Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Weeks 3 and 4

Week three of training was to be challenging from a workout perspective as we were traveling north to meet new grandson, Joseph Samuel Winn. I decided to leave Jato at home as I'd be gone only a few days and it was unlikely there would be time or weather to allow for workouts. Joey was in a hurry to get started running himself and arrived before we did.

Hiya Joey!
I surprised myself with a 2 hour treadmill run after the flight home. Usually sitting for that long and traveling causes fatigue, but once I got started I felt James Brown good and could have run for far longer.


Week 4 was a good week, a very good week. I completed all my workouts and a terrific long run on Sunday. I did 5 miles on the treadmill then headed over to Alhambra Hall in old Mount Pleasant to finish with 10, maybe 11 if things went well.

I had slept over 10 hours the night before and got a late start; it was one of those days where time seemed to fly. I started a little fast for a long run and slowed myself down, remembering many long runs where the gas tank hit empty a few miles short of the finish.

The weather was suppose to be in the upper 50s but felt far chillier than that especially with the wind in my face. Although I brought gloves, I left my ear protection behind and made the mental note that if I think I will need gloves the ears would appreciate some warmth too.

The water fountains were shut off at Waterfront Park where I usually make a pit stop before heading across the Ravenel bridge. I try to take water with my gels (currently the most awesomely tasty Salted Caramel by GU) so had to settle for my diluted Gatorade.

As I head up the steep incline I notice I am not working as hard as I remember. I resist the impulse to run faster still knowing I have far to go. Cresting the bridge I see the sun low on the horizon and wonder if I should turn around to avoid running in the dark since I don't have a headlamp with me. My inner voice says no, take this small leap of faith and keep going.

I feel a smile in my face.

I think of us flying over the holy city today, and lines of High Flight race through my mind.

Up, up...I remember watching this as a child.

I stop at the benches on the downside, needing to take the picture below.

Running with friends
There are far fewer people on the bridge today, and we greet each other with a wave or a few words. Some give me signs of thumbs up. One with the "L" symbol over their heart.

I fly.

I think of a right turn, a left, and four faces appear in my mind.


Coming down the decline back into Mt. Pleasant I hold back a little, not wanting to stress my legs too much as I will be running marathon pace back to the start. I make a quick stop at the BP station and then head out refreshed. There is fatigue in my legs but mentally I am strong and my pace quickens.

Although growing dark I can see well enough to avoid tripping. My pace is hard but I can feel my previous training and the Thunder Road marathon are having the desired effect. I will run one more mile. I will run 16 miles today.

I finish at the oak tree in the road. It has been a hard effort and I smile again. I am not fast but I am stronger. I take a moment at Adam's tree, think of the love, think of where I am going.

Going to be there honoring those gone before.

Going to finish.

Going to be #BostonStrong.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

- John Magee

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Marathon Street

Recently our mailbox address lost a digit. It occurred to me that SOMEONE was showing me where we really lived, so I added the lost decimal to it.

There, fixed the newel post.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Week Two

I am happy to say this one is in the books. Or blog.

Although the right hip flexor is still whining on occasion, it hasn't brought tears to my eyes either. I managed 2 tempo workouts and a long run of 12 miles today for a week's total of 44 miles. The left foot feels better and I've put more cushioned insoles in my shoe which helps. I felt I could have run much faster on the long run but had to hold back to avoid the wrath of the flexor.

This week will be lower mileage because we are headed north to see grandchild #4, Joseph Samuel Winn. The labor was easier for Becca, mother of May and wife of Mistah Chris. What a wonder to be in this life, in their lives, to see another generation being born under the wings if these loving parents. We are blessed, blessed, blessed.

Time seems to be flying by as we run toward April 21. In the past marathons seemed far away when I was in this point in my training, but Boston seems to be rushing toward us. Arms open.

To embrace the angels.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Week One

I am now following the BAA's intermediate 16 week training program for the Boston Marathon on April 21. Just finished week 1 with 41 miles. I was happy to get both tempo workouts done and 11 on Sunday. I had hoped to go 12 (plan calls for 10 - 12) but the hip flexor was arguing with me so I cut it short. It did serve notice I can't let up (as I have done) on the exercises for it without paying a price.

It is going to be a real challenge to get the mileage this plan calls for and definitely some 2-a-days. I think it will mean going into work late and making up time on the weekend or digging into vacation hours. There is no doubt every second training is worth the effort to get to that Hopkinton starting line. I just hope I can remain healthy and get enough rest to push hard through this training.

15 weeks to go to one of the most anticipated races in history.

Let's do this the only way we know how:


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Boston to Charlotte and Back

Nicole Gross speaking at pasta dinner

Charlotte will go down as one of my better marathon memories. Not that my race time was all that good - it wasn't - but because of all things running with friends make even those bad times, well, joyful in life.

Jennifer had months earlier planned to run the half, but bronchitis had been lingering so she did not pack any running clothes. From the moment we walked into the expo she headed to the clothes rack to - you guessed it - buy togs to run the race in the morning. We call this S.M.O.T., a.k.a. the Starrett Method of Training. Jennifer and her brother Gary have spent many years perfecting this art: plan to run a race, don't train (insert injury/illness here) show up at race and run, lick injuries until time for next race. Thing is, if they make it to the starting line they usually do okay and often better than that. For that race. Then repeat. I've seen elites/Olympians do far worse.


We arrived Friday and headed directly to the expo. I was anxious about missing any of the pasta dinner and hearing Nicole Gross speak. Nicole would be there along with other members of her family who were at Boston this year, including Erika who was lost one leg to the FBers. (And that's not shorthand for Facebook.) The family was surrounded by people so I did not intrude on their conversations as much as I wanted to speak to them.

We sat with Mike and Janelle with Cadie Jessup was one table over. Running in a prosthesis, especially for distances, can be very challenging. Both Janelle and Cadie have had more than their share of frustration trying to run, Cadie more so because she is a high AK (above knee) amputee. Janelle's leg was healing and not comfortable and we were unsure she'd be able to run the half, her first effort at that distance.


In the weeks leading up to Charlotte I finally felt some distance - and less physical emotion - when thinking to April 15. As Nicole spoke the day came rushing back to me, more real than being there as it happened. I drifted in and out of the present and past, seeing the faces of Krystle, Martin, Lu, and Sean in my mind's eye. How can this be? Yet there is Erika, missing a leg, moving gingerly with her walker.

How can this be? It is too real and not at all. Such is life, our short time in this sacred place. A place where evil lives, is embraced actively or passively, and where the strong hearts of good resist to the end that has no end in sight. We fight the good fight for all time.


Team G2T Alumni - Me, Jennifer, Mike, and Janelle
We meet up for the early start which Jennifer and I took. Mike and Janelle would go with the "official" start 30 minutes later. Janelle was going to run the half after all, and I knew with Mike at her side she would get to the finish line.

We are off with a checkered flag wave. There are quite a few early starters so we were not running alone for the first few miles. I had decided to try the run/walk (aka Galloway Method) for the first time. This being training for the Boston hills, I wanted to avoid beating myself up too much. So every 5 minutes my watch beeped and I walked for 1 minute. I noticed many around me doing variations on this, and I had dreams that I could maintain this pace for the entire race.

That did not happen. I was good for about 14 miles and then my pace slowed and the walk breaks began stretching out. Despite this, I had a good, no great race. The why was my fellow runners and the great communities we ran through in our circuit about Charlotte.

The number of runners from elite to back-of-packers who took a moment to say a word to me was astounding. Fortunately I was running so slowly that it really did not affect me like it would in a 5k where the need for air precludes speech. Sometimes it was a short conversation and sometimes it was a raised hand. To think I would not run again, to not be here, to never hear the sounds and words of my fellow runners, it is impossible. Impossible is nothing.


As we passed through joyous and occasional inebriated clumps of community celebrations I began to love this course. Once again the marathon had beaten and reduced me to walking, yet my adversary could not claim victory unless I quit. Fat chance. None at all.

Near the end of the race a volunteer joins me carrying Old Glory. We talked about Boston as I tried to run up a short but steep hill which I could not reminded me of the attempt to run the overpass at mile 25 of Boston. Shortly thereafter Juan pulls up alongside and we walk and run the last mile or so of the race together.

Juan is a big guy and something about him seems familiar. As we talk I start to see a faint resemblance to a brother and my dad. Again I have a sense of the little miracles I have seen so many times of late. We run a little and walk a lot. He tells me how I inspire him; I tell him we all have challenges and many are far harder and less visible than mine.

I tell him of Jason Pisano.

The end of the race is uphill. We walk until we think we can run to the finish. I see Jennifer to my left holding my Boston jacket. Juan insists on pumping up the crowd for me even though I wish we had crossed the line together. I hear my name. I did what we could not do on April 15, 2013. I have finished my second marathon as an amputee.


Jennifer completed her half with a very good time despite recovering from bronchitis and lack of training. What's a little adversity that can't be resolved with a bit of expo shopping? Unfortunately after the race she still had some residual effects from the illness and then got a stomach virus that weakened her more. She's is starting to come back with a mix of running and walking and I hope to enjoy some Saturday morning runs with her soon.


That evening we meet at Janelle's parent's house and then head over the Mike's sister's place for dinner. Such great people all around. And again the thought traverses my mind of how my life changed to be here, in this here and now, among people I would have never known I had taken the pain pill and kept the foot.

Isn't life strange.


It is now January and I am starting my Boston Marathon training plan. After Charlotte my right hip flexor and then left forefoot became quite sore so I backed off training. I've worked on strengthening the hip flexor which works harder with the prosthesis, and it seems a cushioned insert helps with the foot pain.

I abandoned my Daniels inspired training plan where I should have been near max mileage for the intermediate marathon plan the BAA has developed. It was a perfect fit for my current mileage and I am running with it.

So I train. Work is very stressful and my mother was in and out of the hospital over Christmas. All of us working stiffs have the same battle with time to get our training done. In years past I could run at lunch, an option no longer available to me. For me running itself should not be so stressful and why after this Boston my marathoning is over until retirement.

April 21. It will be a day of remembrance and a day of honor. And it should not be forgotten, a day of evil that lives and is embraced among us. As long as we breathe we cannot be deterred.

We chose to live.


Best friends Mike and Janelle

And Janelle...she decided to run the half marathon despite her severe obstacles in getting to the starting line. There is a wonderful story here about the picture above. Over and over I am reminded how my life changed for the better in meeting such courageous friends. I know firsthand that this half was extremely hard for Janelle, far beyond the "runner's distress" we all feel.

Everything about the race helped ease the pain I still feel over Boston, knowing the glory of the human spirit over the deep well of mortality. We make this journey worthwhile, we who chose to live.

To Help.

To Love.