Wednesday, December 30, 2015

End of Year Report

Hard to believe, but there are only a couple of days left this year!  It has been a big year for Matt on his journey to Rio.  In March, he competed in a collegiate meet in order qualifying for the 5,000 meters at the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships.  Although we had a setback when the University of Maryland would not allow him to race in their open meet due to liability concerns, he was still able to get a qualifying time in the 1500 meters at another local meet before Nationals.  The race director added the event just for him.  He won silver and gold in his events in Minneapolis, but unfortunately, he was not invited to represent USA at the PanAmerican Games or Worlds this year.  Only one long distance visually impaired athlete was invited to the PanAmerican Games and no long distance visually impaired athletes were invited to Worlds.  He was the overall winner of three road races this year.  He also set a new personal record for the 5000 at Nationals, beating his last personal record set in college.  Not too bad for a guy in his mid-thirties!  He’s been dedicating a lot of time to running and we even bought a treadmill to ensure that he can get in all of his miles even when weather and daylight do not permit.  He needs to shave more time off his 5000 time, but it doesn’t seem too far out of reach.   

Here is his plan for 2016:

Gallaudet Invitational, March 2016 - Washington, D.C.
Desert Challenge Games, May 11-15, 2015 - Mesa, AZ
U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships, June 30 – July 2, 2016 - Charlotte, NC

And with any luck…

2016 Paralympic Games, September 7 – 18, 2016 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Rio Games are expected to be the largest Paralympic Games to date; approximately 4,500 athletes with physical impairments from more than 165 countries will compete.  Fingers crossed Matt will be one of them!

I am sure there will be many more blog posts in 2016 as we near the final push for Rio and he'll probably add one or two road races to the list to help get in some competition.  I hope you'll join us on this adventure!  Talk to you next year!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

He did it again!

As you probably know from several of my posts over the last few months, Matt was on the Host Committee for the National Race to End Women's Cancer 5K, which took place this past Sunday in Washington, D.C.  Matt was contacted earlier in the year to be a part of the Committee after his first place finish last year. Though Matt is always up for a fast, flat course, Matt has run this race in support of raising awareness and vital research funds for women's cancer after my mom was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2011.  Click here for a link to last year's summary and click here for a link to Matt's story on the Foundation's website.  The race raised $446,126 in support of women's cancer, and thanks to your generous support of Team Daddy's Blind Ambition, we contributed $1,035 to that total.  Thank you!  Matt was on WJLA last Friday with the National Race Chair, Camille Grammer, and cancer survivor Tamika Felder to talk about the race.  Click here to see the interview  Zachary kept saying, "Daddy's on TV, Daddy's on TV!" the entire time we watched it.

Matt with Tamika and Camille after the interview

A picture from the WJLA interview

Though this is a road race, the 5,000 is one of the distances that Matt is hoping to race in Rio at the 2016 Paralympics so it was a win-win to run this race again this year.  Matt first ran it solo in 2013 when it was an 8k, then last year he and I both ran it.  Well this year we had a team of 12 runners and walkers and five kids participating in the race and wearing Team Daddy's Blind Ambition shirts. 

Team Daddy's Blind Ambition before the race (not pictured are Ian, Donald, & Chrisy)
Matt hasn't raced since Nationals over the summer so this was a great opportunity to get him back in race mode and test out his time on the road.  Chuck agreed to guide him again this year, which was a huge relief since this course has a lot of turns and u-turns -- not great for a visually-impaired guy.  Though there were plenty of volunteers on the course, they weren't calling out directions so it would have been easy for Matt to have missed a turn.  

It was a pretty good day for a race -- the weather was cool, but not cold and there weren't the strong winds we had last year.  I probably said this in my post about last year's race, but I love the 9am start!  We didn't take the kids down to the Marine Corps Marathon two weekends ago because we had to leave the house by 5am.  Leaving at 7am was much more manageable and it meant happy kiddos. 

The kids have cheered at lots of races, but this was the first time they have been IN a race. Emily and Marisa were very excited.  Though they probably would have made it the whole way walking, I opted to push all three in the Bob until the final straight away.  Emily kept asking me when they could get out and run and when I said "now" they were off.  The three of us ran in the last little bit with Zachary along for the ride.  They loved crossing the finish line and got very excited when my name was announced crossing the finish line. 

I know the title gave it away, but I'll tell you anyway -- Matt won the race in 17:29!  It is a huge improvement over last year's 18:15.  Team Daddy's Blind Ambition Ian Clements took second in a time of 18:54.   Way to go team!

Matt showing off his first place prize - a Visa gift card

I would like to send out a big thank you to our team:  Diane, Elizabeth, Gilbert, Ian, Chuck, Jeff, Milky, Chris, Donald, and Chrisy.  Also, thank you to the generous donations from Leila, Tom & Debbie, Pat & Kara, David & Terrie, Jean, Tom, Melisa, and Mandi - thank you for contributing to raise awareness for women's cancer!

Matt has been upping his weekly mileage, but other than a Turkey Trot, doesn't currently have any races scheduled.  He is focused on getting FASTER!  Stay tuned for updates on his progress!

Happy running.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Adventures of Dating a Visually-Impaired Guy

Though most people seem surprised when I tell them, I actually was a runner before I met Matt.  In fact, I met Matt one week before I ran my first Marine Corps Marathon.  That was ten years ago this month!   Since Matt lost his vision in college I never knew him when he was fully sighted.  Sometimes people are surprised when I tell them that, too.  So in honor of this anniversary, I thought I would give you a few funny snippets about my adventures dating a visually-impaired guy. 

When I met Matt, I knew he didn’t have perfect vision based on some passing commentary from our mutual friend, but I didn’t know the extent of his visual impairment.  We met by happenstance.  I had plans with Tom, a friend I met while interning in college and Tom invited his high school friend Matt, who had moved to the area earlier that year, to join us.  Since we met right before my marathon, we spent most of the night talking about running and most likely boring Tom.  We went to a tea house.  I remember watching Matt attempt to pour his tea.  He successfully poured the water out of the tea pot, but I’m not convinced much of made it in the tea cup.  In fact, it went in the saucer and mostly on the table.  At the time I thought maybe he'd never poured tea, but didn’t think too much of it.  He lived right by one of the marathon water stops so he said he’d go out and look for me during the race.  At the time I didn’t realize how impossible that would be for him.  

On our first date we met at a pizza place for dinner.  We had a great time.  When the check came he insisted on paying.  I saw the bill and was shocked when he pulled out his money to pay and left a 50 percent tip.  I had no idea it was because he didn’t want to ask me what the bill was and guessed, which is why he had cash instead of just using a credit card.  At the time I thought he was a very generous tipper.  Now I know that he’s actually rather cheap! 

On our second date we went to a movie after dinner.  We had some time to kill so he suggested we walk around Barnes and Noble, which was next to the theater, to kill some time.  He’d randomly pick up books and look at the title.  I’d ask if he read it, and he’d say no.  It wasn’t until our third date when he told me a bit more about his vision that I realized that he couldn’t have read the book titles in the bookstore. 

When he told me about his vision he explained that he didn’t have any central vision so he couldn’t see me.  He said he centers his blind spot so it looks like he is making eye contact.  I remember asking him if he could tell if I was looking at him or not or what color my eyes were.  When he said he couldn’t I began a little test for the rest of dinner to see if he noticed when I wasn’t looking at him.  I started small and just looked down and then I started moving my head to look in different places.  He obviously didn’t see me because he kept focused straight ahead completely oblivious to my test.  Side note, but after we had been dating almost a year he told me how family had been asking him a lot of questions about me and one was what color my eyes were.  When he said he didn't know because he can't see them they stopped beating him up with questions, but it did prompt him to ask me.  

Matt and I trained with different running clubs.  About six months into dating our clubs were focused on training for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler.  Every once in a while our running clubs would cross paths.  One Saturday morning Matt and his pace group went zipping by us.  About fifty yards ahead was a large electrical box.  Matt slammed right into it, stopped, shook off the pain, and kept running to catch up with his group.  One of the girls I was running with looked at me and asked if I saw what just happened and why he didn't say hello when he passed.  I told her he was visually impaired and Matt usually tried to brush off his “run ins” so as to not bring attention to himself. There were many Saturday mornings when Matt wouldn’t even know he'd passed me on the running trails unless I called out to him.  You probably already read about his run in with the fire hydrant from one of my earlier posts -- likely the most hurt he has gotten while out running!  

Matt joined my friend Jenn and me for dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant one evening.  Matt ordered shish kabobs.  They came with the meat still on the stick.  After staring at his plate for a few moments, he grabbed his fork and tried to use it to get the meat off of the stick.  Every time he attempted he missed.  He’d either hit too far to the left or right.  He got closer and closer trying to help his aim.  Jenn and I watched several attempts before finally telling him he could just use his hands.  He said he was trying to be polite.  We probably should have said something sooner, but it was pretty funny watching his determination.

And my favorite...

Matt and I were sitting in a booth at a restaurant one afternoon for lunch.  He got up to go to the bathroom.  He came back and sat down and started talking to me only it wasn’t me because he had sat down at the wrong booth.  The woman was completely stunned and didn’t answer him.  Finally, he realized he must have miscounted the booths and got up quickly and came to my table.  This time he cautiously asked if it was me before he sat down.   

I could probably go on, but I’ll stop there.  Stay tuned for future installments of being married to a visually-impaired guy and raising kids with a visually-impaired guy. Each has had unique mishaps and adventures.  I'm sure you all have funny stories of things that have happened while you have been hanging out with Matt so I'd love to hear about them!  


If you haven’t yet, we hope you’ll sign up to either run the National Race to End Women’s Cancer on Team Daddy’s Blind Ambition or make a donation to our team.  The race is on November 8th!!  It is a great race and a great cause and we’d appreciate your support.  Here’s the link to join us or make a donation:

Happy Running!
Here we are when we were dating.  We both had just finished the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

When Running is Hard

Matt is running the Wilson Bridge Half Marathon this Sunday, October 4th.  This race is the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes Half Marathon Championship.  He won it last year.  Since Matt isn’t focused on the half marathon distance right now and is instead focused on shorter distances to get his speed up in preparation for trying for Rio, we’re a little uncertain about his prospects for defending his first place finish, but you never know!  I ran this race last year, too, but will be in spectator mode since I will have just done a 20 miler the day before in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of the month. 

October 4th marks the end of a year of firsts for me since my brother Brian died save one – the first marathon I will run without seeing Brian cheering me on.  I always looked to my time running, whether in a race, training for a race, or just out on a jog, as special me time.  That me time got more valuable with three little ones at home, and often times occurred either very early or very late in the day.  It was my time to think and plan or not think at all.  I even came up with the idea for this blog while on a long run.  I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was, when I went out for my first run after Brian died and started crying uncontrollably after only a quarter mile.  I turned around and went home.  I attempted runs a few more times and though when it set in varied, I couldn’t make it through a run without being overcome with emotions.  My days are busy and I am rarely alone.  I could mostly avoid grief the rest of the time, but not when I was alone.  So unless Matt could meet me at lunch to run or a friend could meet up on a weekend, I didn’t run.  This went on for months and months.  

I quickly learned that you can’t shut out grief.  If it didn’t come out during a run then it just manifested itself at a different, unexpected, and inopportune time.  I started personal training sessions at a gym so that grief didn’t find me by the dumbbells.  Finally I realized that maybe the reason I was so overwhelmed with grief during my runs wasn’t because I was alone, but because I was running.  Though Brian thought I was a bit crazy for running so much, he always supported me.  He never missed a Cherry Blossom 10-miler or a Marine Corps Marathon.  In 2009 when I couldn’t run with my running club on an 18-miler, Brian volunteered to bike it with me the next day.  And so began a new sister-brother tradition for us.  Whenever I couldn’t run with the group, he’d bike with me and wear my water belt and carry my gu gels.  When I decided to run a marathon after the twins I wanted to get started before the running groups so that I could still have a lot of day left with the kids.  Most Saturday mornings I would knock on Brian’s door well before dawn and we’d go out for our run/bike.  Afterwards, we’d stop at the Seven-Eleven by his apartment and get chocolate milk and sit on his front porch and drink them before I headed home.  I decided to challenge myself to train for this year’s Marine Corps Marathon.  I ran my first marathon in 2005 so it seemed appropriate to run it again 10 years later.  The training hasn’t been easy.  Physically, I’ve been injured and going to physical therapy for three months now trying to fix the plantar fasciitis in my left foot.  Mentally, I’ve been trying to balance the great memories I have of Brian with the pain of him being gone.  I’ve been fortunate to have company on many of my long runs.  But when I don’t I have accepted that they will be hard, both physically and mentally.  I still have chocolate milk afterwards; just now I usually end up sharing it with kids. I miss him every day.

Emily thought we should send Uncle Brian balloons in heaven on his we did.

My next post will be all about Matt's half marathon on Sunday!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Special Event THIS Saturday!

Want to buy some fall running gear 20 percent off? Interested in free samples?  Would you like to support the National Foundation to End Women's Cancer  and find out more about the upcoming 5k race on November 8th?  What about stopping by to show your support for Matt and Team Daddy's Blind Ambition?  If so, we hope you'll join us this Saturday!

City Sports, one of the National Race to End Women's Cancer sponsors, is hosting a special promotional event this Saturday, September 26th from 10 am - 3 pm, at its brand new store in the Mosaic District (by the Target).  Passport Mini of Alexandria and Zoes Kitchen, two other proud race sponsors, will also be there.  Matt will be there in the afternoon to show his support for the event, the race, and the cause.

To save 20 percent off your entire purchase, you just have to mention "heart your lady parts" at checkout.  For those in DC who don't want to venture outside the city, you can also stop by the 19th Street City Sports location to get more information and save 20 percent on your purchase by saying the same thing at checkout!

Speaking of the race, it is only six weeks away and Team Daddy's Blind Ambition is in desperate need for runners and walkers to join Matt and I on the course!  We are currently only a team of two--that is hardly a team.  All we are asking is that you register for the race and run or walk with (or near) us.  Please join us by clicking here.  To read our story and our personal connection to this race, check out my last blog post or read about our story on the Foundation's website.  

I know many of you reading this blog are runners, both recreational and competitive, but even if you aren't, you can certainly walk a 5k.  I plan to walk the race, possibly with three kids in a BoB, since I will still be recovering from the Marine Corps Marathon so there are no excuses!

Team Daddy's Blind Ambition really wants your support and company on November 8th!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Come run with me!

Last year Matt was the overall winner of the National Race to End Women’s Cancer 5k.  He spoke to the race director briefly afterwards when he was getting his prize.  She asked if he ran it to run in a race or because of the cause and also asked about his visual impairment.  He told her that he is always up for a race, but that he ran this race in particular in both 2013 and 2014 for my mom, who is in remission from endometrial cancer.  Well, his story stuck with her and a bit after the race she reached out to Matt and asked him if he would be interested in participating on the host team as their elite runner.  Matt agreed (of course!).  As part of the host team, Matt is putting together a team race in the 2015 Race to End Women’s Cancer on November 8th.  In case you didn’t guess it, we’ve chosen the name Team Daddy's Blind Ambition.  

We can’t be a team of just two so we need your help!  Please be a part of our team.  You can walk the race, run the race, or join the team and then sleep in and join us for brunch afterwards.  Race entry is $45. Please join our team and help us raise awareness for how to prevent, detect, treat, and defeat women’s cancer.  In case you need an added incentive, we will throw in a Team Daddy’s Blind Ambition t-shirt to all team participants. 

Click here to read about Matt’s story about why he is running for my mom, Diane.

Then click here to register to run or walk as part of Team Daddy’s Blind Ambition.  

We hope you’ll join Team Daddy’s Blind Ambition on November 8, 2015, in the National Race to End Women’s Cancer.  It begins and ends in Freedom Plaza.  Come join us for a 5k run or walk.  I’ll still be recovering from the Marine Corps Marathon so though Matt may be leading the race, I’ll likely be bringing up the rear.  No matter your pace it is a great event for all.   Here are just a few startling facts about gynecological cancer:  every five minutes a woman is diagnosed with cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, or vulvar cancer; far too many are diagnosed far too late in the disease--nearly 1/3 will die; risk rises with age, weight and other factors increasingly common among women in economically advanced nations; and, every year 95,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with one of these diseases.  So…

Help us win the race to defeat gynecologic cancers!

Go Team Daddy’s Blind Ambition!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Nationals Part II: Photos and an Update

Below are some of the wonderful photos from the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships that took place last month at Hamline University in Minnesota.  Two weeks ago we found out that no visually impaired mid or long distance runners were selected for the U.S. team to the Para Pan Am Games, just sprinters.  I am so proud of Matt for giving it his all and winning a gold and silver medal in his two events.  We always knew making the U.S. team this year would be a challenge.  Matt is going to keep focusing on getting his times down so he is more competitive next year.  He hasn't given up on his quest to make the U.S. team for Rio.  Keep cheering him on -- your support and encouragement have been overwhelming.  We have lots of running in the months ahead!  Enjoy the photos.