Friday, June 10, 2011

All American 5K 2011 - The Race

All proceeds went to IFOPA
Just one week after attending the 2011 Getting2Tri National Paratriathlon Camp, which will have a separate blog post soon, we drove back to the Atlanta area for the All American 5k. This race honors local heroes, the prior year was run to benefit Dan Berschinski, and this year's race honored our dear friend Ashley Kurpiel.

We took a circuitous route to Peachtree City (PTC) for the race, through Buford Georgia to visit  my prosthetist, ProCare, for a quick checkup and to discuss a new walking prosthesis to replace my original, thermoplastic test socket. (This is the same foot I ran the Cooper River Bridge Run in 2010.) Jennifer had not seen their facility and I was anxious to show her where the magic happens. Scott Rigsby, who is a friend and mentor to me and many others, happened to be there and we got to spend a few minutes getting reacquainted before we met with Stephen Schulte and his staff to discuss our plans.

Lauri Buell, Ashley, Bob Truhe
We then made the dash around Atlanta to PTC, the first visit there for either of us. Fortunately we weren't held up too long in traffic and would be able to have dinner with Carol and Ashley. As we parked and got out of the car, we met the race director who was just leaving. She asked if we were runners and told us about the race, which made us smile to tell them we had come to PTC for this very event.

Although this was the first time we met Ashley's adoptive mom, to me it seemed we were old friends with much catching up to do. I'm always impressed with all the people Ashley knows, I am quite certain if she went on an excursion to the north pole, she would meet someone she knows there. "Mr. Claus, your friend Ashley has dropped in to see you."

PTC is perfect for Ashley, because the entire community is built to get around in golf carts. She drives like a Formula 1 racer, in fact, "some say The Stig learned to drive from Ashley." The place has a rolling terrain that would test these lowcountry runners as well as some unexpected cart tunnels we would run through. The race day weather forecast was not horrid either; although warming up it would not enter the stifling category.

From left, Woody Thornton, Kate Tamblyn, Eileen Tamblyn, Brian Johnston, Ashley Kurpiel, Me (tall one), Brennan Johnston, Michael Thompson
Woody is a friend of Ashley's and a bilateral amputee; he told me his training had been minimal but ran his second fastest 5k today. At Getting2Tri camp, I was Eileen's volunteer handler. Eileen had been a marathoner before she lost her limb, and is now on her way to becoming 26.2er again. Brian and Brennan ran as a team of sorts; Brennan's prosthesis was causing him some issues so Brian hosted him on his shoulders and they finished together. Michael, also of PTC, did a run/walk.

Master of Ceremonies Ashley at starting line
There were about 400 runners and walkers for this race, the start being near "The Fred" or the Frederick Brown Junior Amphitheater. We received a choice of tee shirt or hat, I opted for the hat as I plan to make future use of it. I felt good during my warmups, Jato was responding  nicely. My only angst was how I was going to handle any steep hills; for the most part none were too bad but the tunnels were another story.

Carol, Ashley & me
After a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem and a few words about the course, we were off. One of the steeper downhills was here at the start; then a right turn and an uphill. I was running comfortably; I can usually tell what kind of race I will have by a quarter mile. This did not feel like a PR day although my training says I am ready to do that now. Mile one was 7:53 and would be my fastest. Mile two was mostly cart paths, twisting and turning with many creases in the asphalt where tree roots were trying to push through. I had to pay attention to my steps and adjust my gait often.

I don't recall exactly where the tunnels came into play, but I was not expecting them. The cart paths go under some roads, and coming from the light into the darkness made visibility difficult. I slowed to a shuffle because I could not see the footing at all, and was taking no chances on falling and injuring myself. I finished mile two in 8:11, a bit surprised it was not slower but mile 3 would fix that.

Indeed I was slowing as my body and the morning heated up. I was damn happy this was a 5k and the end was near (!). There was one short, steep uphill near the end of the mile that nearly convinced me to take a couple of walking steps, which I mightily managed to resist. Finally mile three and I had slowed down to 8:27 pace and glad we only had a tenth of a mile to go.

I ran strong up to the finish line, seeing Ashley on the left helped remove the running distress. I glance at the race clock and I see 25:31, 25:30 on my watch. The PR would have to wait for another day. Once I recover a bit I go watch other finishers with Ashley and wait for Jennifer. We see Woody finish, very strong on his dual Cheetahs a la Pistorius, and under 30 minutes. Jennifer comes in a few minutes later, a solid effort, and we head back to the start area.

What did we do before smartphones?
We enjoyed getting to talk to some of the folks we already knew and getting to know new friends too. Plans were made for the after party party, which would be a nearby restaurant for breakfast. The awards were in 10 year increments, and for us older, wiser ones this usually means an unsuccessful trip to the hardware store. Jennifer had a great showing at 11/28 in her AG, and I was 8/21 in mine.

Unbeknownst to me, there was an additional award for the "fastest inspirational runner." Yes, my throat grew tight and my eyes a bit damp when my name was announced. I did a decent good job holding it together as my dear friend and source of bright inspiration Ashley Kurpiel handed me a trophy. Well, well.

Michael Thompson and moi, 3 legged race?
We took lots more pictures and chatted until nearly everyone was gone, then we headed out for breakfast. Jennifer and I sat at the end of the table with Carol and heard more of Ashley's journey through her amazing life. In my most humble opinion, this woman's life would make for one incredible movie, although it would be a monumental task distilling it into that format.

Carol spoke with almost reverent respect for someone who has worked tirelessly and with utmost compassion for FOP kids, Dr. Fred Kaplan. His efforts may soon be bearing the fruit of clinical trials that may derail FOP in its tracks; a scientific paper is here describing the research. It is not the cure but it could stop the formation of bone growth in the individuals who have FOP.  



Jennifer and I also had dinner with Carol and Ashley on Saturday.  Afterward Ashley became our tour driver as we hopped in the golf cart for a ride to the lake to watch the sunset, hence generating my earlier comments about her professional driving skills. It was a beautiful evening, the sky gorgeous in the changing light, a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Sunset at Peachtree City
Time and time again I have thought...what if...what if my life had been different, on that morning so many years ago, what if I had not run after the bus, or stood in the other line. If I could go back, change my life's path, and never experience all that I have experienced? 

That long road would end here, at this sunset, with friends without equal.

I would not change a thing.


  1. U deserve every bit of that award! Congrats!

  2. Thank you Maria, and for all of your support over the past year. :-)