Race Report: Rock n Roll Philly Half (part 2)

 

We surged into a jog, crossed the timing mat and …

… we were off. Of course I hit the start on my runkeeper app. I was not the last to the start line but it was damn close. I remembered this from before. The start line was very similar to that of the Philly Marathon. I headed down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. With all the flags and stuff. It is real cool seeing the flags of the country then going by the Franklin Institute Science Museum. Because I was the back end of the start I had a lot of elbow room and that was cool. I was just trying hard not to get swept up in the start and go out to fast. That did not work as planned but it never does.

About a mile in I looked up and realized I had the whole fricking street to myself. You could see only runners on the road and that was it. It was awesome. I am so glad that cities are able to clear things out for events like this. It really encourages people to get off their ass and try something. At one point I was heading toward city hall and I saw my friend Donna up ahead of me. We had run together on many occasion in our training sessions with team. I figured I would try to catch up and run with her if I could. If was not soon after I picked up my pace to catch up that I realized that she may be out of my range. I decided to try a good surge to catch up and hope that it would not drain me. It was a risk because I was pretty set on just steady pace running with very little speed work. I caught up and it was real cool.

I must say, that with all the wonderful organization that the Rock n Roll series has, there was one thing that was lacking that would have been a real help. Clocks. It would have been nice to get some splits to work with. At least at the 5k, 10k and 15k mark. Instead there was really none. Sure I could have pulled my phone out and checked the Runkeeper App and eventually I did but it used to be pretty common to have a few timer clocks on the course of the big race like this. So there Donna and I were moving along the course. At one point, while on Market St., we passed by the block that Jefferson Hospital was on. I realized the irony that I would be there in just a few hours getting hooked up for some more anti-fungals. Still we moved on enjoying the city in this unique perspective.

Now my new pace has made for some certain changes that didn’t used to happen way back in the day. One is that I now carry water with me. I used to detest carrying bottles as much as I could but these days I have found a good belt that feels comfortable and works. No dehydrating for me. The other big changes is that pit stops are becoming a little more normal. It is not that I never had to stop at the plastic box before during a run but a new body is giving me new conditions to work with. So on my way back down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway I had to make a quick stop. At that point, I did check my Runkeeper App and it showed we were going fast. I had done it. I got swept up in the excitement and went out too fast. I felt good so maybe it would not be so bad. Things were actually going well. The bladder was now empty and I was still feeling okay. Then came the down hill.

We reached the Art Museum and went down into the Kelly Dr. Most people hate uphills and love downhills but I am opposite. I thrive on uphills because they are the challenge that gets me rocking. Sure they may kick my ass but I still like them. I can kind of put the legs into low gear to get up them. Downhills on the other hand are the Batman to my Joker. I just don’t have enough leg strength and control to go all out on them. So there is me putting on the brakes all the way down the hill. It is just a lot of stress in places that are not usually stressed. Sometimes I think I psyche myself out with them but still the suck. So I started down Kelly Dr with a small suckfest of downhill. It really wasn’t that bad but I could have done without it. The good part was Space found me and ran along side for about a quarter mile. It was fun.

I was at the base of the little hill that something very odd happened. I have had trouble with neuropathy in my feet where there is some numbness and pain. For the most part I had never felt the neuropathy while running. It is a type of euphoria that gets rid of the everyday pains. But with about 7 miles to go the my toes started to sting. The thing I was wondering if this would happen during some of my training but it did not so I figured it would not come up. After about a mile I was able to tune most of it out and it really did not affect my stride to much. So on I went with my teammate Donna running along with me.

So the course was going around Fairmount park by the river. I knew this course. I have run around it so many times I have lost count. It is relatively flat and quite honestly a pleasant place to run. It was relatively well shaded but the sun was coming up. Because of the foot issue and that fact that I had gotten off to a fast start I was starting to fade. The worst part about knowing the course so well is that you know just how long you have to go. In any case, a question came up that needed an answer.

Where is the effing bridge. We had to get to the Falls Bridge to cross over the river and head back to the finish line. Well, the thing is that no matter how many times I have run there I never can figure out which turn that effing bridge is after. Donna and I were really starting to help each other through each mile but our new mantra was becoming, where is that effing bridge. It was becoming kind of a comedy of errors. I would swear that it was right around next corner but I was wrong. My mind was totally effed with on that. The good news was I was right the last time I predicted it was around the last turn. The relief I felt when I saw that beautiful white painted steel. It was across it and 4 more miles to the finish.

What a tough 4 miles. My legs were turning to lead and of course the 4 miles back started with a downhill. So my thighs started burning as I put on the brakes for another quarter mile. It was quickly becoming a death march. I started to use some of the old tricks I had in the past. I started picking out signs and objects to make them little goals. It works real good. I know I will get to the finish but minor victories were the game. It was pure slug mode. Donna kept pushing me along as the miles went on by. It was weird we started noticing these signs for medical mile posts. There were more and more as we kept getting closer to the finish line. At first there was one a mile but by the time we were a mile from the finish they were like every 100 yards. What the hell. We people dropping off faster than the finish line could come.

It was about mile 11 when we saw Maria. One of our great TnT coaches. It was great. I was pretty well tapped and any encouragement that could come my way was greatly appreciated. We turned a corner and passed a mile marker and the rest of the Team coaching staff was right there with us. So much awesome to keep me going. That last mile was long but it was well shortened up by the help from those angels in green shirts.

Then there it was. We were just at the 13 mile marker. The finish line was in sight and the photographers were there for those wonderful finish line moments. Donna was still there with me so we locked hands and finished together. It was amazing. I was back. After all that shit with the cancer and losing my legs. I was back. And I had my good friend Donna their to share it with. Cancer be damned even though I later found out I had relapsed it didn’t matter. What an amazing experience with new friends and the family there as well. This is just the restart and I am on a roll. Just wait till next month with the Monster Mash Marathon. It’s on like Donkey Kong.

Advertisements

Race Report: Rock n Roll Philly Half (part 1)

 

I know this is a long time coming and I owed this quite a while ago but I tend to procrastinate with these things. At least I am getting it done. So here it is. I have been trying to figure out where to start. My training for this race has been quite a different experience. First off I trained with others. I am usually a loner out there. It is not that I don’t like running with other people. I love it but I tend to kind of go into my own world and that is cool as well. Moving on I was brought back from post recovery to race condition through the help from Team In Training (TnT). What a great organization and what an amazing group of people. I hope to never lose contact with them and look forward to more training and hanging out and making new friends as others join. Honestly, when I started at the “Kick off” I was having trouble running for more than about 15 minutes at a 16-17 min/mile pace.

 

Really, all the credit goes to my teammates, the coaches, mentors and staff for getting me ready for the starting line. I knew it would not be easy but all it takes is one step and then repeat. Over the summer the mileage grew and my pace settled in to about a 14min/mile. I could do faster for shorter distances but that is not the point. For those out there that remember me rocking out sub 9 minute miles might wonder what happened. A couple of things. When I went through some very rough patches I refused to eat and lost a lot of muscle mass. It will take a while to get my legs back and they will never be the same. Also, my left lung was the house of tumor for several months and like any crappy tenant they left a mess behind. Scar tissue and the like reduced much of that lung capacity. Less lung capacity means less energy flowing through the veins and a moderation of pace keeps things in check. Needless to say the tumors did not get their security deposit back.

 

So here I was, trained up and ready to go. It started Saturday morning where I gave a rambling mission moment talking about my man Timmy and his experience with TnT and my awesome friend and brother Abbey. Abbey is a survivor as well that inspired others with her TnT exploits and was an amazing resource when it happened to me. She was always there for me, even when I didn’t ask and she was unaware, her presence and share experience helped in those days I needed a little kick in the back of the mind. Well, I rambled then Space, the Psycho and I went for a nice walk at Fairmount Park. Afterwards we went over to the hospital for an infusion of anti-fungal that the doc had me on. I had spent that time sitting there writing and taking notes. We later checking into the hotel where the Team was staying and got ready for the Team dinner. The created an honor guard to the dinner that consisted of cheering, bell ringing and general noise making. It was awesome and loud. A nice dinner and then got to some business. Some words on the course and the plan in the morning and the like and then it came.

 

I had been asked to say a few words because they thought of me as an honored something. So there I was. Throughout I was told that I was an inspiration and the like. Really, I kind of thought I was just being me. Which is kind of an ass about things. I just could not give up on running it makes me happy. Instead of rambling I actually wrote something out which helped. I actually wanted to refocus some things. It was a my journey but really it was about those that where there for me from the beginning how the honor was mine to have had such heroes at my side the whole time. At points I choked up and perhaps the words on the sheet became blurry as my eyes may have teared up a little but I made it through and dinner was done. The girls and I said goodnight and it was off to the room for some shut eye.

 

Waking up at zero dark thirty, we made our way down to the lobby of the hotel and with coffee in hand I met with the Team and some pictures were taken. It was kind of fun walking in a group to the Team tent and the starting line. We hung out for a while before we headed for our coral. There were a bunch of first time racers and I could see their nervousness. I am old hat at this so I just kind of relaxed. It just another start line followed by just another finish line. Boy was I wrong. Because of my new pace I was relegated to the last coral so I had a while to think about what was going on. We walked and joked around wondering if the winners would cross the finish line before we started. We were only about 30 minutes behind the first starters and noone can get 13.1 miles in Philadelphia in 30 minutes not even in a car. It was about 25 meters from the start line when it hit. It was that holy shit moment. I had had a similar experience in a similar spot when I saw the finish line at the Philadelphia Marathon when I was about to break 4 hours for the first time. I was awestruck and a nervous wreck. I couldn’t believe I was where I was. I had made it. We had made it. Cancer be damned.

 

We surged into a jog, crossed the timing mat and …