Monday, May 23, 2016

New Crohns Flare Trigger - Golf !

Throughout my 47 years of dealing with Crohns, there have been certain things that have triggered flare ups.  For obvious reasons, I've always documented those triggers.  Sometimes, it's something I've eaten, other times, something I drank (more to the point, how much).  Other times, it has nothing to do with what I put in my body.  Stress and travel (especially when the travel includes flying) are typically automatic triggers.  Well, I have a new one…golf.   And I'm really pissed off.

Whenever I workout, I always wait at least an hour after the workout before eating.  Never any problems, except with golf.  My workouts are way more strenuous than 18 holes of golf, yet I'm fine to eat after a workout.   It took me a while to figure it out.  I'm always hungry after I finish a round because I never eat on the course.  If you have Crohns, you know the reason for that.  Even though I may be hungry, I still wait an hour before eating.  Doesn't matter.  As soon as I do eat, it triggers a major flare up, albeit, for a short period of time.  Typically, I'm feeling better 24 hours later.  Having said that, the 24 hours are really pretty bad.  It's bad enough when I'm home, but, if I'm on vacation, combine the golf with the travel and it can kill the entire vacation.  The last time I played golf while on vacation was August of last year.  I ended up in the hospital for 5 days with an obstruction.  Some vacation.

I guess the reason why it took me so long to figure it out is because I've played golf for over 40 years and it's not until the past 3 or 4 years this has occurred.  Sometimes, if I push my workouts too hard, I can flare, however, golf could never be that strenuous.  I couldn't figure out why golf was causing these flareups.  Then it hit me.  It has nothing to do with the intensity of the activity, but rather the specifics of what body part I am using to perform the activity.  When I workout in the gym, I never push my core.  Multiple surgeries and massive amounts of scar tissue just won't allow it.  It's the golf swing itself that is  the cause of the problem.  Think about the amount of stress on the core while rotating through a golf swing.  As I wrote that last sentence, I'm sitting here shaking my head.  How the hell did it take me so long to figure that one out?


Okay, so what's the solution?  Do I stop doing one of the things I love doing?  HELL NO !!  For 47 years I've lived my life the way I've wanted to live it.  Sure, I have missed out on scheduled day trips because of being too sick, but, who hasn't.  I've never given up anything I love doing and I don't plan on starting now.  A big part of life is how you deal with adversity.  You deal with adversity by trying to make the best out of any situation, no matter how bad it is.

The next time I play, I am only going to have my meal replacement shakes the entire day.  Absolutely no food.  Going to make sure and give my intestines a complete break from having to work digesting food.  They will have enough to do swinging a golf club somewhere between 80-90 times.

I'll let you know how it goes.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Nashville !!

Travel time !

Emily and I haven't been away in a while and we were really looking forward to this trip.  Both of us love music, so, off to "Music City" we went.

Traveling and Crohn's.  I've certainly written on this subject, ad nauseum.  Here we go again!

I typically flare up (various degrees) on the first day of every trip I go on…especially, when it involves flying.  This trip was a little different and not in a good way.  I started dealing with a minor flare up, three days before we were scheduled to leave.   I always take pretty good care of watching my diet leading up to any trip, so, in that respect, this was no different.  Mentally, the unknown of what I would encounter on trip day wasn't easy to deal with.  All I could do was take care of myself and hope for the best.  That's exactly what I did.

Got to the hotel around 12 noon and what a beautiful hotel it was.  The Hermitage Hotel in Nashville opened in 1910 and you can really feel "Southern Hospitality" the second you walk into the main lobby.

 
I was feeling ok, but the true test would be after a meal.  Before having lunch, we took a walk over to a small food store to pick up a few things for the room.  While in the store, I noticed how respectful all of the people were towards each other.  I asked a worker where the water aisle was.  Instead of giving me an aisle number, he walked me to the water.  While on the way, he asked if we were from out of town and, if so, what else were we looking for.  He took us to every item.  SERVICE !!  While walking with us, I found out that he was a local musician, a drummer.  Trying to make it big while doing studio work and also working in the grocery store.  Nice guy.

We had heard lots of good things about the Capital Grille, which is the restaurant in the hotel.  Had a sort of chicken stew dish with cornbread.  Man, do I love cornbread…and now I was eating Tennessee cornbread.

Went back to the room and relaxed.  We kind of played the rest of the day by ear.  If I felt good, we were heading into town.  If not, relaxing in the hotel.  Within 2 hours after eating, the right side of my abdomen started swelling.  I started to get nauseous and had a bad headache.  Uh oh.  It was pretty bad and getting worse quickly.  In my previous blog, I wrote about medical marijuana and how absurd it is that I cannot cross a state border with my MEDICINE !  I didn't even give it any thought.  I told Emily I would be right back.  I headed back to the grocery store and found the guy that had helped us.  I told him that I needed his help, however, would 100% understand if he couldn't help me.  I showed him my medical marijuana card from NJ, told him what it was for and briefly told him what was going on.  He asked me for my cell # and told me he would be back at work the next day at 10 and would meet me before he got to work.  Now, when he asked us in the store "what we were looking for", I never thought…

When I got back to the room, I told Emily what happened.  She laughed, told me I was nuts and was very happy for me.  An hour later my phone rang.  It was a local Tennessee number.  Couldn't have been a better call.  He had $20 worth, with 2 papers and a lighter.  I met him an hour later, gave him the $20, plus another $50.  I thanked him and told him he saved my vacation.  He did !!  The nausea and headache disappeared immediately.  More importantly, within an hour the swelling in my intestines started to get better.

After a tremendous night of sleep, I felt great the next morning.  So great, that I worked out in the hotel gym with Emily and then went for a run.  The hotel was about a half mile from downtown and the main strip, Broadway Ave.  That's where I headed.  Holy shit, is Nashville hilly.  The run to Broadway was a breeze…straight downhill.  Downtown was really cool.  An entire street of music, barbecue, and "Nashville clothes", i.e. cowboy boots and hats.  The run back back to the hotel was brutal.  Really steep, but I was strong enough to make it…although, I did stop once.

Emily and I headed downtown late morning.  First stop was the Johnny Cash Museum.  Great stuff in the museum.  Everything from guitars he used, to outfits he wore, and everything in between.  After the museum, it was time to fit in with the locals.



Lunch was at a place called Rippey's Barbecue.  The place was 3 levels, with a different band playing on each level.  The 3rd level was outside on a deck.  We sat at the bar, right in front of the band.  Great music, barbecue baby back ribs, baked beans, onion rings and corn bread…oh and I was in Tennessee, so, of course, "Jack".  What a great day !  Did I mention that it was July 4th?


We spent the entire afternoon on Broadway, ending up in a bar called Tootsies.  "Jack" was there, early and often.


Headed back to the hotel for a light dinner, a shower and then downtown for 10 p.m. fireworks.  Just Emily, I, and a quarter million others were there to watch.  Enjoy the finale!

video


We had a terrific time the rest of our trip.  I did cut back on drinking, but enjoyed every meal we had.  Worked out every day and felt great.  I hope to someday see my buddy from the grocery store up on stage at the Country Music Awards.  I also hope to someday, not have to put myself and someone else at risk and be able to take my medicine with me.  Great trip!




Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Medicinal Marijuana and Crohn's Disease

Wow, I have been so fortunate to feel as well as I have.  Last flare up was November 2012.  Yesterday changed that.

I actually started feeling lousy two days ago, it just got a whole lot worse yesterday.  Crohn's is such a strange disease.  There is absolutely no consistency.  Besides the abdominal pain and diarrhea, there are a bunch of other "things" that can happen.  From flare up to flare up, you never know what "things" will be there.  This flare up had all of them.  Abdominal pain, joint pain, mouth ulcers, fever, kidney pain, nausea and worst of all, a nasty headache.  Never got out of bed yesterday.  Two layers of sweats, four blankets and I was freezing.  Nothing worse than trying to sleep with a fever.  The nightmares are so brutal, I'd rather just stay awake.

This morning, the fever broke,  however, the pain was just as bad.  I got out of bed and headed right for my vaporizer.

In January of 2013, I received a Medical Marijuana card from the State of New Jersey.  Since my last flare up was in 2012, I have never had to smoke to relieve any symptoms.  After taking three hits on the vaporizer, within ten minutes, most of the "things" were gone.  Nausea, mouth ulcers, joint pain, kidney pain and most importantly, the headache were all gone, as if they never were there.  The abdominal pain is still there.  I'm assuming the anti-inflammatory properties in marijuana took care of the headache and joint pain.  That might also be the reason the mouth ulcers and kidney pain went away.  Marijuana also has properties that disable the gag mechanism we all have.  Our gag mechanism is what causes us to feel nauseous.  It's also what tells the brain that we are full (that's why the "munchies" happen).  I now understand why it helps chemo patients deal so well with nausea.

I hope the federal government catches on real soon and approves it on a national level.  I am going to be in Florida next week and won't be able to take it with me.  I'm not restricted from taking any other medicine I need, why should this be any different?

More importantly, it relieved me from a lot of pain.  Next time I go to the dispensary, I'll make sure and give them the link to this blog.  They'll love it!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Vegas...FINALLY !


Tried real hard not to look back at the previous incidents that had kept me from running in half marathons, but couldn't help myself.  I really didn't think much about my auto accident in May, 2012,  just unlucky that it happened 2 weeks before the Virginia Half-Marathon.  Nothing I could have done.  Couldn't help but look back at November, 2012.  Crohn's got me that time.  The difference is, that time, I felt I could have done things to prevent the flare up from happening.  No way I was going to do anything to keep me from Vegas this time.

The race was on November 17th.  Beginning November 1st,  I climbed into a "Crohn's Bubble".   I focused on tapering my runs, running 5 miles, twice the first week and once the week we left for Vegas.  I kept my body and cardio strong with low weight, high rep workouts.  I did 45 minute workouts the first week and 30 minutes the second week.  As far as my diet is concerned, I should always be as focused as I was for those 17 days.  If Crohn's was going to flare up, it was doing it on it's own, no help from me.  Not going to list everything I ate because with Crohn's, you need to do what you know works for YOU.  I definitely did what has worked for me.  I stayed away from anything that I knew had irritated my Crohn's in the past.  Typically, alcohol in moderation doesn't bother me.  Didn't take any chances.  My last drink was on October 31st.  Love smoking cigars.  Last cigar was on October 31st.  A couple of days before the flight, I planned on trimming trees in my backyard.  I brought my ladder, hedge trimmer and tree cutter into the yard.  I looked at the top of the tree (about 20 feet high), looked at the ladder and then thought of Vegas.  Brought everything back into the garage.  Tree trimming was going to have to wait.

We left for Vegas, from NJ, on the 15th.  I felt great that morning.  Had a water bottle on the way to the airport and brought three with me on the plane (gotta keep hydrated).  Felt great to see all of my Team Challenge-NJ teammates at the airport.  I always get a major adrenaline rush when I see them.  The flight was great, we landed early in Vegas.  Our bags were waiting for us and the bus ride to the hotel was, maybe 10 minutes.  After checking in, we all met at "I Love Burgers", a restaurant at Pallazzo.  Other than being a little tired, I felt pretty good.  While at the restaurant, I spoke with a couple of my teammates about heading over to the race expo after eating.  The race expo was on our schedule the next day, but I figured, lets get that over with today.  The two teammates that were going with me to the expo wanted to see a show that night and were first heading for the ticket line before heading to the expo.  I went to my room waiting for their call.  That's when it hit.  When I fly, 9 times out of 10 I flare up during the first 24 hours of my trip.  I have blogged about that in the past.  The key to my weekend was what happened that night.  I didn't push myself and go to the expo.  Instead, I went to a Walgreen's that was next to our hotel and got some things I needed for the room.  It was a beautiful night in Vegas.



Went back to my room and was asleep by 8 p.m.  It was a tough night.  Besides being in the bathroom 6 times before going to sleep, I was up 4 times during the night.  So glad I drank all of that water earlier in the day.

The next days schedule was an 11 a.m. leave for the race expo, a 4:30 p.m. team 2 mile run and 7 p.m. pasta party.  I woke up REALLY EARLY (2:30 a.m.) and could not go back to sleep.  I had one of my meal replacement shakes around 5 a.m. and another at 10 a.m.  No way I was eating any food while feeling the way I did.  By the time we left for the expo, I was starting to feel a little better, but not great. I did get a rush of adrenaline when I picked up my race bib.


I didn't stay very long at the expo.  I just wanted to get back to my room and relax.  By the time I got back to my room, I was exhausted, but my stomach was getting better and better.  I went down and picked up a sandwich and brought it back to the room.  Got a second wind after I ate, so I took a walk over to Wynn and placed a Kentucky Derby Future Pools bet.  Headed back to my hotel to get ready for our 4:30 p.m. 2 mile run.  Holy shit, did I have adrenaline rushing during that run.  I knew the mini-flare up was gone and I was actually running with my teammates, in Vegas.  At the end of the run, I was wishing the half marathon was starting then, not in 24 hours.

The actual name of the party that night is the "Inspirational Pasta Party".  Wow, is that name apropos, because it is truly inspirational.  First, all of the runners get an amazing greeting as they enter the room.  Here is what it looked and sounded like.


The party was hosted by Dennis Haskins, who played Mr. Belding from "Saved by the Bell".  His personal physician has family members that suffer from Crohn's.   He asked him, as a personal favor, to host the party.  The top 10 fundraisers are announced and brought up on stage.  Three of the top ten were from New Jersey, including the top two.  The mom of CCFA's National Honoree spoke about her son and when I say there wasn't a dry eye in the house, I'm not kidding.  The kid was diagnosed with Crohn's at a really early age, however, has been in remission for the past 11 months.  He was on the stage with his mom and thanked all of us.  A truly inspirational night.

After the party, all of my NJ teammates and I gathered in the hallway outside of the room where the party took place.  We went one by one, saying why we are running for Team Challenge and what it means to us.  Most of the runners either have family members or friends that have Crohn's disease.  Our team has it's own honoree, Alexis, who handed out bracelets she made for everyone (Team Challenge colors, of course).


When it was my turn to speak, it was pretty emotional for me to talk about my Crohn's past and how much it meant to me to do this.  By the time I got back to the room, I was physically and emotionally wiped out and got a great night of sleep.

Sunday, race day, was finally here.  The race started at 4:30 p.m.  We had to meet in the lobby at 2 p.m.  to board the buses taking us to the start.  Other than that, nothing was on our schedule.  I made sure to stay off my feet as much as possible all day.  Around 10:30 a.m. I ordered room service, which was a pretty big, carb loaded breakfast of french toast, potatoes, bacon and fruit.  Just hung in the room watching football until it was time to leave for the race.

Got to the starting area around 3 p.m.  If I didn't realize how big this race was, seeing the amount of people there made it sink in.


That area in the picture above was outside of the starting stalls we were all assigned.  The stalls are based on what time you think you might finish the race in.  The faster runners start up front, the slowest in the back.  Once you went into the stall, you could not come back into the area in the picture.  The reason I mention this is, my last obstacle getting to the starting line was about to happen.  The area outside of the starting stalls had a couple dozen port a pottys in it.  We had no way of knowing whether the starting stalls had any.  One last shot from Crohn's, doing its best keeping me from the starting line hit hard.  A severe cramp (probably nerves) and an immediate need for a bathroom.  Couple of dozen port a pottys, no problem, except for the fact that there were at least 100 people on line at every one of them.  At that point, I was hanging with one of my Team Challenge teammates, who noticed a VIP area with its own port a pottys.  Not sure if I would be able to get into that area, so I decided to sneak in.  I went around the back area and squeezed between the backs of two port a pottys.  There was barely enough room to get through.  Once through, I saw one of them was unused.  Thank you, God!  Once that last obstacle was cleared, nothing was in my way.

Considering my past two attempts at running, I thought being in the starting stall would be very emotional for me.  If the emotion was there, I had way too much adrenaline to feel it.  I focused hard on trying to reel in that adrenaline and concentrate on keeping my pace to where it needed to be.  A local girl sang the National Anthem, then they blasted "Life in the Fast Lane" through the speakers and off we went. 

The only thing eventful during the first mile was that my headphones shorted out.  I threw them off of the course.  There was plenty of music and people watching the race yelling their support, but I was concerned because, besides the music, my "Runkeeper" App was my way of confirming my pace.  Just had to trust my feel for it.

Got a little nervous around the 5 mile mark because my left calf was starting to cramp.  Backed off my pace a bit and it worked, the cramp relieved.  They had fluid tables every couple of miles.  Every other one was water, the other gatorade.  I did grab fluids at every table, which came back to haunt me around the 10 mile mark.  Started to get nauseous at that point and I assumed it was from the sugar in the gatorade.  By the time I got to the 11.5 mile mark, I seriously considered stopping.  My exact thought was, "if there was a cement truck in the area that could please run me over, everything would be ok".  I was so nauseous, I was cold and clammy and just felt horrible.  At that point I started to try and focus on all of the things I went through in my life in dealing with this disease.  I then thought about all of my teammates.  Then, I thought about my daughter Jill, who deals with horrible digestive issues and is the toughest person I know.  It was also at that point I saw my teams cheering group.  Ashley, who runs the local chapter in NJ, caught my eye and screamed at me to "GO NEAL" !  That was it, I snapped out of it my funk and ran the last 2 miles faster than the 2 previous miles.  As I approached the finish line, that's when the emotion started to really hit me.  I crossed the finish line without ever stopping during the entire run.   It was the most amazing feeling of self-accomplishment I've ever felt.  I called my wife, Emily and then I called Jill.  It then didn't take me long to get out of my "Crohn's Bubble".  The first table I stopped at after the finish line was the beer and bagel table.  Had a couple bites of the bagel and downed the beer.  Talk about instantly being drunk...and it was a light beer.  Made my way to the Team Challenge tent to get warm and have a sandwich.  Most of my teammates were still out on the course, but there were a handful there to hang with and share details of our run with.  Couldn't be any happier.


The race had started at 4:30 and my final time was 2:18.36.  By the time I got back to my room, it was around 7:30.  There was an after party scheduled from 9 p.m.-2 a.m.  I stretched and took a shower with all intentions to go to the party.  I got in bed for a minute to unwind and watch highlights on ESPN of the Giants game.  Nine hours later, I woke up.

To say this experience was rewarding would be the understatement of all time.  The CCFA and Team Challenge is so personal for me.  I have lived with this disease for 45 years.  Every day of those 45 years has been a fight, some days harder than others.  I have cursed this disease many times over those years.  When I crossed the finish line, I said "F-You Crohn's".  This time, the meaning was very different.  I had won !!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Honey/Water Diary

Going on 3 months since beginning the honey/water elixir.  Been keeping a diary of "bad days" and thought I would share it with everyone.

Before getting into that, it's PARTY TIME TOMORROW!!!  Having a "Kentucky Derby" barbecue.  Got some new things for the backyard and looking forward to getting together with a bunch of good friends.  Besides the food and alcohol, this party includes full on track betting via computer and an in-house Derby pool.  Mint Julep anyone?

Back to the diary, especially as it relates to tomorrows party.  Definitely dealing with a minor flare up today and will be taking it easy all day.  Just glad I got all the backyard prep work done yesterday.  The diary shows all "bad crohns days", the details of those days and a number assigned to that day which indicates how severe of a flare up it was.  Here it is:



Honey/Water Diary
Start Date March 5, 2013
Bad Days  (Scale 1-5 with 1 the mildest and 5 a blockage flare up)
March 21
Probably over did a few things.  Today was the end of a long stretch of working out with no days off (probably, 9 days in a row) and also, with feeling so well, I’ve been eating some things, I normally don’t (i.e. ice cream).  Not bad, just no energy and a bunch of times in the bathroom. (2)

April 9
Went into NYC for AGT today and had 3 emergency bathroom runs.  Probably a little anxiety?  Was a little achy, but not bad at all. (1)

May3
Pretty much exactly the same as March 21st, except my diet has been really good.  Been really working out hard, plus this week did a lot of outdoor work on the backyard.  Today, I’m really exhausted and also a bunch of times in the bathroom. (2)

Been pretty amazing, how well I've been feeling.  Those 3 days listed above are the only 3 days, I haven't felt perfect.  I am making sure to stay consistent with how much and when I drink the water/honey (always right after I wake up in the morning...4 ounces of water mixed with a tablespoon of honey).

I'll be back soon with pictures and maybe some video from the party.

Monday, April 8, 2013

One Month Later

So, it's a month later and I thought I would follow up for everyone on the honey and water "elixir" experiment.  I cannot believe how good I continue to feel.  In the past 30 days, I've had 1 day that wasn't great.  In comparison to a typical bad crohns day it wasn't even close.  I didn't have any pain, just was in the bathroom 4 or 5 times.  All other days have pretty much been once or twice in the bathroom, with a couple of days no bathroom visits...wait, what did I just say...that's right, NO BATHROOM VISITS !!  I have even eaten some things that I haven't had in years (i.e. ice cream) with no repercussions.  I certainly will not push my luck with my diet, but it really has been incredible!

On a completely different subject, heading into NYC tomorrow for a live taping of America's Got Talent.  I'm a big Howard Stern fan and I'm going with a couple of buddies that are also Stern fans.  I'm guessing that tomorrow is going to be a big test for the "elixir" experiment.  I'll keep everyone posted.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Honey and Water...A Miracle ?

I cannot remember where I heard it, but somebody, somewhere, was either talking to me or emailed me about the benefits one glass of honey and water in the morning will have for my digestive health.  Perhaps, it was someone on Twitter?  In any case, I really need to remember because, I cannot believe what that simple mixture has done for me.

Before I get into the details, it really has been WAY too long since I have written.  My last post was in September of 2012 and I was just getting back into running with my Team Challenge-NJ teammates, in preparation for a half marathon that took place on December 2 in  Las Vegas.  I didn't write during the 10 weeks between that first run with the group and the race because, I'm really superstitious.  With my car accident occurring only a week before the summer race, I didn't want anything to jinx me this time.  I was feeling, just ok Crohns wise.  Too many emergency runs to the bathroom and too many lost days because of not feeling well.  Having said that, I really have been much worse in the past, so, it wasn't keeping me from running.  Two weeks before the race, I ran 13 miles in Central Park with my group.  That was a brutal run...lots of hills...but I finished it.  I knew, at that point, Vegas would be a breeze.  Between the adrenaline of the race and the fact that Vegas is flat, confirmed that thought.  Two days before the race changed all of that.  Crohn's affects everyone differently.  In my case, the worst kind of flare up occurs when my intestines narrow and I eat something that is difficult to process.  That combination creates a blockage in my intestinal tract.  It is always really painful, however, once the food passes through, I'm typically better in a day or two.  This time it was one of the worst blockages I have ever experienced.  It took way longer for the blockage to release, to the point where I thought my intestines would rupture.  Once it did release, I vomited for close to 12 straight hours.  Needless to say, I didn't make it to Vegas.  When I missed the summer race, mentally, it was difficult to deal with.  It was "why the hell did this happen to me...NOW"?  This was much worse.  I blamed myself completely for this.  I should have been more careful with what I ate so close to the race.  How stupid can I be?  The truth is, Crohn's doesn't have a clock which decides when it is going to flare up.  It took me a while to accept that and not blame myself.

So, now we fast forward to about a month ago when I received that info about honey and water.  I had not had another "blockage flare up", however, was still not feeling great.  Probably in the bathroom 6-8 times a day and, again, too many missed days because of not feeling well.  Over the years, I've had many people tell me many things that were "miracle cures" for my Crohn's, so hearing something new really didn't excite me at all.  I did, however, do some research on the issue and this is one of the articles I found:

"Every morning, or just about every morning, the first thing I do after waking up and using the bathroom (I guess you don’t need to know that part) is to make a honey + water drink. This may sound like an old wives tale or something your grandmother might have told you, but there is some serious truth behind the benefits of such a practice…I’m sure you’ll be surprised once you finish reading the information below.

First, how do you make the drink?

Simply add a teaspoon (or a tablespoon if you have a really sweet tooth) to a glass of bottled water (preferably room temperature) – which means NO tap water.
Stirring with a fork quickens the process – be patient now.
Then, open your mouth and consume the beverage ;)
Ok, now for the science part:

Did you know that honey has been shown to be far superior to conventional antibiotics in treating infections and without the negative side effects associated with antibiotic use.
It is amazing that the bacteria-killing properties of honey increase two-fold when diluted with water. Maybe that explains why newly born bees are nourished with diluted honey.
Also, when honey is mixed with water, a chemical reaction takes place resulting in the creation of hydrogen peroxide, the most powerful natural antibiotic. Unlike the hydrogen peroxide purchased in the pharmacy, the one produced by the above mixture is natural and therefore protects itself from being associated with conventional man-made antibiotics and their negative effects.

It only takes approximately 7 minutes for the honey + water mixture to diffuse into the bloodstream – ready to fight the bad stuff!"

Much of my research uncovered similar information.  The key for me is that I knew a mixture of honey and water, once a day, wouldn't hurt.  Wow, has it helped!!  Almost immediately, the 6-8 times a day in the bathroom stopped.  It's a month later now and I don't remember the last time I was in the bathroom more than once in a day.  I feel great, all day, everyday!  Maybe, it's just a coincidence?  Maybe, my Crohn's went into remission at the exact same time I started drinking honey and water every morning?  Maybe not...?

Monday, September 24, 2012

September 24, 2012 - "Back in the Saddle"

In keeping with the theme of my previous post, I thought I would call this one "Back in the Saddle".  Unlike my last post, where my racehorse Visionaria gave me inspiration to move past my accident and get back into fighting shape, in this one, it's time to reverse roles.

Since I last posted, Visionaria had her final workout before getting ready to race.  After the workout, she was favoring her rear leg.  A bone scan revealed a slight stress fracture.  Long story short, she's got to fight, once again to get back on the track.  Projections right now are for a return sometime Spring 2013.

As far as I am concerned, I had been keeping up with my cardio on an elliptical, but that's just not the same as running.  My Team Challenge-NJ group already had their training runs at 5 miles and I hadn't run since the day before my accident (May 20). On August 30th, I went out for a run in my neighborhood and ran just under 2 miles.  Trained 3 more times between then and this past Saturday.  On Saturday, I re-joined Team Challenge-NJ for their 5 mile training run in Saddle Brook park in NJ.


I don't know if it was the adrenaline caused by the emotions of being back with the group, but it was probably the easiest 5 miles I have ever run.  I felt like I could have gone another 5.  There are so many things that makes this group so amazing to be a part of.  As excited as I was about being there and completing the run with no problem, THEY were more excited for me.

I am officially "back in the saddle"!   Do you hear me Visionaria ?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Visionaria

For all followers of this blog, it's been a while since my last post.  Had some real issues dealing mentally with not being able to run the Virginia CCFA half-marathon because of my auto accident.  I'll get back to posting about me in a bit.  This post is not about me.   Having said that, I can somehow relate to the subject matter in this post.  The subject matter is a racehorse and yes, I can relate.

There has always been something about watching a horse run that has fascinated me.  Their strength, beauty, elegance and courage is so apparent.

A couple of months after my first surgery in 1974, my parents sent me to my Aunt Rose and Uncle Irv's in Aventura, Florida for a month for some convalescing.  When I left for Florida, I was hoping to relax, gain some of the weight I had lost from being sick before surgery and maybe get a couple of rounds of golf in with Uncle Irv.  My Uncle Irv hit the ball decently, however, he was the best putter I have ever seen.  That includes using a putter from a sand trap (you'd have to see it to believe it).  What I had no idea I would be experiencing while in Florida, was daily trips to Gulfstream Park along with Handicapping 101 class from Uncle Irv.   My Aunt and Uncle lived in a high rise that was about a mile south of Gulfstream Park.  You could see the track from their balcony and, with a good pair of binoculars, get a pretty good view of the races.   I was fortunate enough to be at Gulfstream Park to see Prince Thou Art hand Foolish Pleasure (the eventual Kentucky Derby winner) his first defeat in the 1975 Florida Derby.  By the time I got back home, I was completely hooked.  I knew that someday I needed to be, in some way, more involved with horse racing.

It took 23 years, however in 1998, while working for Verizon, I was at lunch one day with a few business associates of mine and they were talking about horses they had owned together in the past and how they should "do it again".  I asked if they would consider adding me as a partner and they agreed.  The first horse I ever owned was named was Kendall J.  We claimed him for $12,500.00 out of a race at Monmouth Park.  The experience was, in some ways, everything I had anticipated.  The thrill that I got on race days cannot be explained in words.  The only way to understand the feeling is to experience it.  When he won his first race for us, none of the other owners were there, only my daughter Jill (11 years old at the time) and I.  I remember the trip from the owners box to the winners circle as the closest to flying that 2 human beings could do.  I don't thing we touched one stair on the way down.

 
In other ways the experience was everything I did not want.  Including me, there were a total of 4 partners.  One of the owners, my friend Bob, thought along the same lines as I did.  We were in it for the thrill of owning a racehorse.   If in the process we happened to make a little money, great, if not, we were going to get as much enjoyment as possible out of the experience.  Unfortunately, the other 2 owners didn't feel the same way.  They wanted the horse to run as much as possible to ensure that the bills were paid.  The welfare of the horse was not even considered.  In a span of 6 months, Kendall ran 16 races, just an absolute brutal schedule.  He won 2 of his last 3 races.  At that point, we decided to give him some time off, but it was too late.  He died on the farm 2 weeks after his last race.  He was 4 years old.

At the same time we lost Kendall, I was doing really badly with my Crohn's disease.  The narrowing of my intestinal tract was so bad that I ended up having a complete obstruction.  I was actually in the hospital when Bob called with the news about Kendall.  I didn't know how or when I would get back into horse racing, but I knew someday, I would.  At that point in my life, I just needed to concentrate on getting better.  I ended up having surgery that year and then again in 2002.  The fighting spirit that I first saw in horses back in 1975 is the same I have had since being diagnosed with Crohn's in 1970.  In 2003, 33 years after my battle with Crohn's began, I found a way to start winning that battle.  All that follow my blog have read about that battle and have lived with me throughout 2012, hopefully learning some of the things I do to be as healthy today, as I have been in a long time.

With all of the personal illness issues I dealt with, I never lost the desire to once again get in the horse racing business.  One thing I knew is that I would never again get involved with owners that did not have the exact same feeling about racing that I do.  I spoke to Bob early in 2011 about the possibility of ownership.  Bob started his family later on in life and has 3 young children.  Buying a racehorse was not high on his list of priorities.  I decided to look on my own.  In May of 2011 Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby.  In my opinion and I believe most handicappers opinion, the Kentucky Derby is the most difficult race to handicap.  After 36 years of betting the Derby, I finally had my first winner.  What made it more interesting to me was that a "racing syndicate" owned Animal Kingdom.  I spent the entire Sunday after the Derby researching that syndicate along with dozens of others to get a feel for how it works and more importantly to get an understanding of how the syndicate owners felt about racing.  As a big sports fan, anytime I am in my car, typically I have some type of "sports talk" radio on.  Being from New Jersey, WFAN is my station of choice.  The Monday following the Derby, Mike Francessa had Barry Irwin, the owner of Team Valor Intl. (Animal Kingdom's syndicate) on as his guest.  For the next 20 minutes or so I listened to that interview and knew that I had found the racing syndicate I wanted to get involved with.  When I got home, I called immediately and expressed an interest in becoming a partner with Team Valor.  I purposely used the word "investment" when speaking to the VP at Team Valor.  He immediately told me that I should never consider owning a horse an investment, but rather a "life experience".  Within 2 weeks, I was a 10% owner of a filly named La Luna De Miel.  Her first race was one of the best experiences I have ever had.  She came in last.  You may think there has to be a typo somewhere in that last sentence, but there isn't.  I live in Central New Jersey and the race was at Belmont Park on Long Island.  I surprised my wife and step sons by hiring a limo to take us to and from Belmont.  We had such a great time on the rides and also in the owners box.  Coincidentally, I met Mike Francessa in the owners box and told him that his interview with Barry was why I was there that day.  My wife Emily, my step-sons Josh, Adin and I all experienced that same indescribable thrill that I had first experienced 13 years earlier.  Unfortunately, La Luna got hurt that day, needed to have surgery and eventually was sold to a breeder.




My life long struggles with Crohn's has taught me to never give up on anything.  A last place finish and an injury to my horse was not going to scare me away from ownership.  Once she was sold, I bought a 10% share in a 2 year old filly named Visionaria.  Visionaria won 2 of 3 races in Italy (beaten a nose in her only loss) and was then purchased by Team Valor.  She was shipped to the U.S. and was set to run in her first race at my local track, Monmouth Park on August 27th.  Unfortunately, that day coincided with the arrival of Hurricane Irene and racing was canceled.  What happened next, shook that fighting spirit ingrained in me.  Visionaria was being vanned to the track when the storm hit.  I guess it freaked her out and the anxiety led to a bout of colic.  Colic is extremely dangerous and if action is not taken quickly, a potential life threatening condition for horses.  Visionaria's colon flipped 360 degrees on itself.  Luckily, action was taken quickly.  She had emergency surgery and her life was saved.  Just when I thought she was out of danger, I received a call letting me know that she was now dealing with Salmonellosis.  Emily and I had a limited amount of funds budgeted for horse ownership and at that point it was looking like our days as owners was over.  Even though I had never met her, it was at this point when I started to really feel a connection with Visionaria.  Just as I had dealt with a life threatening intestinal surgery as a kid, Visionaria had now done the same.  Just as I had dealt with a life threatening infection after surgery, Visionaria had done the same.  Finally, just as I had fought back against my illness, Visionaria was now fighting back as well.  By November, she was given a clean bill of health.  In mid-December it was obvious that her struggle with her health had taken its toll on her.  Although she was healthy, she had lost all of her muscle tone.  By mid-January things started changing for the better. Visionaria made substantial progress over the next couple of months.  Because she had lost so much of her muscle tone during her recovery from surgery, she was put on a new feed from Belgium which is very good at building muscle mass.  Ok, so now her diet has been changed to make her healthier and stronger.  My connection to this horse is getting stronger every day.

Team Valor, always doing what is best for the horse, took their time with her.  She spent the next few months galloping in South Carolina and was shipped up to Team Valors training facility in Maryland in June.  On June 23rd, she officially went back into training with a 3 furlong workout at 38.2 seconds.  Her next workout was the following week and was a bullet work (best by any horse at that track at that distance on that day) of 3 furlongs at 38 seconds flat.  The Team Valor release to all of its partners that week stated that "Visionaria has not lost any of her quality and is moving like a dream".  The following 2 weeks workouts had her stretching out a bit, first a 4 furlong workout on July 7th and then 5 furlongs on July 14th.  Over the next 6 weeks, she worked out 5 more times, getting stretched out even further on August 25th, when she went 6 furlongs in 1:14.2.  The news release from Team Valor on August 29th finally had the words I've been waiting for.  Here are those words.

" VISIONARIA is almost ready for her return, earmarked for a 7-furlong allowance race on September 19 at Belmont Park. An Italian stakes winner as a 2-year-old, Visionaria has been working with this year’s Oaks d’Italia runner-up Angegreen. They went 5 furlongs in 1:01.80 last weekend."

It's been a long hard fight for Visionaria, but she never quit.  She has that same fighting spirit and courage that I first saw in horses almost 38 years agoShe needs to be back on the racetrack.

Speaking of a fighting spirit, CCFA's next half marathon is December 2 in Vegas.  I'm thinking my running shoes need to be pulled out of storage and my ass needs to hit the road.

I told you I can relate.