Grey Matters: 6 months of goins ons

So it has been quite a while since I have given a full blown update on the progress of this cancer and fungal thing.  Last I talked about at length I had just gotten out of the ER after a severe reaction to amphiterecin.  It was pretty much the last chance I had at an effective attack on the fungal pneumonia.  Well, a few days later I got a call that were going to give it another go but will a different compatibilizer prep called Ablecet. It took some good prep including steroids and benedryl to keep me from suffering another allergic shock to the system.  It was great one drug spinning me up in combination with another spiraling me down.  What a mind-fuque.  In any case, it worked.  It kept the anti-fungal from trying to kill em so it could do its job at killing the the fungus.  After a little more research I found that the mechanism employed to kill fungal cells is also the same mechanism used to kill animal cells.  So it was still trying to kill me but the hope is that it prefers to go after the fungal cells first.  Ain’t medicine grand.  So it worked and I was on it for about a week and a half before I had to take a little break.  I was going to Disney.  Not just for Disney but for the Dopey Challenge.  Doc Weiss voiced his concerns and we agreed there was nothing that was going to stop me so he said good luck.  I will get back to the Dopey in another post.  Let us just say, effing awesome.

I got back from Disney and was back for more Abelcet to finish this fungal infection off and get to work on this cancer bullshit.  Unfortunately, it went downhill again.  I made it about halfway through and started presenting a totally different set of symptoms as I went into anaphylaxis again.  This time they sent me into the hospital.  Unfortunately, it was through the ER.  I love the Jefferson hospital and for the most part each department has I have interacted with has been amazing.  The Emergency Department is not the only exception but one of the very few directly associated with the hospital.  I know ERs are busy especially in center city Philly but they treat most of their patients with disdain.  It is a get them in a room close the curtain and kind of forget till you can be discharged or moved away.  They have policies that can be down right counter to a patients well being and mostly because they a zero tolerance attitude toward things based on limited study and something near superstition.  They hate PICC lines and have tried pull mine on several occasions.  I finally to a doc that he had better hope they take him to another ER if he attempts to pull my PICC line because he would be doomed if they tried to treat him their after Space and I were through with him.  Well this time or perhaps it was the next time we pretty much got a rash of deaf, dumb and old fashion.  They wouldn’t touch my already accessed port so they hacked their way in with a IV line and for love of god they just won’t listen when I describe my veins for them.  So my fever spiked real bad for some reason I could not get some Tylenol to cut through it.  They said okay but just sort of forgot it.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!  To top it off we got a old battle axe of a nurse as third shift hit that again wasn’t listening and with an IV pump at the ready decided to gravity drip a bag of magnesium.  Give an effing break.  I was so glad to get out of there and do my best to get direct admitted from now on.

Okay so enough about the Jefferson ER, hopefully my brother and good friend Katie gets up to philly and knocks some heads around if she get a job at the Jeff ER.  Another rant is coming I am sure of it.  So I get past all of that and eventually I make it to the point that the fungal infection was down and under control so it was on to the chemo.  After some meeting of the minds it was decided that our attack would be Brentuximab.  What a beauty of a chemo.  First it was a single med so no string of combination drugs.  B: it was only half hour long infusion every three weeks.  And Pi, it had very few side effects.  Only one that took me by surprise because I was being dumb.  In any case, we knew it was not curative but made to reduce the tumor as much as possible before we go to transplant.  So here it goes.  After the second round I started feeling like I was getting rashy.  The skin on the arms and hands were feeling real odd though not that discolored.  It was messed up.  Then all of a sudden, the neuropathy in my feet was getting real bad to the point where I was having a real hard time getting to sleep.  Then it hit me.  My skin was not feeling weird without discoloration.  My fingers were no longer feeling anything.  The giant side effect of the Brentuximab was peripheral neuropathy.  It was like the dumb blonde joke that goes to the doctor and say that there is something wrong with her leg.  Every time she touches it, it hurts.  After the doctor examines her leg and finds nothing he asks her to touch her arm and she says ow. Then he tells her to touch forehead and she says ow and looks at him confused.  Then he says, “Your finger is broken, you dumb blonde.”

With all of that two (actually three but it comes later) more things land me in the hospital while I am working with Brentuximab.  The Flu and RSV (pretty much the common cold set in as a viral pneumonia.  So there I was beat down and having trouble breathing.  At one point walking downstairs to lay down required laying down and gasping for air like at the end of the “Epic” video. It was rough.  I remember texting my mother that I was in the hospital again because I couldn’t breath.  Not my best explanation because she panicked and Space had to explain it better for her.  During one of those stays they decided to do another bronchoscopy to try and clear some space in the tumor in the event that there was post obstructive pneumonia.  So as usual we let everybody know several times that twilight does not work and that I require general anesthesia.  We hear okay and had no idea that the new doc that came over from Temple was a giant cock and blew us off.  So no message was sent about the general anesthesia.  I know something was up when nobody came by for c0nsent and it was confirmed when no anesthesiologist is at the bronch suite.  So they put me under twilight and a few minutes in with tubes up my nose, down my throat and digging around in my lungs I am awake.  I am so glad I have some hard core self control and do my best to suppress the cough and fight out of the situation.  It sucked giant donkey dong.  So they bring me out of twilight and I am groggy and pissed.  That is nothing when I get back to my room and let Space know what happened.  Doc Sharma learned a valuable lesson that day or a least he better have.  Part of the lesson is that there is giant wall between Space my wife and patient advocate and Space the quality coordinator for the BMT group that works with Doc Sharma and rest of the group.  One requires patience and restraint when interacting with sophomoric docs and the other had no patience or constraint when dealing directly with ignorant, know it all “doctors”, with god complexes to the point that they don’t really have to listen to their patients because they aren’t doctors.  Mother effer, got the verbal smackdown.  I only hope that the residents in tow were there to learn the same lesson.  Eff nuts will listen and will comprehend that the patient know what if going on in their body and if that ain’t enough it is all over my chart.

Enough of that.  I get better and the breathing is much better.  As the treatments are going on the tumor is going down.  This is awesome.  The real rub is that I have not run in several months.  Not since mid January have I stomped out a single stride.  So it is late march and I realize I want to get back and I have the idea to train for a good 39 miler for my birthday weekend.  So I lace up and almost fall over in one stride because my legs are down and I have been walking in minimalist shoes only for months and now I am back in my Pearls with a nice heel 2 toe  drop.  I figure it out but things like any restart after a layoff it wasn’t pretty.  It was short but it was back.  I only get a couple of miles but it is a start.  So I keep at it but there is no real progress.  It is not that I could not get it done but the chemo was taking a toll and I was just plain tired.  Either way, the training kind of goes by the way side.  Then the awesome weirdness happens.  I am there getting some anti-fungal with another dose of chemo at the ready then Rescue Ninja Andrea comes over and says that the phosphate levels are critically low.  This a problem because it makes no sense.  When this happens other electrolytes shift as well to better indicate the actual problem.  Such as a raise in calcium would indicate one issue or a corresponding reduction in potassium would mean another problem.  But alas no.  those other values were steady.  So mystery.  Not only do I get admitted the already prepped chemo has to be thrown away.  What a waste.  My blood is drawn two more times that afternoon with the same results at different labs.  So it is deemed real.  Real weird.  They cannot give me phos because if the tumor is feeding off the phos then we don’t want to add more fertilizer to the crop.  Then at 2AM the phlebotomist comes and draws the standard couple of vials.  Later that morning the doc comes in and tells us that the phosphate levels are back to normal and they have no idea what the eff happened.  So I say let me out and they do.  I set a land speed record by getting in and out in 24 hours.  To this day we still have no idea.

A couple of weeks later, early May, I get another round of chemo and  a CT scan.  Things should be looking up with great timing.  Wrong.  The tumor has not only stopped responding to the chemo it has started growing again.  Mother fucker.  At this point the docs are actually starting to call it Duff disease.  It’s cool.  If the shit is going to kill me then at least I will have the joy of such a legacy.  My body is kind of going back down the slope with more tumor infiltration but new plans are being formed and we are on.  I realize my training is not progressing in time for my birthday run so I call it off.  But one thing is that I will not wake up in the hospital on my birthday so I do some bad things like hide a few fevers with cold water and some Tylenol.  The weekend before I decide how I want to spend my birthday.  With my girls in a cool hotel with some good food and in NYC.  I find a nice room near New Brunswick and we introduce the Psycho to Greek food which she loves.  We inhale the saganaki and I almost order another.  The psycho orders a pasta dish with the most perfectly cooked lamb shank and I get some amazing spanokopita.  The next day we make it to the Natural history museum and whirl wind through the dinosaur and other fossil exhibit.  It is real nice, especially when we see the mammoth and mastodon bones.  Then it is off to the theater for some Avenue Q.  Good show and very well done.  Some great catchy awful songs.  Kind of raunchy but in a purposeful way.  After a stop for another dog from cart we head over to some friends where I spiked a fever for about an hour and we hang out with some Thai take out.  Alot like the 38th birthday but great because I get to spend it with my family, my girls and do some cool new stuff.  I can only think of one other way to spend my birthday and that is running and even then I usually have the girls there with me.  I love it.  We get back very late and I have been 39 for about an hour it is good.  I get up a few hours later and take a nice walk to start to the next year and the rest of the day is dedicated to relaxing and napping.

So I stayed out of the hospital for my birthday so I give in and on Thursday I get admitted with a fever and after a week of tests and antibiotics they have no answers and pump me full of steroids to suppress the fevers because it probably the disease causing the fever.  I meet with Doc Neal and we start talking the plan for the transplant.  It is cool and we are currently looking at mid August for transplant but first we need new chemo to get the disease back under control.  The problem is the fevers are really not gone.  I have finished the steroids and they are coming back.

It was just this Wednesday and the day was bad.  I had been having quite a few more bad days than good days.  I am trying to get by but I know where this is leading.  It is leading right where I am.  I actually take my temperature and it is 100.5.  I know it is on its way up so I take some Tylenol and start getting ready to head to the hospital for my standard infusion.  By the time I get there the fever is breaking but I report it.  I am also having some difficutly breathing not like before but I am getting fatigued quickly and the chest hurts.  I asked to see the same day doc just to get the ball rolling and a few hours later I am situated in a nice hospital room getting comfortable and spiking another fever.  It hits over 103 and is a real bitch.  Here is the great part.  Doc Weiss is the attending on service so now I got him cornered so we can get the new chemo regiment worked out.  Which leads to just this moment.  It is decided that we will mitigate side effects like more damage to my lungs with a harsher chemo that the tumor will be responsive and we can get on with this transplant.  So I will be on R-Bendamustine. Here it is. Bendamustine.png Thanks Wikipedia for the structure.

It is a mustard derived alkylating agent.  It had the opportunity to damage my lungs but it has a better opportunity of attacking the disease.  The R is for rituxan which is a good oldy but good I have had before that will attack the Hodgkin’s side of the lymphoma and is relatively routine.  The chemo is approved and being queued up as I am typing this.  It will be a new adventure and yet another step in finding the cure to Duff’s Grey Zone Lymphoma.

One last thing to add was I had a pulmonary function test yesterday to see how my lungs are working and how the oxygen transfer from lungs to blood  is going.  I have about one and a half working lungs and that one and half lungs is transporting oxygen to the blood just fine.  It is awesome and I am itching to get out and run soon.  That and I owe a few race reports like Monster Mash Marathon and the Dopey Challenge.  So Eff Cancer.

 

Daily Double

 

On 1 October 2013 I would have celebrated one year cancer free. What an amazing thing. One down and four more to go. I had to hold off on that celebration as some things got worked out. It was tough at times because I really wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that I had kicked the shit out of this thing or something. Instead, I kind of stayed silent. I was with a group of friends after a run having a beer when it came to me and I jotted this down quickly so I could share.

 

“Sitting here around people with the knowledge I have. Not telling them is like living with a shame. I won’t pretend to know what it is like for a rape victim but I think I feel some of that. It is odd, these people (the Team) may be the best to handle this but I am still silent. Maybe it is still because there is some uncertainty as to what it is. At least there is some hope.”

 

I am sorry I could not tell you guys but I was sure glad to be there with you. I had a lot of fun and shortly after I wrote that my spirits lifted. Beer, pizza and the Team really helps. So it daily double of a nasty fungal infection and cancer relapse. So this is sort of how it went down.

 

It was going so well. It was July and I was feeling great. I was running quite a bit and things were progressing. I had been off of any juice for two months and we were all considering plans for the future. The stem cell transplant was off the table and we were looking at a stem cell collection so we would be ready in case. But that was where it went all wrong. I had an appointment with Doc Weiss after a CT scan and he dropped the boom on me. My left lung was showing something.

 

We talked and it was probably a fungal infection so I went back on the micafungen. I had my PICC line taken out two months prior so that meant I was going to get stuck. I really hoped that my veins had recovered from the abuse a year ago. I had false hopes. Andrea had a fun time trying to find a good stick spot. After several trials I gave up and let her take the back of my hand. Honestly it was not that bad. It hurt going in but afterward I had quite a bit of mobility.

 

Now I was a real bastard at times. I was running on Saturdays prior to coming in for an infusion. Therefore, I was quite dehydrated and my veins were even more uncooperative. My rescue ninjas were frustrated till I just decided to give up my one good vein each Saturday. There was also this new system at the infusion center that printed out my meds list every time I came in. That list is a couple of pages long with a cover sheet. I was really pissed at the waste and tried to opt out of it. Eventually I got back at them by reusing the paper.

I should have been an aeronautical engineer. They enjoyed the entertainment or at least they pretended like they did. It was weird as I started to see the staff there and talk with them. They were surprised to see me and we discussed how it is weird. You get to know these people and become quite friendly with them but deep down they hope for the best. That is you get better and they never see you again. I feel the same way. Though I had gone there on occasion and stolen coffee it was not the same.

 

During the first couple of weeks on the micafungen I was collected for stem cells. This is a most unpleasant process. They inject growth factor to have your bone marrow make more stem cells and then they put this catheter in your neck. The bone pain from the growth factor was not fun. I had rough long run during that and it was not my worst run but it was in my top 50. It is weird because in order to get the stem cells they have to literally pump all of your blood out of you and filter it and pump it back in. Honestly, it was not that hard. I slept during the process and after one day of collection I was done.

 

After about a month I had another CT scan and no it was not done. This was okay. Fungal infections like this take a while to respond to the medication and the spectrometric measurements always lag behind. I was cool as a cucumber. I was on top of my game. My training was going great and the Rock n Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon was coming up quick. Check out the race report. It rocked and I was amazing with the help of the Team. I was working on top of the world. Doc Weiss did want me to get a consult from Doc Evans about a surgical biopsy. What a mistake that was. I like Doc Evans but he wanted to take a lobe of lung out. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! I only have five of those and I know that we were looking at a biopsy of some of the more damaged lung parts but come on. Space and I were not pleased. I got over it quick because why not. On a side note, Doc Weiss took me off of cyclosporin which is a immunosuppresent to see if my on immune system would kick in and help with this infection.

 

So it was on like Donkey Kong and I had a CT and PET scan in October. I wasn’t worried. The worst part is moving your arms after the PET scan. You spend about 45 minutes with them up over your head while not moving. Well, as you might guess it was not only bad but it was getting worse. The PET scan showed a couple of spots that glowed like a 1000 watt bulb. We were entered in to full biopsy mode. One problem though I was still feeling great. I was ramping up my mileage and the Monster Mash Marathon was coming up real soon. I was on such a role there was no way I was missing that.

 

Doc Weiss said it was time to go on with that surgery and we put the slam down on him. Really we just opened up a new possibility with Dr. Hehn better know as Boyd. He was the pulminologist that has been in my lungs the most and most recently. Space and I wanted get his input about it prior to the cutters getting all up in me. Weiss agreed and we met with Doc Evans and Boyd on the same day. Actually, Doc Evans had already consulted with Boyd and agreed to a bronchoscopy as a first step. I was in.

 

First thing was first. Boyd wanted to see what my lung function was before any surgery. So up to nuclear medicine and they injected me with technetium. When I asked me what it was that I was injected with they told me and told them it is the lowest weight element without a stable isotope. The doctor learned something new that day. I love chemistry. It has maintained such a wide open universe for me. As it turns out my left lung is crap. Over 75% of my lung function comes from my right lung. Well at least some part of me is conservative. Before the bronchoscopy I went and ran the Monster Mash Marathon. It was awesome. I cannot wait to get to that race report. Two days later Boyd asked me how the race went before he had me knocked out and lung scoped. Long story short. The results were inconclusive. So off to surgery.

 

At this point it was the end of November and thanksgiving was upon us but best of all Doc Evans was going for a new approach. He was going after a lymph node adjacent to my left lung and a wedge cut out from the upper left lobe where there was some good glow. I went in for the surgery and had to wait and wait and wait. I could not eat so I was getting real cranky. Naps were helping but not enough. I was taken from the pre-op room to the operating room area. There a couple of docs came and talked to me and explained to me what was going on. An anesthesiologist came by and put two elephant tranquilizer needles in the back of my hand and my wrist. He was talking more about the procedure and mentioned that they would probably use the robot for the surgery. I immediately asked if it was Three Laws Safe but all I got back was a puzzled look. What a shame. I am surprised I made it out of there alive.

 

I woke up with two chest tubes in my side and a foley catheter in. It was not a very happy time. Always avoid a foley catheter and chest tubes are a bad idea. Taking each of them out is beyond description. Needless to say it hurt. The good news is they gave me happy button for the pain. It was fun but it made me itch. After two days of observation I was out of the hospital and getting hungry for Thanksgiving. I tried to be patient and waited an entire week before calling for results. They were not in and I was told to wait till I saw Doc Weiss in two weeks.

 

So there I was. I had just gotten my stitches cut out from my side by Doc Evans. They were tough to get out. It hurt and he kept apologizing and backing off. I tried to convince him to just keep going. Pain is temporary except in torture which this was. He got on with it and they were out. They sucked and I determined that there will be no more major holes put in me for a while. Doc Evans wanted to know if I wanted the biopsy results but I declined. I wanted to stay ignorant for a few more hours. Back at it. Sitting there in room 24 with Space just waiting for the inevitable. Doc Weiss comes in and sits down. I ask him to “sock it to me and if the results were inconclusive I was going to scream.” Actually, my reaction may have been worse. Here comes the problem. He rambled. There was good information but it all boiled down to this. I do have a fungal infection and that needs to be taken care of quickly. Then the R word. Relapse. The cancer was back and a new fight was on.

 

Fucking cancer. After we take this fungal infection out with some new harsher drugs we will take this cancer on with a new chemo regimen followed by a stem cell transplant. We will kick this. I just have to continue fighting and running. I cannot forget that I have the Disney Dopey in less than a month. No reason I can’t have some fun along the way.

 

Goofy Race and A Half Challenge: Part 3, The Goofy

It is amazing.  I know that others have done more.  My man Dean Karno ran 50 in 50.  People do ultras.  There is an event with three marathons around a lake in consecutive days but the Race and A Half Challenge is one heck of a concept.   For the 4500 of us that did it this year here is a giant pat on the back. 

I mean 39.3 in two days amazing.  Lets not forget to mention the hard core Magic Kingdom on Friday.  I loved every moment of this experience and the fact that Rae got to share in it by visiting Disney for the first time made even more special.

Timmy finished the race in 5:11.  What a fantastic effort for a first marathon.  He has become totally hooked on it and is considering the Goofy for next year.  We met up shortly after he finished.  He was hurting and so was I but we were in a high that nobody could have brought us down from.  After some stretching and a bottle of recoverite I was doing pretty good.  I had gotten a massage which actually cost money. Well, nothing is perfect but the massage sure was.  Along with my calves.  KaPow!!!! KaChiga!!!!

Here is the best part.  After the initial soreness in the next 24 hours, I have not felt better.  My legs have been in the best shape since before I got injured last May.  Sore is sore but the pain is all but gone.  My achilles is great and my Plantar Fascist is doing great.  It seems like I needed the Goofy to heal me up.  This just proves that running through the injury is just what you are supposed to do.  I mean what a hoot. 

The bad part.  I still have nightmares about that mile around the world.  Later that night we were at Epcot for “fun.”  This involved me sitting at every bench ride I could get to.  We ate dinner at Morocco which at the apogee of the world from the exit.  What great food but the walk back was agony.  And on to other things, I also saw Animal Kingdom in a non-running capacity.  I was right the first time through, a Zoo on steroids.  Still cool.  I rode the Expedition Everest.  This is really not a good idea after 39.3 in two days and a relatively empty stomach.  I still hadn’t eaten anything substantial at that point.  It was weird because my energy stores were falling but I was so not hungry.  Fun ride.  It goes backwards.  Rae held on and screamed like a little girl.  Then she said “Awesome” lets go again.

I forgot about when I heard someone yell about wanting a Vodka while I was running through Animal Kingdom.  It turned out to be Laura from Absolut(ly) Fit.  I almost fell over when I heard it and wish I knew it was her.  I would like to have said hi.  Now I just say good luck. 

In the end, I had a fantastic half and full marathon in one weekend.  My Rae got to see Disney for the first time.  My legs are feeling the best they have in months.  I got to see my best friend run his first marathon and come out wanting more.  On top of it all I think I may do it again next year.  Why not.

Goofy Race and a Half Challenge: Part 2, The Race

Oh my, I have waited long enough on this.  I am really not sure what has kept me from completing this race report.  It really has made no sense.   Well, here goes. 

It all started right after the half marathon on Saturday when I finished and knew that I had done the one thing I was not supposed to do with the half.  I raced it.  And it was fun.  I mean I just poured on the jets and tried my best to get things moving.  Well, at the finish line when I looked at the clock I knew I had put too much in and was in some trouble.  My legs were not quite ready to keep me going and I was sore.  The whole day I spent trying to get my legs in better shape and on top of that I was tired.  I spent a couple of hours on my parents living room floor asleep.  Then when I woke up we went out for a nice Italian dinner.  I had a chicken Parmesan with a side of spaghetti and some garlic bread that was to die for.  The big problem, it was getting late and my parents were over an hour away from my hotel.  Dinner and hugs went by and I was off to the hotel for a few hours of sleep. 

3:30am rolls by and I am up and getting ready.  I had already laid my stuff out and I made sure everything was in order.  Gels: check, bandaid on each nipple: check, bottle of recoverite: check, MP3 player:check, phone: check, Glide: check, glide some more: check, caps and visors: check, sun glasses: check, Virginia Tech Bike Jersey: check. Go Hokies. 

Well, I was off.  The start for the marathon was the same as the half so I knew the routine.  I got there and found my boy Timmy and he was freaking.  It was his first marathon and he freaked.  We were running a low on time and we decided to find a facility on the way to the start line.  It was just like before about a mile walk through the back roads were old Disney rides go to die.  I saw a few escaped Disney workers hiding in the reeds that had gone native.  I didn’t see any signs but I was sure it would be a bad idea to feed them.  A couple of my fellow hokie nation saw me out and we gobbled a little on the way to the start.  It was a long walk. 

Finally, the start line was within site and so were the deposit facilities.  We got in line and waited our turn to drop trou and squat.  My buddy Timmy was not only freaking he was freezing and wrapped in a Mylar blanket.  It was about 50F out and he thought it might snow.  He lives in Fort Myers Fl and the average temp in the “winter” is 75ish.  Either way, we get done and to the start line.  I start to freak out a little.  I had decided I was going to start with Timmy but we are in different corrals where they do not converge on the same route till mile 3 or so.  I hope there is no problems with me not going over the right mats but either way I will get through. 

Before the start I look up and see the biggest most beutiful full moon I have seen in years.  It lights up the sky like it was meant just for us.  I heard earlier that it would be the brightest full moon of the year because this is the closest it will be for a while.  I love the moon.  It may be the constant staring at it I do that may cause some of my lunacy.  I am not crazy my mind is just playing tricks on me.

There is some words, an anthem, a wheeled start, a ready, set, and fireworks and then we are off.  You know that push forward then stop then walk a little, then try to jog but that fails and then we walk some more and the actual start line get near and you see bobbing head just past it and you step on the mat and start to run.  I love marathon starts, its like driving in Philly during rush hour but with an end to the frustration in site. 

Well, the first mile goes by as it should slow.  I promised to start with Timmy and stay with him for a couple of miles.  I was not going out to race but to finish and there was no need to push early.  After that if he wanted to go on ahead or if I did there was no obligation.  We would meet after the finish.  We hit the 1 mile mark at 11 minutes and I think that is great.  We are looping through the Disney World roads.  At this point Timmy is burning up.  He overdressed and has to remove one layer.  A lesson learned.  I have my sunglasses on and it is still dark so I really have no idea where I am going but some how I am on a bridge then I am running under the golf ball at Epcot.  It is so cool to be going through these parks when nobody is there.  The torches light up the way and we make a turn at Norway I think and there is the river of runners from the other start line.  We are merged.  The hard part is that we merge at the narrowest portion of the entire race. 

Timmy and I make it out of Epcot and on our way to the Magic Kingdom.  I see balloons up ahead and suggest that we push forward a little to see what pace that is.  I hear and affirmative and I pick up the pace a little.  It is about mile 4 and I look back to see my man lagging behind.  That is the last I see of Timmy till the end of the race.  I felt a little bad but at that point I needed to run my own race and he needed to run his.  I had no doubt he would finish and do great.  I was not disappointed. 

Well, that balloon ahead was the 5 hour pace group and I didn’t give them a second glance as I went on by.  I could see the 4:30 pace group in the distance and knew where I needed to be so I just kept my pace.  We were heading around the Richard Petty raceway paying homage to Mr. The King when we came upon the rock vs. disco decision.  I love me some disco but rock keeps me going.  I have no idea what was rocking.  As a matter of fact my own play-list was barely registering.  I was kind of totally zoned into my own thing.  It was so bad that a few times other songs were going on in my head drowning out the MP3 player.  It was kind of annoying. 

Anywho, I ran into a runner who lives in Blacksburg but does not go to Virginia Tech.  A townie.  There was some connection like her husband works there or something like that but I really couldn’t have told you 100m later much less a month and a half later.  It was a welcome distraction for a few meters.

We hit the Magic Kingdom just like the day before.  Back stage into Main Street.  The lights are flashing and there are characters everywhere.  The crowd is there a cheering and it is so cool.  Right before we turn to Tomorrow land the crowd is just standing there silently so I egg them on.  “Come on Cheertators”  It works and they start cheering.  Around we go and back through Cinderella’s castle.  It is so awesome.  Again more silent cheertators.  I fix them and get a roaring ovation as I leave toward yesterday land.  I think it is really called Frontier Land but what ever.  It is kind of lonely back here because there are no cheertators, just some characters and a few uniformed Disney Personnel.  Thanks for the support so early guys. 

By this point it is getting a little warm and my cap is getting soaked.  The sun is up and beating us down. I am at a much slower pace than before and we going over some of the same course as the day before so I see the Sharpie signs and am able to read some of them.  Funny stuff for the most part.  If ever you wanted random trivia I am not sure a marathon is the place you would expect to find it.  But there is was.  I finally saw Space about this point.  I stopped and traded my cap for my visor.  I had never run with the visor but I decided to risk it.  I need a little air rustling through my thick lockes.  This worked better than I could have ever expected.

The next stretch was the to Animal Kingdom.  Nothing exciting except the water treatment plant on the way.  When they say that you will see the behind the scenes of Disney, they weren’t kidding.  Others said is was sewage treatment but having worked in the plumbing industry for a little while it didn’t have that “behind the scenes” smell.  Either way kind of cool and weird.  There were also some fantastic green houses.  In an unrelated moment they were handing out bananas.  I think every person peeled one took a  couple of bites and threw the rest on the ground.  Banana peels everywhere plus runners make for a cartoonish scene.  I didn’t see anybody fall but I am sure there were some slips. 

I head toward a turn and I know it is the Animal Kingdom.  Why else would there be animals with handlers there.  I think I was a goat and some birds.  The Animal Kingdom is kind of cool.  It is sort of like a Zoo on steroids.  The weird part is that there is a replica Everest there and I totally missed it.  Real nice scenery though.  Before I knew it we out of the Animal Kingdom.  There were people lined up to cheer us on outside the gates.  Totally awesome.  Right before we left the Animal Kingdom there was an aid station where the last thing handed out was a sponge soaked in water.  Oh so fantastic.  I put it right on top of my head and squeezed.  My visor kept the water right on my head.  I needed that and I used that idea with the other aid stations where I pour a little water on my head to cool off a little. 

After animal kingdom came the longest part of the entire race.  It was the 26.2 miles between there and Hollywood Studios.  I mean it felt like another marathon was put in that space.  It was just so long.  I had already started to drop my pace and was taking full advantage of the aid stations to walk a little.  The 4:30 pace group had passed me and I was totally cool with that.  They did their job by getting my to that point.  This leg of the race just went on for ever.  There was a point where we went out a mile and doubled back on it.  It was just hard.  The aid stations were a plenty but the area was kind of boring.  Either way, we eventually made it to Hollywood studios. 

This was great, the parks were opening by this point and we hit Hollywood studios from the back lot.  I saw the incredibles which was awesome.  Then we went through the costuming tunnel.  There were costumes and sewing machines on each side.  It was so cool.  This opened up to a street scene with a New York City back drop.  My mind was really messing with me at this point and I could not focus enough to see where the street ended and the facade began.  Lucky for me we turned before that but it is still messing with me.  About a 100m later I saw a Disney Vacation Club stand.  They really pimp this thing all over.  They are the Disney equivalent to Dunkin Doughnuts in Delaware.  I stopped and told the lady at the booth that I need a vacation.  She told me to stop by when I am finished.  But I needed one then.  I moved on.  We hit the gates of Hollywood Studios and I see a guy with a sign that says use your feather.  I know I have big ears but Dumbo I am not.

I start doing the math and realize there is only about two and a half miles left.  I am so in.  The next portion takes us by some resorts.  The Swan and Dolphin and by a canal.  It is about mile 24.5 when I hit a down slope on a bridge when I realize my shoes have about had it.  I started to slip in them and that is usually it.  Still things are going well, for the most part everything is feeling great.  One hot spot on my foot but that is okay.  I am near the last mile.  Bring it on.

Oh it was on.  The mile around the world.  We come in behind the scenes Epcot near a garbage dumpster.  I miss Cleveland.  Then out onto the world.  This is the most torturous mile ever.  I see where I need to be and it is a mile away while being only 50m away.  I have to go all the way around.  Canada, England, Morocco, China, Japan, Norway, America land, Mexico.  This is just long and will haunt me forever.  I finish the loop around the world and see Space there.  We slap hands and I know it is just a little while to go.  Around the corner is a gospel group then another turn and the finish and a bunch of silent cheertators.  I shame them into cheering and I finish in 4:42.

It is amazing we are ushered through the shoot. I got my Mickey Medal and Mylar Blanket.  I love and feel great.  It get to the refreshment and there is Powerade as well as water.  Overall the refreshments are the only bad part about this event.  I get through to the Goofy Tent and have my choice of beautiful ladies to give me my medal.  Afterwards, I see my parents and Rae.  I gather her up and we get our picture taken with all three medals.  What a blast.

The Goofy race and a Half Challenge: Part 1-The Half

I have spent the past couple of weeks kind of avoiding this race report.  I am not sure why but there is so much that I have had a hard time putting it all together.  I will start by putting this together in parts.

So here I was on Friday morning making my first mistake of the race weekend.  I had a 5:50AM start for a race on Saturday and I was at the opening of the Magic Kingdom with the Family.  It was Rachael’s first trip to Disney and we could not deny her this joy.  I could not believe how much she enjoyed it.  She loved Space Mountain and other roller coasters.  The best part of the day was when Space and I went to the expo to pick up the packets and Grandma and Pappi took the “It’s a Small World” bullet for us.  Totally awesome.  Other than that a joy of a day but the entire time on my feet and I did not get to sleep till after 10:00PM.

Well, it is now 3:00AM and I am awake and getting ready.  The Goofy has some interesting stuff.  I have to wear this orange  wrist band for the half so that is extra to keep on.  So there I was, with MP3 player, Cap, A-team Shirt over a Flying Pig Marathon Technical Shirt (more on this later), butterfly bracelet, gels, glide, Bib, etc.  I was ready. 

The start is by the Epcot Center, and after about a mile walk for a warm up to the start line I meet up with my buddy Timmy (who is running the marathon {his first}).  He is nervous and I am just trying to get into character.  I am sort of a method actor of running.  Like Brando with slurred strides and beautiful calves.  Either way, it is still dark and the Full moon was spectacular.  I mean it was amazing how big and bright it was.  Then Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy are up on the stage, which I see by jumbo tron, and they start the race.  Fireworks and shuffle, shuffle, jog, shuffle some more, run, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep from the Champion Chip mat(hooray), and we are off.

Now I have seen the advice from otherswho have attempted the Goofy before me.  Don’t race the half.  Take it easy and enjoy the run.  Okay that sound like a  plan.  My training has prepared me to take it easy before the big race.  I will just flow with the crowd and have a good easy run.  2:10 or something slower should be good.  Is everybody on board with this?  Does anybody believe that I would do that?  If you did, then I say, Ha I fooled you.  I can’t believe you would fall for that.  That is oldest trick in the book. Evil will alway triumph over good because good is dumb.  Well, I egress.  Bye.

As with any big race the first mile is slow but after that there are openings and I can pass and weave my way through the crowd to the pace I want to be at.  Well, those guys were so slow.  I saw the clock as mile two and knew I could finally break 2:00 hours.  I have done it at the split for a full marathon but not on a half.  I saw the clock and said “I should take it easy. I have a long weekend ahead of me”  But a little voice in my head replied “but 2 hours needs to be broken” 

Body replies, “I know it can be done but we should ease up and stay strong in our moderation”

Brain says, “Of course is can be done… Oh, it is ON!!!!”

So off I go, I start to pour on the speed.  Now I have done almost no speed work in my training.  It has all been endurance and surviving the onslaught of mile after mile.  That is okay, I am on pace and ahead of the 2 hour mark by a few seconds.  I can do this.

I hit the Magic Kingdom and it is still dark.  We start off in the back stage portion and then it opens up to Main Street where the street is lined on one side with the cheerers and Athletic supporters and the other with Disney Characters.  I even saw the Mayor of Main Street there.  The place was so lit up it was amazing.  Then just before we make the turn to Tomorrow Land I realize it is very quite.  The spectators are just standing there watching.  Rookies.  So I encourage them along.  I call them out and call them “Cheertators”  Get it Cheerleader + Spectator.  Sure I stole it from “Not Another Teen Movie”  but this is not a Cheerocracy.  Well they start cheering and all is good.  More on this later.

We hit Tomorrow Land and I cannot believe it is Tomorrow already.  A left turn and another left turn and another left turn and then I am going through Cinderella’s castle.  It is real cool and still real dark.  Odd.  Then comes the most treacherous down hill in the entire course in to Frontier land.  Honestly I was putting on the brakes the entire time.  The bitch of it is, I know I have to do the same thing on Sunday.  Well, from Tomorrow to yesterday.  Frontier land is kind of lonely with very few spectators.  We end up back stage again and onto some weird road heading back toward Epcot. 

It is here that there are some signs by Sharpie (a sponsor) that have been posted off the road.  The problem is that they are real long. They are fun facts and the like but I did not have time to read them before I went zooming by.  Either way, it was okay it was just weird.  I saw something similar at the Akron Marathon but the messages/notes were short sweet and to the point.  Take note Sharpie, shorter messages.

Now comes the worst part of the race.  I am at about mile 9 when it happens.  I have to stop.  For what you might add.  Well, my body hates me and decided that the Porto-John and I needed to get better acquainted.  Are we kidding.  No I had to stop.  This was the first time I actually had to stop in a race for that.  Well, I stop and unhook everything to get ready and go and drop the deuce that my body dealt me.  I get re-situated and get back on my way.  Well, that cost me about 4 minutes. 

At that point I realize I am a little over dressed.  I put the Flying Pig Tech Shirt on to wick away the sweat and keep me cool because the A-team shirt is not really for this kind of activity.  Well, with there being two layers, the tech shirt is not able to do that job.  So I am getting hot.  The weird part is I hear through the entire race from others, how cold it is.  Grow a set people and go live in Cleveland.  Any who, it just an inconvenience nothing real bad. 

I hit mile 12 and see that I would have to put up a way sub 6 minute mile point 1 (more like sub 5) to get in under the two hour mark.  For about a half mile I thought I could do that but then I realized that I haven’t done that since I was in high school and way before I found this extra 100 pounds that is attached to me.  Either way, I apply the after burners and do my best to finish strong.

disneyhalfresults

And I did.  I finished in 2:02.  I felt great and of course when I finished I had to remind those Cheertators to cheer.  I got through the finish and got my Donald Medal.  I took a picture of/for 4 ladies that were running the Goofy Challenge together.  Then I moved onto the Goofy tent and got my orange bracelet exchanged for a blue one.  It may seem like a lot happened but the Half Marathons seem so short.  I have a hard time remembering what happened. 

Well, next is the Marathon.  Stay tuned, another Full Moon awaited our hero for another agonizing endurance event that shall keep you riveted to your chairs.