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Archive for November, 2011

I got a text from my buddy Jeremy B last night that “we four made the cover picture for the vt50 in ultrarunning magazine!!”

He was kind enough to send me a phoneshot of the picture.

from left to right - me, Jeremy B, Doug and Jeremy D.

I couldn’t not share!

Have a great day everyone!

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Some things, some opportunities only come around once in a lifetime – an opportunity to travel to a far off land; a chance to go all the way to South Africa to run Comrades; an intimate moment with J. Lo…oh, wait a minute, that’s fantasy, not opportunity. Sorry.

Anyway, as I was saying, sometimes the stars align just so to allow you to grab the bull by the horns and really, REALLY live.

One such opportunity presented itself this past weekend, allowing me to take advantage of the circumstances of my life.

As you may recall, about two months ago, I put it out there that if you put us over our fund raising goal for the Autism Speaks Walk, I would run my next marathon with blue hair.  You did.  On the day of the walk we found ourselves 1¢ over Jess’ stated goal.

One.

Frakking.

Penny.

But a promise is a promise and so because you fulfilled your end, I dutifully fulfilled mine.

If you are new to Run Luau Run or haven’t stopped by in a while, you can find the process of me Lighting It Up Blue and going from brunette to blond to blue—>HERE<—.

I then ran my blue haired marathon two weeks ago in New York and had both my slowest and most enjoyable run ever.  The video is —>HERE<— the race report —HERE<—.

The blue hair has been a lot of fun.  It has brought a lot of attention to autism awareness; it has made me easy to spot; it has definitely been a conversation starter.  It has served its purpose and run its course.  The blue has started to fade away and my roots have become more prominent (did I just say that? my roots? really?).

Could I go in for another touch up?

Sure.

But I would be ignoring the wise lesson I learned from Elmo when he told me the story of how he saved Christmas and almost lost it again – that having Christmas every day takes away from the true spirit of Christmas – instead, carry that spirit with you throughout the year.

And so it is with my blue hair.  A month of blue hair to spread awareness was a wonderful experience.  Now, it is time to carry that spirit with me (and you!) throughout the year.

***

Which brings me to this past weekend.  An opportunity, a chance to do something I always wanted to do as a kid and as a young man, but never could because of one reason or another…when am I going to again have longish, blue hair that needs to be taken down…

…and so I give you Goodbye Blue:

A nod to Movember:

Happy Movember!

But the wife wouldn’t let me into bed until I shaved off the ‘hawk and the ‘stache.

Clean Shaven

At least I have the pictures to prove it.  Thank you everyone for helping us raise the funds for our walk. I hope you will continue to “light it up blue” in spirit with me throughout the year.

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Why do you run?

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As a blogger (did I just call myself that?  Really?  I’m a blogger?), ahem, as a blogger, I often find myself writing posts in my head long before I can get to my laptop.  Sometimes it is right after an event, sometimes it’s even during an event; heck, sometimes, in anticipation of how things might go, I start to write a post about something before it even happens.

A couple of Sunday mornings ago, as I got myself ready to catch the bus to Staten Island for the start of the 2011 New York City Marathon, I tried to imagine what this post would look like.  It is part of my typical pre-race routine.  For every other marathon that I’ve run, there have been two possible outcomes in my imagined posts – either a.) I would achieve my goal in some sort of  dramatic fashion or b.) I would NOT achieve my goal, still in some sort of dramatic fashion.  The dramatic part was (is?) important to me.  It’s what makes something worthy of YOUR time.  Who wants to read boring, technical details?  Without fail, good (Smuttynose) or bad (Around the Lake), there has always been some sort of dramatic moment in my marathons.

And that was my problem as I made my way to the bus that Sunday morning.  What possible drama could I expect from a race I was planning on simply having fun at?  True, my plan was similar at the Vermont 50 and that was filled with drama – but on that day I was going 24 miles farther that I had ever gone before.  There was the drama of the unknown.  There was really no unknown in New Yorkk.  Even taking into account that I would be running 26.2 miles, running back to mile 23 and then running my friend Jersey in for a total of 32.6 miles, I didn’t foresee any surprises…

***

The ride to the start was nice and easy.  A young kid named Robert, running his first marathon, sat down next to me and we spent the whole time chatting.  We talked about the how’s and the why’s we were for running with Autism Speaks.  He was nervous, I was not.  I reminded him that on this day, his job was simply to finish and enjoy.  He would struggle late in the race but finished with a respectable 5:13 first marathon.

***

Once in the Village I found the two friends I most wanted to find – Jersey, whom I would go back and run in from 23, and Maddy, whom I once thought I was an equal runner to (she would finish the day with a 3:12 marathon – this just one week after pacing her sister to a 3:32 in the Marine Corp Marathon in DC.  Yeah, she’s a superstar, no question.).  After some love and hugs, it was time to head to my corral.  Jersey and I peeled off toward our respective waiting areas, but before I left her, I reminded her that today, her first marathon, was about finishing and enjoying the day.

Robert, Jersey and me

Jersey, Maddy and me

***

Checking into my corral, I ran into a runner I had met on the walk to the Expo the day before.  Tim was running his first marathon.  He was a bundle of nervous energy.  In his own words he described himself as a guy who simply liked to go full throttle.  Knowing himself didn’t seem to ease his nervousness however, so I spent the 20 – 30 minutes we waited in the corral just talking.  I gave him a few pointers, and as I did with Robert and Jersey, reminded him to just finish and enjoy.  He would pass me somewhere on First Avenue around mile 18 and finish with a very impressive first marathon of 3:56.  He later thanked me via text for keeping him calm in the corral.

Maybe I have a new calling at marathons? Pre-Marathon Whisperer…

***

Somewhere around 9 miles my twitter friend Robin tracked me down – the advantage of having blue hair I guess.  I got to try out my on the run interviewing skill.

At that point I was still full of energy and probably running way too fast for someone who hadn’t trained a lick for the marathon.  I was on pace for a 3:30-ish marathon, but, like Boston this year, as I passed the 17-mile mark, my lungs began to squeeze.  My first thought was “not again” but that was quickly followed by the realization that I wasn’t running for time.  It didn’t matter how fast or slow I went.  Even if I had a complete physical breakdown, I could simply stop at mile 23 and wait for my friend Jersey.  That thought put a little pep back in my step and I was able to maintain a pace that was in the mid-9’s pretty much for the rest of the way.

***

The fact that I was running just for fun allowed me to really focus on the crowds.  In 2010 I was so focused on trying to hit 3:15 that I completely tuned out the City, the spectators, the experience.  This time around, with no pressure to even finish, I soaked in everything.  Going into my first big turn on the course, I realized that there were whole swatches of fans who were completely getting ignored.  Runners learn early to take the inside track on a turn and keep it tight.  Even with 47,000 running on marathon day, every single one of them was trying to follow the shortest lines possible.  Starting with my next turn, I decided that I would make the widest turns possible and high five the ignored spectators.  The reactions ranged from total surprise to unbridled enthusiasm.  It was probably the second best decision I made all day.

***

So what was the best decision I made?  That’s easy.  As we made our way back into Manhattan after a brief detour through the Bronx, I saw a guy holding out a bottle of beer.  The Willis Avenue Bridge had just about killed me and I was physically struggling – more and more I was entertaining the thought of simply waiting for my girl Jersey at 23.  Running a marathon on no training is hard.

Dumb and hard.

But then there was this guy, holding out a Corona.  It glistened in the sunlight like an oasis in the desert.  I thought to myself, why the heck not??? So I stopped and took the beer.

BEER!!!

His friend laughed and insisted on taking a picture.  The beer went down quite nicely.  Halfway through, I realized I should probably get back to running.  I didn’t want my legs stiffening up.  As I turned to get back to it, the guy reached for my half-full bottle.  I looked at him and told him thank you but there was no way he was getting it back.  He laughed and sent me on my way.  It was a lot of fun to see the reaction of spectators as I ran down Fifth Avenue with a beer in hand.

And believe it or not, that beer re-energized me and carried me into the Park.  Adult-carbs – who knew?

***

The last three miles of the marathon take you through and around Central Park.  From about 23.5 to 25.5 it’s rolling hills that simply beat up on already tired legs.  I caught a fellow Autism Speaks runner around 24.  We gave each other words of encouragement and then carried on.  In the end, I quietly crossed the finish line in 4:02 –

– by far my slowest marathon ever, but quite honestly, aside from my BQ at Smuttynose, my most enjoyable.  I looked at my watch.  I had what I thought was maybe an hour to an hour and a half to get back to mile 23.  That wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that, for as great as the New York City Marathon is, the bag pick up/exit process has got to be the absolutely worst designed set up I have ever seen.  It took nearly 45 minutes to get out to a street so that I could “race” back to 23.  As I jogged as fast as my tired legs would take me, I tweeted to Jersey’s followers asking for updates.  As it turned out, I had a little more time than I had expected, but I hustled nonetheless.

***

I eventually found the Autism Speaks cheering section near 23 and waited patiently, trying to keep my legs loose.  I saw Tara,  a fellow blue haired Autism Speaks runner but did not have the foresight to snap a picture.  Not too long and Jersey showed up.  She was struggling, which is to be expected during this final stretch.  We took a quick picture –

– and we were off.  We alternately chatted and ran in silence.  I let her set the pace.

Finally, as we crossed mile 24, I pulled out my phone and shot a quick video.  It was well timed as we found Jersey’s family seconds later.

A few hugs and kisses and we were off again.

She was on a mission.  With less than a 1/2 mile to the finish, Jersey found one last gear and kicked it to the finish.  She would tell me later that she just wanted to get it done.  As she crossed the finish line just ahead of me, I could not hide my joy in seeing my friend finish her first marathon and join one of the more exclusive clubs in the world.

Don’t be fooled by the clock.  She started in the 3rd Wave, so her time was a sub-6:00 marathon!  So proud of you Jersey!

***

So what did I learn in this race that was just for fun?  Beer is good!  No, seriously, the lesson I took from New York is that whether you are running for fun or for time, training is important.  I was wrecked between 17 and 19, seriously wrecked.  Were it not for the fact that I knew I needed to get to at least 23, I might have dropped out.  That knowledge and the beer at 20 saved my day.  But, I walked away knowing that I would prefer not to run another marathon without at least some lip service toward training.

***

Thank you Lara for allowing me to join the team so late.

Lara and me in Brooklyn - she coordinates the Team Up with Autism Speaks runners and is awesome. If you are interested in running for the team, let me know and I will forward you her contact information.

I had a total blast and I plan to be back next year.  Though I probably won’t be gunning for a PR, I may well look to beat my course record of 3:27…of course, after having so much fun taking pictures and videos on the course, I may just look to just have fun again!

Thank you New York City!

Now…who’s gonna have a beer waiting for me at mile 20 next year?

Beer me!

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Why do you run?

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Choices

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Run or blog…run or blog…run or blog…

…today I choose to run.

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Why do you run?

…but I guess I just kinda did both. 

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I Am

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There are all kinds of different reasons to run – health, sanity, competition, escape…

One of the reason I run is because I am a stay-at-home dad. No, I don’t run a business from home. I am not a dad who lost his job and is temporarily at home. No. I am a homemaker, I AM a stay at home dad.

Years ago, Jess and I decided that we wanted to have one of the two of us taking care of our children during the day. Fortunately, one of us made a salary that would allow us to do that. It wasn’t me – my salary at that time would have put us in a studio apartment in a bad neighborhood.

And so my journey as a homemaker and stay-at-home parent began.

That was over 10 years ago.

In very short order, I gained a new respect for the millions of women who had given up careers (voluntarily or not) to raise their children and take care of their homes. Homemaking is not an easy gig. I was quickly accepted among the moms I would regularly cross paths with – for which I was grateful. Not every stay at home dad is readily accepted into the stay at home community.

Still, despite the acceptance of the moms, and the feigned/ignorant jealousy of my male friends, I knew I was still a strange man in a strange land, an oddity, a curiosity (years ago, a store clerk, unable to wrap her brain around the fact that I was a stay at home dad insisted, INSISTED, that I must be a nanny).

To the moms, I am a nice guy who works hard (and isn’t it sweet), but I can’t ever share what they share. I didn’t carry Katie or Brooke inside me for 9 month. I can never know the emotional ups and downs nor the emotional bond mothers have with their kids. I can’t share in the more intimate conversations they will have with each other because, well, I’m a guy.

To the dads, I am an enigma, a riddle. How does this guy do that? But I don’t share the burdens of salary and employment that they do. I cannot know what it means to be the sole bread-winner – “the man” of the house.

It is a lonely place – a toe, if that, in each world, but not fully accepted, respected nor understood by anyone in either.

The truth is, as a stay at home dad, the economy scares me as much as the next man, but I have the added insult of knowing that my skill set is over 10 years out of date. I cannot suddenly be “the man” should Jess lose her job. Go back to school, you say? When, is my response. Were Brooke your typical child, I might be willing to bring in a baby sitter or a nanny or put her in after school care, but she is not. Move, you say? So that we don’t have to depend on Jess’ sizable salary to live in this neighborhood? Where, is my response. Were Brooke typical, we might have moved long ago, but, as much as we complain about the school system, unfortunately, it is still one of the best in the nation, IN THE NATION, for children like Brooke. No, we cannot move without putting Brooke’s future at stake.

It is depressing to know that I cannot cleave the chains that bind us to our situation and location. Despite all the good I know I do – and believe me, I know – I know my chosen vocation raises eyebrows, and at times leaves me feeling powerless…

***

Which is why running is so important to me. Through running I can exert my strength. I can look at 80 – 90% of the men on the planet and say, “I am stronger, I am faster, I am better at something than you.”

It is a male thing. A man thing.

But it is not for them, those other men, that I run.

No, it is for me.

It is to remind myself that I am still a man…still strong…still capable…still powerful…

I am…

…still a man.

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For the first time running a race, I decided to carry my phone in my hand.  Usually I wear it on my arm so I can listen to music, but this time around, I decided I wanted the ability to snap photos and video on short notice.  I am still processing Sunday’s 32.6 mile run, and I promise a race report is coming, but in the meantime, I thought you enjoy my phone’s view of the marathon.  All pictures, video and editing were done on my phone (thank you Steve Jobs).

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26.2 miles.

It should make a person nervous. No, seriously. It’s not a distance to take lightly – whether it’s your first, your eighth or your fiftieth.

I have always been nervous going into a marathon.

Truth is though, I’ve got nothing this time around. Oh, I’m sure I will have a rush of “nervous energy” minutes before the start, but right now? 24 hours before the start of the 2011 New York City Marathon? Sitting on a train heading from Boston to New York?

Nothing.

Zip.

Nada.

The only thing stressing me out right now is whether I’m gonna manage to pick up my bib at the Javits Center, pick up a key to my cousin’s apartment AND make it to Grandpa DD’s birthday party in Connecticut on time or not this afternoon…and THEN make back into the City this evening to get a decent night’s sleep before tomorrow’s run.

But the race?

The marathon?

No nerves. No stress.

Nothing.

I’m just looking forward to a fun four to five hours – planning on completing my run in 3:45 – 3:55 and then heading back to mile 23 to run in my dear friend Jersey who is running her first marathon and starting an hour after I do (if you haven’t donated to Autism Speaks yet and want to, you should support her run —>HERE<—).

And I think that’s why there are no nerves this time around. It’s pure fun. Pure joy. I am not gunning to re-BQ. I am not shooting for a PR. For the first time ever, I am simply running 26.2 miles for the pure, simple joy of running a marathon. Sure there will be moments of doubt. Yes, there will be miles where I wonder what I am doing. There will be some pain. That is inevitable when you run this distance.

But the bottom line is, I get to enjoy every mile, every step, every inch as I travel through one of the greatest cities in the world.

As a runner, I cannot ask for anything more.

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