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Archive for April, 2009

Three Years

  Today is another one of those anniversary dates that I really dread each year.  There are only a few, but this is a big one.  Three years ago today my father lost his battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.  That’s three years of missing him, of worrying about Mom, and of my kids not knowing him.  It’s been a long three years.

  I remember that day well.  I was at work, having a one on one with my manager, Keith.  The night before Kristen, Michael, Katie, and I went over to see Dad.  Mom had him in a home hospice program.  Kristen and I both knew that he wouldn’t last long.  My brother Tom asked me if I wanted him to call me if Dad deteriorated.  I had just told Keith of Dad’s condition and that I may have to go at any minute.  Literally a few seconds after the words left my mouth, I got a call on my BlackBerry.  It was Tom and Dad was gone.

  Tom said that it all happened very quickly and there was really no time to call anyone.  I bolted out of work for two reasons that day.  First, I wanted to get there to see Mom.  Second, I really didn’t want to break down and sob at work.  I made it to Mom and Dad’s house before I cried.  The minute I saw Mom I was a mess.  In fact, everyone at the house was a mess, as you would expect.

  You would think that I could tell the entire story after three years.  But, honestly, it’s still an open wound.  Dad died a few days before my second half marathon.  I ran that half, as I have each half and full after, with three sets of initials on my singlet or on my bib.  EVB for Dad, TEB for Timmy, and JMB for Judy.  I’ll have them on my bib on Sunday for the Flying Pig and will use them to give me the strength to finish a second marathon in 13 days.

  By the way, my brother opened a restaurant this year in Bellevue, KY.  The name is Virgil’s, my fathers middle name.  Dad would be proud of the job he’s done with it.

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  Here it is, my race report for the 113th  Boston Marathon.  I hope you find it interesting. 

Race Report: 2009 Boston Marathon

Hopkinton

  The first thought that comes to mind is WOW!  When we arrived in Hopkinton we were full of excitement and nervous energy.  MassGeneralreally did take good care of us however.  They had a heated tent setup, a DJ, food, and our own bathrooms.  That alone was worth the $3000 in fundraising for them.  I was dreading waiting in the cold for three hours.  I do have one complaint, the DJ, I think she was WBCN – a classic rock station, didn’t have the song “Marathon” by Rush.  Now, come on.  That’s the perfect song to play before the Boston Marathon.  And, besides I’m a Rush nut.  Oh well!

  During the walk to the start line Amye started a conversation with the runner next to her.  As it turns out, they are both from West Chester. In fact, her kids go to the same school district where Amye teaches.  Pretty amazing for a chance meeting. 

  Waiting in the corrals was pretty amazing.  It was amazing to see 14,000 runners waiting to start.  And, the best part was that there was another wave the same size in front of us.  We waited impatiently as 10:30 neared.  We were there with other MGHteam members, Estell, Kevin, and Katy.  I had an email relationship withKaty and wanted to have her stay with us as long as possible.  At about 10:25 they removed the lines from the corrals and let us move toward the start.  At 10:30 we started but didn’t cross the start until about 10:41. 

The Early Miles

  The first few miles were all down hill.  It was really hard to hold back and not get carried away.  We did a good job, staying between 10:00 and 10:20 per mile.  Right where we wanted to be.  The wind was there, but not too bad yet.  It was quite amazing to see a solid pack of runners stretch for about a half mile in front of us.  What a site to see.  I do remember passing a biker bar in the early miles, they had a great turnout and really cheered for us.

  Framingham

  Katy’s family was going to be somewhere in Framingham.  So, once we got there, we focused on watching for them.  We didn’t find them until almost the end of the Framinghamsection.  Her mother almost missed her, but luckily I have a loud mouth and she was able to find Katy.  I was happy that she saw them and she seemed relieved.  This section was full of smaller rolling hills.  Nothing too crazy, and normally I wouldn’t notice at all.  But, I know how this turns out, you don’t … yet.  The wind was starting to pick up and the gusts were starting to push us around a little.  But, I didn’t feel bad.  I just kept focusing on getting my hydration in and my honey stingers. 

Natick

  Natick is at about the 10 mile mark.  I still felt pretty good, but needed to find a bathroom at some point.  This was where I did.  It tookabout 7 minutes to get through the line, but I really couldn’t wait any longer.  When you’re uncomfortable, running is no fun at all.  I did get to see a couple of women with no concern about going right in front of me.  You know, it might have saved them a few minutes, but really, we weren’t going to win the race.  So, what was the rush.  Amye and Katy waited patiently for me.  While waiting, there was some drunk guy yelling “Only 16 more miles to go!”  WHAT AN IDIOT!  Do you have any idea how far 16 miles is in a marathon?  Obviously not.  You might as well have said, “You’re not even close to being finished!”  I really wanted to hit him.  There was also a guy playing a flugelhorn on a porch across the street.  I only comment on it because I used to play the trumpet and flugelhorn.  It was kinda neat. 

  At this point, I was a little worried about my stomach.  I had never had Gatorade Endurance Formula, so I wasn’t sure how to handle it.  I think the extra salt in it, combined with the salt tablets slowed my stomach getting food out.  In the end, I only used five honey stingers.  I used six in the pig.  I did, however, start skipping a few water stations after that.  I really didn’t want to puke.  I don’t think I would have, but still…

Wellesley

  Ah, the Wellesley girls.  What a cheering section.  They were amazing, absolutely amazing.  The were all wearing shirts that said “Free Kisses for Runners.”  Some holding signs like “Kiss me I’m cute!” or “Kiss me I’m Asian!”  I did stop to get a kiss.  Amye took a picture of it.  Hopefully it comes out.  I felt bad for the girl, she had to kiss me 3 times while waiting for Amye to take the picture.  By that point, I was pretty salty. I did tell her that this “old salty guy needed a kiss,” and she was more than happy to oblige.

  About 100 yards after the end of the Wellesley girls was a girl hold a sign that I loved.  It read “Free Kisses to Lesbians!”  I loved it and it made me laugh for a while.  We also saw Santa and his elves nearby.  The wind was starting to become more noticeable at this point.  At the half way point, we were right on target: 2:15:xx.  I felt good about that.

  Very soon after Wellesley we started to lose Katy.  It appeared that we were just too fast for her.  We lost her around mile 14 or 15.  She was ok with us going ahead.

The Newton Hills

  The Newton Hills start around mile 16.  This is where the wheels start to come off.  The wind gusts were about 15 – 20 miles per hour.  Winds were between 10 and 15 mph sustained.  I took a picture of the “Entering Newton” sign and felt like I could climb them with no problem.  Boy was I wrong.  I made it through the first one and half of the second.  At about mile 17.5 I was done.  I had to run/walk the rest of the way. 

  I kept trying to focus on “Make it to mile 20” and Wayne’s “I Love Hills!” chant.  Neither worked.  My quads were cooked.  In fact, I remembered and commented on Wayne’s statement before we left “You’re quads are going to feel like dog meat when you hit the hills!”  He was dead on target. 

  The quads along with the wind cooked me, and cooked me good.  In fact, somewhere in the Newton Hills I found my personal Boston Marathon (and running in general) slogan: “It’s not the lungs, it’s the legs!”

  I found myself walking the up hills, as well as some of the down hills.  I just couldn’t pick up my legs at times.  I know that part of it was mental, but not all of it.  At this point, as through it all, Amye was amazing.  She was running with me and for me.  We were going to do it my way and it really didn’t matter to her.  I felt bad about having to walk, but there was nothing I could do about it.

Mile 20: The MGH Cheering Section

  I remember the mile 20 cheering section for a couple of reasons.  I remember finding Amye’s family and her talking to her mother.  I remember shaking Dr. Lapey’s hand and telling him that I was “done.”  Most of all, I remember walking past them.  I really felt bad about that (and still do really).  I know it was amazing for most that I had made it that far, but not to me.  I really wanted to run through there and show them how strong I really am.  Most people will say that finishing was an amazing accomplishment, but I know I could have done better.  I really wish I could have run through that cheering section.  Oh well, there is nothing I can do about it now.

  At this point, Alexa (MGHfC CF nutritionist) joined us and ran with us the rest of the way.  I really appreciated it.  I didn’t realize that she was going to run the rest of the way with us.

Mile 21: Heartbreak Hill

  Ok, I now understand the name.  It was horrible.   Ok, not really, but it was difficult.  I walked most of it.  Do not let anyone tell you that it is easy.  And, the wind gusts really made it tough.  I’m willing to bet that winds were 15 mph sustained and gusting to 20-25 mph on that hill.  It was tough. 

Miles 21-24

  The crowds were amazing.  People everywhere cheering for you.  Urging you to keep going.  These two miles were a lot of running and then walking.  I tried to slow down, and that helped some.  I was able to run for longer stretches, but still had to do a lot of walking.  I was really in survival mode at this point.  Just focusing on getting to the finish.  It was not easy, it was not fun, but it was still incredible.  Alexa was encouraging us.  I didn’t hear most of it because I just couldn’t do anything but focus on trying to keep going. 

  Somewhere in these miles we saw Mike McBride with his oxygen cart.  Mike has an amazing story to tell.  I didn’t think about stopping to say hi, but should have.  Mike, if you read this, I was another chronic lung guy, running for MGH.  I’d say CF is a chronic lung disease.  And, congratulations on the race.

Miles 25 – 26.2

  This was the longest 2.2 miles of my life.  At mile 25, you can see the giant Citgo sign, which marks one mile to go.  That sign kept getting farther and farther away.  I had told Amye that from mile 25 to the end, we were running.  I could slow down, but not walk.  She promised to hold me to that.  The wind between buildings, etc. was terrible.  At this point, I really had to focus to just pick up my feet.  Everything hurt but I knew that the end was near. 

  Soon after we passed the Citgo sign, my legs were screaming again.  I had to walk for 30 seconds or so.  Amye turned to me and said “You said we weren’t going to walk.”  I said “I know, but if I don’t now, I don’t finish” or something to that effect.  She didn’t push me on it. 

  Once we started running again I just kept focusing on the turn to Bolyston.  Now, I really had no idea where it was other than “close.”  The crowds were thick and I remember going through an underpass and Alexa yelling “Bolyston is just ahead.”  I remember seeing three members of the Army walking just before the underpass.  They started in Hopkinton with 100 pound packs and walked the entire way.  They scary part is that three of them ran the entire way and finished in 3:31.  WOW!!!!!

  Just before we turned onto Bolyston Amye veered to the right.  I didn’t have any idea why, I just yelled to get her back over to me.  After the finish, I realized that she went to see her family.  I didn’t even realize that they were there.  She came back up alone side of me after the turn onto Bolyston.  I could now see the finish line, although it seemed that it was getting farther away.  I spotted a lady running for the CF Foundation right ahead of me.  I tapped her on the shoulder and told her that I was running with CF.  I don’t remember much, but I think she was a little stunned.

  With about 100 feet to go, I grabbed Amye’s hand.  It was part tradition and part survival.  I was squeezing her hand pretty tight, using that to focus away from the pain in my legs.  We crossed the finish line together, hand in hand, just like the Pig last year.

The Finish

  Crossing the finish line was incredible.  The crowd was huge and we crossed under the left arch.  I hugged Amye and Alexa took our picture.  I was very close to breaking down in tears.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  I don’t think I could have run another 10 feet.  We walked a while to get our timing chips taken off and get our medals.  I could barely pickup my leg to get my chip off.  In fact, the volunteer had to tie my shoe for me.  We also got the foil blankets and some food.

  The wind really hit me hard after the finish.  I was shivering I was so cold.  Amye called her family and we walked back up to meet them.  We then headed to a nearby fitness center (FitCorp) to cool down, shower, eat, etc.  The only problem was that it was about a mile walk, luckily it was indoors.

  When we finally got to FitCorp, I called Kristen and told her that I survived.  We talked for a while.  She was happy that I finished and was safe.  Amye headed to the shower while the rest of us got something to eat.  I made a few other calls to friends, etc. 

  There we lots of people congratulating me and thanking me for running for the team.  I was very proud to have helped to inspire them.  I was also able to catch up with Katy.  It turns out that she finished about 9 minutes behind us.  I was really impressed with that, since she ran almost half of the race alone.  I told her that next year, she needs to come run with us in Cincinnati.  I’ll make sure to keep on her about that one.

Overall Experience

  I had a great time.  Miles 16 – 26.2 didn’t feel like it, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  Boston really knows how to put on a marathon.  MassGeneral really knows how to take care of it’s runners.  I would highly recommend running for them. 

  My official time was 5:00:34.  About 20 minutes slower than I had hoped.  Let me tell you, Boston is VERY hard.  I know the elevation map, etc. but it might as well be all up hill.  The wind didn’t help either, but from what I understand, it’s always that way.  My only “regret” is the mile ten pit stop.  Without that I would have been under 5 hours.  Oh, well, nothing I can do about it. 

  This was the most difficult physical task I’ve ever undertaken.  Period.  End of Story!  Would I do it again?  Yes, I’d do it again.  Maybe when I turn 40.  I’d like to get into better shape and have a better base of running before trying it again.  Besides, this is an even better story when it’s a 40 year old CF patient.

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  This will be a very short post.  I’ll write up a full race report sometime later this week, but I’m too exhausted right now.  The short version is that (with a ton of help from my friend Amye) I finished the 2009 Boston Marathon. 

  This was the most difficult physical effort I’ve ever had to give.  Do not let anyone fool you into believing that Boston is not a difficult course.  It is and it is very deceptive.  I could not have finished it without Amye on the course, and the support of my family and friends off the course.  And, of course without the constant love and support from my wife and kids, Kristen, Michael, and Katie.

  My official time was 5:00:34.  About 20-30 minutes longer than I had hoped, but I’m still very happy with the results.  I had a great time.

  Now it’s time to rehab my left knee and get ready for the Pig on May 3rd.

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… we arrive at the launching site.  Tonight, I’m sitting in the bar at the Seaport hotel in Boston, MA.  I’m about 38 hours away from the start of my first and only Boston marathon.  I’m nervous, I’m wired, and I am drinking a Bombay Sapphire and tonic.  I’ll only drink one, don’t worry about me getting loaded.  I just need a little something to take the edge off.

  Today we went to the marathon expo to pick up bibs, etc.  I bought way too much stuff and spent way too much time standing in lines.  I’ve got the jacket, the shirt, the “Boston Marathon 2009 To Hell and Back” ASICS shirt and a bunch of other stuff.  I met Dick Hoyt, who with his son Rick, has run over 1000 races. It’s really an amazing story.  Much more so that mine.  You can read all about it at http://www.teamhoyt.com.

  While standing in line at the expo, I met a pair of sisters.  One who qualified for Boston, the other is interested in running for a charity.  The best part is that they were a nurse and a pharmacist.  So, they knew exactly what CF was and that I shouldn’t be able to run a marathon, let alone two.  I’m glad they were there, it made the hour wait much easier.

  Amye’s family spent the day with us, along with their friend Brian.  They just left for Brian’s house (about a 90 minute drive) a little while ago.  We left the expo around 4 and got to dinner around 5.  We ate at Bertucci’s, a local chain in Boston.  Good food and a great waitress.  Her name was Courtney and she was just what we needed.  A smartass that would give it right back to us.  I felt like a bit of an intruder in their family, but the welcomed me with open arms. 

  So, they say you should talk about why you’re nervous and it helps release the pressure.  I’m nervous for may reasons.  First, this is the Boston marathon.  There are 28,000 people running this thing.  That’s more than double the record at the Flying Pig.  Second, I’m a little nervous about my ankle.  I know I can make it, but I’m really hoping it will be a good day vs. a bad day with the ankle.  I can adjust for that with ice, vitamin I, etc.  I’m still nervous about it.  Third, I’m a little nervous about the gap in my training.  It came at a bad time and I wish I could have recovered sooner.  Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to make the best of it.

  Now, what I’m not worried about.  Energy!  I know I’ll have plenty of it.  This is the crown jewel of marathons after all.  There are going to be so many people cheering us up the hills, we’ll be fine there.  Finishing.  I’ll finish without a major problem.  Don’t read that as it will be easy, it won’t.  Weather.  It’s going to be almost perfect.  Low of 40 high of 50.

  More on Sunday.  Sorry to cut it short, but I need to get some sleep.

 

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  Yesterday was my last chance to get in a 20 mile run before Boston.  I’m very happy to report that I did it, although it wasn’t easy.  Here’s a breakdown of the run and my experience on a beautiful Saturday morning.

The Early Miles

  The first 6 miles or so are a good rolling course.  The elevation ranges from 575 ft to about 820 ft.  Those are some pretty good hills.  The largest of which is about 1 mile each way and an elevation change of about 134 feet.  That’s a 2.5% grade, which is close to the profile of some of the Newton Hills.  I felt ok during this section.  My right ankle and knee were bothering me a little, but it really started to loosen up toward the end of this section.

The Boston Simulation

  The remainder of the course was a pretty good Boston Marathon simulation.  We started this section with a pretty steep uphill, which was about a quarter of a mile.  It’s a 9% grade!  Yes, you read that right.  98 feet of elevation over .2 miles (1056 feet).  I felt good but it was hard. 

  Then we started a long downhill.  This down hill section goes for about 1.8 miles and gets us up to mile 8.  There is a water stop at mile 8 and a couple of my teammates are there to greet us and make sure my knee isn’t going to explode.  Thanks Maureen and Kelby! 

  We then continue along the Eastern Avenue section of the Flying Pig course.  This four mile section is very flat and very boring.  It’s actually the last part of the Pig and the most difficult.  There is very little crowd support, you’re tired, and there is nothing to look at to distract you.  This section went by easily although the end, which starts the hill section started to tire me.  But, I continued to press on.

  Now for the hills.  Miles 5-8 in the Pig are considered the Hills.  Over the next 3.2 miles we climb 448 feet.  That’s a lot of climbing and if I read this right, much more than the Newton Hills.  (225 ft over about 4 miles)  I’m not saying that the Pig is harder, because the hills are much earlier in the race.  But, for this simulation, I think it’s more than adequate.

  The end of the run was downhill from mile 15.5 to mile 18.  I felt pretty good during this section, although I was really starting to wear out.  My left calf was starting to cramp and my lungs were just plain tired from the hills.

  The last two miles KILLED me.  They are mostly the rolling hills that we did at the beginning of the run, but they felt like Mt. Everest.  I did some walk/run sections while trying to get some energy and oxygen back.  I got the oxygen but didn’t really get the energy.  Honestly, I think it was more mental then physical.  I know in Boston and in the Pig I’ll be able to push through as I won’t let myself stop.

  Overall, I’m happy with how I did.  I ran 19.47 miles (I couldn’t do the last hill into the park, it’s a 7% grade and my legs didn’t have it in them) in about 3:26:11.  That’s a 10:35 pace which I’ll take at this point.  It could have been much better if we hadn’t had all those medium to large hills at the end.  The good news is that I won’t have either in Boston or the Pig. 

  Next Long Run: The 113th Boston Marathon on 4/20/2009

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