Archive for August, 2011

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October 2009 – Manchester, NH. I am running my first marathon. I have aspirations of qualifying for Boston in my first marathon. How cool would that be? Of course, I’ve only been running for a little over 11 months now. My training has been haphazard, AND I’ve had to lay off the miles in the 6 weeks before the marathon due to a possible stress fracture/probably tendinitis in my right foot. But come on! I’m excited! I’m pumped! I’ve found the 3:30 pacer and I am going to follow him for 15 – 20 miles and then drop the hammer and bring home a sub-3:20:59 and a BQ. Did I mention this is my first marathon?

I flew through the first mile in under 6:30; flew through the first half in just under 1:35 (on pace for 3:10 – Woohoo!); and then I crashed and burned, hitting a wall at 16 and halting to a dead stop at mile 20 with frozen quads. I hobbled the final 10K to still finish in 3:54, but it was not the way anyone would want their first marathon to go.


I’ve learned a thing or two in the almost two years since – I even managed to finally qualify for Boston a year later at Smuttynose (my 4th marathon) with a 3:19.

One of the biggest lessons that has stuck with me however, is that if one is running their first marathon and one is not a World Class Athlete like Ryan Hall or Kara Goucher, then one’s goal in a first marathon should be to Just Finish. Sure, it’s good to have time goals. Sure, if you were an All-American in the 10,000 meters in college, maybe a BQ the first time out is not out of the question.

But if you are like me, just a regular guy who happened to fall in love with running because it made you feel good, then embrace that feeling in your first marathon and go out and have fun.

Just finish.

Enjoy the spectacle of the marathon and just finish.


Yesterday morning I signed up for the Vermont 50. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but honestly, it’s become something that I just want to be able to say I did – I want to be able to say that not only am I a marathoner, but I am an ultra-marathoner as well.

Can I do it? Can I cover 50 miles before they shut down the course?

That’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

I don’t have aspirations for anything longer (Western States 100? No Frakking Thank You!). Seriously, anything that takes over 12 hours to cover is just insane in my book.

Have I trained for this? Nope.

Have I run trails before? Once – last weekend, and that was only a few miles.

Am I going to get to train for the terrain like I always preach? Hardly. With the end of the summer rapidly approaching, the start of school and some family obligations thrown in for good measure, I will not have an opportunity to head up to the mountains for some training.

What the Hell am I thinking?

At this point, I am thinking this:

Just Finish.

Run, jog, walk, waddle, crawl – whatever it takes.

And here’s the thing – I will not be going out fast. In fact, I guarantee that the first several miles will be uncomfortably slow.

But that’s okay, because the idea for me is to Just Finish and not worry about the racing part of it.

If I finish and I feel “too” good? Who knows, maybe next year I’ll come back and try to “race” it, but in the meantime, I will not make the same mistake in my first ultra-marathon that I made in my first marathon.

When I signed up for the Vermont 50, two words crossed my mind: “Uh Oh!”

I have four new words that I will be focusing on over the next 30 days:

Just Finish. Have Fun.

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Uh Oh!!!

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What have I done???

And yes, that’s 50, as in 50 mile run.

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When you are the parent of the child with special needs you gain a certain perspective on the concept of achievement.  You learn to celebrate the ordinary, the mundane, the trivial milestones, because when you are a parent of a child with special needs, you know that in some cases, the ordinary becomes extraordinary – the words “I love you” passing over the lips of your daughters, a genuine hug of comfort, an extended moment of eye contact – all of these things that we take for granted with our neuro-typical children take on a much greater weight.

When I look at runners, talk to runners, read posts by runners, I wonder if they understand that they too are extraordinary.

Recently there was a bit of a brouhaha online about a certain runner who attempts to inspire others to live a healthy lifestyle.  Some of the more serious accusations thrown at her aside, one that particularly irked me was that she is just a middle of the pack runner, even slower by other people’s standards – that it was no big deal that she ran 52.4 miles (or 100 for that matter) in one day, that her training mileage was mundane compared to other, “real” ultra-marathoners.

It wasn’t that I felt she needed defending.  She can take care of herself.  What bothered me was that the idea of running 50 miles in a day, or biking 200 miles in 3 days, or running 40 miles a week was nothing to celebrate because it wasn’t serious enough.

It takes away from the “extraordinary” that every day runners do every day.

  • If you get up in the morning and run, you are extraordinary – I don’t care if it’s 3 miles or 15 miles.  How many people hit the snooze button and are now “running” late for work?
  • If you strapped on your running shoes during your lunch break, you are extraordinary – how many of your co-workers are stuffing their faces with a meatball grinder while you sweat out a quick 5-miler?
  • If you put in a short run after work, you are extraordinary – too many people are managing the stress of the day with a bourbon at the local watering hole instead of a run.
  • If you prepared for bed with a run after putting the kids to bed, you are extraordinary – how many of your fellow parents crash into their own beds or onto the couch after the kiddies are asleep?
  • If you have entered a footrace of any distance, you are extraordinary – how many people have said to you, I wish I could do that.
  • If you have run a marathon, no matter what the time, you are extraordinary – you are part of an exclusive club (around 0.1% of the population)!

Runners like Scott Jurek, Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher are all truly extraordinary.  Their feats are incredible, but here’s the thing, they obviously have physical gifts that you and I do not have.  I am truly impressed by what they are able to accomplish, but I am always more impressed with those of you who live every day lives, working towards keeping a roof over your heads and keeping your children fed yet still manage to find the time to run.

I know elitists exist in any group of significant size – those that believe they are innately better because they are faster or stronger.  There are runners that are faster and stronger.  That shouldn’t minimize or trivialize the accomplishments of the rest of the community – just like those of us with special needs should not be marginalized or trivialized in society.

Did you, will you run today?


Then YOU are extraordinary.  Don’t let anybody tell you different.

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Last week I awoke one day to a message on Facebook from my friend Sue.  She had sent me a link to this —>

, saying she thought of me when she first saw it.  Little did I know that Jess had posted that same video on her blog just the day before.  I urge you to watch it, but I warn you, have some tissues ready.  After initially seeing it, and wiping away many tears, I sent a “thank you” to Sue.

The next day I got a note from my friend Logan.  He was speaking on a podcast called Geeks in Running Shoes previewing a presentation he was going to give to a group from Google on the nexus of running and social media.  During the podcast he spoke of reading this blog and how it completely changed the way he sees autism – or more to point, that he now SEES autism and is less inclined to judge a family and their “misbehaving” child.

Later I received a response from Sue.  She told me that she and her family had done the Autism Walk in her hometown due in large part to the regular posts both Jess and I put up on our respective blogs.

Each of those things, the video by Lou, the presentation by Logan and Sue’s initial thought of me and response would have individually made me feel pretty inspired, but it was the rapid fire impact of those three that hit me like a Mack Truck of Good Feelings.

Suddenly my brain was in high gear, jumping from one project to another that has fallen by the wayside over the last year or two – the books I want to write (one about running, the other completely unrelated), the motivational tools I want to produce – I became even more motivated in fund raising for Autism Speaks and the spreading of the message of awareness.

But the biggest impact was on my desire to run.  It is no secret that I have been struggling to find my mojo since May.  My runs have been uninspired at best.  This past weekend I ran on both Saturday and Sunday for the first time in a long while.  I went back to basics on Saturday, pulling out my old Vibram Treks and did a nice little 5-miler into town and back.  My calves were almost immediately in pain when I got home, but I LOVED it!  On Sunday, I put on the more traditional shoes and went out  just to “run for fun”.  Shortly into my run I came across an entrance to a trail, shrugged my shoulders and went for my first trail run.

What fun!  The only downside, if there was one, was that I ended up getting lost, ending up at the same bridge over a sea of 4 foot tall grass three times before I finally figured out how to get out of the woods.  My only real worry was the 93° heat, otherwise, in the wise words of my friend Lisa (@runlikeacoyote – you should follow her if you are on twitter), it really wasn’t getting lost, it was just exploring.

Bottom line is this – I am pumped, full of energy and raring to go (though I did come to the conclusion that I am in no way ready to take the plunge on a 50-mile run through the mountains of Vermont – especially if it’s 93frickin’°!!!). Still, I feel good – terribly sore, but good!  My calves really hate me right now, but it’s good.

I’m looking forward to putting words to paper (already 1200 words in), I’m re-thinking my “why we run” project, I am setting up an appointment with a graphics designer, I’m looking forward to this October’s Autism Walk with Autism Speaks, and I have renewed motivation for spreading awareness.

AND running is fun again.

How incredible is it that one can spend months trying to find their mojo only to have it reappear thanks to three apparently unconnected, yet intricately related people.

Thank you Lou for your vision, thank you Logan for opening yourself up to awareness and passing it on, and thank you Sue for your open heart, your kindness and inspiration.

Finally, for all those who have seen Lou’s video, here’s his thank you to you.

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I have a friend.   I have only met him in the real world once.  He was a large part of why I was able to qualify for Boston back in October of last year – we carried each other for 15 miles.  On that day he missed qualifying for Boston by seconds.  As joyful as my day was, it was devastating to see him just miss his goal.

Instead of folding up his tent and going home, my friend doubled-down and trained even harder for his next marathon, which took place in May in Pittsburgh.  His training was epic to say the least.  To put it in perspective, I just passed 1200 running miles for 2011  last night.  As of 9 days ago, my friend had logged nearly 1800 miles.

1800 miles!!!

He was a man possessed, and when he crossed the finish line in May, he WAS a Boston Qualifier.

I know the feeling – the joy, the wave of emotion, the satisfaction…the “what now?”


That’s right.   I recently read in his final post on dailymile that he was “taking a break” from the social network to find his passion for running again.  Boy, do I know that feeling.   I was fortunate enough to have the New York City Marathon line up just 5 weeks after my BQ and then Boston 2011 5 months after that to keep me focused on my training, but after Boston I simply lost “it”.

I was rudderless.  I tried to re-focus my energy by signing up for another marathon, but in the end, I just didn’t have the same drive I had had when I was focused on qualifying for Boston.

Truth be told, I am still wandering, attempting to kick start myself again and again, but I do see signs of my focus coming back.  It’s taken my 4 months, but it’s starting to come together again.

I hope my friend doesn’t stay away too long.

His departure will send ripples throughout the dailymile community and will be felt by all.  He always had an inspirational word for his friends and his workouts were worth emulating.


I hope you find your passion again Brendan.  You are an inspiration to many and proof that hard work pays off.  You motivated people not by your words but by your actions.  Enjoy your break – I hope to see you on the ‘mile in October when we both start training again for Boston 2012.

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A few years ago I heard of a race called Last Chance for Boston.  It takes place in Dublin, Ohio and used to be billed as a marathoner’s last chance to qualify for Boston.  It seemed like a miserable endeavor to me – 26 laps around a 1 mile loop of an office park, just outside Columbus, Ohio, outside, in the dead of winter.  Yikes.

As any marathoner knows, the landscape has changed.  Registration closed in just hours last year.  The B.A.A. made some adjustments for 2012 that should stretch the process out a week or two, but the likelihood is that registration will be closed within a week.  If you are looking to run Boston 2012, you must have run a qualifying time by September 19th just to have a shot at registering.

If you are like me, barely qualifying by the skin of your teeth, you may be looking for a chance to improve upon your registration slot.

Whichever the case may be, there is a new marathon that is currently being put together that, pending approval, will give you one last shot at either qualifying or improving your registration position.

Details are still few and far between, but the current particulars are this:

Date: September 11th
Format: Time TrialI’ve seen that in bike races, never at a marathon.
Size: The term “Exclusivity” is being used with the idea of a “very small field”
Towns Involved: Concord, Lincoln, Bedford and Lexington (MA)

Again, the race is still pending some approvals, but if that happens this marathon WILL be a certified Boston Qualifier.

So, who’s interested?

*I will update this post as more details come out, but in the meantime, ask around, see what you hear.

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Birthday Wishes


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Today is Jess’ “29th” birthday.

I wish I could give her everything that she could possibly want.

She actually put a list together.

Check it out


My hope is that you can help me with the last item on her list – though if you want to give her the first item, I won’t argue or say no.

Happy Birthday Babe!

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When I tell people about running marathons, almost universally the response I get is, “I could never do that”.  My answer always is that just about anyone can run a marathon.  All you have to do is try, let go of preconceived notions about yourself and try on my running shoes.  Spend a week, a month, a year in my running shoes, widen your perspective and you will be hooked.  Just because you don’t understand it or don’t get it doesn’t mean it’s bad or not for you.


Reading through a friend’s facebook feed the other day I came across a post regarding the movie The Change Up.  There is a movement among some to boycott the movie because one character refers to another’s twin boy by asking if they are retarded.  When the father responds no, the friend asks, “are you sure, this one looks a bit downsy.”

I’m not going to go into the fact that the humor is on the offensive side of the fence and, in my humble opinion, unimaginative.  Anybody who reads this blog or my wife’s blog regularly knows where we stand on the word “retarded” and its use as either humor or insult.  The same goes for using those with Down’s Syndrome in a similar manner.

What got to me was the response of a particular fellow who snapped back at my friend with the following comments:

Isn’t this taking political correctness to an extreme? What would be acceptable, “what, are they hindered? Are you sure[?] this one looks a little suppressed”. Then after a month we couldnt [sic] use the H word right? cut the shit.

Somebody responded:

wow… cut the shit? tell you what, let’s make YOUR kid ‘retarded’ for a week. after, you can let me know how you feel about the world using him/her as a laughing point, k? better yet- why don’t YOU cut the shit. *disgusted*

To which he said:

First of all, I’ve done more direct volunteer work with “Retarded” children and adults in my lifetime than you could do in three lifetimes. I’ve done so since I was a child with my Mother. so that alone gives me my right to an opinion. I personally worked every Pat’s home game for two seasons at a concession stand at Gillette with every penny going to down syndrome. My point is it’s one thing to say directly a person with down syndrome “what are you retarded?’ that’s ignorant. But to reference the condition as Retarded or “downsey”. Is harmless in my eyes. there is a difference between “Special needs” and Down syndrome or retarded. Retarded is a gentle dictionary term for someone who is hindered from functioning in the same capacity as someone who is not “Retarded. Retarded WAS the kinder and gentler term as opposed to Mongoloid or even as they were scientifically referred to in the 1920 as idiots. I’m just tired of all this cock and bull false sensitivity you tree huggers throw out there to make you feel better about your own pitiful lives and I wonder when enough is enough.

As for those of you who have been blessed with a special child, you know as well as i do, your lucky ones and god’s chosen ones. You should also know that any of those children only want to be treated like anyone else. that’s includes joking teasing and loving. they don’t need to be shielded and understand more than most would give them credit. [To another commenter], I’d take a walk in your shoes any day and love it. My contribution was not years ago, it’s been off and on my whole life. I thoroughly enjoyed watching people look at me in horror being my usual “off color” self with my buddies and then laughing their collective asses off when they would all conspire to pelt me Mozzerella cheese balls from the pizzas we were making at Gillette. And guess who got all the hugs at the end of the day. that’s right this guy. I’m just saying lighten the fuck up. being ignorant does not make you a bad person, it just makes you ignorant. One without knowledge. You don’t have to change the fucking words, change some minds. Do you think your going to reach someone by scolding them for using the only words for it they know?

Educate. Don’t further isolate your kids by Trying to make others feel bad when I’m sure their intention weren’t. This society is over sensitized and overly pussified.
Next thing you know we will be electing a Special Needs president to compensate for our years of ignorance.
(yes i know that one was bad. I just had to get an Obama dig in here)

This was my response:

I think you are melding two issues. I agree with you that this Nation has become weak due in large part to this “everybody wins” attitude. If everybody wins all the time, nobody wins…however, we’re talking in part about a group of people who to a large degree cannot defend themselves, and when you are talking about certain subsets of that community, parents who are also unable to deftly defend their children. I am ALL for good natured teasing…particularly about things we can change, but let’s not make fun of a person because they were born with an extra chromosome or have a brain disorder…it just ain’t funny…

flatulence…now that’s funny!

So here’s the thing.  This guy firmly believes what he is saying (writing) – he really believes that he has done “more direct volunteer work with ‘Retarded’ children and adult in [his] lifetime than [the respondent – a parent of a Special Needs Child] could do in three lifetimes.”  He really believes that we [special needs parents] are all tree huggers who throw out “cock and bull” to make ourselves feel better about our own pitiful lives, and yet turns around to say that those of you who have been blessed with a special child, you know as well as i do, your lucky ones and god’s chosen ones.”  For him to then say “You should also know that any of those children only want to be treated like anyone else. that’s includes joking teasing and loving. they don’t need to be shielded and understand more than most would give them credit.” just goes to show that he doesn’t understand that sure we all want to be teased a little, but only if we are able to dish it back.  Teasing is good when it is a back and forth, not a one way street.

This guy here, this guy is why I continue to work for awareness, why I continue to run with my Autism Speaks pin, why I sometimes tell people that until you have walked in the shoes of a Special Needs parent, you cannot know what it is that they go through, what it is that pains them, what it is that scares the living daylights out of them and keeps them up all night.

The commenter said that he would walk in my friend’s “shoes any day and would love it.”  How about walking in the shoes of a parent whose kids have been wiping their shit on the wall for the past 18 years?  Tell me you’ll love it then.  Obviously he doesn’t get it.  I hope someday he may take a walk in our shoes, not just for the workday, not just for 24 hours, not just for a week.  I hope that he is given the opportunity to truly understand what it is we go through on a LIFETIME basis.  There is no end of the week, month or year for us.

Do I think we need to lighten up sometimes? Sure.  Sometimes we get trapped in our own storms and cannot find our way out.  Do we need to be able to laugh at ourselves? Absolutely.  Do our kids (and adult like them) need to learn to do the same?  Totally.

But there has to be a better way to do that instead of making these kids punchlines that will carry far beyond the movie theater.  What the commenter fails to understand is that once people see that it is acceptable to make a joke about “retarded and downsey” people in the theater, they will take it with them to their workplace, their playground, their community, at which point what was originally meant as harmless humor (and I don’t doubt that the writers of the screenplay meant it as harmless) ends up getting used in spiteful, mean-spirited, cruel ways that can cause much greater long term harm.

Honestly, I may still go see the movie.  Tropic Thunder had a similar issue, and quite honestly, that moment aside, I thought it was hilarious.  I just hope that people will think twice about laughing at the expense of someone for just being.  Laugh at the funny faces runners make at the end of a race, laugh at the fact that I almost pooped my pants in my last marathon, laugh at someone’s politics, be comfortable enough to laugh at yourself (said the skinny kid with the huge melon – yeah, that’s me).  Heck, laugh at public figures for saying ridiculous things, but don’t make fun of our kids just because they have autism or down’s syndrome or any other debilitating disease.

Quite frankly, that’s lazy and weak.  Maybe the commenter will be “blessed with a special child [and find that he is one of the] lucky ones and god’s chosen ones.”  I wonder if he will still feel that way when 10 years later he still hasn’t heard his child speak a single word, or a simple “I love you” or received a single hug.

Truth be told, I hope for his sake, and for the sake of that child, he doesn’t – I don’t think he has the feet to fill our shoes.


By the way, there is a tree hugger in our family.  It is little Brooke, who literally goes up to trees and hugs them.

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I have taken a little over a week off from running.  During this week I’ve been able to process through what happened at the Around the Lake Marathon and begin to focus on what comes next.

On the calender, my next big race is the Vermont 50 – a tough 50-miler through the mountains of Vermont.  I had promised my friend Doug that I would run it with him should I qualify for Boston (which I did back in October of last year).  It’s been sitting on the calender ever since – looming large.  It is a big reason why I am NOT running the New York City Marathon this year for Autism Speaks.  I just couldn’t see myself running a 50-mile race at the end of September and then following it up with a Marathon in early November.

The Vermont 50 Team in fact has a growing number of runners and support crew that should make it a very fun event come September.

But 50 miles…

…that’s a lot of miles to run.


The most I’ve ever run at one time is the marathon distance (26.2 miles).  Even taking into account that I weave through crowds and sometimes take the longer, outside lane, I’m pretty sure I haven’t run more than 27 miles at any one time.

And my last attempt at 26.2 ended at the 20-mile mark, doubled over, hobbling for the portapotty.  As unready as I was for the Around the Lake Marathon, there was part of me that was convinced that I was going to pull off a 3:15 and lower my qualifying time for Boston 2012.  (Click HERE for the new registration process) Sitting at a 3:19 qualifying time, my chances of getting in with the new rolling registration feels slim.  I’d feel a lot more secure about being able to run Boston for the third consecutive year if I could give myself a 5 minute qualifying cushion that would allow me to register in the first week instead of the second.

After Around the Lake, I was pretty much resigned to the fact that I would probably not be running Boston this coming April.

But then Doug called me this past week.  He wanted to see how I was doing after my meltdown.  He had texted me earlier in the day asking if he could call, wanting to talk about “September 25th and September 11th”.  The Vermont 50 is on the 25th.  I assumed that maybe he was organizing some kind of memorial run for the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 – he’s that kind of awesome.

To my surprise, he was calling me to essentially let me out of my promise to him.  He knew how bummed I was after Around the Lake and called to let me know that there was a race being organized (by my team/sponsor Racemenu no less) to give runners one last chance to improve their qualifying times for Boston 2012  – a time trial type race, with 1 – 4 runners going out every 30 seconds based on projected finishing times.  Imagine being able to start a race with a group of people who were gunning for the exact same time?

I couldn’t help but think, this is my second chance!!!

The details of the race are still being ironed out.  All I know is that Racemenu chief, J. Alain Ferry is currently working on putting the race together and he feels confident enough about it that he’s had his team write about it on the team blog, facebook page and twitter feed.

September 11th is 5 weeks from yesterday, which would give me 5 weeks of training.

I haven’t been chasing 3:15 for too long (last November at New York was my first attempt), but three marathons later, with times that are getting slower (3:27 – NYC, 3:37 – Boston, DNF – Around the Lake) I wonder if Father Time is starting to nip at my heels.

New York I can chalk up to running shortly after my BQ run at Smuttynose.  Boston I can chalk up to going out too fast and bonking at 17.  I’ve essentially had a down cycle since Boston – that, along with the HEED I ingested at Around the Lake can take the blame for my flameout there.

My blog friend Lizzy suggested that maybe it was time to concentrate on shorter races, and she may be right; but I know 3:15 is just within my grasp.

It’s right there…my fingertips scraping against it.

This marathon would be in 5 weeks.

5 weeks!!!

I’m pretty sure I can rally hard for 5 weeks.


I’m also pretty sure that if I were to run a marathon in 3:15 on September 11th, I wouldn’t be able to run 50 miles 14 days later.  I’m not completely sure how I feel about that.  There were a lot of people I was planning on seeing/meeting from the running community on September 25th.

Who knows, maybe plans get held up and the marathon doesn’t happen.  If that is the case, I suppose I am back on for the VT50, but right now, at this moment, I can’t turn my back on one last opportunity to better my chances of getting into Boston 2012.

This morning I got up and hit the treadmill at 5:30AM – an easy 3.5 mile run with no incline.  I haven’t run pre-dawn in a while, and honestly, after over a week off, the legs felt a little rusty.

But it sure felt good to sweat.

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“Yeah, I had some, uh, bathroom problems at 12.”
“Promise me that if it happens again you’ll stop”
“Just promise me…please.”
“Ok…I promise”
-A phone conversation between me and Jess somewhere around mile 15

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On Friday night I suffered my very first DNF (did not finish).  It was a disappointment to say the least.

I may have been under trained, under motivated and mildly under the weather, but I kept thinking maybe fresh legs would carry me through the day.  Man was I wrong.

I’ve had trouble writing this race recap – maybe because it was my first DNF, maybe because once one goes once around the 3.1 mile loop of the course, one has seen it all, maybe because after an hour of running it got so dark there was nothing really to see other than the few feet in front of me.  I don’t know, regardless, this has been a tough one to compose.


I initially started at the back of the pack, not exactly sure what my game plan was gonna be.  I had set my Garmin’s virtual running partner to run a 7:24/mile pace, figuring that would get me across the finish line at around 3:15.  I like to start slowly, but inevitably in a race I always start too fast.  This race was no exception, though I did manage to keep it close to what I hoped would be my overall pace.  Through the first two laps I weaved my way through the crowd, eventually settling into a pace that had me chasing a pack of runner that I just couldn’t seem to reel in.  In retrospect, I wondered whether keeping pace with them (around 7:20 pace) was not such a good idea.  In the end though, I doubt the chase had any effect on me eventually dropping out.

I finally did catch the group at around 8 miles, at one point taking the lead in the line and then dropping half of the group 2 miles later.

At that point I was feeling pretty strong.  Legs felt good, lungs felt good, mind was focused.  Seeing my friends Maddy and Sarah who had come out to cheer me on, every 3 miles was also a great energy boost.

Meanwhile though I would sip at my Gatorade and take a cup or two of “water” every 1.5 miles.

During a daytime race, you can see what it is you are taking in.  Water looks like water, energy drinks look like energy drinks.  Even if you aren’t looking at what you are taking in, you sure as hell are going to be able to tell the difference between water and say, Gatorade or Powerade when you put it to your lips.  At the Around the Lake Marathon/Ultramarathon they were serving water, just like any race, but they were also handing out cups of something called HEED.  I had never heard of it before and quite frankly, I hope I never, EVER drink it again.

Initially as I made my way around the lake, I would grab a cup at each of the two stations, pour it over my head, grab another cup, pour it on my face and then grab a third cup and drink it.  The problem was that this third cup was not what I thought it was.  I downed it every time thinking it was water.  It had a little bit of an odd aftertaste, maybe a little sweet, but I thought, hey! I’m in Wakefield.  Maybe their water just has a funny taste…or maybe the waxy paper cups just have a weird taste to them.  Either way, I didn’t think much of it.

I didn’t even really think about it when my evening started to rapidly unravel.

At around mile 12.5 I suddenly got hit with a massive stomach cramp.  It wasn’t the old, I’ve got a little stomach ache kind of cramp – no, it was the GET ME TO A PORTAPOTTY RIGHT NOW!!! kind of cramp.  Unfortunately for me, I was still 0.6 miles away from the portapotties.  I did the only thing I could think to do, which was pick up the pace.  As I flew into the check in station, there was a large crowd of spectators standing in front of the portapotties, blocking easy access.

“Coming through,” I yelled at the top of my lungs.  They must have sensed the urgency in my voice because they parted like the Red Sea being commanded by Moses.  I’ll spare you further details.

As I resumed the race, Maddy came up to me to ask if I was okay.  I told her that I thought 3:15 was now out of the question but that I planned on finishing and finishing strong.  She gave me some encouragement, Sarah handed me a cold water bottle and I was off for lap 5 of 8.  Somewhere around mile 15 I checked in with Jess on the phone (I love my Oakley Rockr Pros).  I told her the situation, told her I was fine and feeling like I could finish strong.

That’s when she made me promise.

At the end of May, when I ran the Run To Remember Half-Marathon, there was a runner who collapsed from pushing too hard and as a result, ended up in the hospital for several weeks with kidney failure.  That scared the crap out of me, but even more out of Jess.  With that story forever fresh in our minds (one that no runner should ignore – a post for another day), she made me promise that if I had another “bathroom” issue, I would drop out of the race.  I hesitated.  Since taking up running a few years ago, I had never dropped out of a race.  No matter how bad I felt (New York comes to mind) I fought and I finished.

I thought about the speech I had given just days before (see it HERE) where at one point I mentioned that I used an Autism Speaks pin and the thought of my baby girl to give me strength when my legs would occasionally fail me.  How could I drop out after that?  How could I possibly drop out of a race after giving that speech?  How could I let those people down?

But it occurred to me, that this was not a case of running out of energy or legs stiffening up.  This was a much more serious condition – with the very real risk of severe dehydration.  And so I promised, hoping that it wouldn’t happen again.  As I hit the next loop (number 6 if you’re counting), I briefly stopped where Maddy and Sarah were to hand them my sun-glasses.  3 laps to go, a little over 9 miles.  Time to gut it out.

Although I was moving more slowly, I was moving steadily.  My pace was even and though I wasn’t going to get the time I wanted, I sure as hell was gonna get that Finisher’s Medal.  Into the darkness I ran, and despite moving at a slower pace I was passing people – this is one of the nice things about running a marathon on a loop where there are the really crazy runners who were running the 12 and 24 hour Ultra-Marathon – by necessity, they must run at a slower pace so I got to consistently pass/lap them.  Even knowing that I was only passing ultra-marathoners, it still felt great to pass people.  I slowly tried to bring up the speed.  If I wasn’t going to get my 3:15, I was gonna take a shot at 3:20 and a possible PR.

But then it happened again.

First just a slight stabbing at around 18.  I tried to ignore it, taking a double-step and then moving on.

By 18.5 I knew my evening was done.  I stopped, doubled over.  The pain came and went, almost in waves.  I tried jogging, but that hurt.

For the next mile and a half I did a combination of speed-walking, jogging, standing, and a little mild swearing.  I hobbled across the timing mat, told the timer I was dropping out and made my way as swiftly as I could to the portapotty.  Not a great ending to the evening.

Afterward I went over to where Sarah and Maddy had been cheering me on and watched the runners continue to go by…without me.

I was disappointed, maybe even a little bitter, but the truth was, there was no sense in risking my long-term health over finishing a marathon.  If I were a threat to qualify for the Olympic Trials, maybe I just let it all go (Caroline White – look it up), but I’m just a middle of the pack runner, really only competing with one runner – me.  I also find out later that several runners had needed to drop out due to GI issues they attributed to HEED.  I’m telling you, never again.

Jess later tweeted:

@luau sometimes the greatest act of heroism is knowing when *not* to be a hero. far more proud of you for knowing when to walk away 2nite.

Although I understood that in my head immediately (and was touched by it immensely), it’s taken me almost a week to really take it to heart and truly be okay with a DNF.

There will be other races to be sure, other opportunities to get that elusive 3:15, but my biggest fear now is that I wonder, having dropped out of a race once, will it become that much easier to drop out of a race in the future when the going gets tough.

Only time will tell.

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