2018

What an amazing year. Over the years I’ve learned 365 days is a long time, plenty of room for things to go badly, unexpected obstacles to get in your way, unplanned deviations to change your course. So many opportunities for a few weeks, or even just one event, to color the entirety of the year. This was not that year.

In the span of a few weeks, we went from celebrating my parents in law’s 50th wedding anniversary with two vibrant people to wondering if we would be planning funerals to watching them both bounce back. My mother in law was in the hospital for weeks with an unknown ailment…My father in law went from having a benign tumor to having cancer and a full round of chemotherapy…doubled up so he could go on vacation at the same time. He now is as in better health 2 months later than men 20-25 years his junior. An emotional roller coaster ride if ever there was one. The man is amazing.

My long time neighbor, in failing health for sometime, passed away, leaving her husband of almost 70 years alone for the first time. Watching him handle his sorrow and find himself through it has given me a measure of strength that despite loss – deeply felt loss – the human instinct is to continue on, push forward, be robust and to live, to conquer, to succeed.

We had the good fortune to host close family friends from France at our home for several weeks…and we have the good fortune to have as neighbors good friends who helped support our international efforts. Such an amazing harvest springing from good will. I’m truly fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life.

In November the sale of my employer was announced and in December it was completed. I honestly don’t know what the ramifications will be. In a year where we made more, gave more away, enjoyed more time off than we ever have, this was not how the year was supposed to end. Just another circumstance to be understood. Processed. Handled. Meanwhile, we’ve saved money, paid down loans significantly.

With the challenges though were the highpoints. We had the wonderful opportunity to visit England to see dear people we consider our family by choice, and to visit several Caribbean countries over the course of a week and a half cruise with my family. My son got the experience I never did and for that I’m forever grateful. He’ll have memories for a lifetime, and experiences that will make him a much more interesting person. A young man of 13, he’s already been to more than 10 countries (Canada, Mexico, UK, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica…) For myself, I had the opportunity to travel to Florida for a half-marathon, Pennsylvania and New Jersey for Spartan races, and Washington for a marathon.

We saw our football team lose a Super Bowl and a chance at a second back-to-back Championship season. We saw our baseball team rise to the level of “All Time Great” teams with a 4th World Series in the last 14 years….after going 86-years without one.

My fitness goal was to run 1500 miles, 4.1 miles every day for 365 days. As of now I’m at 1637, for a daily average of 4.5 miles. I promised myself I would push my limits, and I think I have. Of my Top 5 5k times, 4 were done this year with a 5th off by seconds. I ran a flipping marathon – I didn’t see that coming last December. I ran 3 ultras this year. 49 races all together – maybe one more tomorrow to end the year as it has the last two, with the last race being the CMS Weekly 5k. If I do that, that would be twenty two 5ks on the year of 50 races.

Funny thing though, by far my most common daily mileage (the mode for you numbers types) was 0. Zilch. Nothing. 94 times this year – better than 25% of the time actually – I woke up and decided I wasn’t going to get a run in. I think about those days and conclude that had I done just 1 mile in those days, just one, I’d be within shooting distance of 1750 and had I accomplished 4.1 every day, I’d be up over 2000. Which is a logical fallacy – you just don’t run the day after running a 40-mile ultra – but I know I could have done better for myself.

If I take those “0” days out of my daily average – making it an average of the miles I ran on the days I did run vs. yearly daily average – it comes out to something closer to 6.5 miles. My second highest daily running total? 3 miles at 28-times, 3.1 at 20-times. My target of 4.1? I did that 19 times this year: further proof that one descriptive statistic doesn’t give you enough information at all. My college Psych Research Methods professor would be proud that I’ve retained that.

I ran races with my kids from 5ks to Spartans to a Marathon relay. I met some amazing people who were in the process of crushing their goals.

On Sunday, December 30, I’m running the last of 3 10-mile legs with a friend striving to hit 2000 miles on the year – accomplished with a day 364 50k in an all-or-nothing gambit to complete an ultra-marathon AND hit 2000 miles. He’s amazing.

I met and was inspired by a marine master sergeant with an insane fitness schedule, became friends with a stage 4 cancer survivor – the man running for 2000 miles above – and supported friends through divorce and the passing of parents. TIme can pass so quickly that it becomes so easy to lose the forest for the trees. 2018 has been an amazing year, one that I wish were more common: more up than down, more good than bad, more positive than negative. The year hasn’t been uniformly positive, but it has been incrementally more positive than negative. The most important thing I’m taking with me from my experience this year is the realization that it is the people in your life that are the most important factor in how successful you will be: how much support do you have, how much support do you give, who can you rely on and who can rely on you?

I hope for you, dear reader, that your 2018 was as positive as mine. If not, then I hope the coming 2019 will be the year you should have.

Advertisements

2018 Race Recap #49: Worcester Jingle 5k

Wow am I late in getting this written. You’d think I’d be more into it than to let it linger for almost two weeks. Fact is this was a top 5 5k for me. When I think about: 1) it was the second race in two months that I’d run; 2) Before the start of this year it would have been a PR; 3) I really hadn’t run very much since the marathon and definitely since coming home from vacation.

Image may contain: 1 person, shoes and outdoor

Now the marathon messed me up in a few ways. First I was in great shape when I went into it and after I just didn’t feel like running. At all. Certainly not competitively. I missed my time goal by about 3 minutes and that upset me as well. Regardless, I didn’t run very far or for very long in the aftermath.

It turns out, though, that my short distance times remain on point. The day before this race, I ran the CMS 52-Week 5K course to a course PR. I wasn’t racing, just running, but I felt good about it – especially since I’d packed on so much weight on vacation and hadn’t figured out a way to lose it.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoor

At any rate, I thought this might be the race to PR my official PR. As it turns out, the race director realized the traditional course was something less than 5k and extended it…just…that..much. AS I came around mile 2.7, I was convinced I had maybe .2 mile to go…but alas not so much. I ran hard — sub 7-minute mile on my first mile — but that came back to haunt me as I was huffing wind by 2.5. While I didn’t PR for the race, I had a really respectable showing given a former Olympian showed out up out of nowhere — he wasn’t paid to appear or anything (I have it on good word). he just registered like anyone else. It’s pretty good when the winner posts a 14-minute finish and you still finish within the top say 63 of almost 700.

The weather was perfect. The race was well run and I didn’t die or finish last. Very clearly the Old man 40-49 age bracket is something of considerable note.

RESULTS

2018 Race Recap #47: Marine Corps Marathon

I’m actually not entirely sure where to begin with this recap. This was an emotional event by design and a personally important event. This affected me on several levels. Let me start with how I came to this point, what I decided to do with this, the results of the work I’ve put into it, and finally the meaning behind the race itself.

Earlier this year, I learned that the Marine Corps Marathon was accepting lottery entries and just like the way I’ve managed the rest of my life, I entered the lottery because it didn’t require any sort of real commitment: if I were accepted via the lottery, I could choose to register or not, unlike, Say, the Chicago or New York Marathons where in order to enter the lottery you have to cough up your credit card that will be charged if you are accepted to enter via the lottery. I remember I sent my registration fee to my undergraduate college because it was refundable vs. the more prestigious school that had a non-refundable deposit.  When you’re making $3.60/hr, $100 means a lot…I guess.

At any rate, I entered the lottery on the last day I could. Within a few days I was notified I was accepted for entry and that I had only a few days to register…which I did on the last day. Now that I’d committed,  I wasn’t quite sure what I should do with it.

Now that I’d committed money to my race, I needed a reason to do this. I actually hadn’t anticipated getting into the lottery, although the lottery is apparently not as lucky as one may expect.

img_7753
Finished!

Given the Marine Corps Marathon IS hosted by the Marines, and is an exposition of not only the organizational prowess of the Marines, but also the expression of gratitude for the fallen, this is something much more than any other race in which I’ve participated.  This is a city built on the expression of history. I’m proud of the fact that I ran this to raise funds for modern Veterans facing the problems of modern life.

I met a woman on the shuttle over to the runner’s festival from Crystal City. We discussed the weather – a generally innocuous topic when speaking with strangers – she felt very cold while I thought it was perfect running weather, perhaps even balmy. It turns out she was from Barbados, which would explain our differing sense of the same experience. It further turns out she was exactly the person I should meet heading to the race: a professional motivational speaker and life coach, she had me ready to run through a brick wall by the time we were off that bus.  I appreciated her friendship for the 15 minutes or so that our lives intersected, because she really did help me see this for what it was: living my best life and giving back.  Thank you for that Joya.

Now, my goal for my first marathon was 4-hours. I’m never going to time qualify for the Boston Marathon, unless I can maintain my pace for the next, say, 30-years, but I am interested in maintaining a respectable pace.  So the 4 hour mark was kind of important to me for reasons. End of day, for the Marine Corps Marathon, I ran 4:03:17. A little disappointing – I got a very nasty cramp between miles 24 and 25 that effectively derailed my 4-hour attempt – but overall reasonably respectable.  According to one site, in the 2011-2012 marathon season the average time for any person, regardless of gender or age, was 4 hours, 24 minutes and 0 seconds; the median finish time for men was 4:17:43.  I’m sure there’s some variation from 2012 to today, but it seems like a reasonable number that shouldn’t vary too too much.

The first couple of miles are up hill, not unlike the hills I run in and around Worcester, so while I was used to it, I wasn’t feeling it early on. I was stiff and just didn’t feel up to it, at one point asking myself if I was going to be able to finish. After that first hill though, the payoff was the downhill for a couple of miles, which had me feeling much better about things, and from there until the finish line it was reasonably flat.  I was on cruise control for more or less the majority of the race.  There were a few places where I was running out of gas – more than I care to admit, frankly – but I was still on pace for that 4-hour mark.  I was actually pacing with the 3:45 runners for a while, but clearly by mile 22 I was running on fumes. and it was clear 3:45 was not going to happen for me.  The finish is uphill toward the Iwo Jima memorial, and curiously enough I had enough in the tank to run up and past several others because of the hills around home – thank you quads!

Marathon Statistics Data
Percent of the U.S. population that has run a marathon 0.5 %
Record time for the fastest marathon ever run 2:01:39 hours
Total number of U.S. marathons held annually 570
Total number of people who finished a marathon annually 581,811
Data from statisticbrain.com

Now, this was an amazing race and I’m glad I took the opportunity to run it. I loved the crowd support, and seeing folks lining the streets. My own family was along the course to root me on, and the energy was palpable. Running 26+ miles is hard, but running with others is certainly motivational.

Before I left Washington, I made it a point to visit Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Of the times I’d been to Washington, I’d somehow never been able to get into the cemetery: it was either closed or my schedule didn’t permit it.  This time though, it was important to me to be sure to visit: for perspective, to remember, and maybe most importantly to be sure I gave back just a little more.  I was moved by the race’s “Blue Mile,” I was there raising money for veterans in need; I needed to show respect for those who have come before me and who have given their lives. I needed to give something to them too. It’s an amazing place, and I was humbled being there. Godspeed, soldiers.

Results

RACE TIME: 04:03:17

OVERALL PLACE: 3744 of 27640

DIVISION RANK: 3696 of 21158

Leave Me a Message at the Tone

I found a “bonus” episode of a podcast I listen to occasionally in my feed. It’s about the power of the human voice and discusses, in part, the physiological effects of hearing the voice of a loved one on the body.

Nothing new or earthshaking there, but then it was revealed one of the speakers had acquired a new phone and lost the only message he had from his now deceased mother.

Hearing the voice of a loved one has the same chemical affect on your body as hugging that person. Hugging releases oxytocin and generally relaxes.  According to a 2016 article in US News: The hugging and oxytocin release that comes with it can then have trickle-down effects throughout the body, causing a decrease in heart rate and a drop in the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine.  Just hearing her voice was treated by his brain the same way as a hug, with all those positive benefits, and now, he’d never have that again.

In 2011, I got at first iPhone as an upgrade from my top of the line Motorola Q – the best technology 2005 could offer. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I too would lose the only recording I had of my dads voice.

For the previous 3 years, I had replayed that voice mail often. Just calling to check in, “I love you…” just thinking about hearing that makes me happy. In the time since he passed on, the sadness I would feel has become far less pointed. But man I wish I still had that recording. There are times I could really use that rush of neurotransmitters like the ones awash in your brain when you get a hug. Those times where I can sit and reflect and wish I could ask Dad for his advice.

I remember being incredibly upset about losing that recording. It was an obvious sense of loss, but I never really thought about it in quite the way the biology was presented today. A hug. I was missing the hug from my dad.

This year was the 10-year anniversary of his passing; the passage of that amount of time remains unfathomable to me and I could’ve really used that connection both on the anniversary and at a myriad of other times in the last 7-years or so.

I now know that others have had the same experience and suffered the same loss and I now know that there’s a real, biological effect of hearing that voice. It’s somewhat humbling in that having that recording in the first place was a relatively new phenomenon in human history: I’m sure he would have loved a recording of his father, but alas all we had were photographs.  So in the end, I’ll choose to be happy for having that extra time with his tired, fading voice.

 

2018 Race Recap #46: BAA Half Marathon

I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to feel about this race. The last half I did was horrendous after running it with a chest cold and the one previous with a taped up shin splint.  I really wanted to hit a personal best, and ideally hit 1:45:00.  That didn’t happen, although both were fully within reach. In the end, this was a long heaving “meh.” Sure. I out performed all but two previous halfs, but then again this was only my 9th – one of which was a trail race, so it’s not wholly comparable.  I felt great heading into mile 6, averaging about 8 minute miles and then…not so much.  I take some comfort from the idea that this is a big boy’s race – not flat, but “rolling hills” – but when you head in with certain expectations that aren’t met, it kind of stings.

It’s funny, I grew up around here. I remember rolling with my friends in Linda’s 1974 Pontiac Le Mans down the Jamaica Way, and never once did I say, “hey, you know what would be awesome? RUNNING this!” And yet, here I was. AND I paid to do it.  It had been years since I had been in this area and had forgotten just how hilly it is. That said, at this point I’m just griping.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, outdoor
A slightly disappointing time, but I didn’t die.  At the 10-mile mark, I was at 1:25:00. It took me almost a full 30 minutes for the last 5k of the course. This is what upsets me most – I had a 5k in front of me and I blew it.

Normally, I wouldn’t have much to say about the course. It’s not waterfront. It doesn’t go through any historic areas of significant (other than my own personal history, I suppose), and yet when I was researching the elevation profile beforehand so I knew what to plan for, I found a blog  that was doing pretty much what this one does: a little bit of everything (actually, I kind of dig how he outlines his race results) but more specifically he recaps his races.  In it, he details the course – how beautiful it is.  Now, his review was from 2014 and I know the course hasn’t changed, so I deliberately took the time to pay attention. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was a fresh look at an area I so often overlooked as a kid.

The homes ARE magnificent, and the area really is beautiful along the “emerald necklace.” I’d like to thank him for that point of view because I wouldn’t have seen it left to my own devices.

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sports and outdoor
It’s always nice having friends along the course.  Photo Credit: Joan Recore

As for organization, it’s the BAA.  It was top notch. Plenty of porta-potties, bag check was super organized. The only thing I was disappointed about was that according to the BAA, there was a cap of about 9000 runners: 3000 of whom entered by virtue of their distance medley (a 5k, 10k, and half-marathon), another 6000 or so entered first come first served and for charity, yet, the results show I was one of  6220. Hey, we’re in the age of Trump where apparently attendance numbers can be a subject of some dispute.

 

Previous Results

Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29
New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48

One Month: Marathon Valor Run #MCM4OVF

valor runONE MONTH. In 30 days I toe the line at my first marathon at the 43rd Marine Corps Marathon. I’m using the opportunity to raise money for an Army veteran in need through the O’Connell Valor Fund. 25 pledgers have helped me raise $1750 of my $2000.

Although the training miles have piled up, I’m not going to qualify for the Boston Marathon, especially not with the qualifying times changing, but more specifically I’m not that good a runner. I’m hoping to finish in the 4:15:00 – 4:30:00 range — only an hour or so (30%) longer than my BQ time. Supporting this run is not about supporting a runner seeking any glory other that the personal victory of finishing a marathon. This is about doing good, giving back.

The O’Connell Valor Fund has presented me the family this fundraiser will support and they have a devastating and heartbreaking story.  Our veteran was medically discharged from the Army, disabled and unable to work, he has been undergoing treatments at the Veterans Administration. Meanwhile, his wife had been supporting the family and his son with special needs had been contributing to the family income.

Earlier this year, his son committed suicide in the family home. If not devastating and traumatic enough in and of itself, his family now stands on the verge of losing everything as his wife has been unable to work as a result. After months of working with local resources, they’re able to move out of their home – away from the trauma and closer to his treatment options.

Our veteran has been vetted through Veterans Count, the philanthropic arm of the Easter Seals Military & Veterans Services, and the O’Connell Valor Fund directs 99% of their funds to Veterans just like this.  To learn more about why I’m doing this, I detail it here, but simply put, it’s a labor of love and to give back.   The money raised here will help our Veteran move away from the trauma, and move back toward regaining his life.

I would consider it an honor for you to express your support for this effort, no matter how small.  I need just 10 people to pledge $1 a mile to reach the goal.  10! I’ve been presented this veteran because I believe I can raise this money.  The sad part is that while his story is heartbreaking, there are many many more stories just like his. We need to do better for the men and women who have served our countries and for their families.  I know there are 10 people who can help make this happen.

You can make a flat dollar contribution or pledge an amount per mile (26.2!!) by clicking the graphic above or just following this link.

Contributions/Pledges are tax deductible.  Thank you for your consideration and support.

Refuse to Contribute Story 5: Wilma Rudolph

Image result for wilma rudolph family
Wilma and her parents.

She was a premie baby, born lighter than a 5-pound bag of potatoes. It wasn’t for another 30-years or so before premature babies began receiving specialized care – in 1940, such babies were not expected to survive. But Wilma Rudolph did.

By the time she was 4, she had pneumonia, scarlett fever, and polio. Her parents were told she’d never walk again. Treatment options for poor, black kids in Tennessee were limited, and yet by the time she was in high school, she was a basketball and track star. By 1956, she was an Olympic Bronze Medalist.  Entering college in 1958, she was a single mom, and a second time Olympic aspirant. In the 1960 Olympics, and a sophomore in college, she won 3-more medals – all gold – and became known as the fastest woman on earth.

After retiring from competition, she began a career of teaching and coaching – protesting segregation, teaching grade school and coaching track. She was mother to four children and by 1992 she had become an executive in healthcare.  In 1994, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away within 4 months.

She wore braces until she was 8. Her parents were manual laborers without much money, yet they supported each other. And that’s the true story of this refuse to contribute story: family. Wilma became an amazing athlete through sheer determination, and lived an amazing life.  Her family supported her through premature birth, disease, educated her and gave her the supports necessary for a black, single teen mom to go to college in the 1960s.  With so much stacked against her at the time, her family made sure she had the opportunity to thrive. When Wilma was a child, her mom would take her twice weekly – a round trip of 100 miles – for treatment for her legs. Her mom taught her siblings the massage therapy for her legs, and for 5 years she received these 4 times daily. It was her will that drove her to succeed, but it was the foundational supports of her family that put her in position to succeed.

To be sure, Wilma was an inspirational person and amazing athlete – people with more supports and greater hands up do not accomplish what she did, but it’s also clear to me that she would not have had the ability to be the true expression of her ability had she not have the love and caring of her family. One can only imagine what she could have achieved had she had the resources available to her more affluent peers.

Wilma’s story should be an inspiration for everyone pushing their boundaries, and her family should be an inspiration for everyone. There’s no telling where the love you show your family will go. There’s no telling where your achievements will reach.