Friday, June 26, 2015

Nationals Part I

Sorry for the delayed post -- we've been without power.

Matt flew home Monday from the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championship at Hamline University in Minnesota.  I was glad to have him home.  For whatever reason, every time Matt goes away something in the house goes wrong.  You may recall that when he was in Mesa last year I flooded the bathroom trying to kill a bee. When the girls were itty bitty we had a pipe leak above our dining room that caused some damage when Matt went out of town for a wedding.  This latest trip to Minnesota was no different.  Matt left last Thursday morning and when I drove up to the house that evening and pushed the button to open the garage door nothing happened.  It had poured and hailed most of my drive home so I finally realised the power must have been out.  My mom picked up dinner at Wendy's on the way over since we were limited on options with no power.  Not the healthiest, but boy were the kids excited!  They share Matt's love of Wendy's.  Three hours later, the power finally came on.  No big deal you're thinking, right?  Did I mention that we already had a 4ft x 4ft hole in our family room ceiling?  We called a plumber a few weeks earlier and he told us that we needed to re-caulk our master bathroom shower.  My father-in-law did that for us so we called to schedule the ceiling repair only to discover we still had water coming out.  I recaulked the bathroom shower again.  This time we made it two weeks with no water so we called to set up the repair.  Well, guess what started to leak again last Thursday?  This time it wasn't just a leak, but more like rain.  Friday I came home to a pan of water.  I taped up a bag because the dripping water scared the kids.  By Friday evening the water weight caused the tape to give and poor Emily got all wet because she was sitting in the leather chair nearby.  We haven't decided what to do about that.  All things considered, we made it through the four days without much disaster.  (Thankfully, Matt was here to experience the power outages of the last few days with us.)

Meanwhile up in Minnesota, Matt was getting ready for his two races -- the 5000 meter on Friday and the 1500 meter on Sunday.  On Thursday he had hoped to make it to a dynamic speaking event, but it was delayed a few times due to flight delays of the speaker.  Matt decided to spend his afternoon getting acquainted with the University, and more importantly, the track.  He got in a workout, though he said he felt sluggish.  He ran into one of the athletes he met in Mesa last year and the two of them and another athlete all went out for dinner.  He sounded excited yet nervous when I spoke to him later that night.

On Friday he had a long day of waiting before his 7:30 pm race.  He took his work laptop with him so he could get some work done and help pass the time.  He headed over to the venue a little before 5 and was able watch the visually impaired 800 heat.  He did some striders and warmed up.  A bit later his cheering squad arrived.  My dad's family is from Wisconsin so Matt had a great turnout of support from Aunt Jean, Aunt Cathy, Andy, and cousins Bill and Sheila.  Andy brought his high-tech camera and served as Team Rodjom official photographer.  Thank you so much, Andy!  I'm sorry I couldn't be there to cheer on Matt, but it is so wonderful to know that he was surrounded by family.

And now for the 5000 event...

Matt decided to wear his compression calf sleeves.  He wore them in the StarKids 5K and didn't mind having them on in the heat so he decided to wear them again.  There were four runners in Matt's heat.  Matt was in lane 3 with no one in lanes 1 or 2.  The other runners were in lanes 5, 7, and 9.  Matt's only other experience with paralympic events was Mesa so he forgot that numbers must be visible or he could be disqualified.  One of the other runners, Chaz Davis, has the same visual impairment that Matt does -- Leber's Hereditary Optical Neuropathy (LHON).  He's a college kid and very fast.  Chaz and Matt are both classified as T12 runners.  The other visually impaired runner, Michael Kinoshita, is also a college kid and very fast.  The final member of their heat was not a visually impaired runner so would be in a separate ranking for those with brain injury.  As soon as the gun sounded Chaz was off and Matt never saw him again.  He and Michael stuck pretty close together, settling in at about a 5:20 mile pace.  At about lap seven Matt started to struggle with his pace a bit so he tucked behind Michael.  He kept looking at the flags to make sure he didn't get a red disqualification flag for not having his number visible.  With 300 meters to go, Matt decided to surge.  He finished in 17:02, which is a personal best for Matt.  His previous personal best was a 17:05 circa 2002.  Chaz finished in 16:09 and Michael in 17:13.  Since Matt and Chaz are both T12, Matt took home silver for the 5000.  Matt met the Parapan Am Games qualifying time of 17:20.  We are waiting to hear if he will be chosen to represent the United States in Toronto in August.  After a one-mile warm down with Chaz and Michael, Matt and his cheering team all went out to dinner to celebrate and catch up.  He slept well Friday night!

Saturday was a low-key day of spending time with family.  They went on a river cruise for dinner which happened to serve the best pre-race meal, pizza.

And now for Sunday's race...

The kids and I called Matt early on Sunday to wish him good luck and a Happy Father's Day.  The kids made him a trophy before he left and a card, which he took with him for good luck.  We were all a bit bummed that we weren't together on Father's Day.  Matt was feeling tight so he wasn't sure how the race would go.  Then, when he started warming up, he had strong pain in his hamstring.  Well, in the end, Matt ran a 4:35.  His PR in the 1500 is a 4:23 (in his college days).  He was hoping to have run a little faster, but was still feeling ok about his time.  He said the entire 1500 felt like a sprint and in the last lap when he usually has enough energy left for a surge he had nothing left.  Matt came in third, but took home gold since he was the only T12 in the race (the other runners were T13).  Michael came in first with a 4:27 and a young college student, Branden Walton came in second in 4:31.  Matt missed the qualifying time for the Parapan Am Games in Toronto.  He needed to run a 4:30 in the 1500.  None of the athletes made the qualifying time since T13 runners are required to run faster than T12 runners.

Matt had lunch with his cheering team before they headed back to the Madison area and he spent the rest of the time exploring the city.  He also caught up with Kristin, a former DC RoadRunner who lives up in Minnesota now, for dinner.  Below are a few pictures from the weekend.  Andy took many more and I'll post those when I receive the thumb drive in the mail.  In the meantime, happy Friday!

Before the 5000

Matt and Michael during the 5000 on Friday

Matt with my Aunts Jean and Cathy on the riverboat ride
Matt and Andy on the riverboat ride

Sporting his gold medal

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

On a roll!

So Matt's running has been going well lately.  He has qualified in two events at Nationals and has been having some good track workouts.  On Sunday he ran in the StarKids 5K near our house with Karl, who has graciously guided Matt several times.  I've probably said it before, but Karl running with Matt is like Matt running with me -- going out for a leisurely run.  Karl competed in Olympic trials in 2008 so he knows well what Matt is going for and competing against to try to make the U.S. Paralympic team for Rio.

Matt came in third last year at the StarKids 5k and he wanted to run it again this year not only because they have generous prizes, but also because it is a very well put together race that is super family friendly and raising money for the Inova Children's Heart Program.  Our kids are too little, but there was a giant bootcamp inflatable obstacle course and a huge rock climbing wall.  There was also a fun run that Marisa wants to run in next year she said.  My only challenge of the morning was navigating the porta-potties with three kids.  There were about thirty people in front of us in line.  Thankfully the line moved quickly no thanks to the couple that cut in front of us.  After the race we got to meet Ariel and Spider-Man AND get a free scoop of ice cream.  We also lucked out with great race (and spectator) weather.  All of that would have been enough, but to top off our morning Matt won the race, which came with a $500 Visa gift card.  Matt has to cross the finish line ahead of his guide so that meant that Karl came in second and won $250.  Not bad for less than 18 minutes of racing, right?

Matt knew he needed a guide on this course.  He ran it last year and there were several places where he either started turning too soon or missed turns.  If Karl hadn't been there, this year's challenge would have been the orange safety cones.  They had them in the middle of the lanes to show where the turns were and to stop cars, but if he overshot a turn Matt would have run right into them.  Matt finished in 17:52 (which is a big improvement over last year's 18:33).  It is a hilly course and he had done a pretty hard speed workout two days before so he was mostly pleased with his time.  He was hoping to have it start with a 16, but that is probably more achievable on a track than on a hilly road race.  Matt and Karl were in the lead from the very beginning.  Check out some of the photographs from the morning.

A huge thank you to Karl for pushing Matt and making sure he didn't run into anyone or anything!

Getting excited for the race!

First quarter mile -- all smiles!

Needed snacks while we waited for daddy to finish

almost to the finish line -- running strong
Look who we ran into!?!

Free ice cream

Waiting for the awards presentation to start

Awards presentation -- all the kids wanted to go up with daddy

The presenter even told the crowd that Matt was legally blind

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

And the winner is?

On Saturday, Matt competed in the Potomac Valley Track Club open meet at Edison High School in Alexandria.  It was a bigger meet than we were expecting, with lots of local adult and youth clubs. My mom, the kids, and I all came to cheer Matt on.  I have some photos below of the race and cheering section.  The temps were good for both Matt and his fans.  The kids were very enthusiastic about cheering and yelled "Go Dad, Go" even when Matt wasn't racing.  Matt ended up not racing in the 800.  The kids were out of steam by the end of Matt's race and there is no way that they would have been able to sit there for several more hours.

The first track event was the mile.  There were three heats of the mile followed by one heat of the 1500. The mile was won in 4:39 so it is too bad some of them didn't run in the 1500 meet to push Matt. Before the race Matt ran into one of the runners from Catholic University that he competed against at the Gallaudet meet.  He decided to race in the 1500 with Matt.  There were a few other adults and about 10 kids prepping for the Junior Olympics that ran the 1500.  Matt had to hold back in the last 300-400 meters because he had lapped the kids and he didn't want to run into anyone.  That would not have been good!  In order to qualify to complete in the 1500 at Nationals, Matt needed to run at least a 5:04.  He ran a 4:40 and came in first.  Woohoo!  He didn't run all out so there is room for improvement when he races at Hamline University in a few weeks at Nationals.  The 5000 and 1500 are on different days so he has a good shot in both events.  I cashed in airline miles to buy his plane ticket last night and he has his hotel reservations so it is all starting to feel real.  The only downside of Nationals is that he'll miss Father's Day.  We'll have to have a rain day the following weekend. :-)

Here are the standards for Matt's vision classification in order to make the US team and compete in either the Pan American Games or Worlds this year

National Team A standard: 4:00:30
National Team B standard:  4:04
Parapan Am Games minimum:  4:30
World Championships A standard:  4:20
World Championships B standard:  4:27

National Team A standard: 14:45:03
National Team B standard:  15:16
Parapan Am Games minimum:  17:20
World Championships A standard:  16:15
World Championships B standard:  16:40

Don't forget about Sunday's StarKids 5k in Fairfax!  Hope to see you there!