Friday, December 12, 2014

Greatness...and the California International Marathon

I started this blog in April with the simple goal of documenting Matt's journey to pursue his dream of making the US Paralympic team.  This past weekend was a huge milestone in that journey.  Matt ran his first marathon in two years with the ambitious yet achievable goal of breaking three hours.  His PR had been 3 hours and a few seconds and with a half marathon PR of 1:20 it is not crazy to think he could shave off a few seconds.

Two weeks before the marathon Matt started to get Achilles pain.  I knew it must have been bad because Matt took a week off of running and was walking around wearing an ice pack any chance he could.  He even was stretching.  Getting Matt to stretch is like having a clean house--a rare occurrence.  Then, Matt found out that the race was certified by the International Paralympic Committee and running a sub 3 hour race could allow him to run in the London Marathon in April, a Rio trial. So let's just say Matt was feeling a bit of pressure. The week before the race he had some short runs and began to regain his confidence.  It is amazing how one off week with pain can tank, at least mentally, six months of hard training.  Last Friday he left for Sacramento with renewed enthusiasm.  

This was Matt's third time to Sacramento for this marathon.  Running this race was definitely about competing for Matt, but it was also about supporting the many visually impaired and blind runners he has met and befriended over the last five years, and helping to educate and demonstrate what being a visually impaired and blind athlete means. There were 47 visually impaired runners running the marathon or the marathon relay, each with unique stories and trials that brought them to this race.  I continue to be amazed and humbled by these athletes.  With that many in his field we knew that Matt would have steep competition.  Adrian Broca, a fellow distance runner with Leber's, has stood on the Boston Marathon podium with Matt both times he's run that race, and both times coming in faster than Matt.  (More on Boston later.)  

The weekend had a full itinerary of dinners, lectures, and events.  Matt called frequently telling me about his experiences.  His excitement was apparent.  He had two awesome guides with him, one for each half.  He has come to rely on his guides, which is no small feat after 30+years running without guides.  This year during the marathon, a group of young visually impaired paralympic hopefuls participated in the USABA Paralympic Experience.  This event was not short on inspiration.  Matt probably wouldn't have known about the California International Marathon if it wasn't for Richard Hunter, the force behind making it the USABA Marathon Championship, increasing the field of very talented visually impaired runners, securing funds to help offset travel costs for these athletes, and partnering with local universities to provide guides and overall support to the runners.  I remember getting a call out of the blue after Matt's first Boston and it was Richard.  He asked for Matthew so I thought it was a telemarketer, but he then went on to say he was a fellow visually impaired runner and I quickly handed over the phone to Matt.  He called to introduce himself and recruit Matt to consider coming out to California to run.  The next year, Matt did just that and won the USABA championship.  Richard's mother-in-law, Inge, graciously opened her home twice to Matt for the 2012 and 2014 race weekend.  Not only has Matt raved about her (and her cooking), but it also made it possible for us to afford Matt going to the race.  

You probably are ready for me to just give you the results already.  Okay, okay.  I spoke to Matt the night before the marathon and his plan was to run 6:40 miles.  He felt great at the start.  In fact, the bus was able to take the visually impaired runners directly to the start and saving them a walk up a big hill.  He went through the 10k in 6:39s and the 20 mile mark he was holding a 6:47 pace, still on track for a sub-3:00 marathon.  At mile 24 Matt's right hamstring completely locked up on him to the point of having to walk it out.  Paramedics were running after him to see if he needed help, but he told them no.  If they had even touched him he would have been forced to leave the race mile 24.  Matt was able to get back up to a run, but he was in pain.  In the end, he finished in an overall time of 3:04:21, a very respectful time AND a Boston qualifying time.  Unfortunately, it was four minutes over the London A standard.  It secured him the 3rd place overall Visually Impaired runner place (and second B2 finisher).  I was heartbroken for Matt.  If I were him, I probably would have cried.  But when I spoke to him shortly after, expecting to hear disappointment in his voice, I heard excitement and the words, "I gave it everything I had."  He then went on to tell me that he knew Adrian was ahead of him (we later learned that Jason Romero was also ahead of him) and then started talking about his great guides (Mike and Drew), the race overall, and how he needed food.  I called this post "Greatness" because that is the word that came to mind after I got off the phone with Matt on Sunday.  Greatness as an athlete in giving it everything he could.  Greatness as a competitor in being supportive and thrilled for his fellow VI runners.  Greatness as a dad in showing our children, whether or not they understand it now, how important it is to accept defeat and not see it as weakness.  Greatness in life in not dwelling on his time, but instead going on to enjoy the rest of his activities that day.  Greatness as a group of VI runners together supporting each other doing what they love.

Matt's not sure what is next.  It's only be a few days and he's still has the post-marathon shuffle. It could be Boston in April, or it could be focusing on track events instead.  We knew the road to Rio would be long, but he's still on his way.  For right now, the focus is on family and Christmas.  I'm sure the running shoes will be dusted off soon.

Before I close I want to tell you a feel good moment I had over the weekend.  I write this blog and have no idea who reads it.  I see the number tally, but that's about it.  Matt said that not only did several people tell him over the course of the weekend that they read it regularly, but also that the post I wrote about Matt placing at Boston (and getting his picture with Kara Goucher) was the subject of discussion and that THAT post got forwarded to the Boston Marathon's Disability Director.  (Here's a link:  Running Celebrities post) This year the Boston Marathon did not include the Visually Impaired runners (and some of the other disability categories) in the awards ceremony.  I don't know if my post will change any one's mind, but I hope it at least planted a seed that every winner, regardless of time, deserves that  feeling of being recognized for their amazing achievement along with all of the other winners.  It is important for the overall winners to see and cheer on the other categories, too, because as hard as the race might have been for the overall winner, it was just as hard if not harder to have done it without sight, missing limbs, or in one of the many other categories of runners.  The Visually Impaired winners aren't even listed on the 2014 winners results page.  If Matt does run the 2015 Boston Marathon, I hope he'll be able to go to the awards ceremony, either as an award recipient or to cheer on the VI runner that is the award recipient.  I'm not sure who might be reading this today, but I hope you agree!

Here are some pictures to help document the weekend.  I'd like to say a big thank you to Mike an Drew, Matt's two guides for taking care of him on the race course, and Richard Hunter and his family for making this event what it is!

Matt with his two guides - Drew (L) and Mike (R)

Matt (right after finishing) with Adrian (L), Aaron (CR) and Michael (R)

VI 1st - 4th place finishers posing with Delta Gamma who supported the runners throughout the weekend

Matt and Richard

Monday, December 1, 2014

What's in a box?

I don’t know how things are in your house, but in my house it is a really big deal to get the mail.  The girls love to ride their little tricycles down the driveway and alternate days to open the mailbox and pull out the mail.  Zachary isn’t as fast getting down the driveway so he usually waits until he gets a piece of junk mail to play with.  But the only thing better than getting mail from the mailbox is if we receive a box.  Last month we got several small packages in one day and it was a family affair to bring them inside, guess what might be in there and who it might be for, and then to finally open it.  What does it have to do with running you might ask?  A lot!  Each little package contained new running gear for Matt compliments of Brooks Running.  Yep, FREE running gear!  How awesome is that?!  As I have lamented in several posts now, Matt is a creature of habit in his running attire.  Unless you look closely at his bib number, you might think the photos are all from the same race. But no, the fact is that he wears the same Brooks singlet, shorts, and racing flats in every race.  Well now we have a new uniform for Matt to wear!  Brooks sent Matt a singlet, shorts, racing flats, running jacket, AND running pants.  He’s set for all seasons!  The color scheme is neon yellow to boot which increases his visibility to others.  The girls took turns walking and sort of galloping in the shoes and then after a few near breakdowns that one sister wasn’t sharing, they each got one shoe to wear and held races in the hallway.  I’m not sure how much Zachary cared about the content of the packages, but he loved sitting on the boxes, opening the boxes, putting toys in the boxes, and even using one of them as a hat.  I think we had about two hours’ worth of entertainment, which to three little kids is priceless.  Below are a few pictures to document our evening.  Thank you Brooks Running for helping support Matt’s journey to Rio.  Even if he doesn’t make it, he’ll be well dressed!  

P.S. About the same time that these packages came, Matt order himself a pair of racers to wear in the marathon.  (The racers Brooks sent him are geared for the 1/2 marathon and below.)  Although he commented that the racers (also by Brooks) fit snug, he decided to give them a try on a seven mile run.  He said they didn't hurt when he ran, but wasn't completely sold on the shoe.  Upon further inspection he realized that the racers were actually a size 9 1/2 instead of his size 11.  Um, I'd say those must have fit snug.  He returned them for his appropriate size.  I'm not sure his vision can be blamed for him ordering the wrong size.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Guess What Matt Did on Sunday?!

On Sunday, November 2nd, Matt, Shelly and I ran in the National Race to End Women’s Cancer 5K that started and finished at Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC.  The race is put on by the Foundation for Women's Cancer to raise awareness to prevent, detect, treat and defeat women's cancer and provide crucial grant funding to researchers.  Every seven minutes a woman is diagnosed with a reproductive cancer.  That needs to change.  The race website says that the race raised $463,991 yesterday.  It’s not too late to donate!  We ran the race in support of my mom, Diane, who is three and half years in remission from endometrial cancer.  Go, Mom!  She was out in the blustery cold yesterday morning wearing Zachary and pushing the twins in the stroller to cheer on the three of us as we ran.  It was a beautiful morning for a race and I particularly liked the 9am start—much more manageable with three little ones! 

Before the race--Emily wasn't in a picture mood

Granma with Zachary

The race had a number of turns and turn-arounds so Matt was fortunate enough to have a guide, Chuck, from the Georgetown Running Club, guide him on the race course.  Last year Matt ran this race (which was an 8k) without a guide and overshot a turn and lost his third place finish.  (Not that there is anything wrong with being the fourth placed male finisher!)  This year, however, with a guide, he was the OVERALL WINNER with a time of 18:15!!!  To quote our daughter Emily, “Daddy was faster than everyone else today!”  I finished about ten minutes behind Matt, but Marisa still said I ran “very, very fast” so I appreciate her support, too.  Since it was an out-and-back they got to see us all twice on the race course.  It was so much fun and we loved running for such an important cause. 

Matt taking the lead at the start line

Matt about to break the ribbon at the finish line
As if getting up and WINNING a race wasn’t enough for Matt, he decided to add on an additional TWENTY miles.  Originally when we signed up for the race Matt was going to do his long run on Friday like usual, but that would have meant racing on very tired legs.  Instead I came up with the ingenious idea of racing the race on fresh legs and then running home.  The good thing about a long training run is that you just have to finish it.  It doesn’t really matter your pace.  The kids (and Granma) were cold so I took them home and Shelly and Matt went to get his award.  Thank you, Shelly!  Unfortunately the awards ceremony happened earlier than scheduled so Matt missed getting to go up on the podium in front of everyone, but Shelly did get a picture of him with the race director and his award basket from Whole Foods.   Watch out California International Marathon—Matt Rodjom is training to have an awesome finish!!

Matt with his first place prize

Shelly, Matt and I after the race (not sure why I am the only one that looks like I just ran)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Race Day

What a race!  But before I tell you how the race ended, let me tell you how it started!  Friday Matt and I picked up our bibs for the race and had a mini-date.  Basically, we had time to have dinner out before we needed to be home and put the kiddos to bed.  Saturday Matt got in a few miles and we spent the rest of the day playing with the kids on our new swingset and taking the girls to ballet class.  I also packed because as I write this I am in The Hague for work. Sunday the alarm went off at 4am and we were out the door by 4:30am.  As much as I want to complain about our early rise time, Karl, Matt's guide, got up at 3:20am.  Yikes! 

We met up with Karl and took the bus to Mount Vernon and then we parted ways.  The race had an early start for the blind and visually impaired, but Matt always chooses to start in the main heat.  He is good about getting right on the starting line to limit the people around him.  I took my place in the middle of the pack.  Some races have official corals, but this one just had recommended starting areas by anticipated pace.  The course is a net downhill, but the first mile or so is a pretty steep downhill.  There are a few minor rolling hills, but the biggest hill is the Wilson Bridge itself.  Matt knew what to expect so he didn't start out too fast.  He knew he'd need a kick later in the race.  When Matt got to the bridge the sun hit him directly in the eyes so he had to run carefully.  He had to remind himself  that Karl was driving and Matt needed to focus on running and pace.   Karl not only kept Matt from missing turns, but he also stopped him from getting hit by a Mini that turned into the race course in Old Town Alexandria.  The driver must have missed the fact that 4,000 runners were in his way. 

It has been about eight months since Matt and Karl raced together and in those eight months Matt has gotten more in shape.  His per mile pace was about the same in this 1/2 marathon as it was in February's 10K.  As a result, Matt was able to play with his pace a bit and he set a new personal record! Matt ran the race in 1:20, which equates to 6:11 minute miles.  Not too shabby!  He was the first place visually impaired runner to cross the finish line.  The second place finisher was 14 minutes behind him.  (The overall runner ran a 1:03. Wowsers!)

Matt and Karl were at the finish to cheer me on and then we waited until the awards ceremony.   It was a wonderful moment watching Matt up on the stage with all of the other blind and visually impaired runners.  It was a beautiful collection of athletes cheering each other on and congratulating  one another.  I loved being there as he relished in his special moment.  It never gets old. 

Matt will be running a 5k in November, but his next big race that he will focus his training on is the California International Marathon in December.  I have a feeling he will be having a similarly awesome race!

Below are a few pictures from race day.  Before I close, I would like to say thank you.  Thank you to Karl for giving up your Sunday morning to run with Matt and giving him that extra bit of motivation that led him to a new half marathon best.  Thank you to Pat, Chris, and Jeff for being our cheering section.  Thank you to my mom for staying with our kids so we could run the same race for the first time since before they were born.  Thank you to Elizabeth for the great training runs.  And thank you to everyone who came to the blog to see how Matt ran.  We appreciate your support and words of encouragement.  Rio feels one step closer now!

I wrote the above after the race and before I learned the news that on a day that started so happy for my family ended so tragically.  My dearest brother and life-long friend died unexpectedly of a heart attack that evening.  He cheered me on at just about every race I have ever ran, biked miles and miles with me to help me train, and been the dearest, sweetest big brother my entire life.  I love you Brian!
Podium at Award's Ceremony

Podium at Award's Ceremony

Matt with his guide Karl

Blind and Visually Impaired Runners

Me with my brother Brian at the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon

Monday, September 29, 2014

Almost Race Day!

I’m not sure how it happened, but we are SIX days away from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon, which hosts the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes championship half marathon.  (Note:  When I wrote this, we were 10 days away.  Sorry for the delay!)  Matt has participated in the event several times (winning the division in 2010 and placing second in 2011 and 2012), so he’s very excited to race it again this year.  He took a break last fall from racing since our son was only a few weeks old and not sleeping through the night (which means Matt was not sleeping through the night).  Now that he’s well-rested and back on track with a more rigorous training plan, he has been logging 40+ miles a week and spending his Wednesday evenings at the track.  Last Wednesday he had a solid workout of 12x 400s with 200 meter recoveries and he did it in the rain no less.  There will be no Wednesday track workout this week as part of Matt’s taper.  

Every year the visually impaired field gets more and more competitive at the Woodrow Wilson half, and this year will be no different. Friendly competition is a good thing!  In past years the end of the race has been challenging, particularly for those that are visually impaired because of a long stretch of gravel with some large rocks and uneven surfaces.  Matt almost lost his footing several times.  This year the course map has been adjusted to add in a loop in Old Town Alexandria and to get rid of the challenging gravel.  We’re hoping that will mean easier footing and a faster race!  This will be Matt’s third race (ever) using a guide.  I have talked about it in previous posts, but Matt has benefited from having a guide to not only make sure he doesn’t over shoot a turn, run into someone, or trip on road debris, but to also call out splits and give him some needed motivation at the end of the race.  Although he has a system using two watches, one for his overall time, and one for his mile splits, it is still an imperfect process.  It is easy for him to miss a mile marker or to not be able to reset his watch in time.  Since he has limited vision he is not tethered to anyone so when there is a pack of runners or a hard navigation point, he can also fall behind his guide and let him lead him through a tricky part. 

For this race, Matt won’t have his usual cheering section since I’ll be 40 or more (hopefully not) minutes behind him on the race course.  And with a start time of 7am, our kids will be at home enjoying breakfast and probably an episode of Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse in their pajamas with Granma while we are out there running.  The girls are at an age now when they understand what races are and they love to cheer Matt on.  They tell him to run faster and to pick his knees up so they are disappointed they won’t be out there.  Hopefully they can come out for a shorter race soon.  I’m starting to get nervous for the race.  Not sure if it is pre-race jitters because I am running or because Matt is racing.  Either way, I’m super excited for the race!!  Keep your fingers crossed for great race weather.  The 10-day forecast is current predicting a high of 69 and a low of 50 with sun.  I’d be happier if it was even cooler and overcast, but the weather can change in six days.  Stay tuned!

This was Matt cruising into the finish line at the 2012 Wilson Bridge.  Must be nice to have the road to yourself. 

So this was us the last time we ran the same race together.  That was the 2008 Marine Corps Marathon.  As much as I make fun of Matt for wearing the same shorts in every race, I still wear that same hat.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What are you doing on September 13th? Race for Every Child!

Last October, Matt ran the first Children’s National Health System Race for Every Child 5k.  He ended up placing 8th that day and loved the race, but that’s not why he ran it.  We will forever be indebted to Children’s for taking such wonderful care of our daughter Marisa from well before she was born through to her lung surgery at the age of 11 months.   Forty-one permanent titanium staples later, and listening to her belt out "Let It Go" you’d never know she had a third of her right lung removed.  Her fantastic surgeon has moved out of the area, but she continues to be followed by Children’s to monitor the progress of her lung growth and regeneration.  We booked our beach vacation before we knew the race had been scheduled for September so unfortunately we won’t be able to participate this year.  However, if you’re free on Saturday, September 13th, I hope you’ll consider running this race that benefits every child that will ever walk through the doors of Children’s National.  We know that our story is one of many and that not all have as happy an ending, so if running a 5k can help then we’ll run it as many years as we are able.  

Here’s a link (where you can even see Matt on the starting line turning on his talking watch!):

Marisa at Children's about halfway through her hospital recovery

Marisa today -- happy and healthy!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Down Dog

Well it has happened.  Last week was the grand opening of the Wendy’s that is only 0.5 miles from our house.  Has Matt gone you might be asking?  You bet.  He was there on Friday when all of the Virginia corporate folks and Wendy were there handing out the free junior frosty key chains and other giveaways.  He ran 15 miles and ended the run at Wendy’s to pick up his recovery fuel.  There is nothing like a burger, fries, and a soda to replenish the body.  :) He made one mistake though.  Instead of eating at Wendy’s he brought it home.  All three kids confiscated his fries.  Thankfully I don’t share Matt’s weakness for Wendy’s, though I did put the free frosty key tag on my key chain.  I mean as the driver, it makes sense, right?

In actual running news, Matt has been running very strong lately.  Two weeks ago he did 18 (instead of his scheduled 19) and this last week he did 15 miles.  This Friday he’ll be going 19 miles.  He is up into the 40s for his weekly mileage.  Although it isn’t the 60 miles his schedule has him going, he has had some quality miles and he’s been (knock on wood) injury free.  For as fit as Matt is, he is not flexible…at all.  He can’t even touch his toes.  He ran with one of his running buddies a few weeks ago and they were stretching afterwards and his friend couldn’t touch his toes either.  Not to brag, but I had the record in the 6th grade for the sit and reach during the Presidential Fitness Test so I find it comical that Matt can run forever but not touch his toes. 

Before we had kids we would take a combo yoga-pilates class at the community center by our house together.  We had a lovely teacher named Denise and she would frequently have to go help Matt with different poses.  It really helped Matt with his flexibility.  Matt has been trying to stretch before bed to help him in the hopes he can make it through his next two races injury free.  That’s one downside of living farther out—we don’t have as much in walking distance.  We’re hoping that his stretching and occasionally joining me for a yoga video will be enough to fend off injury.  Fingers crossed!

Zachary showing Daddy how to do downward facing dog
Happy Running!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

High Knees

I apologize for being so quiet over the last month.  Here's the update:  Matt is still running! :-)  Things have been a little busy for us, but I am happy to report that Matt's training for his October half marathon is going very well.  He hasn't made it to the track as frequently as he would like, but he has been putting in some decent weekday miles.  He's been lacking motivation, time, and light to get to the track.  Our three year-old twins have regressed a bit on bedtime and must have some competition going on between the two of them to see how many times they can use the potty before bed.  I think the record has been set at nine.  Let's hope they don't beat it!

Last week Matt forwarded me the training schedule that his coach put together to get him to the Wilson Bridge Half Marathon.  He should be running 60 miles this week.  That is a lot of mileage to fit in between work and the kids.  He has been getting in as many as he can so we'll see how close he can get to that target.  Matt tries to get in runs every day at work to help meet his weekly target.  If our schedules align, we'll run about 8-12 miles a week together.  Since he's on the other end of the National Mall, a four mile run with me adds up to a seven mile run for Matt.  It is nice to have quality time together, but he certainly isn't getting in quality miles since we run very different paces.  Since I do my long runs on Saturday mornings (I am also going to be running the Wilson Bridge Half Marathon in October), Matt gets his long run in on Fridays.  This week his schedule says 19 miles.  The longest he has done lately is 15 so that is a big jump.

For a number of years, Matt's track workouts have had very short recovery distances between intervals.  For example, if he was running 400 meter intervals, he'd only have a 100 meter recovery.  Matt is going to try going back to his college track workouts and see if that helps with his speed.  In college, his recovery distances were the same as his speed intervals (so he'd run a 400 meter recovery lap after a 400 meter speed interval).  I'll keep you posted on which yields better results.

Last Monday, Matt was home with the kids because our nanny took a long weekend beach trip.  Anyway, when I got home the driveway had been turned into a miniature track for the kids.  He did races with the girls while our son napped.  The girls love doing mini races.  They are very good at doing high knees, but kicks, skipping, and grapevines.  They might even be faster than daddy!

Have a great day!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Would a sign make you slow down?

We might live in suburbia, but in order to get to one of his preferred running routes, Matt has to cross a horrible intersection.  Two major roads intersect and Matt has to cross both.  I worry every time he walks out the door.  Disclaimer:  I’m a worrier by nature (remember the fire hydrant story?).  I make him run with a phone now, which he complains about because it weighs him down or might get wet or lost or some other possibly bad thing.  But, it makes me feel better so he takes it with him.  The road has walk lights (but they don’t make a sound to indicate it is safe to walk) and they stop for a reasonable amount of time, but the problem is, cars that are turning right don’t seem to care that a runner (or anyone for that matter) might be crossing the road at a speed less than a car in a hurry to get somewhere.  I’ve nearly gotten hit twice and the only reason I didn’t is that I could see a car hurling towards me going way over the posted 40 MPH speed limit.  Matt wouldn’t see that car.  I know the phone won’t stop him from getting hit, but it makes me feel a little better knowing that he or someone will be able to call me.  I always make him tell me exactly where he is going and when he will get back.  Over the years he has learned to add a buffer (don’t think I haven’t figured this out, Matt!) so that I don’t start calling him two minutes after he said he would back only to find out he needed to take a  stop for a drink of water or a bathroom.  I hope to never write about how he called me because something happened at this intersection.  I know bad drivers aren’t a problem for visually impaired runners alone, but it certainly is more of a problem and it scares me.  I sometimes wonder if the “Blind Pedestrian” signs do anything.  I suggested to Matt that we see about having one added to the intersection near our house, but he is opposed.  Instead, I’ll continue to worry every time he goes for a run until he walks back through the door.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Too much temptation?

Things were going so well.  He had a good first race in Arizona.  He signed up for a marathon for later this year.  He was getting accustomed to his new running spikes.  He even got special accommodations for evening access to a track so he can get in his Wednesday track workout over the summer after the kids are in bed.  But then yesterday we saw it while we were getting gas.  The shopping plaza near our house has been undergoing a complete makeover since we moved last summer and we have noticed a few new places pop up.  Until yesterday none of them were ones that might threaten Matt’s ability to make the U.S. Paralympic team.  

The building we thought was going to be a new bank is in fact the drive-in portion of a brand new Wendy’s.  Matt loves Wendy’s.  It is his favorite of the fast food chains.  The gravitational pull towards Wendy’s might be stronger than the gravitational pull towards Sheetz when we drive through Breezewood on our way to Pittsburgh.  Matt has never been in walking distance to a Wendy’s so this could be a game changer.  He probably has a few more weeks at least until it is open for business, but he is already nervous.  We might need to find an alternate route home so he isn’t tempted.  It is bad enough that Dunkin Donuts, Domino’s, and frozen yogurt are already in the shopping plaza.  If a Chipotle or a place that gives away free cookies opens up then Matt might as well throw in his towel and running shoes now. 

We'll see how he handles the temptation.  Stay tuned. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

I am in Paris for work missing Father's Day, but more importantly, missing my family.  So in celebration of the day and in keeping with the running theme, I would like to say ... 

Happy Father's Day, Matt! Whether holding Marisa in the big dentist chair, doing dragon toes with Emily when she got stage fright, or holding Zachary most of the night when he had an ear infection, you have been an amazing daddy and a rockstar in your children's (and wife's)eyes. There is no one else I would rather share this run we call life.  

There have been the long training runs we just had to get through (aka the month before Zachary was born), the trail runs that were exhausting but completely fulfilling (aka the first few weeks with twins), the marathon after months of training (aka Marisa's surgery and recovery), the track workouts that build our strength (aka most days), and those runs at lunch together that feel like luxury (aka those runs at lunch together that feel like luxury). So although I am thousands of miles away right now, I am smiling just thinking about all of our future runs that we will run...together.  I miss you.  I love you.  Happy Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Run faster, Daddy!

As I mentioned last week, Matt registered for a last minute 5k and he ran it on Sunday.  The race, the Star Kid 5K and Family Fun Run, was a well-organized charity race in Fairfax to benefit the Inova Children’s Heart Program.  As a lot of you know, one of our twin girls was born with a congenital lung disorder requiring major surgery, so running to support any cause that helps children with childhood illness is a cause worth running for!  Matt hadn’t run the course before so he didn’t know what to expect.  We had intended to drive the race course on Saturday, but by the time we made it over to pick up his race packet after ballet and lunch, the kids had reached critical and needed their afternoon nap.  We decided that since it was only a 5k that hopefully there wouldn’t be too many tough or easy to miss turns.  We got to the start a little early and could see that it was going to be a tight first mile with several quick, sharp turns.  Matt decided to take the first mile out fast so that he could get through those turns without a lot of people around him so he didn’t run into anyone.  There were a few kids on the starting line and he was worried he might not see them.  Unfortunately, Matt didn’t have a guide for the race.  With the exception of a couple of rolling hills in the back half, it was a pretty easy course.  Matt tuckered out in the last mile since he had to go out hard, but still ran the race in 18:33 and placed third OVERALL! 

When we can, we stay for the awards ceremonies.  Zachary fell asleep in his carrier and the girls watched a balloon artist make a bunch of different animals, so we were able to keep everyone happy for the 45 minutes or so until the awards.  I’m sure glad we did because Matt won $150 in cash!  We weren’t expecting such a generous award since it was a charity run, so we were very pleasantly surprised.  That covers Matt’s new running shoes he got on Friday!

I only got a couple of pictures of Matt at the beginning of the race, but I thought I’d share them with you.  Since I made fun of him for wearing the same thing to every race, he decided to wear a different pair of shorts.  But really, do they look that different than the usual pair?!

Happy running!  

Matt in the first quarter mile

Matt passing us

We were keeping ourselves entertained
at the three mile mark waiting for Matt to come back in. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Doughnut anyone?

Looks like I told you about Matt’s love of doughnuts too early – today is National Doughnut Day!  Matt intends to stop by Dunkin Donuts after his run for a free donut.  What a nice treat on a Friday.  So back to running…

Matt has been doing his long runs on Fridays.  He works from home on Fridays so he can arrange his hours such that he can get in a 13+ mile run in during the day.  That frees up Saturday mornings so I can run.  Last Friday he ran 14 miles.  Today he is only planning to run about four miles since he signed up for a 5k race on Sunday (the Star Kid 5K that benefits the Inova Children’s Heart Program).  He’ll be doing that race instead of a Father’s Day race that he intended to run next weekend (and one that he placed third overall in last year).  I’ll be in Paris so it is logistically impossible for him to race while I am away.  I’m a little sad I won’t be here for Father’s Day, particularly since we didn’t really get to celebrate Mother’s Day because he was flying back from Arizona.  I know, I know, there are plenty more Mother’s and Father’s Days ahead of us.  That doesn’t make missing one any less of a big deal.

He will be running without a guide on Sunday so he got a copy of the race map from the race organizers.  The race is only a few miles from our house so we’ll drive the race course on Saturday so that he knows where all of the turns are.  Sometimes in smaller races like this one, the turns are either not well marked, or the volunteers there don’t announce the turn.  On more than one occasion, Matt has overshot a turn or completely missed a turn, both of which impact his time.  We checked out last year’s results and the top finisher ran a 15:10 (that is 4:53 minute miles).  This is his first road race since February so we’ll see how he does and whether he places.  Send good luck wishes to Matt!  

In the meantime and returning to the wonderful subject of doughnuts, I’ll leave you with a quote from Homer Simpson and a picture of my girls enjoying doughnuts!

Homer Simpson: “Donuts.  Is there anything they can’t do?”  

About 17 months old and enjoying their first donut.

Emily has everything she needs -- crackers, a shoe, and a donut with sprinkles!

Marisa enjoying a donut.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Are you a runner or a jogger?

I read an article the other day talking about runners v. joggers and in it the author admitted that he was a jogger.  I won’t regurgitate the whole article (though here’s a link because it is amusing: ) but I will say it got me thinking about some of the differences between me and Matt when it comes to running.  

Matt is squarely in the runner category.  If you go by the author’s definition, I’m a runner, too, but probably a little closer to the center on the jogger-runner spectrum.  Don’t get me wrong, I have run 20 miles in the pouring rain just to get in one more long run before one of my five marathons, but I draw the line when there is a foot of snow or ice.  Matt doesn’t draw the line at any weather condition when it comes to running.  Sometimes my alarm goes off and I roll over, but not Matt.  He would have put his clothes out the night before to prevent any sort of excuses.  I carry water and food for anything over 10 miles, but Matt only carries water if I force him to.  

I could go on and on, but instead I’ll just focus on one big difference—food consumption.  It is impressive the amounts of food that he can consume without thought or care that his pants might not fit.  When he is in hardcore training mode he probably runs 60-80 miles a week.  He’ll sometimes wake up in the middle of the night hungry and go make himself a sandwich.  It is probably fair to say that his daily intake when he is at a training highpoint for something is twice what mine is.  Have you seen Matt?  He’s 5’11” and weighs 150 lbs (about 145 when training).  The last time he got his body fat percentage checked he says it was about 4 percent.  That crazy metabolism follows him around in the “off season,” too.  Sometimes it really annoys me.  When we first started dating one of his dinner staples was a meal of chicken nuggets and smiley fries.  Most of his meals required heating rather than cooking so not exactly the healthiest.  I will say that he has always been big on salads (though his ranch dressing and croutons do make up most of the salad’s composition).  The quality of his food consumption has improved since we got married, but the quantity is unchanged and he still eats at least two cookies a day and eats doughnuts at least once a week.  

He has passed on this love for treats to our girls who are always willing to help him eat a cookie as soon as he gets home from work or make a stop at Dunkin Donuts just because.  My guess is that as soon as Zachary learns that there is more than pureed food and puffs, he’ll want cookies and doughnuts, too.  I hope they grow up to be runners with awesome metabolisms, just like their daddy!

Friday, May 30, 2014

What does your shirt say?

Matt had a shirt that he got from National Industries for the Blind and it says “Visually Impaired Runner” on the back in very large letters.  It is a nice technical shirt and Matt likes to wear it in races so long as it isn’t too hot or after races.  (In fact, he’d really like a singlet that says visually impaired runner on it.  Any ideas on where to get one made?)  

The shirt serves a few purposes.  First, it is basic identification so fellow runners know he is visually impaired.  Not everyone really thinks he is visually impaired, even with the shirt on since he doesn’t use guides or walk with a cane.  For example, he did a turkey trot last year and the race was more cross country so Matt had problems with his footing.  (Totally my fault—I found the race and didn’t look at the course closely enough though the website did say it was paved.)  There was a fellow runner about Matt’s pace and the two of them kept passing each other.  Finally the other runner asked if Matt was really visually impaired after Matt missed a marker and ran an extra few yards too many.  For the rest of the race he called out turns and anything in race path for Matt.  Thanks to him, Matt finished unscathed.   We found out after the race that is also from Pittsburgh.  Second, it raises awareness.  A fellow runner stopped Matt after a race last year and asked him about his vision after seeing him out on the race course.  Raising awareness on the capabilities of the visually impaired is always a good thing!  Third, it asks for help without requiring Matt to ask for help.  Matt stopped at the grocery store after a run with the girls and was trying to pick up a few things for dinner.  He didn’t have a magnifier with him.   Store workers offered to help him find everything he needed.  At first he couldn’t believe how helpful everyone was being and then he remembered which shirt he had on.  It saved me from having to send him back for ricotta instead of sour cream or flour instead of sugar.  And finally, an added bonus is that if Matt cuts someone off at a race unknowingly, maybe the other runner will be less annoyed or less likely to yell at Matt when he sees the shirt.  Matt’s not one to ask for help or to make any public decrees about his vision, so this shirt lets people know without the bull horn.  

Matt and I ran at lunch yesterday and even the off-and-on rain didn’t keep the tourists away from the National Mall.  It has been a zoo lately.  I called out to some people so that they could move over so we could pass and not accidently run into them and a woman growled at me.  Seriously, she growled.  I hope she saw the shirt.  Not that her unwillingness to move over for a runner has anything to do with Matt being visually impaired, but if I hadn’t called out, Matt could have run into her.  I wonder what sound she would have made then.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In his words--the Desert Challenge

I wanted to post Matt's thoughts on his recent adventure in Mesa.  As much as he tells me about his experiences it is hard to capture his perspective, so here you go!  (I also threw in pictures of two of our kids trying on daddy's medals!) 

As you may all have read, the Desert Challenge games were a great experience. Here are some of my thoughts post races. Being my first IPC event, I had no clue what to expect. Wheelchair and amputee athletes were the majority. There were only a few visually impaired athletes. For the event being in the USA, it was a very international event. From the first night there, I made some friends with the Canadian  team.

I didn’t know what to expect in the classification process. I was asked to come in racing gear, so I came in running clothes (minus the short shorts), talking watch and Oakley’s.  After 20 mins of testing my range of vision, I was classified as a T12. From the descriptions, I thought I was a T12. Thursday night was the practice night. I got on the track and ran 4 miles plus some striders. I wanted to test out my spikes because they were still very new. After doing my work, I just wondered around seeing all the different types of disabled athletes.  I found out how the wheelchair races and draft. Those racing chairs can be very expensive. I found out that Nike makes a special spike for leg amputee runners. After many schedule changes, I found out the 5k was moved to Friday. All the schedule changes were just posted to a wall, which was hard to keep track of being visually impaired. 

So finally after 2 days of just sitting around, I was going to race. Early in the week, I found out that another blind runner dropped the 5k due to some medical issues. But I didn’t find out until 20 mins before the race that I was the only runner in the race. So the first event of the entire meet was just me. No spotlight or anything. Even though it was just me racing on the track, the meet kept it very official. My first mile was little slow, but the next two were even. I was hanging around a 5:40-5:50 pace. I was happy to have a KICK in the last lap. For my current level of fitness, a 17:52 wasn’t bad, but I still have a lot of improvement to go. After finishing, the US Paralympic coaches were already giving me form advice and telling me to ice bath afterwards. So I went back to the hotel got a very cold ice bath and a chicken burger. Saturday was the big day for the meet. Most races were in the evening so I did something I have not done since the twins were born, went to the movies. My race was the 1500, which wasn’t until 9 pm. But I still went over to the meet to see all the sprinting races. Most of the athletes seem to be sprinters. There is one blind sprinter which can give the pros a good race. There were two heats, one heat of wheel chair athletes and a second with anyone on two feet. I finished second in my heat, but first of the visually impaired runner. I was getting close to the first place in my heat but there was just not enough time to get him. I enjoyed getting back on the track but forgot how much waiting time there is for an event. For a road race, there isn’t much waiting time.

So over all I enjoyed the experience in Mesa.   The hardest part wasn’t the racing but being away from home for so long. Now it is time to get ready for the next step of this adventure!

Matt gave the girls his race medals, but clearly Emily wanted them for herself!

Zachary decided he needed a photo, too.