Monday, January 5, 2015

My take on "UNBROKEN"

This is by no means a professional movie review.  As I've told many people, I am not a book reader, but when I picked up "UNBROKEN" last summer, I could not put it down.  It is by far, the best book I have ever read.

I also understand that most people believe that a book is always better than the movie.  Now don't get me wrong, I loved the movie.  It was well done, and stayed true to the story as told by Hillenbrand.

There are two important areas I truly feel are lacking in the movie and I thought I would take the time to write them down for anyone else who cares.
The real "BIRD"

Casting of Watanabe (The Bird)

Besides Louie Zamperini, this was the next most important person to cast.  When reading the book, I pictured a person very different from whom Jolie cast.  Takamasa Ishihara seemed much more slender and weaker than the person I imagined.  Even the one picture of the real BIRD included in the book looked like a tougher and more stocky person.


It probably didn't help that I knew before seeing him that the actor portraying him was also an accomplished rock singer and music producer.

I also remember a scene in the movie where it showed a close-up of his hands.  They were slender and well-manicured.  They didn't look like the hands of someone who relished dishing out savage beatings.

Louie's Family

Now the movie was a little over 2 hours, but I feel the end of it arrived so suddenly.  Louie got off the plane, hugged his family and then the movie was over.  Of course, there was the epilogue type updates with some pics, and then a video of the real Louie running with the torch for the Nagano Olympics.

The movie left out all of what his family was going through while he was missing and presumed dead.  Why was Louie such a strong person? I would imagine a lot of that came from his family, but we saw so little of it.  I remember reading about them and two very important parts of the story were not brought to life in the film.

When the War Department officially declared Louie dead the author goes on to say how his family would never admit that he was gone.   His parents refused to believe he was dead.  Of course, when they heard him on the radio broadcast, they knew they were right.  I feel this was really important to show.  It would have gone a long way to help show us part of what made Louie so strong.

Of course the movie mentions nothing about the struggles Louie went through when he came home.  They glossed over it in the epilogue, but  so many soldiers return home after war and feel so alone in their struggles.  I feel it would have gone a long way to honor all of our vets who have dealt with so many of these struggles, i.e. addiction, abuse, suicide etc.

One of the most poignant parts of the book I recall was when Louie's family replayed his taped interview from Japan to him after he had come home.  He immediately lost control and ripped up the tape never wanting to ever hear it.  Of course, I can totally understand why.  Again, this would really have added a lot to an amazing movie.  I know, it's easy for me to sit here and make a few suggestions.  Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Letter to the Editor

I sent this letter to the two local papers in Orangeville, ON.  It pertains to some running I did  while in town during our Christmas holiday trip back to Canada.

Unwanted Cell-phone Picture Subject

My sister and her family have lived in Orangeville for more than 35 years.  My mother lived there for more than 15 years until she passed away last spring. I even lived there in the fall of 1987 when I was a student at the University of Waterloo.  I visit at least once a year and since moving to the U.S., I consider it my home whenever I visit my family in Canada. Back in 2009 I decided to change my life and become more physically active.  I started at first competing in sprint triathlons and slowly moved my way up to longer distance races including half-Ironman distance triathlons and marathons.  I have competed in more than 30 triathlons, the Boston marathon, and have twice completed the NYC marathon.  I will again be running in the Boston Marathon in 2015.  I have done all of this in my 40’s, but what’s even more rare, is that I have achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism and I stand 4’4” tall.

Whenever I visit Orangeville, I usually have to spend some time training.  I have been able to get up early in the morning to swim at the Tony Rose pool and have also done a lot of running around the town.  I was home along with my wife and son for Christmas this past week and was able to go out for a morning run on both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.  Both days I was startled to find people taking unwanted cell-phone pics of me running.  Until you have had this done to you, you have no idea how uncomfortable it makes you feel.  The first time it happened on Christmas Eve it was at about 11AM at the corner of First and Broadway.  A young girl, about 14 or so, pulled out her phone and as I passed her, I could see her turn around with her phone aimed right at me.  I stopped and stared at her, and she quickly put her phone down and started to walk in the opposite direction.  I could accept that maybe she was an immature teen, thinking it would be “funny” to show her friends a pic of someone who looks “different” running down the street.  I continued on my way.

What happened on Boxing Day morning was far more upsetting and concerning to me.  At about 10AM I was running down on First near the Tim Horton’s across from the Canadian Tire Store.  I approached a couple with a girl who seemed to be about 7 or 8 years old.  As I approached, I heard the dad clearly say as he was holding his phone, "I haven't started it yet." As I ran past, out of the corner of my eye I saw him lift the phone and turn to get his shot. I immediately stopped and turned around to stare at them and said, "GET A LIFE!!" They quickly turned around and walked away taking their daughter's hand. I stood still staring until they turned around again to see what I was doing and I yelled, "SERIOUSLY?"  What kind of example are these parents setting for their child?   What kind of a parent feels it’s acceptable to take the pic of a person, simply because they look different?

I passed many others both mornings greeting them by saying “Good morning” and virtually all of them replied in a friendly manner.  What upsets me most is that these inconsiderate people are what I remember most.  And of course my sister and her family are mortified that this happened in their town.  I do not want to attribute it to a “small town thing”, because believe it or not, it’s happened to me in larger cities too.   I am writing this letter simply because my nephew who grew up in Orangeville and now lives in a nearby town is embarrassed and asked me to write the letter in the hopes that just maybe, the people who took the pics will think twice about doing this in the future. 

Just take a moment and try to think what you would feel like if someone took pics of you simply because they thought you looked “funny” and possibly wanted to share them with others.  As a Canadian who has been living out of the country since 1999, with twelve of those year in the U.S., my American friends constantly talk about how caring, friendly, and welcoming Canadians are.  I would be honest to say, that is not how I felt when unwelcome photos were being taken of me on the streets of Orangeville, especially during the season of peace and goodwill towards all.

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.