Sunday, June 28, 2015

I'm Back.

Don't look now but guess whose back in town?

I got nine lives cat's eyes
Using every one of them and runnin' wild
Cause I'm back
Yes I'm back well I'm back
Yes I'm back
Well I'm back back
Well I'm back in black

Well, I really wasn't "gone" per se. It was more of an extended hiatus of sorts. Time to get some well needed things taken care of like my surgery to correct my voice and getting caught-up on all the everyday life things that I couldn't get to during training that were piled up higher than that nasty snow farm they created in the Seaport District this past winter.  By the way, I ran over there yesterday and there is still a pile!  It's the end of June for Sally's sake (I was going to say "Pete's sake" but he is always getting s bum rap). 

I learned some things during my time away. Oh, that makes it sound like I was in jail or in a rehab clinic for some addiction.  I can unequivocally say that it was neither of them. I did learn though that I was letting running be all consuming. 24 X 7. Running, run, run, run. Run this. Run that. I was missing out on the important things in front of me like spending time with my family.  Rearranging my schedule so that I could have every opportunity to run.  Every free moment.  When exactly was the moment that I made the realization though?  When did the light bulb (LED of course) flick on?  When I was in the pre-op area just after the nurse went through everything that was going to happen during my voice correction surgery.  She asked if I had any questions and I stupidly blurted out "So, when can I run again?"  Seriously?  Did I just ask that?  I sit here now thinking of the scene from "A Christmas Story" when Santa asks Ralphie what he wants for Christmas:  "I want an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle!".  "You'll shoot your eye out kid", Santa retorted.  In my case though, the nurse was probably saying something like "What a jerk.  That's his question?  Nothing about what is going to happen in a couple of minutes.  Geez, what a real a-hole?" (I cleaned it up a bit from what she was probably really saying).   How would the nurse know when I could run again?  She wouldn't.  More importantly, why would she even care when her priority was to make sure that everything was ready?  She didn't and at that moment I realized that my priorities were a bit out of whack. 

I found myself back in the hospital 2 weeks later due to some complications.  An opportunity to reinforce the priorities in my life.  Reinforce that running should not be consuming every aspect of my life outside of work. It was hard though as the family area on the floor of the hospital overlooked the Charles River.  All the runners basking in the sun, wind in their hair as they pounded out the miles. Jealous?  Absolutely.  But I was OK with it as I needed to focus on getting better and being with my family. There would be time to run again later on.  Balanced with life though.

I'm on the mend and have been getting back to running.  Training for a race at the end of this month and another in the middle of next month. It has been a lot more difficult and challenging than I thought it would have been after only taking a little more than a month off.  Maybe frustrating is more the feeling. I was in such top condition from training for the marathon.  Surely I should be able to get right back into it.  Pick back up right where I left off.  Not so much. Slow and easy is the course I've had to take.  That is OK with me though.  I'm taking what I learned from my coaches during marathon training to safely get back into the swing of things.

It's definitely good to be back.  Juggling running and life in a positive way.  Thankful for being able to talk and have people hear me again. 

Until next time, keep on runnin'!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Enjoy The Silence.

Words like violence
Break the silence
Come crashing in
Into my little world
Painful to me
Pierce right through me

-Depeche Mode 1990 [Violator Album]

While I love Depeche Mode and their songs, I'm not sure that I would fully agree on this one.

This past Tuesday marked a full week since I last spoke any words.  7 days of "enjoying the silence".  Wait a minute!  That would mean the silence of not hearing my own voice. In this case, I think that actually may be OK.  For those of you who know me and have talked with me know that my voice has not been what it should be.  I have been dealing with voice issues for almost 2 years now.  Raspy, hoarse, soft spoken and at times very very difficult to understand or hear me.  "What's wrong with your voice?" I would be asked every time.  I felt that I should answer by explaining what the problem was which always caused more questions and would always lead to lengthen the discussion with more questions.  I always started off with "I have a paralyzed vocal cord" and went into the details from there.  But, after awhile, I learned it was just much easier to say "I have laryngitis" and leave it at that.  So much easier indeed. 

What does one do for vocal cord paralysis?  Well, I went through voice therapy in an effort to strengthen the working vocal cord.  While I enjoyed reading pages and pages of words and performing facial and laryngeal massages daily, it really wasn't providing very much positive difference.  The only other options were Botox injections every six months or surgery to place a Gortex implant, both in the non-working vocal cord.  Hmmm... Neither really sounded like options that I wanted to decide to do but I knew that I had to do something.  However, I decided in November 2014 to go the more permanent route with the implant.

You are probably asking yourself at this point, "what the heck does this have to do with running?".  Well, I had a big decision to make.  Do I go forward with the surgery in December knowing that the recovery time was going to be six weeks.  Six weeks of missed marathon training.  Six weeks of not being part of the Miles for Miracles team.  The alternative was to postpone the surgery until after the marathon was over.  Postpone it was.  Fast-forward to one week and one day after the marathon.  I had the implant surgery.  It kind of freaked me out a bit before I went in though because silly me watched a video of the procedure a couple of days before the procedure.  I know, why the heck would I do that?  I don't know, I jus had to.  At least I knew what to expect.  Fast-forward another week (to this past Tuesday).  The first time that I was allowed to speak in a week.  What an incredible transformation that happened with my voice.  I was standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom thinking "Should I speak?"  I hadn't gotten the doctor's OK.  Heck I was going there in a couple of hours so I did it.  What to say?  What would my first words be?  Well, it wasn't that exciting.  "Hi, how's  it going?".  Seriously, that was the best thing that I could think of?  Sounded like a cheap pick-up line.  I cannot believe that those were the words that were uttered from my lips.  Those were the words though, whether good or bad.  It really didn't matter though because it was just amazing to hear my voice again.  But, to hear it loud and clear.  While it didn't sound like me because of swelling and muscles which needed to be trained to be used again correctly, it was something.  Something in the right direction.  I went to my follow-up that day and was cleared for limited talking and running.  Yes,  I could run again.  I ran that night.  Boy did it feel good.  Good to get back to activity that helps to clear my mind and makes me feel energized and alive.  It was also good to get back to taking pictures along my run to be later posted to Instagram too.  Yes, I stopped way too many times for snaps but I had to make up for lost time.  The picture here was one of them.  Sorry, had to include at least one!

Would I do it all again knowing what I know now?  Absolutely.  It has been such an incredible experience to effortlessly talk again and to have people be able to hear/understand me again.  It is incredible that my doctor was able to fix this with a simple piece of Gortex and that he was able to factor in my breathing for when I run.  It was such an amazing experience to complete my full training and run the Boston Marathon as part of the Boston Children's Hospital Miles for Miracles team.  I have to go back to listening to my Depeche Mode play list.  Don't ask...

Until next time, keep on runnin'!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

What A Feeling.

What a feeling
Being's believing
I can have it all
Now I'm dancing for my life

Well, in this case it would be running instead of dancing but same difference I guess.  Well, maybe not because I can certainly run but I cannot dance for anything!  Great lyrics to represent how I felt running the Boston Marathon last Monday and how I have felt since.  Thanks Irene Cara! 

I have run other marathons before but there is a special feeling that you get when running Boston which is like no other.  Maybe it's the challenging course with the rolling hills in Newton along with Heartbreak Hill?  Maybe it's participating in a race with a storied history and rich tradition?  Maybe it's the incredible spectator support from the starting line in Hopkinton all the way to the finish line in front of the Boston Public Library on Boylston street?  Maybe it's the pride of wearing the Boston Children's Hospital Miles for Miracles singlet and representing an organization that is saving lives and making differences for children and their families on a daily basis?  Maybe it's the joy of running for Patrick (my patient partner) and my son Simon who have both been touched and received care from Boston Children's Hospital?  Maybe it's being part of such an incredible team and training with them for five months (shout-out to my fellow Miles for Miracles teammates)?  Maybe it's the incredible sense of accomplishment every time that I put on my Adidas Night Flash (fancy name for purple!) 2015 Boston Marathon Anthem (don't ask because I have no clue!) jacket?  Just maybe it's all of these things and then some. 

This was the best marathon experience that I've ever had.  I came into the race last Monday with the most confidence and feeling the best physically that I've ever felt before, during and after a marathon.  I attribute it all to the great coaching that I received from the Miles for Miracles coaches Sarah Lucas and Jeff Hintlian.  With a well planned training regime, I was both mentally and physically prepared and was at the top of my game.  I ended up running a PR of 3 hours 53 minutes which was not something that I was trying to achieve.  My plan was to run the race comfortably with no time expectations.  I wanted to just run and take everything in.  Every single aspect that is Boston.  No checking my watch for pace and no music to distract me.  It turns out that, because of my training, I was able to run the race comfortably, take everything in without worrying about pace.  All without listening to music.  What a feeling.

There is a big sense of "what now?" now that Marathon Monday has come and gone.  Five months of training, commitment and countless time away from family.  All culminating in an event that was over in 3 hours and 53 minutes.  Completed.  Finished.  Done.  No more early Saturday morning team runs.  No more worrying about trying to juggle, fundraising, work and the training schedule.  There was anxiety and nervousness leading up to the marathon.  That all quickly faded and was replaced with jubilation and excitement during the race and in the days after.  Now, it almost feels like a sense of loss.  Something that is now missing.  A faded memory of sorts as life goes on. 

I will always cherish April 20th, 2015.  The memories of everything leading up to that day and the joy of crossing the finish line soaking wet, cold and enjoying every minute of it.  Thankful for being given the chance to be on the Boston Children's Hospital team.  Thankful for everyone who supported my fundraising efforts and those who supported me with well wishes.  Thankful for meeting and getting to know such a great patient partner and his family.  Most of all, I'm thankful for the unwavering support of my wife Jennifer and my son Simon throughout this journey.  Without their backing, love and support, I would not have been able to do this.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  You will never know how much this all has meant to me and what a feeling I have experienced. 

Until next time, keep on runnin'!

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Numbers Behind The Run.

3 Days until 4/20/15.  2 training runs left.  Numbers.  Marathon training is full of numbers.  Numbers that most non 26.2 mile runners would not stop to think about. I have some extra time on my hands due to tapering and thought that I would put together some that show the other side of what it takes to train for a marathon.  The other side of "yeah, training is going great!".

19 weeks of training.
75 training runs in total.
16 of the 75 were team runs.
39 times at the gym cross training.
21 miles- longest run.
3 miles- shortest run.
34 packs of Jelly Belly Sports Beans used during training.
6 packs of Jelly Belly Sports Beans I'll use during the Marathon.
2 pair of sneakers.
65+ bottles of Gatorade/Powerade.
9 years- age of Patrick who is my Patient Partner.
593 miles run.
95 donors to my fundraiser.
$7,969.20 raised for Boston Children's Hospital.
It is hard to believe that this is all coming to an end in 3 days. As I look back on my training over the past 19 weeks, I find myself fighting back my emotions. There have been many highs and lows and I have met so many incredible people along the way including my coaches and fellow Miles For Miracles team members. I was able to be partnered with an inspiring patient partner.  My family and I experienced the life saving services that BCH provides first hand back in December when they saved my son's life after a traumatic head injury.  Would I have done it if I knew then what I know now?  Absolutely.  This is an experience that I will always hold near to my heart and will be ever grateful for.  Until Monday...

Until next time, keep on runnin'!

Sunday, April 12, 2015


No, I'm not talking about tapering drywall butt joints (don't ask) or reminiscing about the infamous pottery wheel scene in Ghost where Patrick Swayze is helping Demi Moore taper the clay after he totally ruined her vase in the making while "Unchained Melody" is playing in the background.

"Tapering is a special training period immediately preceding the major competition during which the training stimulus is reduced in a systematic non-linear fashion to achieve a peak in performance. Optimal physiology, technique and psychology are all outcomes of tapering. " (Thanks to the Australian Sports Commission for this definition-  I don't know.  It was one of the first Google results!).

It is the final stage of training. The culmination of 5 months of training. You would think that a runner would love the opportunity that tapering affords them. Reduced weekly mileage which means more downtime and a chance to rest. What's not to love about that?  

I've always looked at tapering as a love hate relationship. On the one hand, you reduce the miles that you run after plateauing at the 21 mile long run. This gives you a bit more free time and a little less pressure of trying to fit all the training into an already hectic daily schedule. 

It gives your body time to repair and prepare (oh, I like that one!  It even rhymes!) itself for the big day. Kind of like a car front end alignment. Much needed after hitting all those potholes this spring. It is also a time to reflect and prepare mentally. All good things you would think right?

I liken tapering to the theme song of that 80's classic "The Facts of Life":

You take the good, you take the bad,
you take them both and there you have
The facts of life, the facts of life.

We've talked about the good.  Now we talk about the bad.  It is a challenge to train for so long with the goal to steadily increase mileage week after week and then all of a sudden wind it down to what seems like almost nothing over a couple of weeks.  It goes against everything that you have been doing.  Your body and mind wants to run more to keep up with the regime that it was used to. 

There are those great mind games that kick in during taper.  What else would your brain and body do with the extra time that it has now?  You know that you have done everything possible to train and be ready for the big day.  However, there is that certain moment when you start second guessing everything.  I mean everything.  Did I train enough?  Did I do enough hill workouts?  Should I have done a few more tempo runs? Is my refueling plan solid?  It takes mental toughness to put that all aside and not listen to your head.  I look at it and say that everything that I have done and my plan is what it is.  I'm not going to change it now even though part of me wants to.  Why?  Because I did it all when I wasn't worrying about things and had a more clear head. 

How about even more head game action?  "Please sir, may I have another?"  Why not!  It is crazy the things that my mind comes up with during taper.  The paranoia sets in and takes a death grip on all logical thinking.  Did that person two offices down from me just sneeze?  Did you just seriously cough in the same room that I am?  Now I have to hold my breath for as long as I can hoping that the contaminated air sinks to the floor before it makes its way over to me.  What was that twitch I just felt?  Why do I have that pain in my knee all of a sudden (both of these are things we runners like to refer to as "phantom pains")?  The desire to want to wipe everything down with Purell.  Then spray it with Lysol just for old times sake.  Why is it that there are so many people on crutches a couple of weeks leading up to Patriot's Day?  Stay away!  Heaven forbid if somebody with them walks in front of me.  Sorry everyone, I'm not in my right mind right now so please forgive me for how I may treat you.  It is as if every person on the face of the earth has the plague.  Is it normal to take a paper towel with you after washing your hands in a public bathroom and then use it to open the door when leaving to protect your pristine hand from the germ laden handle?  No?  Oh... 

I guess that I should probably just go wrap myself in bubble wrap and then climb into an inflatable bubble for the rest of this week.  That sounds pretty logical and a very sane option to me right now! Go Taper Town!

Until next time, keep on runnin'!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

And The Winners Are...

Thank you to everyone who participated in my "Chance to Win" benefiting my Boston Children's Hospital Miles for Miracles Boston Marathon fundraiser.  Through the generosity of those who participated, an additional $851 was raised for my fundraiser.  THANK YOU!

Now, the winners are:
  1. iPod Shuffle- Lindsey Baumgardner
  2. iPod Shuffle- Jeannie Mendez
  3. Texas Roadhouse Gift Basket- Jodi Mark
  4. $50 Trader Joe's Gift Card- Brian Bean
  5. Instagram Print- Lauren Addesa
The video below shows the selection of each of the winners.  Thanks to my wife Jen for filming it and to my son Simon for his guitar "drum roll" along with the music at the end.

Thank you to Matt Labkon for the two iPod Shuffles and Matt Frohne, Managing Partner at the Brockton, MA Texas Roadhouse for the Texas Roadhouse gift basket.

There is still time to make a 100% tax deductible donation before Marathon Monday if you haven't had a chance yet.  Heck, there is still time even if you have already donated and want to donate again.  You won't be able to win a prize since the contest is over but you will get a tax deduction and, more importantly, the good feeling that you are helping Boston Children's Hospital in their mission of helping children and their families: "Until every child is well".

Until next time, keep on runnin'!


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Farts, Burps, Chaffing, Snots and Blisters.

What a combination?  Nobody said that distance running was a glorious sport.  It is mentally/physically challenging and comes along with the aforementioned "things".  But you know what?  I love it.  I love it because it also gives such a sense of accomplishment and allows me to push and challenge myself all the while becoming a better and more skilled athlete.  Oh yeah, if you're lucky, you get the infamous "runner's high" too.  All these positives completely out way the negatives and helps to fuel my desire to run.  What's a blister here or chaffing there anyway?  Well, I guess it depends on where the chaffing occurs right?  Nah. 

Our longest team training run of 21 miles from the starting line in Hopkinton to the top of Heartbreak Hill took place yesterday.  The bus ride out to Hopkinton along the Mass Pike kind of put everything into perspective.  How?  Well, as the miles kept passing by and we were getting farther and farther away from our meeting place at Boston College, I realized how far we had to run.  A lot different than the out and back runs that we typically do on Saturday mornings.

OK, yes, I'll admit it.  I farted, burped, had a bit of chaffing, blew snots and got a blister or two throughout the run yesterday.  I'm human, and I'm a runner so who cares in the end?  But, even with all of that, it was an absolutely amazing and awesome run.  Nothing about it was glorious.  Nothing at all.  It was snowing, sleeting, cold, windy and wet.  A gritty run to say the least.  To be honest, that was all perfectly fine with me.  I think that this was one of my best runs at that distance.  It kept me on my toes and helped to keep my mind in the game.  Making slight adjustments to my overall plan as I the miles increased along the rolling hills on the course.  It was a great opportunity to, as our coaches put it, make this run a "dress rehearsal".  Which it truly was. 

I have tweaked and finalized my running plan based on yesterday's run.  I think that biggest thing that I'm going to do differently than in previous runs is to ditch the music.  Yes, I cannot believe that I am even saying that but I am.  The second thing is to not look at my GPS watch that often during the run.  Both of these changes are going to allow me to just enjoy and take in everything that is the Boston Marathon.  I have nothing to prove to anyone and everything to gain from the experience.  I want to take it all in and not be caught zoning out in la la land with my music.  Did I just say "la la land"?  Crap, I guess that I did.  I'm going to let my body and how it is feeling dictate my pace.  Not some arbitrary number that I just came up with when someone asked "What time are you shooting for?" or some number that I want to beat myself up to obtain.  Just enjoy all 26.2 glorious fart, burp, chaffed, snotty and blistered filled mile.

Until next time, keep on runnin'!