan CD sent to them.  Pretty short notice and someone in their department actually went down to the mail room while I was there to retrieve the scans and went over them with me.

I guess you could say I really like their bedside manner and having a nurse from the same hospital there with me, to ask the right questions, was a plus.  I must admit I have great insurance and have made a commitment to myself and loved ones to continue tracking down and fixing what might be wrong even though you could never tell by looking at me.

This is usually where I would close out this blog entry since it started the first part of January and we are now into the first part of February but have decided to close it out when I have the plan of action for my latest health issue.

That means it might roll on until after the Caribbean Cruise but as I have said many time before this does not suck.  I would rather look at situations like this as minor inconveniences when you look at the big picture.  You really can’t tell just by looking at someone what challenges they might have in their lives.  Or, for that matter, how they are coping with any of them.

Saying a prayer for an associate from UPS, Bill, that has been moved into ICU for his final days on earth.  He was a van driver at UPS and came out to see me when I passed thru SDF last year in August.  We always had great laughs during our trips to and from the office and the airplane.  He has been fighting the good fight for several years and always seemed have a great attitude about the whole situation.

Rest in Peace Bill

Since I will not be going Cleveland I went on-line, and found another half marathon in Mesa AZ on the 25 of Feb.  So the plan now is to come back to ATL for a few days then off to Phoenix.  I had to cancel our Delta flight and bank them.  Since I had bought insurance and mentioned medical reasons they waved the rebooking fees.

I am sure we will find another flight somewhere in the next year to use those funds.  Catherine and I both had enough mile to book separate flight to and from PHX.  Separate since neither of us had enough miles for both of us.  Also we did not have enough for First Class each way so we are doing First on the way over and Exit row on the way back.

Presently on our flight down to SJU.  We are doing a two-day pre cruise package then get on the boat for two weeks.  This is the first time we are staying on a ship for two weeks straight.  We have a group set up on Face Book for folks to post.  Sounds like this group is ready to get away from it all.

I keep trying to remind them that this is a marathon not a sprint.  Hope they pace themselves.  I am not talking about the race aspect but more of the recreation aspect.  Unlike us where this is our lifestyle many of them only go on vacations once or twice a year.  This group is also a bit larger than usual so should be interesting to see how this works out.

Marci thought it was a sprint

So far so good with a good of energetic runners and walkers on Royal Caribbean.  We just finished up our last stage race here in Grenada.  This one is famously known as the Amazing Race where we all dress up in Pirates type costumes and run/walk around the city looking for land marks.

When we were in France with this group a time limit was added.  I affectionately call that the Tony rule since we would do a pub crawl during the event and so to move things along they now say you have to be back in an hour or you are disqualified.

Not a problem for Catherine and I we walked out 30 minutes and 30 back and came in with a total point score of zero.  We did take in some interesting sites along the way but were unable to find a bar along the way.

Todd and Tony really wanted the yellow hat for best costume

Had to duck

The other races during the week were the following.

5K/10K in St. Croix.  This route took us into the rainforest and the winner was the fastest male and female for each distance.  Catherine and I did the 10K and this was again a PR for me since I had never walked a 10K before.

After the race I got my hair did, with corn rows and extensions.

Hair do from back in the day with a bit more Grey/White

5K/10K in St. Maarten.  This route took us up into the hills of the rich and famous and finished along the beach.  The winners for this race was closest to the pin or predicted time.  You could not wear a watch and needles to say we did not win that stage either.

Our name tags said we were from here there and everywhere

Winners for each stage get a yellow hat.  This was similar to the yellow jersey from the tour the France and since Catherine and I already have several of them it was no big deal.  We did get a red hat since we now have 8 tours with them.

In Barbados we met up with the Hash House Harriers and did a 3 ish mile hash with them.  I mentioned this format in several other blog entries and you can google them for details.  This was our fifth with the group in different parts of the world and they did not disappoint.

The hash ended up at the Copacabana beach bar with a fantastic lunch and beer.  I must admit the Hash circle at the end was a much milder versions we have seen in the past.  They call themselves a drinking club with a running problem so you can figure out what I mean by my earlier comment.

Great finish on the beach

Tomorrow is our day at sea as we make our way back to San Juan.  We will have our awards ceremony tomorrow evening and then it is good-bye the next day to the 250 buddies as they head back home.

I did get some great news today about our quest to be recognized for having completed the 6 major marathons around the world.  Turns out that since I did NY and Chicago before the designated these marathons as part of the group they would not give me credit for them.

Our good friends at went to bat for us and others and we were finally included in the esteem group.  For those that don’t know the 6 majors are NY, Chicago and Boston in the US.  London, Tokyo and Berlin overseas

The medal is in the mail.

Catherine and I and two others are staying on for another week to some of the same and different destinations and we get to keep the same state-room.  I am looking forward to not have to set the alarm clock and doing what we want when we want for the next week.

Don’t get me wrong, it has been a great week with like-minded individuals but usually after about a week with any group we are ready to slip back into our usual routine of getting up when we want grabbing a bite to eat and going for a nice long walk/run/bike/swim and taking in the sites.

The second week did not disappoint, Kim and Debra also did the second week and we had a great time together.  We are not big into the excursions or night life on board but we were are able to get in some great long walks and some fantastic pictures.

An acquired skill, swim while you drink rum punch

The turn around point in St. Maarteen a week later

I don’t always do a cruise back to back but when I do I get a balloon hat while in SJU at Senior Frogs. Stay froggie my friends

Off for our second week

Cheers from Gwen and Joan’s home in St. Kitts

Not going to bore you with all the particulars of the second week but we were able to meet up with Gwen and Joan in St. Kitts.  They were able to arrange a 4 plus hour boat trip while there.  After that we went back to their place for a Champagne lunch.

While we were on board we did book another Cruise with them next year.  They had a 60% off the second person and turns out another 20% off because they had a bit a problem with our second week cruise.

Turns out they had some people on board get sick with  Norovirus so the ship had to do a deep clean and all the back to back cruisers had to get off.  For us no big deal but since some actually live on these ships they made a big stink.  This does not suck, once again.

If the shoe fits, mango guava berry was fabulous

While we were in ATL for 3 nights I tried to track down my health records that the folks needed.  Not going to go crazy here but it was like pulling teeth getting together the needed records.  Around 2012 many doctors went electronic but turns out they did not transfer them all.

Once again we are off to some place since we have to live somewhere.  This time it is Mesa AZ for a half marathon.  This is our last training race for our 7th continent, Antarctica.  Going to take it easy on this race, no PR but would like to cross the finish in around 3 hours.

Sometimes things don’t always work out as planned but in this case this was to the positive.  It was rather chilly at the start, 35 degrees, so to warm up I started off the race with a vengeance.  After about 3 miles I realized I was way ahead of my predicted pace so decided to keep the pace going.

This race is noted for the number of Boston qualifying times and I can see why with the nice temps and the down hill slope all the way from the start to the finish.  The half and the full start at the same time, 6:30 am.  The full 13.1 miles behind us.

They bus you out to the start and run back to our cars.  Note to self, put a location on maps to help you find your car.  We parked in a huge shopping center but was able to find it after using some triangulation.  Did I mention it was pitch dark at 5am when we parked.

The elite men caught us at 9 miles and the women at mile 12.  I was able to PR for the fourth straight time.  9 minutes faster than my last half marathon.  I might not every run again.  Thinking seriously about tackling a marathon walking.  One thing for sure is that it will be a PR since I have never walked one before.

Kind of funny, people complaining as I walk by them as they are running.  Complaining about my long legs.  When I run a marathon I kind of shuffle but while walking I take nice long strides.  Near the end the runners were breaking down but I was going by like they were standing still since my pace reminded the same the whole way.

Getting out of the parking after the finish was a gaggle.  As I mentioned we were all, 15,000 of us, parked in a huge shopping center.  So with us trying to get out plus shoppers trying to come and go it took about an hour to get out.  It could have been a lot worst especially if I was unable to find my rental car in the first place.

Mesa AZ was very nice but as I commented to Catherine with all the places I want to go to in my lifetime some I have not even heard of.  We will never be back.  Another FB friend, Darlene, was in Cairo posting pictures and having me wish I was there.  It is on a very long list that I have.

Another great finish hand in hand

I use to have what I called a life list but was able to check each of them off, one by one, while still working.  Now that we have been on the road for over 2 years it is more of a schedule kind of thing.  What races do we want to do and where is the sun shining the brightest is more like it.

On Friday, March 3rd we are headed way south.  Buenos Aires, stop number 218, for two days, then a short flight to Ushuaia, across the Drake Passage thru the South Shetland Islands for our 7th Continent of the Antarctic Peninsula.

I did not want to go to Africa since I was deathly afraid of wild animals and now it is Catherine’s turn with 9 day voyage to and from Antarctica.  She does not like the cold and I praying for a smooth voyage across the Drake Passage.

Everyone keeps telling me that the experience will be life changing but I have a theory about that.  I hope it is not one of those things people say when something really sucks, they spent a shit load of money but don’t want to admit to it.  At over 1K a day, I certainly hope not.

After we get back to Buenos Aires we are going to take a side trip to Sao Paulo where Catherine brother, Larry and wife, Eliana, lives, for a week.  The weather should be nice.

They say no news is good news but not so sure when it comes to hearing back from my doctor.  I was hoping to have the plan of action to repair my aneurism but that does not seem possible this time around.  Getting ready to get on the airplane to Buenos Aires and then we will be out of contact for 10 days as we make our way to Antartica and back.

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