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Archive for June, 2010

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On Sunday I ran Boston 13.1.

When the alarm went off at 4AM, I thought, this is NOT going to go well. In fact, I had had that exact same thought as I finally drifted off to sleep just a little over 3 hours earlier. Despite having plans to run on Sunday, the wife and I had gone out to dinner with cousins and stayed out relatively late. 4AM arrived way too quickly.

After a shower and a quick bite to eat, I was off. Despite having to wake up at 4AM, I was thankful for the 6:15 race start. With temperatures quickly rising to 80° by 10AM, anything later would have made the race simply unbearable.

Turns out that the 13.1 Marathon Series Boston Edition didn’t actually take place in Boston. Instead, it was in the rolling hills of Milton and Canton. Rolling hills is putting it lightly, but more on that later. After failing to find my teammate Chris (the one who came in 4th last week) and my buddy Erin (in from Georgia), I made my way to the starting line. The starting corral was organized into pace sections (6:00 mile, 7:00 mile, etc). I wasn’t sure what my game plan was yet, nor did I have any clue as to how I was going to run. 3 hours of sleep and already rising temperatures made me a little nervous about going out too fast. I essentially wanted to beat 1:40, with my secret “time to beat” for the day a 1:35. With summer in full effect I knew there was no way I was going to challenge my Half-Mary PR of 1:33:14. So I placed myself at the front of the 8:00/mile pack, figuring I’d run somewhere in the 7:30 – 7:45 range for the race.

After a few minutes we were off. Unlike last week where I got sucked out by the Kenyan leaders, this week I was careful to go out with a little patience – or so I thought. I looked around for someone to latch onto but much like the Boston Run To Remember, nobody seemed to fit a pace that was comfortable for me. After a few minutes of bobbing and weaving, I found a couple that was running together and seemed to be moving along at a decent clip. I settled in behind them and focused on form. When we hit the first mile marker I was a bit surprised – 7:18. Huh! I was feeling pretty good, so I figured why not keep it up. As we hit the second mile in 7:19, I heard the guy say to his girlfriend that he thought they should pick up the pace. Again, I figured I was still feeling pretty good so why not keep up?

Just before mile 2 the hills started to kick in. They weren’t nasty – not yet anyway – but definitely provided a bit of a challenge this early in the morning. The course had several out and back branches, the first one starting at mile 3. This first branch was only about 2 1/2 miles altogether and was uneventful except that I was able to get a glimpse of the leader as he ran past in the other direction. This early in the race, it appeared that he already had a good 3 – 4 minute lead. I was happy to see my RaceMenu teammate Chris sitting comfortably in 2nd. We’ve exchanged hello’s as we passed each other. As I made it back to the start of this first branch, I realized that I was running steadily in the low 7’s. Much faster than I had planned, but feeling good nonetheless. Visions of a PR started to dance in my head – that is until I turned the corner onto out and back branch number 2 at mile 5. I took a deep breath as I stared at a hill that simply went up and appeared to continue up as the path turned around another corner. I found out over 7 1/2 minutes later that the hill went up for a full mile. For the non-runner, a 30 second drop in pace may not seem much, but add it up over 13 miles and you’re talking about a 6 1/2 minutes swing in your time.

While tackling this hill I was struck with doubt. I seriously wondered if I had been unwise to run the first 5 miles at the pace I had with as little sleep as I had had the night before. I tried to employ my falling uphill technique with mixed results. I could only do it in spurts, but it was carrying me past dozens of people, and even when I had to straighten up, momentum continued to carry me. I must have passed 30 people on the way up the hill. When I realized this, my attitude began to change for a second time.

As we approached the turnaround just past mile 7 I began counting the runners coming the other way. The leader had come and gone minutes earlier. Chris was in a battle for 2nd place some 5 – 6 minutes behind. We slapped 5 as we passed each in a neat moment I will not forget. A minute or so after that came the rest of the pack. 4, 5, 6…10, 15, 20…25, 26, 30…35, 40…45, 50, 60…69, 70, 72…77, 78, 79… I was sitting in the 80th spot. Okay, I can deal with that. 80th. That’s not bad. But then I started thinking about the previous week’s race. I didn’t want to get passed. My goal had been to finish in the top 100 in this race, and yes, I was sitting at 80th, but there was another 6.1 miles to go.

After the turnaround, there was a slight uphill, where my falling uphill technique helped my catch 4 or 5 runners, and then it was downhill for the next 2 1/2 miles. It sounds great, but it is tough on the quads! As I hit mile 8 I heard a woman yell “LUAU!!!”. I turned just in time to see my Twitter/Dailymile buddy Erin go running by in the other direction. I waved as best I could and kept going.

By this time, the runners had spread out pretty thinly. There were two runner about 30 yards ahead of me. I set my sights on reeling them in. At about mile 9 I caught them. As I contemplated whether to run with them or try to pass them, one of them looked at me and said, “Hey! Are you that guy with that blog on dailymile?” I did a double take. Well, uh, yeah, actually I am. He told me that he had just stumbled onto my blog not 4 or 5 days before. In fact, he had sent me an email asking me a question about running in Vibrams (Eric, I promise I’m getting around to answering that email very shortly!). We chatted over the next mile about running marathons (I found out he had run a 3:09 marathon and qualified for Boston) and running in general. At about mile 10 he backed off and I looked ahead to the next group of runners in front of me. Our pace had closed the gap significantly on the next group. As we rounded a corner at 10.5 I realized that I was probably sitting now somewhere around 60th. I chugged along to mile 11, blissfully clipping along.

Then came mile 12. Ever since mile 6, the hills had been relatively mild. But mile 12 made mile 6 look like a wannabe. It just went and went at a much steeper incline. Again I took a deep breath, but this time I was determined to take the battle to the hill. I shortened my stride, controlled my breathing and went. Leaning into the hill, I passed 5 runners just as the hill started. I felt like I was either moving at a decent clip or the runners in front of me were losing their fight with the hill (turns out it was a little of both – I wasn’t going as nearly as fast as I would have hoped, but it was fast enough to pass these runners). I passed another group of 4 or 5 runners. Now there were no more pods in front of me, just lone islands of single runners struggling to make it to 12. One by one I picked them off. I tried to control my breathing, softening it as I went by those that were struggling. I didn’t want them to know that I was feeling the pain too. I kept running and I slowing kept passing runners. As I approached the top of the hill I came upon the last water station.

1.1 miles to go.

I saw 3 or 4 runners slowing down to grab a drink. Did I have a strong enough 1.1 left in me to pass up this last water station? I decided to gamble and blew right through.

1.1 miles to go. I knew I was less than 8 minutes from the finish. I could suffer through 8 minutes.

I caught a few more runners. There in the distance was one more runner in blue. He had to be at least 50 – 60 yards ahead of me. At this point, there was about a quarter mile to go. There was simply no way to catch him. It couldn’t be done. But I again flashed to the Father’s Day 10K from the previous week. I remembered how I had been passed in the final mile. I remembered how I gave up trying to catch him with about 200 yards to go. I remembered how that guy cost me a 2nd place finish in my age group.

NOT. THIS. FRAKKING. TIME!

I turned the engine into overdrive. I had already kicked it up a notch at the start of the hill, but I was able to find another gear and then another after that. I kept looking at him and then at the finish line and then back at him again. He was in cruise mode, settled into his place.

I was closing, but running out of real estate.

I kept pushing. My legs were screaming, my lungs were burning.

I heard the crowd pick up the volume. They knew what I was trying to do.

With 70 yards to go, he was still a good 20 yards in front of me.

Suddenly he sensed something was wrong. Maybe someone in the crowd tipped him off. His head turned slightly as he pick up his pace. I covered 20 yards in the time it took him to cover 10. We were now 10 yards apart, with 50 yards to go. He tried to turn on the gas but it was too late. I was flying and his engine was in cruise control. I passed him with 1 yard to go. It was close enough that both of our guntimes read 1:33:58. But I know I beat him to the finish.

He came over and patted me on the back. I chatted with a few of the runners that came in right after me, exchanging congratulations. As I left the finishing chute, I ran into Chris. He had finished in second, pulling away late in the race from his rival. I waited and cheered Erin in. We exchanged big sweaty hugs. She PR’d by 10 minutes!

In the end, I didn’t PR. Officially my time was 1:33:47, a half minute off my PR, but I managed to finish 41st overall out 2681 finishers and 4th in my age group (out of 106 men ages 40 – 44, and out of 188 men in their 40’s). Yes, another 4th place finish in my age group and unfortunately, this time there were no 40 year olds in the top three overall finishers. That said, I felt pretty damned good about my result, especially considering that when I woke up Sunday morning, I was pretty convinced that this race was not going to end well for me.

The race itself, though great for me, was somewhat of a disaster organizationally speaking. The finishing chute was too crowded with no easy exit. The medals, usually handed out to runners as they finish, were only available across a large field in an unmarked location. The usual amenities one expects at a half or full marathon (i.e. massage tents, food and beer) were only available to runners who ran with Team Challenge. But the very worst mistake that I heard about later was that the organizers ran out of cups at the water stations midway through the race. Though I wasn’t carrying my own hydration, I was lucky to be ahead enough to have missed that, but many of the runners were forced to take swigs out of gallon jugs as they went through the water stations. I can’t imagine having to drink from a bottle that the sweaty stranger in front of you just slobbered all over. And from what I understand, a couple of the stations actually ran out of water all together. A definite liability in the hot and humid weather.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was able to run much faster than I expected and the hills that I was so worried about turned out to help me in the end.

Here’s the elevation chart:

Miles 6 & 12 were killers

With this race out of the way, it’s time to concentrate on my five miler coming up at the end of July. I’ve never run a race that short, and I realize that I have to work on speed – a topic for another post.

Erin & I right after she PR'd by 10 minutes. You gotta love a girl who's willing to give you a big, sweaty hug and not care!

I also ran into Eric post-race. I promise that email reply is coming!

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Drive

If we can’t live together, we’re gonna die alone.

-Jack Shephard


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What am I running from?

What am I running to?

What drives me?

Is it as simple as that?

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation about the relationship between self-image and food. The gist of that particular conversation was that some people use food to fill a void or ease a pain in their lives.  The void or pain “drives” them to food.

Not a revelation, I know.

But for some people, they need to hear it out loud or from an “expert” to internalize it and then use that information in a positive way.

That conversation got me thinking about my relationship with running.  Without a doubt there are some who have substituted running for food in the above mentioned relationship.  I don’t think that it’s a lot of people, but it’s a reality.   I had to ask myself, what about MY relationship with running?

Is there a void? And am I trying to fill it with miles upon endless miles? Is there a buried pain that I am not aware of (or choose not to be aware of) on the surface?

I consider myself a pretty shallow guy. I don’t mean that in a negative sense. I mean that for the most part, when it comes to me, what you see is what you get. There are a few deep undercurrents, but I am generally an open book and am pretty easy to read. At least that’s what I believe.

So what drives me? Why do I do this? Why get up early or go to bed late to run.

A long time ago I had a huge competitive streak. I worked hard to be first in everything I did, whether it was in academics, on the track, or in the ring. I wasn’t always the best, and sometimes I had my ass handed to me with a side of humble pie, but I always came at it hard.

Somewhere along the way, I lost my edge…completely. So when I discovered running 18 months ago, and found that one could be competitive no matter the talent level, my fire was somewhat renewed.

I love running because, despite the fact that 99% of us will never win a race outright, we can feed our competitive fire with the runners that are around us. Whether you’re fighting for 10th, 100th or 1000th place, you can still fight, push, give 100% and feel good about how you did. Disappointing finishes can be used to fuel the fire and drive you.  A fantastic finish can feed your desire even more.  In the end you are truly only racing against one person – yourself.

That is what has driven me in my runs for the last 18 months.  Trying to PR with every race, trying to push myself harder and faster than I did before.

But this past week brought me a completely different kind of fuel.  One that can be just as powerful, if not more so, than the re-kindled internal flame that has been driving me.  This summer I am running for my girls.  One of my two daughters is on the autism spectrum, the other is typically developing, but both are greatly affected by the effects of autism.  Though my little one is the one who struggles daily with autism, my older one has had to learn how to accommodate a little sister who can act in ways that don’t always make sense, are sometimes irrational, and quite frankly, from my older one’s perspective, occasionally embarrassing.

Though her struggle is nothing like that of my little Brooke’s, Katie’s struggles are nonetheless real and truly burdensome.  Katie, in a lot of ways, has had to grow up more rapidly than her peers.  She tries to find a balance between being a typical 9-year-old girl and being the big sister of a 7-year-old with autism.  I have to remind her on a regular basis that she does not need to “mother” her sister.

But there is a third girl in my family who has been deeply affected by autism as well – the Wife.  She has had to take a different path than I am sure she imagined when we first said, “I do” (coincidentally, this past Sunday was our 11th anniversary).  Having carried both our girls for 9 months,  she has felt every bit of pain and frustration she sees in both Brooke and Katie in ways that cut deep and leave scars. She has found her outlets through her blog and has become a uniter of sorts in the local community, helping create a very popular inclusion committee at the girls’ elementary school.  But she too, along with Brooke and Katie, struggles with the rippling effects of autism on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

When I first got word from Autism Speaks that I had been accepted to be part of their team for the 2010 ING New York City Marathon, I focused almost completely on my little Brooke.  I sent out emails and updates on Twitter, Dailymile and Facebook asking people to help me help my little girl Brooke, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this run, these efforts by Autism Speaks, my reason for asking you for donations and/or spreading the word, were less about just Brooke and more about the big picture – the families and circle of friends that are affected by weight of autism.

Autism can be isolating, not just for the person affected by it, but for the entire family.  From a personal perspective, I can tell you that autism, although introducing us to a whole new world of friends (Drama, Jersey, Judith, Pixie, Jeneil?  We love you!), it has also kept or pushed us to the periphery with other groups.  I don’t blame those people who have fallen off our social radar.  Part of it has been our own doing.  Some people just don’t get it or are unable to convey and instill their own compassion into their children and because of that we have withdrawn.  But sometimes, it is the other families that pull away, because it is the parents who can’t wrap their brains around what it is we go through on a daily basis.  Again, I don’t blame them.  It’s human nature to pull away from something we can’t understand.  Hopefully awareness can change some of that.

And so I run this summer.  I run for Autism Speaks.  I run to raise autism awareness.  I run to make the world a friendlier place for my Brooke.  I run to make the world less of a burden for my Katie.  I run to help the wife see a world where the sun is in fact shining, there are fewer tears, and the occasional torrential rain storm can be a good thing because it can lead to rapid  growth.  I run to help others, whether they are affected by autism or not, to reach across their differences and shake hands in friendship.  In the end, whether it is autism, some other disorder, religion, politics or whatever it is that divides us,  if we can learn to appreciate and understand our differences, we can learn to live and thrive together.

Yes, I have found a new fuel to drive me this summer – it starts with my three girls, Brooke, Katie and the Wife.

Brooke, the Wife & Katie

I hope you will join me in my fight.

Click —>HERE<— to link to my Autism Speaks donor page OR THERE—> Bookmark and Share to help me spread the word.

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As I walked along the sidewalk I could feel the right side of my body heat up under the rays of the rising sun.  Just on the other side of a small wall was the beach, the ocean’s wave splashing invitingly.

A bead of sweat ran from my temple and down my cheek.  I looked at my watch.

9AM.

The race wasn’t starting for another hour, and that was only if it was starting on time.  One more hour for the sun to rise higher in the sky and give off its intense heat.  I puttered up and down the sidewalk, stretching a little, jogging a little, trying to work out the crick in my neck I had woken up with 2 days earlier.  I wasn’t feeling great about this race.

4 months earlier I had run a 10K in sub-freezing weather.  Initially I had worried about the cold, but I discovered that at that temperature, I was actually kind of fast.  I finished in a flashy 39:29.  I toyed with the idea of going sub-40 this past Sunday, but with the temperature as it was at 9AM, I re-evaluated and thought maybe a sub-45 was a smarter goal.  Normally I enjoy the hour before a race, but the heat was so intense that I was afraid to sit still for too long, and so I wandered like a lost soul.

Finally, at 10, we were called to the starting line.  The announcement came over the PA that if you were planning on running 17-minute 5K splits, you should step to the front of the line, otherwise step back.  I took several steps back, along with everyone else.  Two Kenyans joined us where  we stood.  My teammate Lisa* leaned over and told me that they were the heavy favorites.  I took another step back.  The two Kenyans kept shuffling backwards and everybody else followed suit.  I looked over at another teammate, Chris, and said, “I wish they’d stop shuffling back.  Aren’t they supposed to be right on the starting line?”  He nodded and laughed.

Finally the starter asked everyone to step to the line.  The crowd pushed me forward and I found myself lined up alongside the Kenyans.  “This is not good,” I thought.  Chris asked me what I was shooting for.  “40 if it were 30° cooler, you?”  He said 36.

That's me between one of the Kenyans and the guy in the blue shirt...Chris is to my left, Lisa is to my right

Hmmm.  36.  Maybe I won’t be hanging with you too long.

The starter raised the horn, counted down and we were off!  I followed my teammate as we shot off the starting line.  Initially it didn’t feel so fast, but I knew I had started too quickly when my breathing became heavy almost immediately.  A quarter of a mile in a photographer took a shot of the lead pack.  It was the Kenyans, Chris, another runner and me.  I very quickly realized that this could end poorly for me.  I had no business being in this lead pack.  As we hit mile marker 1, with the Kenyans already 20 yards ahead, I looked at my watch.

5:55

5:55?!? What the heck was I thinking?  I had a moment of panic as I tried to keep up.  I made a very quick decision to slow it down drastically.  As I watched my friend pull away, I focused on getting to the turn around.  The race had been set up as a 3.1 mile out and back loop.  I knew the turn around was less than 3 minutes away.  With the heat pounding down on us the way it was, I was going to have to break this race down into 4  1.5 mile races to get through it.  By the time we hit the first turnaround, a few runner had caught and passed me.

There is no worse feeling in a road race than getting passed, but again, I also knew that I had no business being this far ahead of the pack.

We hit the turn, I grabbed some water, took a sip, poured the rest down my back and headed back.

BAM!  The wind hit me hard.  In retrospect, I don’t think that the wind was actually that strong, but when combined with the heat and humidity, it felt like I was running into a wall of jello-pudding.

Mile 2 arrived quickly, 6:36, But I could already feel myself fading.  The heat was getting to me.  A few more runners passed me, but I kept plugging along.  I spotted the building that we had started at and looked at my watch.  Oh!  Just under 6:00! Maybe I’m doing better than I thought.  That gave me a little energy boost as I honed in on the turnaround…except it wasn’t the building and the turnaround wasn’t there.  I looked up to see an identical building a couple hundred yards down.  There was the building we had started at.  My small boost of energy quickly deflated.  Mile 3 still arrived at a respectable 7:12.

As I hit the turn, there were my girls.  I shifted right to give my Katie a high five.

You can just make out Katie behind the garbage can with her "Go Dad" hat

She was wearing the same “Go Dad!” hat she had worn for Boston.  I shot out of the turnaround at 20:18 – striking distance of a sub-40 – and sitting in 15th place.

Katie had given me a small energy boost that carried me over mile 4 in 7:05 (my first and only negative split of the day!).  I struggled to make to the turn, but kept telling myself that once I was out of this turn it was only 1.7 to go.  I took a gulp of water, poured the rest down my back and prepared to be hit by the wind.  It didn’t hit me quite as hard this time, but in looking back I realize that it was because I wasn’t going nearly as fast.  I pushed on, knowing that I essentially only had to keep this up for another 12 minutes or so.

The mile 5 marker came and went.  I looked at my watch.  7:20.  I was slowing down.  Shortly after passing the marker I got passed one more time.    I tried to hang with the guy, but every time I tried to hit the accelerator I got nothing.  It was like cranking an engine with a dying battery, and my legs were dying!!! Mile 6 came in a relatively slow 7:37.  Chris was standing there and yelled, “300 meters!  Kick it in!”

As I passed the last water stop I yelled, “Throw it in my face!!!”  The kid holding the water cup looked confused.  “Throw the water in my face!” I yelled again.  One of the other volunteers told the kid to throw in my face.  Finally he got.  As I went through the water stop, I got hit three time.  It woke me up!  The legs came somewhat alive and I pushed it for all I had.

One last push

Unfortunately, the guy who had just passed me did the exact same thing.    I closed on him but in the end I ran out of real estate.

Coming around the final turn, I high fived Katie again and went through the finishing chute.  43:11.  I had covered the last 0.2 in a 7:00/mile pace.  I leaned on my knees, breathing hard.  As miserable as it was, I have to admit it was fun.  One of the things I love about out and back races is that you get to see everybody.  Throughout the race I was able to shoot hello’s to teammates and various runners who I had met before the race, plus I really got to see the two Kenyan runners in action, up close.  They ran with a fluidity I can only dream of.

When the results sheet went up I almost tore out my hair.  4 months earlier I had missed the podium by 2 seconds, finishing 4th in my age group.  When I first saw the initial results, there I was, 43:11, 16th place out of 169 finishers, 4th in my age group.  4th?!?  Again?  This time by 9 seconds.  Remember that guy who passed me just after mile 5?  Yeah, that was him.  I couldn’t believe it.  What I forgot however, was that in the final posting of the results, most race directors remove the overall podium finishers from the age group category, so surprise, surprise, I found myself on the podium at the awards ceremony.  3rd place in my age group!  I’ll take it!

So what did I learn from this race?  Lesson #1:  unless you are Kenyan, don’t try to run with them.  As thrilling as it was to run next to poetry in motion for a 1/2 mile, I paid for it dearly over the next 5.7 miles.  Lesson #2:  no matter how tired you are, dig deeper at the end to get that final kick and start it before the final 0.2 miles.  The last guy that passes you could be the difference between a podium finish or not.  Lesson #3: racing on a team can help your motivation.  I managed to finish 2nd on the RaceMenu/mix1 team, but part of what kept me motivated was seeing my teammates out on the course.  A simple wave or a nod was an acknowlegement of a shared effort to get through a race under brutally hot conditions.

Up next is the Boston13.1 half-marathon this coming Sunday.  I’m praying that the 6:15 AM start means much lower temperatures.

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*Back in March I was asked to join the RaceMenu/mix1 racing team.  I have now run the Boston Marathon, the Providence Marathon, the Boston Run to Remember Half-Marathon and the Father’s Day 10K with them, and it has been a pleasure meeting the teammates I have.  Check out RaceMenu at www.RaceMenu.com.

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My Little Brooke

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On November 7th, 2010 I will be running the ING New York City Marathon. It will be my 4th, possibly 5th, marathon, but it will be the first that I run representing a charity. I have chosen a charity that is very close to my heart – Autism Speaks. My daughter, Brooke, has autism. She was diagnosed over 3 years ago and when my wife and I were told the news, there was very little support out there. In the time since then, the tools and resources available to families with new diagnoses has come a very long way. Part of that is due in large part to the efforts of Autism Speaks.

They have been a tireless advocate of awareness, something both the wife and I strongly believe in.

Ignorance is the parent of fear and cruelty.

In an ignorant world, my daughter would have been called a brat, or willful child, or worse, stupid. In an ignorant world she would have been constantly punished for behavior that she is unable to control without assistance. In an ignorant world, my daughter may well have been looked upon with disapproval and judgement from both teachers and peers. Thanks in part to the efforts of Autism Speaks and charities like it, my daughter does not live in a world of ignorance. We may not be where we need to be yet, but we are on our way.

Awareness is the parent of understanding and compassion.

With awareness comes understanding which can eventually lead to compassion. I have been amazed how people have responded to my little Brooke once they know what she has to deal with on a daily basis. Once they understand that a room full of talking children can literally be a painful assault on her ears, or that trying to follow what a teacher is saying in class can be as if you were trying to understand a lecture on economics by a professor who spoke 4 out of 5 words in a language you didn’t understand, or that a simple, repetitive sound that you or I simply block out as white noise becomes an itch that she cannot possibly hope to scratch; once people understand this, their awareness quickly turns to compassion. People start looking out for Brooke because they know that in the end, she is just like any one of us, just a little different on how she perceives the world.

I believe that the more people I can make aware of autism and its effects on both those who have it and their families, the better the world will be when my little girl grows up. The wife and I have, from a very early point, been fairly public about autism, Brooke and our family. Not everyone chooses to “come out” if you will, and I have grown to accept and even understand that. By the same token, I feel that as long as autism is kept in a dark corner, hidden away as something to be ashamed of, then ignorance, fear and cruelty will continue to exist and grow.

Running for awareness.

And so I run. This November I will run to help push the boundaries of awareness. I will talk to anyone who asks about the lows and highs (yes, highs) of having a child on the autism spectrum. I will encourage people to speak loud and speak proud of their children or themselves. I will remind parents that no victory is too small to cheer and that no defeat is too large to throw in the towel.

Autism Speaks is a charity I respect and have a passion for. They do so much and work so hard to make the world a better place for my Brooke, for both today and tomorrow. But it’s not just my Brooklet that they are helping. Everyday a new family is devastated with the news that someone in their family, whether they are 3, 13 or 23 years old, has been diagnosed with autism. I have had many friends come to me over the past year asking questions and expressing concerns about their own children. With resources like the First 100 Days Kit, these families are now able to find the tools to help ease that initial pain and start moving in a positive direction.

So I am asking you to help me help my little Brooke and all the families out there affected by autism. You can do that by clicking

—>HERE<—

The link will take you directly to my fundraising page for this year’s New York City Marathon. I need to raise at least $2600. Much of the funds that Autism Speaks raises goes to research, but a portion of it also goes directly to grants that are reviewed by the parents of children with autism. They make an effort to make sure that the funds they distribute can benefit many of us directly. Autism Speaks is truly working to make the world a better place both today AND tomorrow. I know that many of you have helped me in the past when our family has done the Autism Speaks Walks. I am truly grateful for that, and I am asking for your help once again. Having learned to walk, it’s now time for me to run. I hope that you will support me as I try to make the world just a little more aware, a little more understanding, a little more compassionate.

Thank you so much.

Help Me Help Brooke To Fly

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So as runners, we tend to find new and interesting ways to keep ourselves motivated. Whether it’s an attempt to beat our previous month’s mileage or outrun an online friend (you hear me @5KJunkie?), we use what we can to motivate ourselves.  As young sports fans growing up, many of us believed in “the jinx”.  When watching a game, if you were sitting in a certain spot when your team got hot, you didn’t move for fear of jinxing them. If you were holding a certain beverage, even if it was your girlfriend’s girlie drink, when your team came to life, you continued to hold that drink, despite your girlfriend’s protests, for fear of jinxing your team.  If you were wearing a ratty old t-shirt when your team upset another, you were sure to wear it for the next game for fear of jinxing them.

Yes, the idea that you or I could have a profound effect on the outcome of a professional sporting event is completely ridiculous. We know that but we continue to act as if the outcome could depend solely on us.

I attempted to combine these two things (motivation and superstition) this week in an attempt to help my hometown Celtics get one step closer to their 18th NBA championship, however I made one fatal mistake, at least when it came to game 3.  On Monday and Tuesday, with the series tied 1 – 1, I ran a total of 18 miles, thinking that the my running those miles would bring luck to the Celtics.  What I failed to realize was that one cannot create the luck.  My running the 18 miles had nothing to do with the lead up to the C’s win on Sunday.  PLUS, for Tuesday’s game, instead of sitting on the couch where I was for game 2 (a win), I went to a buddy’s house to watch the game.

So now I’m re-jiggering.  I went out this morning and ran 6.03 miles, the same distance I ran the day after Boston lost game 1.  All I have to do now is follow it up tomorrow with a 9 miler (like I did the morning of game 2) and then make sure I am on MY couch tomorrow night for game 4, a definite must win for the Celtics.

Do you believe?

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Annie

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I used to love tomorrow.

Tomorrow offered the promise of a new day. The sun was sure to shine tomorrow. Tomorrow would clear away the cobwebs and the sorrow.

But there’s a problem with tomorrow. Something that I’ve grown to really dislike about tomorrow.

As the little red-head sings, it’s always a day away.

Tomorrow never comes and never will…especially when it comes to something like finding the motivation to run. If you are going to wait until tomorrow to start running, don’t bother – it ain’t gonna happen.  I’ve seen it too many times among friend, acquaintances, but more specifically, me.

“Oh, I’ll start that running program tomorrow.”

“I am gonna start running next week on Monday.”

“I got sidetracked today [Monday] so I guess I’ll have to start next week.”

“I’ll get to those Yasso 800’s.”

NO!  No, you won’t. You won’t do it unless you start today!  Right now.  If you’re not going to do it today, at least make a schedule and write it in.  Not in pencil.  Do it in permanent marker and write it down.   Carve out the time.  And then commit.  And no more excuses.   Just do it.

Time marches on, days go by, the body ages – but tomorrow will always be a day away.

Go!

Run!

Today!

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Somewhere around mile 8:

What the Hell am I doing?

Why am I running this?

This is so pointless.

Maybe I’ll take the summer off from running.

God, I wish I could stop.

Maybe I should just quit running altogether.

***

I have been struggling with this race recap, in large part I think because this race was a struggle for me.  I haven’t had the mental lethargy I had in this race ever before.  Even at Manchester when my quads froze up at mile 20 and I had to hobble like Frankenstein’s Monster for the last 6.2 miles I at least had the mental drive to finish.  In this last race on Sunday, it was my body NOT my head that carried me through to the end.

***

As I headed downtown early Sunday morning to the Run To Remember Half-Marathon with my friend Liz, I kept thinking about 2 things.  My awful training runs during the week and the weather.  After taking two weeks off from running to let my right knee mend, I had run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Each run was physically miserable.  Despite being happy to be running again, by Friday it was starting to get to me mentally.

The temperature at start time was supposed to be 68° in the shade, but was predicted to rise rapidly over the following 2 hours.  I kept thinking, “if that’s not incentive to hurry my ass up, I don’t know what is.”  My worries about the weather  heightened when I ran into my friend Yigal (one of the people who first encouraged me to run long distances).  He looked at me and smiled, “It’s gonna be a hot one today…and there’s no place to hide.”

After stretching and warming up, I found my way to the 7:30 pace section. I kept trying to tell myself, “it’s only a half marathon.  It’s only a half-marathon”, but there was another part of me that was screaming back, “it’s a half-marathon!  It’s a  half-frakking-marathon!!!”  Mentally I was going in two different directions.  Even as the starter said “ready” I had no idea what kind of race I was going to run.

I moved forward on the gun, broke into a small jog but then had to stop as the crowd couldn’t figure out what it was doing.  Finally, as I approached the starting line I was able to break into stride.  The moment I saw daylight the feet went.  It was a gut move, not based at all on how I was feeling physically (which was tired).  Without thinking I almost immediately kicked it into race speed.  That first mile involved an incredible amount of weaving.  I looked at my watch.  6:54.  Whoa! I thought about slowing down but didn’t. The first four miles would all be under 7 minutes, but for that I would pay later in the race.

As we made our way through downtown Boston I scanned the crowd, looking for any pod to latch onto.  I tried this group and that one, but unlike the Eastern States 20 where I found my group early, nobody was running at a pace that I was comfortable with.  I felt like Goldilocks looking for that perfect bowl of porridge.  Everybody’s bowl was either too hot or too cold.  I continued to work my way through the crowd.  As we left downtown and headed over the Charles River, the crowd thinned.  As we crested the bridge, a long-legged blond started to slowly pass me.  She pulled ahead just slowly enough for me to latch on.  Perfect! Over the next few miles we ran in silence until we saw the lead runner on his way back from the turnaround.  We both cheered him on and then continued in silence.

It was about this time that I really started to feel the heat.  The strange thing is that it never really got that hot on Sunday.  I don’t think the thermometer reached 80°, but the combination of my fast start, the humidity and my general malaise towards the race added up to just knock me on my butt.  My pacing dropped 30 – 40 second per mile.  Long-legged blond left me in the dust.  Suddenly I wasn’t passing people anymore, they were passing me.  And they weren’t passing me in a trickle, they were passing me in droves.  I kept trying to pick up the pace, eying runners here and there to slide in behind, but every time I’d watch as they pulled away.

Doubt began to set in.  I seriously questioned why I was doing this.

Mentally I was just not in the race and mile 9 showed it. 8:13.  Over a minute slower than each of my first 4 miles.  The moment I saw that number however, something kicked in.  I was NOT finishing this race mentally defeated.  I told myself, “4 miles to go”, leaned in and picked up the pace.  I would cover the last 4.1 miles in a respectable 30:46, about a 7:30 pace.  As we came back into the city, another young woman pulled up next to me.  I looked at her.

“I’m gonna try to hang with you as long as I can,” I said.

“Let’s go!” she said.

As we made our way toward the Commons I felt a surge of energy.  The crowd thickened, their cheers grew louder.  I picked up speed and I was again passing people and not being passed.  We weaved our way through downtown Boston and headed for the final bridge to the finish line at the Boston World Trade Center.  I looked at my watch – 1:33 with 0.62 miles to go.  A PR was out of the question, but I could still put in a good showing.

I drew on what I thought was every last bit of energy and went for it.  This was going to be ugly.

My father ran track when he was in junior high school.  His specialty was the half-mile, for which he set a long-standing county record for back in the late 50’s.  He used to tell me that as good as he was at the half-mile, he absolutely hated it because it was too long to be a sprint, but too short not to be.  He would tell me how in the last 100 yards of his races he would feel like his butt was going to fall off and it would be all he could do to finish.

I broke into the best sprint I could muster.  Over the bridge the young woman and I went.  She was desperately trying to hang on.  Down the other side we came.

0.42 miles to go.  I didn’t bother looking at my watch.  My legs and arms were pumping away. THIS is what I was missing midway through this race. The young woman had fallen behind.

0.25 miles to go and I suddenly realized I was running on empty.  There was nothing but fumes in the tank.  I could feel my legs fighting me.  I distinctly remember thinking, “Uh Oh!”

Out of the crowd came a “LUAU!!!”  I turned to look.  It was my buddy Mike (of The Battle With the Cat in the Hat fame).  I shot him a wave and bore down with renewed energy, but I seriously thought I was going to have to ride momentum to get across the finish line.

With 50 – 60 yards to go, a guy in a bright orange shirt with his name (Cooper) written on the back blew past me.

Now, I generally don’t run angry.  I find it counter-productive, but at that moment I found my inner Hulk.  I had passed this guy in the first 200 yards of the race and now he was passing me?

NO!

FRAKKIN’!

WAY!

I channeled Usain Bolt and discovered something I hadn’t seen in a long time.  A kick.  A real, honest to goodness kick.  I blew by him with just yards to go, finishing ahead of him by 1 second.  I stumbled to a guard rail to hold myself up.  Cooper came over and high-fived me.  The young woman came over and did the same.  We exchanged pleasantries and I wobbled off to cheer on the friends who were behind me.

I looked at my watch.  1:37:00.  Not a PR, but I had to admit, considering the way I felt going into and mid-way through the race, I was pretty happy with the result.  I had covered that last 0.62 miles at a 6:27/mile pace.  Not bad after 12.5 miles.  The final official stats would finally read 1:37:00, 212th out of 4955 finishers, 35th out of 426 men in my age group.  I was even more elated with my time when I heard the winner had run 4 minutes slower than his usual time.  It seems that everybody in this race that I knew came in 5 – 15 minutes slower than they had hoped or expected.  So to be almost 4 minutes over my own PR made me feel pretty good about my performance.

So, you may be wondering about the title.  I started running in November of 2008 because my crazy wife had decided in a moment of insanity to sign up for the Hyannis Half Marathon, which takes place on the Cape in the middle of February.  I wasn’t a runner.  I started doing it because I didn’t want this crazy woman running in the dead of winter all by herself.

All I could think of last Sunday as the sun beat down on my shoulders and sweat poured from every pore of my body was “So maybe the Wife isn’t so crazy after all.” I’ve determined that I am definitely NOT a warm weather runner.  That said, I think I’m running Boston 13.1 at the end of the month.   Who’s the crazy one now, huh?

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