When I first met Keith Sams in Fall of 2012, he was 45 pounds heavier than he is now, but had already lost a great deal of weight. He came into our meeting with all of his exercise stats from the past 6 months totaled, which included exactly 3325 miles of cycling and 450 miles of running. He described himself as obese, told me how much weight he had already lost, how much more he wanted to lose, how much faster he wanted to get, and all the reasons why. He also said he didn’t “want to wear the scarlet letter of obesity” anymore, and wanted to be Keith LITE! He then detailed all of the things he had already changed in his diet, and that he would be a dedicated client and work really hard to accomplish anything that he needed to do to accomplish his goals of losing weight, being healthier, and getting faster on the bike. Running was something that he enjoyed, but cycling was his biggest goal. He and his wife Cara were soon to be “empty nesters” and he wanted them to be healthy and active and go on fun trips.
Wow, I must say I was a bit overwhelmed by the intensity of this guy! He talked fast, and abundantly, smiled most of the time, and surprisingly, when he stopped talking, was a fairly attentive listener. We set out on the task of accomplishing his goals. By February of 2013 he was at his goal weight, feeling great, running and riding faster, and about to explode with excitement about all the events he wanted to take on as the “new and improved, lean and healthy Keith!” You could hardly keep this guy’s feet on the ground he was so high on how good he felt! During 2014, Keith and I worked together on some of his athletic goals, including multi-day cycling events, multiple half marathons, a couple of marathons, the list goes on. Keith could tell you every single one, and all of his stats on them, in great detail! We learned a great deal about working together, he learned to ask and clarify, he learned that rest, recovery, flexibility, fueling, and hydration were all part of the training formula, not just doing the miles or the hours. We talked often about respecting your body’s work, and giving it time to heal, replenish and recover. Even if Keith didn’t get the execution right on something, you could count on him putting forth a Herculean effort. This turned out to be a very important thing to learn about working with Keith. If for some reason he got off on a sidebar, or didn’t clearly understand the path, he’d be so dug in and busy trying to accomplish what he perceived as the goal, you could hardly rein him in to re-direct or reset! This ability to put his head down and accomplish the task at hand is one of his greatest assets, and little did he or anyone else know, it would be put to the test in a very real, and serious manner.
In 2015, Keith snagged a lottery spot for the NY Marathon. This was a bucket list goal, and he wanted to be in prime condition to have his best marathon ever. He and Cara would make a fun trip out of the event, and the wheels were already turning in his mind. Keith asked me if I would help him prepare for the marathon, and we discussed all of his goals, what was realistic, and I agreed to be his coach. Following his early summer conclusion of distance cycling events, Keith was ready to start his training for the NY Marathon which was in Nov. of 2015. Right up through late August training was going well.
In Late August, while in Atlanta for business, Keith participated in a Half Marathon event and suffered a stroke. His physicians believe the stroke occurred during the early miles of the half marathon, but in his finish the workout mindset, Keith endured all 13.1 miles, and finished. He then went back to his hotel and proceeded to collapse. It wasn’t until much later that he called anyone for help. He assumed he was just tired, dehydrated and disoriented from the heat during the run and didn’t fully grasp the serious nature of his problem. Thankfully his friend and his wife convinced him to get to go to the hospital. There his road to discovery and recovery began.
This is an excerpt from the email I got from Keith less than two weeks after his stroke:
To some extent he’s treating my recovery as you would for a post-concussion recovery. Because of that and some lingering vertigo-like symptoms (knocking things off the counter, bumping into things), he did put in place several restrictions for the next 30 days:
· No driving
· No running (walking is approved with no restrictions to speed or intensity).
· Restricted core. I can do core, but I have to avoid the specific exercises that put pressure on the head (pushups).
· He did approve swimming and cycling on the trainer! Thus I have a number of options to maintain my fitness and help me prep for a full-time training after the 30 days.
· He did approve light yardwork (really all yardwork but said to use common sense on those).
· Additionally, he said that I would not get medical clearance for any marathons for 90 days. This will officially end my NY Marathon aspirations, but does not rule out Disney in January 2016!
I have never met a person more determined to recover and conquer again, and exercise was going to be his way to do it. Think what you like, but he grabbed onto these goals and held on for dear life! Frankly, I was a little worried that he was going to push himself too far, too soon, or go against his doctor’s advice. He did none of that. He walked, he was patient, he started strengthening the weakened side of his body. He slowly returned to running and cycling, he took breaks often and as needed. He ate healthfully to help his body heal, he listened to his wife when she said he needed to take a break. In short, he was humble but determined.
Fast forward to November 7, 2016, just a little over a year later, and Keith Sams is finally getting to run his NY Marathon! Please join me in wishing Keith a great adventure with his wife, a wonderful experience in the marathon. He is trained and ready, and has a fabulous plan to smile the whole way, while still striving to accomplish some personal goals. This guy has put in the blood, sweat and tears. He has completed every workout, taken every rest day, and earned a big accomplishment already.
Best of Luck Keith! Thanks for the opportunity to be on your team. I am humbled, and impressed by you. Have a blast in NY with Cara!