Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Timberman 70.3

WARNING:  This blog post contains some graphic descriptions of some bodily functions that some people might find a little gross.  Be forewarned.

I have been up to Timberman 4 out of the 6 years I have been racing triathlon.  This would be the first year I would race the 70.3 distance race.  Having raced 3 other 70.3 races, I knew I could do the distance, but from all who have completed this race, all I heard about were the HILLS, especially on the bike.

I've had a great season racing a total of 5 other triathlons (3 sprint and 2 Olympic distance), which included a PR in both distances.  My body felt the best it has in the last couple of years.  Through all of my races I've dealt with little pain in my back and legs.  All would be perfect, right?

I had connected with 3 friends through Baystate Triathlon/QT2 and was able to stay with them up in Gilford.  So happy that Susan, Shannon, and Tina and a place for me to stay.  We also had some great food while there as well.  More about that later.

Training went well leading up to the race thanks to Brian Hammond from WORKLIVETRI, our coaches for Achilles NYC.  Taper was going well and I was excited and then it happened, Owen got sick during the night on Tuesday before the race.  Of course, all I thought about as I was cleaning up the mess he made in his room, was, "PLEASE!! Not the Boston Marathon again!".  When I awoke in the morning I started to feel under the weather as well, so both Owen and I decided to stay home and rest.  We both SLEPT a ton during the day and I was hoping that was all I needed.  I got up Thursday morning and Owen was still not well.  I was feeling better so I went to do my SAT tutoring job and Sue stayed home to be with Owen.  All went well during the day, but then in the evening, I took a turn for the worse.  It started with the worst head-ache I have ever had and then the diarrhea came (remember, there was a WARNING at the start).  All the hydration I had built up was quickly leaving my body.  How would I be ready to race for 8+ hours in 3 short days?

On Friday Owen mentioned that his ears were hurting and so we went to the clinic and he was diagnosed with a double ear infection.  I was hoping that his vomiting earlier was possibly due to extreme post-nasal drip, which has happened to him before.  Maybe my upset  gut was just nerves?  Oh ya, I forgot, I also had a temp of about 101 on Thursday night, so no such luck there.

It was at this point that I seriously considered not racing on Sunday.  There was certainly no sense making myself REALLY ill.  As Friday progressed I was feeling better so I packed up with the intention of getting up at 4AM on Saturday in order to head to Gilford, NH to watch a few good friends race in the Sprint triathlon.  Well, I was up 10 minutes prior to the alarm and all seemed well (I am sure the IMODIUM helped).

With AMAZING friend Robert Head
The drive up there was fine and I headed right to the house where I would be staying.  I arrived a little after 6AM and Shannon was up to great me.  Susan was up soon as well.  I unloaded my gear and made my way to Ellacoya State Park to watch the sprint race.  I got there in time to meet up with one of my REALLY great friends Robert Head.  He has been working as a massage therapist at Timberman since my first year racing there back in 2009.  I got a HUGE HUG from him and started to watch the race.  I kept my eyes out for Colleen Alexander, Tammy Stapleton, and Serenity Coyne and was able to cheer all 3 of them on at different points of the race.  Both Colleen and Tammy would be racing on Sunday in relays as well.

Colleen, Amber, and Sean.
When I had seen my friends a couple of times on the course, I decided to head back to the house where I would be staying.  When I arrived everyone was up along with some other visitors. Rob Cannata was another Bay State triathlete staying at the house as well.  They had a nice breakfast waiting for me.  The pancakes with fresh homemade blueberry syrup were amazing.

I unpacked some of my gear and then decided to head over to Gunstock to pick up my race packet.  As a para-triathlete I had my stuff with all the Pros. Check-in went smooth and I got to see Erin again.  She is the contact person with WTC that I've dealt with and she has been amazing all spring, answering all my silly questions.

With Kona Ironman, Minda Dentler
I hung around the Expo for a while and decided not to get any gear in order to make sure I didn't jinx myself.  I headed back to the house in order to go for a 35 minute ride.  I simply went out and completed the run course and also the big hill out of transition.  I got back and loaded up my bike and got some swim gear together in order to go for a little swim at the race venue.  Check in with my bike was no problem at all and it was at the time that I realized I wasn't going to the only paratriathlete.  I ran into my dear friend, and KONA Ironman finisher, Minda Dentler.  It was real neat realizing we would be heading out in the swim wave with the pro women at 7:05AM.

As I headed down into the water, I ran into my friend Travis Hawkins.  He is also one of our coaches with Worklivetri and a pro as well.  He would be racing tomorrow and we decided to go over and swim a bit at the swim start in order to see what the area would be like race morning.  We swan a bit and talked a lot.  A lot of info I certainly needed.  Travis was aware I was under the weather and gave me some tips should my insides start to rebel tomorrow.  I learned two good piece of info.  First, if I was sick, resist the urge to replace the calories right away.  More than likely, they'll come right back as well.  He said it was important to give your body a chance to settle down.  Secondly he said, if sick, drink COKE.  We swam some more then I decided to head back to the house and Travis headed back to his place.  As I walked out to get changed, this would be the first time since arriving in NH, that I would start to feel a little ill again.  I don't know if it was the breeze and the lack of sun, but I started to shiver quite a bit. I ran into Colleen and we had a quick chat about the big day tomorrow.  She was concerned I did not look well.   Of course, I lied and said I was fine.

When I got back to the house, I arrived just in time for some dinner.  Maybe that's what I needed.  There was a nice pasta dish made with chicken and broccoli.  Well, it seemed to work.  With a full meal in my belly, all seemed OK.  We talked about logistics for the morning and I headed downstairs to repack my gear and head to bed.  

Once I was ready, sleep came pretty easily.  I set my alarm for 4AM and then, as is the usual case, I awoke at 3:58AM, right  before the alarm.  When I got up and headed upstairs, most others were already awake, ready for what was going to be an AMAZING day.  I felt good, no chills, and for the most part, my belly felt OK.  I had my usual breakfast with some toast (cinnamon, raisin toast in fact, that Susan had brought, MY FAV) with some PB, a banana, some coffee and some apple sauce.  Dan and Donna showed up, so we loaded up my car and the 3 of us headed down to transition.  The first person I saw as I went in was my friend Scott Graham, who is charge of the transition area, and has been for years.  He is a local guy who has been involved in the Timberman race long before WTC took over.

I managed to get into the main parking lot again with a spot, not too far from the entrance to transition.  Donna took some gear and would be setting up the "Baystate Triathlon Team" tent.  Dan and I headed in to be body marked and set up our transition area.

One benefit of racing as a PC athlete at a WTC race, is we are racked with the pros.  So as I was getting ready it was neat to chat with Andy Potts, Amanda Stevens, Kate Anelauskas (think we did at least 3 of the same races this year), and Dede Griesbauer.  We even had our own porta-pottie to share with them.  Of course being able to connect with Coach Travis again was the biggest bonus of all.  I also had a pep-talk from good friend and Wattie Ink athlete Jon Miles.  The weather was not looking great at this point with some menacing clouds in the area.  Again, worry about what you can control.  So I left my shoes in plastic bags and hoped for the best.  I headed down to swim start with Travis and got in the water to get ready.  As we walked down, it started to rain, but alas, those would be the only few drops we would see.

Taken by Robert Head
The race started promptly with the pro men leaving at 7AM, followed by Minda and me with the pro women at 7:02AM.  One really nice thing about WTC races is that they don't skimp on the swim buoys.  There was no question where we had to go.  It is a rectangular course involving right turns.  The turn buoys are gigantic compared to the smaller guide buoys, so it is pretty much impossible to get lost.  Of course, all I had to do was follow the other swimmers as they caught up to me wave after wave.  The highlight for me during the swim was when Diane Jackson (mother of pro Heather Jackson) swam by and patted me on the back and stopped to say HELLO.  It's nice to know you're swimming with friends.  I did a good job at the turns and was pretty happy with my swim coming in at 59:21.  My time in T1 went pretty well as I got out on the bike in 3:47.  I would chalk down a lot of that to the run from the beach into T1.

Out on the bike.  Taken by Meghan Cole
The start of the bike course involves a long hill out of the park, but knowing about this hill, it really was no big deal, just a slow way to start your race.  The course goes along matching much of the sprint bike route for a while.  All of my friends who've done the 70.3 course said, MILE 10, when I asked about the bike course.  And I'll tell you, it did not disappoint.  This was by far, the longest and steepest incline I've ever had in a race.  As I got up a little more than a 1/3 of the way, I noticed people up ahead getting off their bikes to walk them up the hill.  If you know me by now, you are aware, I've had a streak going in that I have never walked my bike up a hill.  Well, I was able to keep my streak alive.  It was SLOW going, but I keep going.  A number of people exclaimed how amazed they were that I was able to keep my bike with 20' wheels going.  The deceptive part of the this hill is that inclines to the left, so it takes a long time until the crest is view.  Good thing, but once I could see it, I feel I was only about 1/2 way up with a LONG way to go.  Another trick I learned is not keep looking at the top.  Look just about 6 feet in front of the bike and occasional glance up.  It truly works, as I was able to beat this hill in little chunks.  What followed that hill was a very nice FAST decline.  I got into aero position and enjoyed the rest and recovery going down. I was starting to feel some tightness in my left glute and was hoping it was not going to bother me on the run.   There were three bottle drops on the bike and even a gu stop, so keeping hydrated was not a problem.  I was also able to keep taking one gu every hour.

Much of the middle of the bike route is a LONG gradual downhill until the turn-around point.  We ride past the NH Motor Speedway just before the turn around and then head back.  There was a point heading back where we were passing a long line of traffic going in the other direction.  I thought it might be nice to yell out, "Thanks for your patience" to the drivers.  Most waved and said "No problem", but of course one guy had to yell at me to "Go F*** yourself."  Can't please everyone.

Now as I headed back in I started to recall another person telling me there were some hills around mile 48 of the bike.  I was thankful for the warning as this was another tough hill.  A little shorter than the hill at mile 10, but it seemed a little steeper.  The problem with this one is that every time you got the crest, you realized there was another hill.  This happened 3 or 4 times.  Now the downhill that followed this hill was AMAZING.  I would later check my data and realize I would travel down this hill at 42 mph.  Again, I got into aero position and enjoyed the ride.  I was hoping to finish the bike under 4 hours, but alas, it was starting to sink in that maybe my pre-race illness was going to be a factor.  I got off the bike in 4:21:55.

Run out.  Taken by Scott Graham
T2 went well, including a quick hug and some good wishes from Colleen Alexander.  My time getting out was 3:45.  At least I was consistent.  This 13.1 run would be a real test.  There were lots of people around to cheer me on, including a quick visit from WATTIE INK team member, Roger Thrall.  He ran with me for a bit as I headed up the road.  The run course is a double loop, consisting of a 3.3 mile run out and then a turnaround, that you complete twice.  This is where I started to get concern, as my legs and back felt fine and it was just my gut that was bothering me.  I tried to start our slowly, running 1 minute and then walking for a 1 minute.  My hope was to do that for a bit and then simply increase the length of the running segments to a max of about 4 minutes, followed by 1 minute walk breaks.

Looking pretty happy!!  Taken by Shawn Hawkins
Well things didn't really change for the most part.  I ran 1 minute and walked 1 minute.  The only sustained running I was managing was during some of the downhill portions.  Things did not not  go well.  I was passed by lots of friends like Diane Jackson again and Tina Green.  When I got up to the turn around a little past mile 3, things started taking a real turn for the worse.  Just before that though, right near a marina where there was a small crowd a I heard a young girl yell out, "There's THE midget."  In no mood to educate, I quickly yelled at her, "NO I'M NOT!!!".  What made me think is why did she use the word THE.  Had word passed around about me racing or had she seen me earlier in the day.  Anyway, when I came back that way, she was gone.  But the problem with me now, is that I started to get dizzy.  I had been drinking at each water stop so I'm not sure what the cause was.  But I had to find a spot to sit or I was going to fall.  I found a spot and sat for a bit taking some real deep breaths.  One guy walked by and yelled at me to get going, that I could not quit.  To be honest, had I seen a medical tent, I might have stopped.

Anyway I got going again, and the dizziness seemed to disappear.  My running was really not getting any faster, as I was still pretty much doing the 1 min. run to 1 min. walk.  I was so happy to run into my dear friend Alett Mekler on the run as she was finishing up her 2nd lap.  I talked about my dizziness and she suggested I might need some salt.  I looked at my hands and I noticed my fingers seemed to be fatter than usual.  I remembered that was a sign in the past that indicated I might need some salts.  Even though I had been taking in a lot of PERFORM, Alett offered me her last 2 salt pills.  THANKS SO MUCH Alett!!!

As I got close to transition and entered the park to turn around, the race official told me I had plenty of time to finish my second lap.  I pretty much walked the entire turn-around and managed to remember seeing Shannon and Robert, but I'm pretty sure my face was showing a lot of the discomfort I was feeling.  The dizziness had gone and been replaced with some real pain in my gut.  It didn't feel like I was going to puke, but I definitely needed a stop at a porta-pottie.  The first one back out of transition was busy or there was no TP.  I resolved to keep running and make it to the next stop about a mile down the road.  The crowds were thinning out as were the other runners.  And then all of sudden, my left leg went numb and started to tingle.  Most other LPs know the feeling I am talking about.  It rarely ever happens to me when I run, so things were not looking good.  This is the first time during the day, that something about my short-stature was affecting me.  I knew what I had to do.  As many know I carry a couple of tokens from LPs to help me along.  Ones who have had a much together time and me and my family.  So I called out to Katie, Vivian and Addie (she just had decompression surgery) asked them to help the pain go away.  And as is always the case, it was quickly gone.

Before I knew it I saw the porta-potties.  I went on in and was able to relieve ALL of the pressure I was feeling.  I got out and promised that I would start to run some more to finish the race.  The number of runners were quickly dwindling and as I neared the turn-around and I knew I would not see a lot of runners behind me as I headed back in.  I counted them, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.  And then I wondered, how many would catch me?  WHO CARES I yelled to myself and as my friend Verity once said, 'Don't look back, you're not going that way."

Well, only one of them caught me and I managed to run a lot of the last 3 miles.  Just as I neared the park, I saw my coach Travis, coming out to check on me.  He said he was worried, but was real happy to see me still going. It was then that he told me, he had finished 5th OVERALL.  I was so proud of him!!!

I managed to run down the chute and was so pleased to see Robert there waiting for me and even see and hear Andy Potts lean over to congratulate me on my finish.  I figure my 13.1 run was well over 4 hours, but was happy to find out the final time was 3:35:58, giving me an overall time of 9:25:46.

My goal was to finish 8:15 or faster, so of course, I did not reach that goal.  But I did finish, and given the state I was in just a few days before the race, I am proud of what I accomplished that day.  And I know, I will return to Timberman 70.3 again to finish stronger and faster someday.

With Wattie Ink stat Maggie Freeman

First place (and only) male paratriathlete.
With coach and 5th place pro, Travis Hawkins.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

#TTF2014 The Toronto Triathlon Festival

Nothing beats racing in your hometown, especially when you don't live there any more.  What a weekend this was.  Four days away from home, with more than 13 hours on the road each way to and from the city.  As many know, my mom passed away on May 16th, and though we had a memorial service for her, the family had decided to have the internment for her remains on July 12th, the day prior to the race.  It was a small family affair, along with Peter, the rector from her church, and some real close friends of mom's.  It was to last about 15 minutes and start at 1pm, but of course when we arrived there was a problem.  Despite my niece Sara calling earlier in the week to make sure all was in order, my mom's remains were nowhere on the property.  They quickly tracked them down and the  told us we would not be able to start until 3:30pm.  We all went off for a quick bite to eat at Tim Horton's and then returned.  It was a very quick event and a lovely spot that we can visit in the future if we so wish.

After a quick tour of Sara and Ronnie's new house I headed down to Toronto for the night so I would be close to the race site. I again had the privilege of staying at Marilyn and Fred's complex for the night, near Yonge and St. Clair.  They treated me to a very nice light dinner and I turned in early for the night.  The weather forecast was not looking promising calling for a risk of thunderstorms for the morning.   Worrying about the weather, I did not sleep too well and the 4AM wake-up came quickly.

My first look out the window was good, with not rain on the ground yet.  That was a good sign as the forecast had said it would start around 1AM.  Had a bite to eat (bagel, banana, and some V-8 fruit juice), packed up and headed down to Ontario Place.  It's interesting driving down Yonge St (Longest continuous street in the world) and seeing who is up and about at 4:30AM.  Getting there was no problem and I parked and made it to transition without a hitch.

Bike covered ready for the rain.
The sky was still quite cloudy, but it looked like the sun might peek out.  I did bring extra plastic bags and covered up all my shoes and my handlebars.  I had also brought a spare swim cap to use to cover my saddle.  The start time came quickly as I got on my wetsuit and started to make it down to the swim start.  Of course, just as I was heading down, the skies opened up and it started to pour.  As long as it didn't thunder or lightening, the swim would more than likely proceed as planned.  I got down to the swim start and who did I see, but Canadian Olympian, Triathlon Gold Medalist, Simon Whitfield.  We had a quick chat prior to the swim start.  Simon would later be guiding Terry Gardner on the run in the sprint race.  Terry is a visually-impaired triathlete with Won With One.  I was doing the Olympic distance race, which left first and Simon said he would do all he could to catch and pass me before I finished.  

As we got called to the dock area for the anthem, the skies opened up again.  We could barely see the turn buoys and so of course, I started to get a little nervous.  Even though there is nothing I can do to change the weather, I realized I had never been swimming in torrential rain.  The race was to start at 6:50AM and was delayed in the hopes the showers would subside a bit.  The elite age-groupers went first and then the para wave would depart (all 2 of us!!!).  

Me swimming taken by @BrendaTeamTTF
Bill Burke (race director from Premier Event Management) directed us into the water and gave us a 10 second count.  The water was colder than I had expected, but certainly not colder than Cohasset.  The difference with Cohasset is that I was able to get in and get used to it prior to the race.  This was a bit of a shock and before I knew it, we were off.

The course is counter-clockwise, which I prefer, but I didn't even make to the first turn-buoy before I was having some problems.  I was short of breath but making progress, but then I took a big mouth-full of water and started to choke a bit.  There was a paddle border nearby and I signalled for him to come over.  He got there real quick and I latched on.  I took about 45 seconds or so to catch my breath and took off again.  I worried this was the shaping up to be a Quassy flashback where I had to withdraw due to an allergic reaction to the pollen.  Was the water too cold? NO!! Was I having some allergic reaction? NO!! So I continued swimming and I got into a quick grove.  After the first turn I headed down the canal to the far buoy.  At this point, it started to rain again and I couldn't see the buoy in the distance.  It was at this point that the athletes from the previous wave caught up to me and I could follow them.  It was a long stretch to that second turn (maybe about 700m, or 750yds).  The water was noticeably colder as we neared the exit to the sheltered area.  The rest of the swim went pretty well except for one smack I received right at the bridge of the nose as another swimmer went by.  My final swim time for the 1.5km was 0:52:43 which was about 8-10 slower than I had hoped.  Given the rain and the slow start, it would do, but I wasn't sure now I would be able to finish under 4 hours.

Transition was not that great either, coming out on my bike in 04:22.  In fact, that time really sucks as I usually try and complete T1 in under 3 minutes.  Again, I had to deal with removing the plastic bags off of the bike and getting my shoes out as well.  The rain had stopped so I only hoped there wasn't a lot of standing water on the course.

This is BY FAR, my favorite triathlon bike course.  I grew up in this city and drove both the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway (DVP) many countless times.  Like the NYC tri, they bike course is closed, which rarely happens, so it really is a fun ride.  With the new tri bar set-up I was able to stay aero for a lot of the course.  I was passed by a lot of cyclists, but I also was able to pass quite a number myself. The roads were wet without a lot of puddles.  I don't really feel I ever had to drive slower than I hoped.  Including the roads we travel on, we pass 3 different stadiums, BMO Stadium (Toronto FC), Roger's Centre (Skydome-Blue Jays) and Air Canada Centre (Leafs and Raptors), pretty cool.

At the turn around, near DVP and Eglinton, I blew a kiss to mom.  The last place we lived together, when I was still in high school, was up at DVP and Lawrence, just a couple of miles away.  The way back is down hill and I was able to make up some speed, but at this point, we also faced a headwind.  It was at this point that a motorbike pulled up beside me and was filming, they had the camera on me for a couple of minutes, including a point where I passed two other cyclists.  The came up beside me again and asked if they could chat a bit.  Well, those of you who know me, know I wouldn't have a problem chatting to a camera! LOL.  I found out they were from TSN and are putting together a piece on WON WITH ONE, including Simon's work with the team.  I found out it will be aired in Canada sometime in August.

When I returned to T2 all was going well.  My bike leg was 1:35:36, more than 5 minutes faster than 2012, so I was able to make up some of my slow swim time.  T2 was 4:23m again, WAY TOO SLOW.   I need to be A LOT FASTER in transition.  Again, I don't know if it was all the rain, but that is something I must remedy.

I took off on the run and things went well.  As I ran along the shore, I looked out on the water, as at this point, the last of the sprint racers were starting their swims.  It was then I noticed a paddleboarder was waving at me and cheering.  It was the guy who had come along to me while I was in the water.  He was REAL HAPPY to see me out there on the run. Sure made me feel good!!!!

I was able to start out running for 1:30 and then walking for 0:30.  As time went along and things felt good, I was able to switch to 3:00 of running followed by 1:00 of walking.  There were lots of great kids manning the water stations cheering us along.  GREAT VOLUNTEERS for sure!!! It had started to rain a little around the 3K mark for me and then the skies opened up to a total downpour.  For the next 4-6K it literally poured buckets.  I was running through 2-4 inches of water and was totally soaked.  I soon realized I would not be breaking the 4 hour barrier, but being so wet, I started to laugh.  Getting to the water stops, it was a delight to see the kids still out there cheering us on.  As people passed me, I would yell out, "SWIM, BIKE, SWIM".  Got a few laughs!!
My finish taken by Jan Ditchfield

As I neared the end I was still feeling real good without any back or leg pain.  As I neared the finish, Marilyn was there and as I entered the finish chute, I could see a large group from WON WITH ONE, waiting for the sprint finishers.   I was really happy to find out my run time was 1:29:44, 3:30 faster than 2012.  So really, if I had been able to have quicker transitions and a slightly faster swim, I would have beat 4 hours.  My final time was 4:06:47.  Given the crummy weather, this was a REALLY GOOD RACE!!!

With Jan Ditchfield
Wouldn't you know it, but about 1 minute after my finish, I saw Simon and Terry coming down the chute.  For the second year in a row HERO BURGER offered free burgers to racers.  When I got in the line, it didn't move, so I gave up on that idea.  I hung around for a while with Marilyn and she stayed long enough to see me get my finisher ribbon and flowers for 2nd place in the PC division.  I would later find out the 1st place finisher was not a PC racer and had registered that way by accident.

I got back to transition to get my WET gear and bike and then took it all to my car.  The drive back to Orangeville was uneventful and as soon as I got back I took a refreshing dip into Bonnie's pool.  We had a long day ahead of us on Monday, having to drive the 500+ miles back to MA.
Getting my award with Steve Fleck
(taken by M. Fennell)

Finally meeting fb friend Irina!!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hero Triathlon

And so goes the start of my triathlon season.  This the first time I have ever competed in two triathlons in consecutive weeks.  I was supposed to have done Quassy Olympic a month ago, but had to withdraw after my mother had passed away and I had to return to Canada.  Bill Burnett from Streamline Events puts on some amazing races and after racing the Cohasset tri last year, I knew I wanted to return to race there again.  I ran into Bill at TRI-MANIA in March and he mentioned another race he organized called the Hero Triathlon.  The race takes place in Mashpee, MA on the grounds of Otis Air-Force Base.  Bill does a really good job supporting and recognizing physically challenged athletes and invited me to come down and race there as well.  I couldn't pass the chance up to do this race!

Johns Pond at Otis Air Force Base, Mashpee, MA
The Hero triathlon offered both an Olympic and sprint distance and I had chosen to compete in the sprint race.  The sprint was a later start, with the Olympic going off earlier, so I decided to drive down the morning of leaving Salem at about 4:40AM.  It would be a quick and easy ride down to Mashpee.  I could not believe how bright it was so early in the morning as I packed up the last few things in my car at 4:30AM.  I was bringing breakfast with me and would eat on the road since I would not be starting until 9AM.  I have now simplified my pre-race meal to a banana, English muffin with PB, some Gatorade, and then a CLIF bar about 90 minutes prior to the race and an applesauce (thanks QT2 nutrition consult!!) about 30 minutes prior to the race.

The drive down was easy with a great view over the Bourne bridge as I drove onto the Cape.  Bill offered to keep a parking spot for me close to transition at Johns Pond.  The morning was gorgeous with no clouds in the sky.  The water was warm at 68 degrees.  At first look, the swim course looked to be a lot longer than the advertised 0.3 mile distance.  I don't worry about those details since we all have to swim the same course.  

Disney Dawn with me prior to the race.
Check-in and set-up all went well with nothing out of the ordinary happening.  I got a chance to meet David Kruysman, the other PC athlete.  He was going to be doing the Olympic distance race.  He is a LT in the NYFD where he works as a paramedic.  I also met up with LONG-TIME friend Disney Dawnie from Comp racing and Jim Leavitt.  Dave Constantino was also there as well racing.

After the anthem the Olympic distance athletes set off and the sprint racers waited around about 30 minutes to start at 9AM.  I was in the first wave and sighting seemed to go quite well and I seemed to stay with a group of novice swimmers who were able to do most of the sighting for me as they all swam head-up breaststroke which left me to stay focused on my "streamline" freestyle.  The course was a simple counter-clockwise course, with the last leg a point where we merged with the slower Oly swimmers from the 8:30AM start.

Swim 26:13 (more than 1/2 mile for sure).  Again, I'm not complaining, but there is NO WAY this was a 1/3 of a mile swim.  The run to transition was short and I got to my bike pretty quickly getting out of T1 in 2:13.  That's pretty good for me.

The bike course was very flat but most of it was around the Otis airbase with lots of open space and some pretty strong headwinds.  The new aerobar set-up I have helped keep me down with less air resistance.  Thanks so much CAF for the grant to help with this!!!  My total time for the bike was 52:16 (13 miles) giving me an average speed of 14.9 mph.  Given the winds, I was pretty happy with this.  The course was well-maintained with lots of people at every turn, including lots of men and women in uniform helping out,
which added to the character of the race!!!

I was not happy with my bike to run transition getting out of T2 in a time of 3:17.  Can't think of a reason, except that I was simply taking my time instead of doing MY JOB!!!

Finish in 2:10:33
The run was tough to start and I was experiencing some lower back pain at the beginning.  No numbness or tingling, just a sign to me that I need to do more running off the bike (BRICKS) in training.  The run only had one water stop at the turn around, but since I usually carry my own GATORADE it wasn't a problem.  I usually use the water for dousing my head and back anyway.  The course was pretty much an out and back with some hills, but nothing tough.  The second half went much better, confirming what I said of more prep needed.  The last 1/3 of a mile was pretty much downhill which certainly felt good where I ended up finishing my run in 46:37 (3.2 miles).  My overall time was 2:10:33.  My original plan was a sub 2-hour finish, but I knew once I saw the longer swim, that would not be the case.  Overall, very happy for my first race of the year.  The important thing is that I left the race feeling good and strong, ready to race in one week at Cohasset.

With David Kruysman post race.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

When Does the Yo-Yo-ing STOP?

Please, soon I hope.  I don't know how much more of this I can take.

November 2012- Drive to NYC to run in the marathon (UP)
Marathon cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy (DOWN)
Run in the Myles Standish Marathon 2 weeks later and qualify for Boston 2013 (UP)
Get injured (totally my fault for not resting) and can't run for 2 months (DOWN)
Recover and prepare in just 2 months for Boston 2013 (UP)
At race expo picking up my bib, I found out that one of my students died tragically in a car accident (WAY DOWN!!!)
Start the Boston Marathon (UP)
Get stopped with less than a mile to go (DOWN)
Have a successful tri season and run in the NYC Marathon (UP)
Start the 2014 Boston Marathon (UP)
Have to pull out 10 miles into the race due to stomach flu (DOWN)
Return to Natick three weeks later (last weekend) to run the last 16 miles alone (UP)
Arrive home that day to get a message from my sister that my mother is not well. (DOWN)
I was able to return to Canada and be with my mother for her last few hours, when she died this past Friday (TOTALLY SHATTERED)

This is not a post to have people feel sorry for me and I know a lot of this revolves around unfinished races, which in the big scheme of the world, is not a big thing and could be a lot worse.  It is still a ride I want to get off soon.  I know you really can't experience the highs of this life without experiencing the lows, but I really am starting to say, "WHY ME?"  The next time something really amazing happens, I am honestly going to have to step back and say, "Okay, what's happening next?"

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

118th Boston Marathon

I will write a more upbeat report soon I hope, but at this point, I need to put down the WHYS of what lead me to withdrawing from the marathon.  After everything that happened last year, all of us who were stopped talked about what we wanted to do.  We felt denied what was our RIGHT, the right to finish the marathon we had started.

The Saturday prior to the race Owen was out playing with a friend when his friend came running to our house to tell us Owen was throwing up.  We went outside to find Owen being sick.  This was not the usual Owen who has always been one to know prior to being sick in order to do so in the proper place.  He continued to throw up most of the day and then started to have diarrhea.  We checked his temp throughout the day and there was no fever.  He crawled into bed around 5pm and laid there for a couple of hours sleeping on and off and then  finally drifted off to sleep for the night.  In the morning, he woke up, seemed to feel great had a small breakfast and then we headed off to church where he had a BIG breakfast and seemed good to go.  We thought, heck it must have been food poisoning.

Fast forward to race morning.  As I was driving down to Boston to catch my bus at the Sheraton, my tummy felt a bit upset.  I started to wonder what it could have been.  Once  I parked my car at Columbia and Berkeley the pain went away.  I thought it must have been nerves.  I walked to the hotel and just as I entered I remember, this was the Hoyt's hotel.  What a great bonus seeing all my great friends prior to what was going to be the greatest race of my life.

The ride out to Hopkinton was fine.  Funny thing is I ended up on a bus with no other runners.  It was filled with all the cycling volunteers who would be following the wheel-chair and hand-cycle competitors.  We had a great time chatting.  I got a message from a friend then that DandC had mentioned me on their show again.  The highlight of the ride came when I got a call from my dear friend Trisha.  She had been on Boylston waiting for me last year when all heck broke loose. She was calling to give a boost and it sure worked.

We arrived right at the starting line and I hurried over to the VIP tent where all of the mobility impaired (MI) runners would be staged.  The weather was gorgeous at this point and we all started to get ready.  I was proud to be there again with so many great friends.  Scott Rigsby was returning again and he has always been one of my greatest motivators.  He was the first double leg amputee to finish KONA (twice now).  Juli Windsor was also starting with us, and she would end up being the first LP to finish Boston (certainly the fastest as well).

As we prepared to start, we had a moment of silence to remember the victims of the blasts last year.  The highlight of the entire day would happen now as my friend Dave McGillivray (the race director) came over to stand beside me and we put our arms around each other.

And off we went.  Everything seemed to be going well throughout the race.  Passing the 5K and 10K marks all seemed well.  Just as we went through Framingham I was passed by the pro men.  Who then came up behind me, but Dave on a scooter.  He asked me how things were going and I said I was feeling good.  After he passed,  I thought to myself, am I really feeling good.  I started to break up my run/walks from 3min run/1min walk to 1.5min run/30 sec walk.  As my stomach started to feel woozy again I thought I might need a gel.  I took that and more gatorade (I had been drinking as usual) and it really didn't seem to help.  Then as I neared the 15K mark I went to a solid walk.  I tried to run but could only manage 20 sec or so at a time.  Countless people were cheering me on, both spectators and runners.  I tried but could not run.

I got to the next medical tent and asked for help.  They asked me a bunch of questions to test my mental state and I passed (all marathon runners are NUTS!).  They suggested I try to possibly keep going to the next medical tent and have a reassessment.  As I proceeded along I remember I was soon coming along to a group of friends who were cheering people on.  A number of families with LP children were there (Sue and Owen cheered there last year too).  As I came upon them I think they knew immediately I needed help.  My friend Renee offered to walk with me to the med tent.  I was thankful to have her with me.  At this point I asked her to call Sue as she handed me the phone I talked to Sue to tell her I was in distress and things did not look good for me to continue.  I told her I would call again when I knew more.

The medical tent was not where they had said it would be (I found out later, it had been moved by the town of Natick).  We neared the Natick Center and then all hell broke loose inside of me.  I told Renee I needed to throw up.  Before it happened, Renee  pointed me towards a sewer grate.  Nothing like puking in front of 100's of people.  This was the most violent retching I have ever down.  Luckily there were fire fighters there and they came over to assess me.  We talked for a while and I asked for some water.  I quickly downed a whole bottle and asked for another.  I thanked Renee and suggested she return to her family.  She hugged me (probably not very pleasant) and then left.  The firefighters told me I had 3 choices: trip to the hospital, ride to the med tent (1/2 a mile down the course), return to the course.  I sat a while longer and then decided to try and continue.  I did feel better after the purge.

Off I went and again, I could barely run.  I ran for possibly 20 seconds or so and then walked again.  When I got to the med tent, I started to consider withdrawing.  They escorted me into the tent and checked my vitals.  Except for an elevated heart-rate, I had no fever and BP was good.  They suggested I lie down and I promptly nodded off.  I awoke and they said I needed to decide what to do as the bus to the finish line was arriving.  I made the decision to withdraw.  I called Sue and told her what I was doing.  I would later find out both her and Owen were able to see Juli cross the line.  I am so proud of what she has done for LPs, but even more so for LP women, and women in general.

I rode the bus to Babson College where we to transfer to a larger bus to ride into Boston.  Waiting for the bus to leave, as fast as it happened last time, I had to puke again.  I made it outside of the bus just in time and again,  purged out the two bottles of water I had just downed.  OKAY, maybe stopping was the right choice.  I would end up doing it again one more time after I arrived home and again, it came upon me pretty fast.

I have read countless stories of people finishing the race in a terrible physical state and that's what I keep beating myself up about.  Could I have walked the remaining 15+ miles to cross that line?  I was totally empty of both fluids and any energy.  And I was now realizing, I would not be able to keep anything down.  The day would only get warmer.  I wanted to get to Wellesley College to see Brit and Leslie.  I wanted to get to Coolidge Corner, Kenmore Square, Comm Ave, make that turn onto Hereford St and of course, turn onto Boylston to run to Sue and Owen.  But that was not going to be.  It wasn't the fact that other LP runners would be there first.  Both Juli and Dahn are MUCH FASTER than me. I know that.  I didn't want to beat them, but I wanted to be WITH them.  I missed the party!!  I did all the planning and knew I was ready for this.  But you can never be sure of anything.  This was certainly a case of the worst timing ever.

I also have to think about this summer.  I have a number of triathlons planned, including three of them before the end of June.  If I had kept going, there is a very good chance I may have ended up in the hospital, or worse.  I am 100% sure that both Sue and Owen are happy I stopped.  I was able to return to work today and will very soon be on my bike and swimming as well.  As Owen stated, "Sometimes you're the hammer and sometimes you're the nail." At this point, I think I am going to take a seat from marathon running and put a lot more of time into triathlon.  Running so much has really taken time away from my bike training especially.  If I truly want to do an Ironman in 2015, I need to get to work SERIOUSLY.  It might not be in 2015, but I will be back BOSTON.  Some year, I will be back.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

NYC Half-Marathon

NYC is slowly becoming one of my favorite cities.  I have raced there 3 times in the last 8 months and at least once a year for the last 4 years.  The Achilles International group I race with are based there and over the last 2+ years I have made a great number of close friends through Achilles NYC and CAF as well.  Less than 24 hours before I was to leave for the race I watched this video, Empire State of Mind - JAY Z and Alicia Keys a number of times.

My good friend Barbara lives on the UWS and offered me a spare bedroom at her place for the weekend.  Since Sue and Owen were not coming along this time, it would save me the price of a hotel and also the chance to catch up with Barbara.  I first met Barbara three years ago when she was the north-east coordinator for CAF.  I drove down on Friday and like every visit I've made to NYC, I was able to find free street parking along Riverside Dr near W 80th.  I simply park my car there and then use the MTA until I leave on Sunday.

Once arriving I took the train to Barbara's place.  She was still a
t work so I decided to head over to the Expo to pick-up my bib and have a look around.  The Expo is a lot smaller than some of the bigger races I've done, so I was through in about 15 minutes or so.  Barb met me there and so we headed out for some dinner.  With it being March 14th (3.14) or PI day, we had to head out for some pizza.  Barb suggested a restaurant called "Patsy's".  We had a nice white pizza with mushrooms and broccoli.  After dinner I suggested we get a little dessert, and what better place would a Canadian want to go to then "Tim Horton's?"  It's been a while since I've been to one while the "ROLL UP THE RIM" contest is going on.  I didn't win, but just getting a chance to play was GREAT. 

Well, some things in life are just meant to happen. Heading to Tim Horton's we decide to get the train.  It was a busy Friday night and as we are boarding the very crowded train Barb says to me, "Friday night riding the 1 train!". We both laugh and squeeze on. We aren't on the train 2 minutes and this woman says, "Excuse me, are you from Boston and do you know Claire Thompson ?" I think for a split second and say, "Yes, she goes to my church." She then explains how Claire had told her I was running the race on Sunday and she should go out to cheer me on. Of all the trains in all of NYC, we got to meet each other there.  She is watching a young child and can't be there to cheer on Sunday, but really that doesn't matter. She wished me luck as she exited the train. I fully believe this was not mere chance. Thank you Claire!!  I had asked Claire to say a special prayer for me to keep me safe during the race.  I am fully convinced this was God's way of telling me I would be kept safe during the race!

I always hope to have a good night's sleep two nights prior to a race.  Well, I got my wish and slept like a rock.  Barb was awake early to do a LONG RUN in the park and I got ready to meet up with many of my
Me and Kat from Achilles
Achilles teammates for their regular Saturday morning run.  We met up at NYRR and then headed over for a very short-run.  I chose to do a 1.6 mile loop around the reservoir.  It was a gravel road with lots of little pot-holes which were a little hard to maneuver.  Think I will stick to the paved roads next time.  I headed back to the apartment to get cleaned up and meet up with another one of my NYC friends.

I met Bianca two years ago prior to the NYC triathlon.  She had posted something online about being nervous about the race, which would be her first triathlon.  I had given her some suggestions and we had kep in touch prior to the race in 2012.  We got a chance to meet then and since then, remained in touch through social media.  It was nice to meet up with and have some coffee and catch up.  She is actually racing the NYC Triathlon again this summer, and wouldn't you know it, she's raising money for Achilles!!!

Carbo Loading with Dana
I went back to the apartment to rest some more, get some of my clothes ready for the race and change to meet up with another one of the NYC friends, and member of Team Hoyt, Dana Krashin.  We first met prior to the Boston Marathon in 2013.  Two other Team Hoyt members, Meghan and Tammy (both from Massachusetts) would be joining us, along with Dana's boyfriend, Giancarlo.  We met at a very traditional looking Italian restaurant called Carmines's.  The food is served "family style" and I was amazed that the five of us ate a lot of food, with multiple helpings, and there were also leftovers, for a total bill of less than $100.  Now, we didn't have any alcohol, so I am sure that helped.  The food was excellent!!!
Meghan, me, Dana, and Tammy

I headed back to Barb's place for the evening.  Barb was out to dinner with a friend, so I had her place to myself.  I laid out all of the clothing for the morning and prepared my drop clothing bag.  When I had left MA, the weather report had said it would be low 40's and sunny for the race.  Well by Saturday the forecast had changed and it was looking like it would be closed to  30 degrees with a strong northerly wind.  I  had a hoodie and sweatpants to dump at the start, but did prepare to bring gloves (found out later I did have a pair in my bag) or something for my head, except a visor.  I also decided to stick with shorts and not wear running pants.

Barb's place was a perfect location for this race.  I would simply walk  from her place down Broadway to the bottom of the park where the bag drop area was.  I had everything prepared for the night, set my alarm for 5:15AM and turned in for the night around 10PM.  Here is where I was amazed as I had another great night of sleep.  I work once around 3AM to use the bathroom and went right back to sleep.  I managed to wake about 15 minutes prior to the alarm.  I got ready and had a breakfast of a homemade banana muffin (THANKS BARB!!), a banana, some gatorade and I would have a POWER BAR on the way to the start.  I would also have an apple sauce just prior to the start of the race.

Some of the Achilles athletes and guides.
When I got outside, I realized how truly cold it was.  The weather was saying sustained winds around 18-20 mph which meant a wind chill around 20 degrees.  As I walked down to the park, I noticed NYPD members out in full parkas and gloves.  CRAP!!!  It's COLD.  I got down to the park and quickly found the bag drop, but not before finding Joe Bellatoni and his wife Denise.  Joe is a blind triathlete and a member of Achilles.  All of the Achilles athletes were together and we all started to make our way into our corral which would be at the back of the first wave.  Security was pretty tight as we all had to go through metal detectors prior to the start.  I started to dump my clothes, first my sweat pants and then the hoodie right before the start.  When would I be able to run in the SUN!!!!  We made our way to the start and I realized I had to make one more trip to the bathroom so just before the start line, I noticed there were porta-potties.  I waited for about 30 seconds and then said, forget it, so as the 2nd wave was starting to line up, I took off!!!

I ran alone for a while until wave 2 caught up to me.  The first 5+ miles are in the park as you run up the east side.  You then leave the park at 110th and do a short out and back into the park.  The 4th mile of the race back in the park is the toughest part of the race as you climb Harlem Hill.  I have run in the park at least 4 times now with the NYC triathlon and the 26.2 back in November. It took a while for me to get my breath under control and once I did, I pretty much kept consistent miles for most of the race hovering around 13:45 min/mile.  I did see my good friend Haggai in the park which helped give me a boost!!
Thanks Haggai!!!

When you exit the park you run down 7th Ave all the way to Times Square and turn right onto 42nd Street.  When I first exited the park I saw the biggest NYPD officer I've ever seen.  He stood about 6'4" and was HUGE.  Not someone I would want to have mad at me.  When he saw me he exclaimed, "Now that's what I'm talking about!!" and gave me a big HIGH-5 and almost took my arm off.  I cruised down 7th Ave and all was going real well.  Once I turned onto 42nd Street I started to feel the full force of the wind as if I was in a wind tunnel.  My hands were freezing.  I am glad I had my homemade arm warmers on.  I had taken women's knee socks and cut the feet out of them.  The two pairs on each arm were helping a lot.

Heading to Times Square
As I stated earlier, I had wanted to go to the bathroom prior to the race and finally decided I needed to make a pitstop.  Just before we turned onto the West Side Highway, there were some empty porta-potties.  Maybe emptying my bladder would help warm me up.  As I exited, this would be first time I contemplated quitting the race as I was starting to shiver a bit.  And then I thought, I don't think I could feel any colder and I would only had about 4 or 5 miles to go.  I then thought of two other LPs, one I've talked about before named Katie Lynch (I carry a sock of her's with me on my fuel belt) and then a young girl named Vivian.  Vivian has achondroplasia like me and my family.  She has had some major struggles in her young life and will be turning 1 right around the Boston Marathon this year.  I thought of those two and the hard physical challenges they've dealt with.  I imagined holding Vivian and then God holding onto me.  I could keep going!!!  I'm sure I could.

The Freedom Tower
Wouldn't you know it as we turned onto the West Side Highway, where I figure the wind would be the strongest and it seemed to me anyway, that the wind was lighter.  I'm sure running in the sunlight truly helped.  As I looked down the road I could see the Freedom Tower in the distance and I knew we would be running all the way down past the tower and into the Battery Park Tunnel.

The remainder of the race went well and I was so excited to hear a friendly voice behind me call out and it was both Dana and Meghan who had caught up to me.  A couple of good hugs from the two of them and they continued on to the finish.  The Battery Tunnel was a lot darker than I had hoped it would be.  I could see how someone could easily trip up on a pothole or some other debris.  Exiting the tunnel would be the last hill to face as we had to run around the block to the finish.  I was hoping to finish in 2:55 and I ended up with a time of 3:06:25.  Given the cold weather and wind, I was very happy with the time.

Finding my clothing back was pretty quick.  I managed to get on warmed clothes and made my way to brunch my Achilles teammates.  It was about a 20 minute walk from the finish line to a small diner.  I was happy to see my friends one last time as I gobbled down a plate of Eggs Benedict.  I shuffled to the train, got back to Barbara's place, took a shower changed and then made my way back to my car.   Barbara was kind enough to help me with my bags.  Driving 4+ hours home is not the best type of recovery exercise, but I was SO EAGER to see Sue and Owen again.

The Finish Line!!!

Next up;  Boston Marathon 2014 - April 21st - UNFINISHED BUSINESS.

Monday, November 11, 2013

NYC Marathon 2013.

You don't have to be a runner to know that the NYC Marathon was cancelled last year due to the destruction of "Hurricane Sandy".  NYC 2012 was to be my first marathon.  Well since that race never happened, I have done two other marathons.  The first was the Myles Standish Marathon in Plymouth, MA.  I ran that race 2 weeks after I was supposed to do NYC.  The completion of that race, qualified me for Boston 2013.  And again, everyone is fully aware what happened at 2:50pm in Boston on April 15th.  At that point I was less than 3 miles from the finish line, only to be stopped 3/4 from the finish line on Boylston St.

It was with great excitement that I prepared to finally tackle the 5 boroughs of NYC.  I was excited to again be running as a member of Achilles NYC.  An amazing group of triathletes and guides I have come to consider an extension of my own family.  I have the honor to race on their triathlon team as well.  As final preparations came from our family trip to the "BIG APPLE" I was contacted by Ellie at Achilles hoping we would be attending the team dinner on Friday night.  I assured we would all be there and then she surprised me be saying I would be received a brand new award from the club, the "Donald Arthur Award". Donald Arthur was a heart transplant recipient who had planned to run a marathon in all 50 states.  Sadly, his goal was cut short when he passed away earlier this year.


Our trip down on Friday morning was uneventful.  We made my usual stop in Vernon, CT at the Vernon Diner.  I usually stop there on the way down and then at Rein's Deli on the way back.  There were no traffic problems and as I have done before I was able to find FREE PARKING again on the Upper West Side near our hotel.  We checked in and had a bit of time to relax until heading down to the Achilles Team Dinner down near Lincoln Center.  We took a trip subway ride down and arrived to meet up some old friends.  Both Sue and Owen were hungry and eager to get some dinner.  They put on a nice pasta dinner along with fresh looking salad and desserts.  An amputee runner and his wife from Utah shared our table as we enjoyed our meals and waited for the awards presentations to start.  A number of awards were given out to guides, runners, and fund-raisers.  The award I was to received was saved until the end.  Ellie brought over Donald's widow to meet me prior to the presentation.   What a lovely woman she is.  I was very to hear from her what a kind, gentle, and determined man Donald was.  She informed me that Donald would be proud of me as a recipient and that it was my duty to carry on his message of helping others by getting out there to show people that there are no limits to what people can do.   I was more than over-joyed that my dear friend Kat
Receiving the Donald Arthur Award from Achilles NYC
Bateman would be presenting the award to me.  She is the director of the NYC Achilles chapter and was the person to first contact me about joining their group. I was allowed to say a few words and I do not remember a lot of what I said but I ended with a saying I've often told people about physically challenged athletes.  "Don't judge us by our bodies, judge us by our HEART."  Donald's son came over to meet me and it was then that it hit me how appropriate my words were, since Donald started his marathon running after receiving a heart transplant.  After dinner we returned to our hotel for the night.
Me and Kat

We started out early with breakfast at Zabar's on Broadway.  After a light meal we parted with Sue and Owen going off to spend some time around Times Square while I headed to the Race Expo at the Javits Center to get my race number and other swag.  I had been hoping to meet up with Lisa Buohler an amazing runner/duathlete I connected with through facebook.  I wandered around for a while looking for her but it was not meant to be.  I had to head out to a media event for Achilles at Tourneau.  We were being invited to spend some time at their shop turning back the watches as we would be moving to standard time that night.  The watch they handed to me was a ROLEX.  The salesman whispered to me it was the most expensive watch in the store.  I was totally freaked out when I turned it over to see the price tag said $270,000.  More than what we paid for our house.  As gift for helping out, we were each given a nice Tourneau watch.

CAF had a luncheon planned for some of their athletes and also a number of their charity runners.  Barbara Evans had contacted me about attending along with Sue and Owen.  It was held at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square.  Again, a nice spread was available and I was happy to have both Sue and Owen meet some of the other athletes including Sarah Reinertsen, the guest speaker for that afternoon.

After the luncheon we traveled back to our hotel room to rest for a bit before we headed out to see a movie.  We had talked about seeing "FREE BIRDS" for part of Owen's birthday weekend while in NYC.  This is the 2nd year now we have headed to NYC around his birthday.  The movie was a lot funny than I had expected.  On the way back to the hotel, we made a stop at Subway for a light dinner.  I have grown accustomed to a lighter dinner after a big lunch the day before a race.  I had my customary grilled chicken sub loaded with veggies.  I packed up all my gear for my early morning wake-up.  Of course, Owen put his SPEED in my shoes and also put on my running singlet to put some HEART in my jersey as well.  These ave become customs that I cannot forget to do before a race.  I then got to bed early with the expectation that I might not get much sleep.


Well, I did not sleep well, but this time it wasn't just the nerves.  A police car and fire truck both drove by our building at midnight and then at 2AM respectively.  Both times, sirens were blaring.  Then to top it off, someone came back to their room at about 3AM from a night out on the town.  They were not quiet, yelling and slamming their hotel room door.  I laid awake staring at the ceiling and started to panic about the lack of sleep.  I got out of bed at 3:30AM (1/2 an hour earlier than planned) and got dressed to go.  I kissed Sue
and gave her a big hug and headed for the 1 train down to 7th Ave and 53rd Street.  I was going to be driven on a VIP bus arranged by ESPN/ABC.  The approached me last year about doing story about me and got in touch again about doing the same this year.  The plan would be I was to wear a transponder and they were to try and catch me during the race.  David Willey, the reporter, would run beside me and interview me while running.  They had a number of different athletes to try and connect with.  We were told none of us could be assured we would be interviewed.  In the end, I wasn't picked, but that really was no big deal.

I spent most of the time on the bus talking to some of the other possible featured athletes.  There was a runner who had lost 350lbs, a group of runners from Team One Spirit in South Dakota raising money to help build a treatment center, and anti-bullying group of teachers from Michigan called Defeat the Label, and then Lara Kruiskamp from South Africa who is running a marathon in all 7 continents to raise money for orphans in her home country.  Some truly amazing people with great stories to tell.  

When we arrived on the island the sun was coming up and we lined up to enter the athlete village.  We were told to only bring the clear bag we were given for our clothing drop and nothing else.  We were scanned and then allowed into the village.  We were led to a nice tented area to wait.  I had brought all the food I needed but more was available there if we needed it.  By the time we arrived at the tent it was about 6:30AM.  Still 3 hours to go before the race would start.  It was chilly and quite windy.  Little would I know that the wind would pick up on the race course later that morning.  Anyway, we sat and chatted and did our best to keep warm.  

With about 90 minutes to go before race time I had to deliver my drop bag to the Achilles tent over in one of the other staging areas.  It was a lot closer than I thought it would be.  I got there and found a number of my Achilles friends, dropped off my bad and headed back to my staging area.  When I returned I had time for one trip to the porta-pottie and then it was time to get in the corral. At this time it was about 8:50AM, still about 50 min to go until the start of our wave.   

I had posted this prayer the night before the race and at this point, spent some time reading it to myself and sharing it with one other runner.  I really felt at ease about my safety knowing that there were dozens of people keeping me in their thoughts and prayers.  I found the prayer online and adapted it somewhat for myself changing a few words and phrases here and there.
In the start corral, minutes before the start.

Lord, watch over me this day as I run. 
This is the day and this is the time for the race. 

Watch over my body. Keep it free from injury. 

Watch over my mind. May I listen to the signals from within 
as I enjoy the scenes from without. 

Watch over my spirit. Keep my thinking positivly even if the race does not go as I have planned. Because in the end, it is your plan I truly follow.

Watch over my competitors. Remind us that we all are struggling equally.

Lord, Let me win.
Not by coming in ahead of my friends, but by testing myself.

Let it be an inner win. A battle won over my fears and doubts.

And may I say at the end, "I have fought a good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith."

I have to say, if you don't like crowds, this would be hard place to be.  We were led in and told to wait for direction.  Just was we started to move closer to the start, people started to drop all of their extra clothes and so I followed suit.  Off came my hoodie and sweatpants.  I wanted to keep my toque and gloves a little while longer.  As we moved closer to the starting line we had a bit more room to spread out.  I moved towards the back and dropped my final clothing, set my GPS watch and waited.  We had the National Anthem and my pulse started to race.  A number of men relieved themselves one more time and before you know it there was a LOUD cannon blast and the song, "NEW YORK, NEW YORK" started and we were OFF.  

Minutes after the start.  Photo by Lara Kruiskamp
It took about 1 minute for me to hit the starting line and up I headed for the first mile, which was totally uphill on the Verrazano Narrows bridge.  What I noticed as the crowds of runners left me were the two NYPD copters hovering at the top of the bridge.  The wind was quite strong and I was hoping it would let up a bit once I got off of the bridge and into Brooklyn.  It literally was 1 mile up to the top of the bridge and then back down for the 2nd mile.    

As I exited the bridge I could here the drums of a marching band.  Except for the Queensborough Bridge, this would be the last time I ran without spectators.  Since I was near the back of the wave, I was alone as I left the bridge and entered Brooklyn.  I was about to experience how amazing the city of Brooklyn really is.  Just as I did in Boston, I wore my name of the front and back of my singlet, along with, PHIL 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength".  The streets were lined with thousands of people all the way up Fourth Ave in Brooklyn.  It took a while for the fastest runners from the 2nd wave to catch me, so for a while I was running with only a few other runners around me.  Things were going along with no issues and according to my watch (which has always been reliable) things were going as planned.  I was hoping to stay on 13:45/mile with the plan to switch to 14:30/mile after mile 14.  The wind was strong and it did not take too long before my GPS was offset with the mile markers along the course.  As I stated, in the past my watch has seemed synchronized with other courses, but for some reason, that was not the case in NYC.  I wondered if it had something to do with interference from buildings etc.  Either way, I wasn't going to let my watch run my race for me.

I saw my first friendly face when I heard someone yell, "JOHN YOUNG!!"  I looked over and saw my dear friend, Miriam Weiskind.  I was still in Brooklyn on 4th Ave.  She immediately ran out and gave me a huge hug.  I told her all was well and off I went. 
My dear friend Miriam 

I noticed a lot of the crowds throughout this part of Brooklyn were latino.  The kids were happy to stand at the side of the road and give "high fives".  It was at this point I think I learned what the word  pequeño means as a lot of the kids were pointing at me with big smiles on the faces.  I figured out quite quickly that it doesn't mean FAST, but rather it refers to me being LITTLE.  I didn't mind at all as the kids were just talking about what the SAW.  And they saw a little person running in the NYC Marathon.  

As we moved further north, we entered the Williamsburg area.  There are a lot of Orthodox Jews living in this area.  It seemed for the most part, that we were being quite the disruption to them as they weren't about their day to day lives.  I witnessed lots of them asking the police details if they were able to cross the street.  Some didn't bother asking, and just crossed on their own.  It was nice to see some young families with kids out cheering here as well.  I did notice a lot more "unfriendly" pointing and giggling by the kids here and of course, I just smiled and kept on RUNNING.

Taken by Jeff Barnett around mile 8.
As we left Brooklyn, they seemed sad to see us go.  The Greenpoint crowds seemed just as loud as those further back in Brooklyn.  The trip across the Pulaski Bridge into Queens went well.  The crowds at this point were a little sparse, but being able to see the Queensborough Bridge in the distance seemed to give me some more strength.  Hard to believe I was already past the halfway point.  When I checked my watch and did some calculations, it was at this point that I realized my goal of a 6:09 would probably not come true.  there was no sadness at all though.  I was still feeling good doing the BIGGEST marathon in the world.  I did see one LP along the route and if my memory serves me right, it was just before heading onto the Queensborough Bridge.  He was young guy, probably in his mid 20's.  I put out my hand for a hearty high-5 and he graciously obliged. 

I had read a lot about the drastic change from Queens onto the bridge.  It was eerily quiet as the crowd noise was no gone, replaced solely by the sounds of runners heavy breathing and the car traffic above.  There were a lot of runners walking at this point, including myself.  I did get passed by Lara Bournemann Mish, a good friend of mine.  I have gotten to know her and her sister Jen through the NYC Triathlon and CAF.  We had a nice chat and she continued on ahead of me.  It was at this point where my mind wandered back to the Boston Marathon.  As I crested the bridge and was starting to head into Manhattan I noticed a prolonged groups of sirens blaring.  I had managed to start running again and what struck me at that point, was that that was the last sound I remember hearing as Juli came back to stop me during the Boston Marathon.  The sound continued for a what seemed like a few minutes and I started to wonder if something had actually happened?  Those thoughts came to rest as I neared the bottom of the bridge for the turn down into Manhattan.  The crowd was cheering us welcoming us and all seemed fine.  Again I had read a lot about this stretch of the race.  The run up First Ave was supposed to be an extremely loud and raucous affair.  The crowds seemed to be somewhat excited, but maybe since this was a little later in the day, they did not seem so rambunctious. I tried a couple of times to get them going by waving my arms to help them cheer.  I was to later read that the crowds this year were a little lighter than years in the past mainly due to a possible fear of an incident, but more so, the worry about dealing with increased security.    
Taken by Megan Ellis on First Ave.

There was a plan to see the Achilles cheer station at 93rd and First and then Sue and Owen around 100th.  The crowds continued to cheer us along and I was to later find out that a friend, BAA runner, Lindsay Willard and Pingree grad, Sam Logan, were both able to spot me from the other side of First Avenue and give me a cheer.  I may not have heard it, but I was thankful to know people were out looking for me.  As I neared 93rd St, I looked over and saw my dear Achilles friend, guide Megan Ellis.  I ran over and gave her a big hug and kiss and continued on, feeling a bit more energized as I then started to look for Sue and Owen.  As I neared 100th St, I did not see them.  Once I neared 103rd St, I called Sue on my cell.  They had missed me.  After riding up on the subway to see me, they had turned the wrong way and headed for the Hudson and not towards to East River.  All 3 of us were bummed, but in the end it was probably for the best for Sue's sake as she had decided we would be heading home after the race and she would need to be rested for the 4+ hour drive.  A funny note about the bible verse on my back, "PHIL 4:13".  I had my name right underneath it but that did not stop a number of runners from yelling, "GO PHIL!!" And some others asked me if that was my estimated finish time?  To which I responded, "I WISH!!!"

I headed up towards the Bronx, the last borough to hit, prior to getting back into Manhattan.  At this point I came across two Achilles supporters who I had met at the dinner on Friday night.  They asked where my guide was, and when I said I did not run with one, that decided to run with me for a while.  At this point we had passed the 19 mile mark and I was struggling a bit mentally, having been running now for more than 4 hours.  The ladies were asking questions and chatting and I was really not in the mood to chat right now.  We went on for a while, crossed into the Bronx and I felt the need to tell them I needed some time alone.  I politely let them know I was not really into chatting right now and would appreciate it, if they went off on their own pace.  I asked them to forgive me if I was being rude, but I needed to get my mind to a different place, by no fault of their own at all, I felt that chatting was not helping.  The said they understood fully (I surely hope so) and off they went.  The path through the Bronx is very short, amounting to less than 2 miles.  The crowds were good here, but it was important I try and get me mind set for the last 5 miles.  I kept saying, 5 miles, that's just a short run after work, you can do that.  Here was to come the true test.

The crossover on the Madison Ave bridge was short.  I had heard about the bridge being covered with some carpeting, but it was not there.  A recent change I suppose.  We now proceeded down 5th Avenue into Harlem.  The gospel choir we were greeted by was amazing as they were signing "MY GOD IS A LOVE MACHINE." The song brought a smile to my face and it was at this point ( I think!!) that I noticed another close NYC friend in the crowd, Chris "CAV" Cavagnaro.  I was somewhere around Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem.

As I continued down 5th Avenue it wasn't too long before we reached the NE corner of Central Park just before mile 23. The road seems to narrow here and so I seemed to be pretty close to fans watching on both sides.  I saw a group of Achilles athletes and guides ahead and realized it was Bill Reilly and his crew of supporters.  Bill is an amazing athlete with CP.  He does all of his races in a wheelchair where he pushes himself with his feet to move backwards.  The guides are there to help him when he goes downhill where they act as his brakes.  My dear friend Ariel Krieger was one of his guides and it meant a real boost to me to get a hug from her and a big HIGH-5 from Bill.  

After I passed them a wave of emotion came over me and I started to weep uncontrollably.  I looked at my watch and read the elapsed time of 5hr:50min.  It then hit me all at once.  When I race Boston last April, I was stopped from my run with about 3/4 of a mile to go somewhere around 3:20pm.  The bombs had actually gone off at 2:50pm, when I was just passing through Cleveland Circle, which was when my watch would have read 5hr:50min.  I don't recall thinking about that time during the day, but for some reason my body knew it was coming.  I was actually weeping so hard I had to put my face in my hands and keep sobbing.  Spectators actually started to ask me if I was OK.  As soon as it started, the crying stopped.  I was determined to finish this race strong and so I started to run a little harder.  Just prior to mile 24 we turn into The Park.  I was happily surprised as most of the running in the park was downhill, at least that's the way it felt.  I could hear the music and P.A. announcer from the finish line as the crowds at this point were quite thin.

 Just after the 40KM mark we exit the park and run along 59th Street and Central Park South.  Quickly the crowds really grew as I truly sensed I would be finishing the LARGEST MARATHON in the WORLD.  There were close to 51,000 finishers and I was going to be one of the them.  I rounded the right side of Columbus Circle and looked up on the big Jumbotron only to see myself re-enter the park.  With less than a mile to go the emotion started to talk hold of me again, but this time it was all JOY and I could not contain my smile.  

With about 200m to go I looked over and saw a crowd of Canadian supporters cheering.  I had seen the same group over on the First Avenue and I waved at them again.  When I had passed them earlier, I had yelled that Toronto was my home town.  When they say me this second time, they let out a huge cheer.  Then something amazing happened.  I looked down on the pavement and noticed a small Canadian flag in the middle of the road.  I would pick it up and take it with me the rest of the way.  I could see the finish line ahead and continued to run.  As I crossed the line I let out a loud yell raising my arms in the air.  I would later find out that the NYC Marathon would include this clip of me in their Marathon Recap video.  It appears around the 19:30 minute mark.
Boy was it WINDY!!  Done in 6:37:26

I looked up and saw the face of Achilles in Kat Bateman waiting for me.I gave her a huge hug and simply let loose in tears again.  She helped me move along to get out of the finish area and handed me over to another volunteer who would take me to the family meeting area where I would find Sue and Owen waiting for me.  The area was right next to the Dakota, home of Yoko Ono (widow of John Lennon).  I had a couple of hot chocolates, changed my clothes and we made our way to the 1 train, to get back to our hotel.  

After changing we packed up and left the city around 5:30pm to make our way back to Salem.  I nodded off a few times but pretty much stayed awake for the trip home.  We did make a stop at Boston Market for some food, but like some big races in the past, I ordered a lot of food, but was only able to eat a little bit of it.  We arrived back home a little after 10pm.  After decompressing I went to bed and was up at 6AM in order to head to work at Pingree School where I would teach 4 classes.  Needless to say, I wore my finishers medal all day long.