Archive for July, 2010

43 Things about Joe

Posted: July 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

In honor of turning the big 4-3 today, I wanted to post 43 things that you might not know about me.

  1. I started running in 2005 to shed a few pounds prior to an upcoming vacation.
  2. I am now 44 pounds lighter today than my pre-running weight in 2005.
  3. My all-time favorite music artist is Bruce Springsteen.  Nobody else comes close.
  4. My favorite song to run to right now is Ring of Fire by Social Distortion.
  5. I met my wife Dawn when I was driving a horse-drawn carriage in Charleston, SC.
  6. I love Indian Food.
  7. Diet Dr. Pepper is my favorite non-sports drink.
  8. I grew up in suburban Philadelphia, PA.
  9. I am a die-hard Phillies fan.
  10. I am about to become a first time Dad on/about Sept. 2nd.
  11. My biggest pet peeve is people who crunch ice in their mouth.
  12. My favorite television program of all time was the original 90210.
  13. I have a 2006 Harley Davidson Softail Deuce.
  14. I would like to write a book someday, but I don’t know how to get started.
  15. Even though everyone assumed I wanted a baby boy, I really wanted a daughter.
  16. Although people think I am outgoing, I really enjoy my time alone.
  17. My father is a retired carpenter, I admire those who can make something beautiful with their bare hands.
  18. Raising a child in our society today scares me.  I feel like there are a lot more bad things out there than when I was a boy.
  19. I wonder constantly when I will stop improving as a runner and I will start to run slower as I age.
  20. I think about returning to the Boston Marathon more than once every day.
  21. I love running in the rain.
  22. Putting our dog Precious to sleep a few years ago was one of the hardest days of my life.
  23. I wish that I was taller.
  24. I lost an older sister to leukemia when she was a small child.  We never met.
  25. My mother makes the best spaghetti “gravy” I have ever had.  Mine never seems to measure up even though I use the same recipe.
  26. When I am not traveling I eat the same lunch basically every day.  Turkey wrap, banana, pretzel nubs and exactly 5 fat-free chips ahoy cookies.
  27. I sometimes sing Christmas Carols to our dog Kayla when she is laying next to me and we are alone, she seems to like them.
  28. I can’t drink tequila or I throw up almost immediately.
  29. Parents who let their children kick my seat on an airplane irritate me to no end.
  30. I am trying to be a more patient person.  It is not happening fast enough.
  31. At the start of a marathon I get very nervous and can’t stand still.
  32. I love running in the morning, especially when it is still dark outside.
  33. I hate the Dallas Cowboys.
  34. I can’t imagine living anywhere other than Austin, TX.
  35. I want to take swimming lessons and to complete a half-iron man within the next 5 years.
  36. I wish I was a better dancer.
  37. When I was young kids would call me “Marshmellow” instead of Marruchella.  I told them it didn’t bother me.  It did.
  38. I need to tell my wife that I love her more often.
  39. I want to travel to Oregon and run in the Steve Prefontaine Memorial 10K by the time I am 50.
  40. I wish I had spent more time with Dom over the last 10 years.
  41. I hate going to the dentist and can’t imagine how anyone would pursue that profession.
  42. I’ve cried for a moment after I have finished every marathon.
  43. It took me more than two days to write this list.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately from fellow marathoners, runners, family and friends as to why we’ve been doing so much racing lately.

Is it some sort of new “running psychosis”?  Am I going through a turning 43 years old on Saturday crisis?  Could it be a manifestation of New Dad nervousness?

None of the above.

At least I don’t think that the first one is a problem, but it is pretty amazing what classifies as “normal” behavior as a marathoner.

The fact of the matter is that all of this racing has been part of what I consider to be a solid “plan”.

Summer Race Bibs

One of the lessons I learned in preparing for my first attempt at qualifying for Boston was that there are no magic qualities that just automatically show-up on marathon morning.

Most training programs have you run your long runs of 18, 19, 20 miles anywhere between: 15 and: 30 seconds slower than your marathon goal pace.  If your goal is to “finish” the marathon, that is absolutely the way to go.

You learn how to stay on your feet for 3-4 hours, deal with fatigue, build mental toughness of pushing through a run on tired legs and can work on your hydration and nutrition plans for race day.

If your goal however is to truly “race” that marathon and chase either a personal best time that you have set or a Boston Qualifying time – for me that means a sub 3:20:00 marathon – I firmly believe you have to “train fast to race fast”.

It seems to me that if you are going to ask something specific of your body, say running 26.2 miles at 7:37 pace, but have never even run 20 miles at that pace during your training period – it is not going to “Magically” happen on race day.

In my opinion, this is the primary reason that so many runners chasing a Boston time fall short on race day.  They run at Marathon pace only for their 6-12 mile workouts, but not much longer.  The runners are simply not conditioning their bodies to hold that marathon goal pace for the entire 26 mile 385 yard event.

The taper-period leading up to race day is important to ensure a top performance, but it is not a “magic potion”.

Don’t get me wrong it is very true that too much training at an intense pace makes recovery time in between workouts stretch longer, making your subsequent workouts much more difficult.  This is also when injury risk is highest, so it is important to train not only “hard” but “smart”.  To race your best at the marathon distance it is critical to make it to the starting line “fully trained”, but also “fully healthy”.

Mixing your hard days with rest and easy or recovery days is critical to making sure you do not suffer a training injury.

For me as those birthdays continue to tick along like miles on my GPS, it became clear after the Boston/Pittsburgh marathon double this spring that if I wanted to make it back to Boston comfortably, I needed to improve my speed.

If I could improve my leg turnover and my ability to “run faster” this summer – when Austin Marathon training begins on October 18th, I would be in a much better position to train at a faster pace than I was one year ago.

Every: 05 seconds per mile improvement equates to a little more than 2 minutes off of a marathon performance.  Back in 2009 at Pittsburgh I was able to run at 7:31 pace on my way to a 3:17:43 qualifying time.  If that 7:31 marathon pace becomes 7:26 at Austin we will be on track to break the 3:15 mark at 3:14:45.

PR’s are great and everything, but at the end of the day it is all about earning my ticket back to Boston.  If I can build in more than 5:00 minutes of “wiggle room” I feel confident that if wind, temperatures, hills or “lady luck” conspire against me – that Boston time will still be well within my grasp.

So – off to the races we’ve gone this summer toeing the line at 7 events over the past 10 weeks.

There was the Congress Avenue Mile, The Holland, TX 5K, three different 5K Races in the Summer Sunstroke Stampede series, the Honor our Heroes 10K and last Saturday evening’s Cougar Country Classic.

We accumulated four age group victories, one overall race win, three top-10 finishes and 3 top 5’s.  We’ve added some cool medals, ribbons a highball glass and a corn cob trophy to the collection …. But more importantly I have been able to carve a significant amount of time off of last year’s 5K PR.

Summer Hardware Won

In May of 2009 our 5K Personal Best sat at a respectable 19:43.  14 months later after Saturday’s effort that time is now 18:12 (5:50/mile pace).

There is one more push left leading up to the final day before Marathon training begins when we will take on the IBM Uptown Classic 10K on October 17th.  The goal for that race is simple – go sub 40:00 or go home.

Win, lose or draw at the IBM I will be very happy with our summer race season this year.  It is nice to set out a plan, work hard and see results. 

Confidence is a very valuable weapon for a marathoner as that event can really test your courage and determination. 

I look forward to lacing up the trainers on October 18th and take my first steps back on the road to Boston. 

Lady Marathon isn’t going to know what hit her on February 20th.

I’ve been thinking about Dom a lot lately. 

I’m not sure if it is the fact that my long runs are stretching back to that 10-12 mile range and I have more time to myself, or if it is because we are approaching the time last year when we first learned of Dom’s cancer diagnosis.

Regardless, as I was contemplating my scheduled 12-mile training run Sunday morning, Dom was front and center in my mind.

I had competed in the Cougar Country 5K just nine hours earlier as the race was held at 8:00 p.m. Saturday evening.  The distance was not the issue as I would have normally run twice as far the day before my12-miler Sunday morning.  But the intensity of racing at 5:50/mile pace in posting that 18:12:61 PR was certainly going to come back and “bite me” just a bit on Sunday. 

It was not a matter of if, simply a matter of when.

I thought of Dom as I was stretching in the early morning darkness of our family room.  I reminded myself that marathoning isn’t “easy”.  It’s not supposed to be. 

So “Cowboy up” and get your ass in gear I thought.

The fact is that Dom has really been struggling since his last Hospital stay.  Over the last year he has had plenty of “bad days”, but right now, things are as bad as they have ever been.  He has faithfully undergone every procedure, followed his Doctors instructions, battled back from numerous chemotherapy treatments and rounds of radiation therapy most recently.

As Dom has done so many times before, his courage and bravery set a great example for me.  So what if it’s hot and humid out there.  So what if your legs are tired and 8 miles sounds more appealing.  I could almost hear his voice in my head telling me to enjoy every minute of what I am doing every day.  Every day is a gift – start acting like it.

Get off your ass and get going I thought as when it comes to my passion for running there are two things I know with absolute certainty.

1.  There will come a day when I will not be able to run.

2.  Today is not that day.

So I loaded up my hydrabelt with two bottles of water, one of gatorade and took off at Marathon pace with a goal of finishing those 12 miles in 1 hour and 30 minutes (7:30 pace).

As I started up the hill leaving our driveway I began thinking about all of the readers, friends and supporters who ask me about Dom each and every week.  How I really need to do a better job in sharing stories about Dom and helping them really get to know him.  To help them understand why those of us who have been fortunate enough to have Dom in our lives, know what a tremendous gift that has been.

So with that I thought I would share two stories about my boy Dom.

Dom is tight with a buck.  By tight, I mean TIGHT.  My wife tells a story that when Dom was just starting out after College he would actually “time” his bathroom “needs” to coincide with his being at work to save money on toilet paper.  Truth.

The ridiculous irony in that story is that the same guy who can be so tight with a dollar is so generous with everything else in his life. 

There is not a single person you can find that upon meeting Dom would not tell you he was one of the nicest guys they had ever met.  His honesty, caring and loyalty are traits that are simply woven into Dom’s fabric. 

Not only is it impossible to find someone to say anything bad about Dom.  It is impossible to find anyone to say anything “neutral”.  He remains to this day someone that I try to emulate when it comes to interacting with others.  He is a tremendous role model for all of us.

There is another story that my wife tells about Dom that makes me smile whenever I think of it.  When Dawn and Dom were kids it turns out that my wife had a little crush on Dom.  I don’t want you guys to think I have a Man-Crush on him or anything, but I can see why Dom was popular with the ladies.  It comes naturally to some of us Italian guys.

To my good fortune, Dom was not interested in Dawn at the time – and they simply remained great friends through the years.

Dom, I don’t think I’ve ever formally thanked you for that – so I want to do so now.  There aren’t too many guys out there that I would shy away from fighting over a young lady for, but you my man are one of them. 

Pretty hard to compete with the nicest guy anyone has ever met.  I’m glad I never had to try.

So as the miles ticked by on Sunday and 2 became 4 which became 8 leading to 12, I found myself lost in thought about the journey Dom has been on since last summer.  He has done anything and everything that his Doctors have asked from him to take the fight to his cancer every day. 

It has been remarkable to watch as through it all Dom has remained true to himself, his family, all that he cares about and those that love him back. 

Proud is the feeling I feel most these days as when it all started Dom set out to give this disease all the hell he could.  I’m not sure that anyone would have been able to fight any harder than Dom has.  He remains the bravest man I’ve ever known.

As I hit the driveway at our house I realized that I had hardly glanced at my watch throughout the run.  I hit the stop button at the 12-mile mark with a time of 1:30:11.  Just :11 seconds off of my goal time after Saturday’s race. 

Not too shabby, but I thought again about Dom 1,500 miles away. 

Next week I’ll do better.

Give ’em hell Dom.

Saturday as 25 women descended on our home for Dawn’s Baby Shower I realized that in addition to being “kicked out” of the house for the afternoon, I was also going to have a free night on my hands.

Now, I don’t know a whole lot about being a new Dad as this will be my first rodeo when it comes to being a Father.  But I’m pretty sure that “free nights” are going to be about as common as a unicorn sighting in Central Texas.  So I thought that I might as well take full advantage of it.

For further proof that my quest to “build speed” this summer has taken over almost all of my spare time, the first thing I thought of was, “I wonder if there is a 5K I can find someplace ….”

I really may need some help.

As I checked the RunTex race calendar not only did I find a 5K race for Saturday evening, I found a great one.

The Cougar Country Classic 5K – put on by Red Licorice Events.

The Event Description hailed the race as:

The Cougar Country Classic where the women are fierce and the men are nervous!  Men get a 30 second head start before the Cougars are unleashed to get their man!

I of course ran this by “Superwife” as having a bunch of women chase after me seems like something I should at least consult her on before I signed up.  The race seemed like it would be a lot of fun and benefited SafePlace, a women’s shelter that is dedicated to end sexual and domestic violence through safety, healing, prevention and social change.

I figured as long as I didn’t get “caught” – everybody wins on this one.

Usually I have a pretty firm goal heading into a race, but this being a last minute decision, I would be racing on tired legs after a really tough week of training.  I was unsure of the course, whether or not it would be flat or hilly – but being hosted at the “Hill Country Galleria” – you have to imagine that the chances of it being a flat course were not very good.

As I drove out to the race for last minute registration and packet pick-up – I felt pretty confident after my last few races, and thought I had a really good chance of besting our 5K PR of 19:28. 

But the more I thought about the 30 miles I had already run this week that included tempo work and hill work, I didn’t want to set my sights too high.  Could I break 19:00 minutes?  Seemed possible.  As I started putting together my race plan  something along the lines of a 6:00, 6:10, 6:15 felt about right.

After picking up my bib which actually had the timing chip built in (Great idea!) – I ran a quick warm-up and then changed shoes into my Brooks T6 Racers.  I scouted out the course and to my surprise it was VERY flat.  There was a slight incline on one of the straightaways, but that was balanced out by an identical decline on the back of the course.  The course looked FAST.  First time I’ve ever been able to say that as I toed the line at a 5K race.  Maybe sub 19:00 was in the cards ….

Bib with Timing Chip Built In - Brilliant

One of the great things about racing is you almost always see something that you have never seen before.  My moment at the Cougar Country Classic was a male runner who had the word “PREY” written in marker on his back with “Cougar Claw” marks drawn down the sides ….. I’m not sure how serious he really was about outrunning the women.  He may have had a different agenda in mind.

"Queen Cougar" At the race start

I went through the usual pre-race ritual of sizing up the competition and trying to find someone to serve as my “rabbit”.  One of the hardest parts of the Honor our Heroes 10K race for me was running out front all by myself.  I much prefer having someone up in front of me to chase and to make me really work hard over the middle portion of the race when my body wants to slow down.

I started chatting up a young man who looked pretty “runnerish” and asked him if he was planning on “going fast”

He said that he was looking to run about a 5:35-5:40 first mile and even though that was a little ambitious based on my race plan I thought to myself – Go Big or Go Home

Let’s see how long we can hang with this guy.

Mile 1:  As the start was announced we shot out over the line and I fell in behind three runners.  The pace was pretty blistering at the start, but my legs felt pretty strong after a rest day on Friday and not having run on Saturday morning.  We took back to back right turns and I was on pace for a 5:40 first mile.  We entered the slight incline and I kept pounding away with my race flats – at the beep at the end of mile one I posted a 5:42.  PR territory for sure if we could hold it together.

Mile 2:  The race advertised that there would be “some surprises along the way”, so far everything seemed pretty normal.  Then we came through a water stop area where race volunteers were holding out hula-hoops.  Seriously.  One of the volunteers shouted:

“Either 30 seconds on the hula hoop or 10 push-ups”.

Proving just how crazy runners are I thought to myself, “man, I suck at the hula hoop …. guess I’ll do the push-ups”. 

Luckily for me the three runners ahead threw the hula hoops to the ground and I was off the hook.  I guess the race organizers were serious about the women catching the men.  At the beep I looked down at my Garmin and I had held it together pretty well posting a 5:48.

Mile 3:  I had lost contact with the two runners out front, but could still see number three.  I pushed hard up the incline on the front side of the course, hit the last water station to dump a cup of water over my now “sizzling” head and took advantage of the slight decline.  At the second to last right turn I glanced back over my shoulder and was firmly in 4th place.  I had opened up a pretty big gap over the fifth place runner.  I had no chance of catching number three up ahead, so it was all about pushing pace for the PR.  I posted another fast mile just :10 seconds slower than mile 2.

Finish:  The final .10 of a mile was over before I knew it – kicked through the chute with a time well under 19:00.  New PR of 18:12:61 – maybe all this speed work this summer really has paid off.  I went through the usual post 5K cooldown.  Lungs burning, chest heaving, feeling like you are going to die …. pretty standard stuff.

I hung around the finishing chute to see all kinds of runners arrive.  Three “Cougars” came through the chute with sub 20:00 minute times – really impressive stuff. 

There was a shirtless male runner wearing a black bow-tie, numerous female runners with Cat Ears, Cat Whiskers, even one in tights and a tail.

Red Licorice Events did a great job with the race with tons of volunteers, great course markings and a lot of cool prizes for the Age Group and overall winners.

1st Place Age Group

For my efforts I scored a very cool 1st place age group high-ball glass and a coupon for a free T-shirt from Mantra Tees.  Mantra Tees specializes in “Slightly Inappropriate Mantra” technical shirts for athletes.  Can’t wait to shop their site at www.MantraTees.com

Was a pretty nice Saturday as Dawn and her family seemed to have a great time at the shower.  Little Landry scored some very cool gear, and upon first glance, not too much “assembly” required for new Dad here. 

A 4th place finish overall which was great, but as I’ve said many times, I’m really only racing myself out there. 

And boy did I ever give myself a firm butt-kicking last night.

For official race results visit:

http://www.cadencesportsonline.com/pdf/266_overall.pdf

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”. 

Funny how although the United States Postal Service does not have an “official” creed or motto – those words (which are actually inscribed on the James Farley Post Office in New York City) when read or heard bring immediate thoughts of our postal carriers faithfully delivering our mail in all kinds of conditions. 

When I was a small boy I actually knew our postal carrier.  He was the same man who came to the house each day delivering bills, letters and far fewer catalogs than today’s carriers do.  

The Sears Catalog was “big doins'” back then, now it seems that either Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, Harley Davidson, Crate and Barrel or Runners World show up in our box almost on a daily basis. 

Now however, we have a cluster of mailboxes in our neighborhood where the carrier just slides our daily bundle into #14 and we retrieve it at our leisure.  Much easier for the mail carrier than traveling door to door – but the personal touch has definitely been lost. 

It is unfortunate as I would have liked to have thanked our carrier this week as amidst the volume of catalogs, bills and direct marketing materials we received this week, I got something very valuable. 

Motivation. 

I received two packages just a day or so apart this week.  One was from our good friends Ralph and Michelle who traveled to the Boston Marathon this year from Philadelphia to watch me compete.  The second was from the Boston Athletic Association itself. 

Ralph was trying out an amazing new camera at the race in April and I knew that he took some incredible shots.  I had been looking forward to seeing them for quite some time.  

For those of you who have been reading along since the spring, you know that Boston was a very special race for me.  It represented a significant accomplishment in achieving a “Boston time” the year before – which at the time I had thought would mark the pinnacle of what I would accomplish as a Marathoner. 

That all changed when Dom got sick and cancer was introduced to our lives.  “Boston” stopped being front and center in my running life.  

All of a sudden priorities changed and “Running Boston” became running “Boston and Pittsburgh” just 13 days apart to raise money and awareness in honor of Dom’s battle to defeat cancer. 

Knowing that I had a second marathon less than two weeks after Boston, I realized that I would have to adjust my goals for that race a bit.  The most important thing was to complete Boston and exit that race healthy enough to run a second marathon 310 hours later. 

But knowing me like many of you do, I did hold on to one personal goal for Boston.  I wanted to re-qualify for the 2011 Boston Marathon at Boston.  An average of less than 33% of all Boston Finishers actually run another “Boston time” on that course.  I wanted to be part of that 1/3. 

Well, many things conspired that day which kept me from achieving my goal.  My winter training injury, the difficulty of the course, the later race start and simply the fact that I did not “have it” that day led to a time of 3:22:46.  107 seconds away from my goal time of 3:20:59. 

For a recap of Boston click here:  http://wp.me/pHGel-ko 

Simply put, I didn’t get it done. 

As I opened the CD of pictures that Ralph sent along and downloaded them on to my computer I clicked a random file and opened it.  The picture below jumped to the screen. 

So close

Out of all the shots (more than 50) that Ralph took that day, this one candid of Dawn and I in the family reunion area sprang to life as if it were fate.  I closed the files and did not look at another photo until the following evening.  There were photos of me on the course, photos of me, Dawn, Ralph, Michelle our friends in Boston smiling and enjoying the day. 

But the one shot that told the story of how I felt after completing the marathon was all I really needed to see.  Having my wife tell me how proud she was of me as I told her how disappointed I was in my performance kept nagging at me. 

Until Wednesday.  

When the USPS delivered my official finisher’s certificate from the Boston Athletic Association and the official results book. 

There it was again in black and white: 

As I left the house this morning on my Thursday training run I thought about the next 12 weeks.  What I need to accomplish leading up to the IBM Uptown Classic on October 17th – where we hope to post a sub 40:00 minute 10K time. 

173 Feet in elevation change (17 stories)

The following day, Monday October 18th, training for the 20th Running of the Austin Marathon held on February 20, 2011 begins.  

That is the race where we will chase down our sub 3:20:00 marathon time and achieve another “Boston Time”.  I have a very different post-race photo in mind when we return to Boston – but I’ll have to re-qualify to get a second chance at that course. 

So Thursdays from here on out will be grueling.  The third straight run day each week after Tempo work on Tuesday’s and a “Naked” pace run on Wednesdays. 

Each Thursday will be dedicated to hill work.  6 miles of “ups and downs” :20 seconds per mile faster than Marathon pace. 

The speed work this summer in the Texas heat has really been done with one goal in mind.  Getting faster.  I have been pushing myself, racing almost every week to improve my leg turnover and build speed. 

When October 18th rolls around whether we make our sub 40:00 minute goal at the IBM Uptown Classic or not we will be in a great position to enter our Marathon training faster than we have ever been before.  

The 18-weeks to follow leading up to the Austin Marathon will focus on strength, stamina and mental toughness – all the while enjoying the gains made this summer dropping our average mile time by close to :10 seconds. 

Over the course of 26.2 miles that :10 second per mile gain equates to more than 4 minutes on the race clock.  Something that will be nice to have “in the bank” the next time we take on Lady Marathon.  She can be a cruel, cruel race. 

So if you haven’t yet, get out there and check your mail – you never know what you may find there.

On November 10th a little WordPress blog was launched.  

As I penned the very first entry on Joe Runs for Dom I hoped more than anything that it would not be just another “runner blog”.  

I was hoping that somehow I would find an audience that would be interested enough to stop by from time to time and read about my good friend Dom and his truly courageous battle to defeat cancer. 

I hoped that through the blog they would get a chance to learn about Dom, about how much we all care about him and love him.

I have come to realize that among the many horrors in battling cancer is the feeling of helplessness. 

It is something that makes you feel like it is happening to you or to someone that you love. 

It is tough to feel proactive, tough to feel like you are taking the fight to the disease, not the other way around.  So as Run for Dom went from the crazy idea of running two marathons in 13 days to honor Dom, to the actual pursuit of said craziness, it was time to spread the word. 

This little WordPress Blog had found it’s voice.

At the start I had also hoped that the readers would find out a little about me, and that I in turn would find out some things about myself.

Never in a million years did I think that we would have more than 21,250 visits to the blog, raise more than $27,000 for Dom and his family and received more than 1,000 comments to our 130 posts.

It really has been an amazing 8 months.

For me the personal side of things has been pretty amazing as well as Dawn and I are now only ~6 weeks away from the arrival of our first child Landry.  I have run over 950miles, biked another 500, finished a couple of marathons, a half-marathon, a mile race, completed four 5K’s and claimed an overall victory in our first 10K race last week. 

That is an action packed 32 weeks for sure.

But Tuesday, I got a great surprise as my friend Jill who writes a terrific blog – Finishing is Winning was kind enough to bestow upon me (along with a few other great writers) the Blog of Substance Award.

You can visit Jill’s blog here:  http://onelittletrigirl.wordpress.com/

The Rules:

1.     Thank the blogger who awarded it to you.
2.     Sum up your blogging philosophy, motivation, and experience using five (5) words.
3.     Pass it on to other blogs which you feel have real substance.

So, first of all, thank you so very much Jill.  You do tremendous work on your blog and always write from the heart.  Having you cite Run for Dom as a blog that you feel has real substance is an amazing honor. 

You are the greatest.

As far as my blogging philosophy, motivation and experience – I have always tried to stay true to the things Dom has taught me throughout the last 12 months as he has battled cancer with everything he has.

Honesty, Selflessness and Live Courageously!

Just as Jill struggled to only site a single blog that she feels demonstrates real substance – I have a hard time picking just one as well.  There is not a single blog in my blogroll that has not touched me in some way over the past year or who has not in my view given far more than they have taken in sharing their views. 

I admire each author of their blogs for different reasons, but they all have a common characteristic and that is truth and honesty in their writing – whether it is Runnrgrrl “telling it exactly how it is” or Richard at IIAGDTR sharing his courageous transition to becoming an amputee runner.

But as I continue to try to prepare to not be such a “softee” when it comes to my baby daughter asking me for the world and me trying to give it to her …. I will toughen up and make a stand.

To Danica at Chic Runner – I have to pass this award on to you.

From the earliest days of Run for Dom you have been a tremendous supporter, written some of the most poignant and inspirational posts and shared with me and your readers your tremendous life story.

Whenever I need a smile or a laugh I head to Chic Runner, just as I do when I need to focus and realize what things in life are truly important.  To me, that says it all – thank you for all that you do.

You can read Danica’s incredible blog at:  http://chicrunner.com/

I would also like to thank those of you who frequently visit Run for Dom and who take the time to encourage me, ask questions, inquire about Dom.  Your visits and messages continue to motivate me on a daily basis.  I read every one of your comments and take them to heart – you are the best, thank you!

O.K. – I’m going to put this out there.  There is a chance, a small one anyway, that I might finally be losing it.

I don’t consider myself an “extreme athlete” by any means. 

Or an “extreme” anything for that matter.

Yes I realize that running two marathons in 13 days is not exactly “normal” behavior for most soon to be 43 year olds. 

And yes, maybe commuting to and from work today on my tri-bike in 97 degree heat to make sure I got my “cross-training” in on a busy Monday might seem a bit over the top.

Maybe running in 9 races over the last 6 months may seem pretty “extreme”.  And perhaps not everyone has a Harley Davidson Softail Deuce in their garage – but for the most part, in my mind at least, I think I’m more or less a regular guy.

That said, I might have crossed a line this morning as I registered for the 2010 Warrior Dash.

Warrior Dash is not just another race.  According to the race organizers:

Warrior Dash is the ultimate event for thrill-seeking athletes.  This running series is held on the Nation’s most demanding and unique terrain.  Participants will conquer extreme obstacles and celebrate their feat with music, beer, warrior helmets and muddy shorts.

When I read that the first thing that came to mind was, “Hell Yes!”.

The race or “battleground” as it is refered to will be held in Central Texas for the first time where 11 obstacles from hell await along the 3.2 mile course.

In addition to running a 5K race over cross-country terrain, I will be asked to conquer the following obstacles:

1.    Warrior Wall:  Warriors go up and over the wooden barricade.

2.    Breathless Bog:  Trudge through waist deep water and over logs.

3.     Walk the Plank:  Traverse a gully on wooden planks.

4.     Knee High Hell:  Speed through hundreds of tires.

5.     Tunnels of Terror:  Burrow through the black tunnels.

6.     Black Forrest:  Forge your way through uncharted forest.

7.     Hay Fever:  Hustle up and over giant straw hay bales.

8.     Junker Jump:  Clamber over wrecked junk cars.

9.     Cargo Climb:  Maneuver up and over cargo nets.

10:  Warrior Roast:  Leap over Warrior Flames.

11.  Muddy Mahem:  Scramble beneath barbed wire in mud.

Click here for the official course map:

http://www.warriordash.com/register2010_central_texas.php

It’s a fire leaping, mud crawling, beer drinking, run from hell.  If that doesn’t get your competitive juices flowing, I really don’t know what will.

In addition to all of the traditional fun that goes along with racing there are not too many races that I know of where the finishers get free beer and a warrior helmet.   

So circle your calendars for November 20th and plan on stopping back by for a visit.  I don’t think that is a race report you will want to miss! 

I will admit one thing however, this is the first event waiver that I have ever read every single word of …. I mean, it’s not like I’m completely crazy or anything. 

For more Warrior Dash Information visit:

http://www.warriordash.com/index.php

I’ve never won a footrace.  Not in High School, not in Middle School, Elementary School or Summer Camp.  At least not that I remember.

But Thursday night that changed.  With a time of 41:06 on a hot 92 degree night here in Austin, TX – I won the Overall Men’s Honor our Heroes 10K race.  Now this was not the Capitol 10K with more than 40,000 runners or anything, but it was a pretty special event and for an incredible cause.

This 10K race was held in honor of the fallen soldiers from the Central TX area who lost their lives in service to their country.  Money raised from the race supports the families of those fallen soldiers to help make their lives a bit easier. 

The race was held at 9:30 p.m. local time so that it could be run simultaneously with more than 500 soldiers from Ft. Bragg here in Austin who are serving at Camp Victory in Iraq. 

They were running at what was for them 5:30 a.m. halfway around the world.

As we were getting ready to start the race we gathered on the local football field and could see and hear the soldiers in Iraq on the jumbo-tron.  This being TX and all, where High School Football is kind of a big deal if you haven’t heard, the local stadium is pretty darn impressive I must say.  One lucky soldier was even able to say hello to his wife over the sattelite feed who was running with us.  It was pretty special.

Af ter the Star Spangled Banner we all toed the goal line and would run under the goalpost, through the starting chute and out of the football stadium onto a loop course.  The 5K runners would loop the course twice, the 10K runners would go around four times. 

Being my first attempt at the 10K distance, I really was not too sure how to pace myself – I knew from my 5K times this summer, that getting out fast was going to be important.  I decided to stay behind the pace cart and turn in a mile about :15 seconds slower than my pace for the first mile of a 5K.  Something between 6:20 and 6:25.

I would see how I felt at that point and try to fall into a smooth rhythm.  I knew that with 92 degree temperatures – tonight would not be my night to post that sub 40:00 minute time – but if I could run in the 41:30 range – I felt like that would be a good effort.

I clicked off the first mile at 6:21 pace and was running directly behind the cart that was leading us around the course.  I had three runners on my shoulder, a man about my age and two Former Marines based on their T-Shirts.  Somehow I knew that I should be more intimidated by their T-shirts than my Marathon Maniacs singlet intimidated them. 

Just past the first mile mark the runner on my shoulder asked, “You running the 5K or the 10K?”, I glanced over and said, “10”.  He asked what pace we were running at and I told him about 6:20 and he said quietly – that’s pretty fast.  That was the first time of the night that I thought quietly to myself.  “You have a shot at winning this thing ….”

I slowed down the pace just a bit to the 6:30 range and decided that is where I would try to hold the middle miles 2,3 and 4.  I fell into a steady groove as I began lapping 10K and 5K runners and clicked off miles of 6:28, 6:31, 6:34. 

As I began the final loop of the course at the 4.65 mile mark I realized that I had been running alone for the better part of the last mile.  I glanced over my shoulder and I had opened up a considerable margin over the runners behind me.  Then I saw the three of the runners who had been chasing me looping past me coming in the wrong direction.

It didn’t make sense to me at first until I saw the look on the first runner’s face.  When they lost sight of me they had made a wrong turn on the course, cutting off close to one-half of a mile.

Now I was really all alone, trying to dig deep and push to the finish.  I was confident that the times and placing would be sorted out at the end, but now unfortunately I had nobody behind to push me. 

I felt myself slowing a bit and I tried to hold pace.  Over the last mile I lengthened my stride again to see how hard I could push and try to determine if I had paced myself properly or if I could have gone out a bit faster.  I felt remarkably strong over the final 1/2 mile and the experience was truly surreal.  I was leading a race over the final meters and would actually “win”

Could this be happening?

As I crushed through the finishing chute I saw the clock tick just over 41:00 and register at 41:06.  66 seconds off of my goal for this Fall, but :24 seconds faster than my goal for this race. 

As I pulled my earbuds down, I heard the men who I had been racing with saying to the race director, “there’s your winner, there’s your winner right there, 102.  Number 102”.

I walked out to mid-field of the football stadium and began chatting with the runners.  William and Mark were awesome and apologized over and over for the error on the course.  I told them that it was no big deal and that they were really crushing out there.  But their “9.2 K” finish time was showing them at a pace around 6:22 which they knew was not correct.  William remarked he was running 6:50’s on the course.

After talking with the official timers and the Race Director everything was sorted out.

It was true.  I had actually won the men’s overall 10K.

I’ve said many times that racing for me is really a way for me to determine how I stack up to the only runner that I’m really competing with – Me.

There are always going to be runners out there who are younger, stronger and faster.  I’m more concerned with how well I perform vs. my own goals than how well I do against others.

1st Male Overall, 1st Male 40-49

The thing I think I’ll remember most about tonight was the camaraderie and the feeling that we were all out there running for the right reason – to honor those who serve our country with great bravery and commitment.  Seeing the families of the soldiers in Iraq at the race was truly inspiring.  It is an event that I hope they do again later this summer as I will certainly be there unless Little Miss Landry or Dawn need me at home.

That said, deep down I would be kidding myself if I didn’t admit – winning was kind of nice too ….

It really is amazing sometimes how just when you think you have it all figured out – something happens in the blink of an eye and completely shifts your focus and helps you zero in on the things that are truly important.

When I’m not running, just like the vast majority out there, I have a job that I go to every day. I’m fortunate because I honestly love what I do. I work for a company that prides itself on providing top customer service, treats its employees extraordinarily well and at the end of the day – we truly care about each other both professionally and personally.

We will be turning 20 next year – and although we have grown, and grown very rapidly over the last few years, we try to stay true to our identity and that is to embrace life and never lose our entrepreneurial spirit. It is a testament to our Chairman and owner, and it permeates throughout our organization.

This week we were in Walt Disney World for our Summer Conference. I am blessed with great colleagues who care every bit about our Division as much as I do. We were able to bring 88 remote employees together for a few days of meetings and of course it being Disney World – a healthy dose of fun.

I even had the great honor of chatting with the King Himself – Mickey Mouse during our opening remarks. It was a tremendous few days for all of us.

Joe & Mickey

Early Tuesday I was on my morning run – big surprise there right? – and I was thinking about the group of managers we had assembled, how hard they work, their commitment to hitting our client goals, but how they also needed to focus on their life goals with equal enthusiasm and tenacity.

I was trying to find a way during the closing remarks that I would deliver in 11 hours or so to tie it all together and help send everyone back to the field, ready to kick off their years with great energy and commitment.

Not only was I hoping that they would all be excited about chasing goals this year, I wanted each member of our team to personalize them, make them their own, but not lose sight that the biggest goal for all of us should be to embrace every moment we have.

“Life” is the goal we should all be chasing. A full, rewarding life, where we make sure to cherish the good times and no matter how hard we find ourselves chasing goals, celebrate all of the small victories along the way and stay focused on the things that are most important.

Family and friendships. Honoring commitments and trying to be the best you can be every day. But most of all, to celebrate the gift of life. I have Dom to thank for teaching me that one.

As I was pushing a tempo run at a quick pace at the mile 5 mark on a 6.25 mile run – the heat and humidity in Florida were starting to take their toll. I was trying to hold 7:10 pace in preparation for Thursday night’s 10K race. All of the time on my feet during the conference and at the park the night before was getting to me.

My run was getting difficult. Sometimes it is supposed to get hard I thought. Another great lesson.

Those bumps in the road, those small defeats – even some big ones, like missing your Boston time by 1 minute and 8 seconds are all part of the journey. It’s not about whether you get knocked down or not. It’s about having the courage to get back up and try again. That is what is “magical”.

Just then the sprinklers that line the path where I was running shot up out of the early morning light and started spraying in front of me. Now this is Disney mind you. These were not your normal sprinklers. These were Disney Sprinklers – strong, tall, high-powered – think golf course sprinklers and you’re getting close.

They water started hitting me head to toe – so hard it actually stopped my GPS on my wrist – and it felt awesome. I looked back over my shoulder and they truly had come on exactly where I was on the path. I ran close to 1/4 mile taking in the cool water and immediately felt like I had shed 35 years.

Maybe it was seeing Mickey on Monday morning, or the Electric Parade at the Magic Kingdom later that night. But it made me feel like I was about 8 years old. I spread my arms out, smiled and just enjoyed the moment. My legs were no longer tired, I ran without a care in the world. It was the fastest and best mile of the morning.

It was then that I realized exactly what I had been searching for over the last 40 minutes.

Life is about goals. They are important. They make us push ourselves to improve and to make a difference in not only our own life, but in all of the lives we touch. I think what makes the pursuit of a goal so“Magical” is it’s honesty.

The only one standing between me and my pursuit of that sub 40:oo minute 10K time, or a return to Boston is me. As I strive to be the very best “New-Dad” possible to our soon to be arriving daughter Landry is me.

To be the best Husband, Son, Brother, Friend, Boss or Mentor – it is completely up to me.

Disney truly was a “Magical Place” for me this week as I learned a lesson that I hope to never forget. No matter what goal we are chasing, whether it is personal, professional, athletic or spiritual. The most important thing above all else to remember:

Don’t forget to run through the sprinklers.

7:37 pace.

Sounds pretty innocent – nothing too outrageous.

Back in May at the Congress Avenue Mile we posted a mile time of 5:24.  That’s pretty fast for a 42.9 year old like me.

A couple of weeks ago at the Holland, TX 5K we raced to a time of 19:28 at 6:15/mile pace.  Not too shabby.

This Thursday night we will be competing in the Honor our Heroes 10K Shadow run as we start our journey toward a sub 40:00 minute 10K time this October.  That will require me to get my 10 kilometer race time down to 6:26/mile.  Tough for sure, but again, very much within our reach if we train hard, prepare fully and race smart.

Saturday's Long Run

7:37 should be a piece of cake right?  My training miles over the winter months when the temperatures cool here in Austin usually hover around 7:05 to 7:10 minutes per mile.  It shouldn’t be to difficult to cruise along at 7:37 pace, right?

But 7:37 is more than just a mile split.  Run 26.2 of them and I will qualify for the Boston Marathon for the second time in my life.  So that is what we are going to be chasing at the Austin Marathon this February. 

After recovering from the two marathon in 13 day challenge that was Run for Dom, the focus of training has been on speedwork.  We have been diligent in incorporating one speed workout per week, one tempo run as well as racing 5 events over the last two months.

Racing has provided me with the little something “extra” to push pace and run those low 6:00 minute mile times.  No matter how motivated I am or how much I want to “push” a workout – I simply cannot recreate the “race environment” on my own.  I need to sights and sounds of race day to get those competitive juices flowing.

The plan from here is to continue to build toward the IBM Uptown Classic on Sunday, October 17th.  My goal will be to post a sub-40:00 minute 10K time at that event, which will earn us entry into the first starting corral behind the elite runners at the Cooper River Bridge Run this spring.

The CRBR is a huge 10K, one of the five largest in the country, with more than 40,000 participants.  Having lived in Charleston it is a race that I have had on my “bucket list” since I started running back in 2005. 

Whether we hit our time at the IBM or not, October 18th will be a big, big day as it marks the first day of marathon training for Austin.  18 weeks later we will toe the line at the start of a marathon one more time with the hope of achieving that 3:19:59 that will provide our return ticket to Boston.

They say that life does not offer second chances very often.  As I approach my 43rd birthday in 19 days and the birth of our first child in 7 weeks +/-, I have to say that I have come to realize just how true that statement is.

It turns out “they” do know some things afterall.  But for me, getting back to Boston will be my second chance at the storied course from Hopkinton to Boston.  When I started chasing Boston the first time, my goal was to reach my qualifying time and to participate in one of the most prestigious footraces in the world.

What I have come to realize in the weeks since Boston and Pittsburgh is that as much as I enjoyed the experience of racing at Boston – there is a little part of me – deep down that seeks redemption.

Boston beat me on April 19th this year.  That is a fact.  Not having raced the course before I was at a serious disadvantage, no question.  I tried to learn as much as I could beforehand and train with great purpose.  But the fact of the matter is I was not fully prepared for the downhill start of the course like I needed to be.

I ran hills in preparing for Boston.  Tons of them actually.  But I focused much of my training on preparing for the climb up from Newton to Heartbreak Hill.  Running downhill really was not a focus of mine.  I ran some “downs” as part of my training – but I did not make it a priority.  Not like I will next time.

It was that downhill start to the race that taxed my quadriceps and calves to the point that they were unable to climb like I needed them to late in the race.  By mile 22 I did not have anything left.  A requalification time was not in the cards for me.

2010 Boston Marathon

I battled.  I hung in there.  I posted a 3:22:46 finishing time – nothing to be embarrassed by, especially with another marathon – a much more meaningful race for Dom in just 13 days.  But despite all of that, I feel exactly the same way I did when I finished my first Marathon in 2006.

I can do better.

That is the thing about Boston, I can’t just “sign up” and take another crack at the course this April.  Having not re-qualified with a time under 3:20:00 – I will have to “earn” my way back in again, just like everybody else.

Exactly the way it should be. 

So the plan from here until the IBM will be to focus on improving our speed , strength and leg-turnover.  By the time we start our marathon training for this year’s Austin Marathon the goal will be for me to be “faster” than I have ever been before.

My training focus will then shift to building the endurance and stamina during the 18-week marathon training schedule and be ready to rock that 7:37 pace and earn my trip back to Boston.  Last year the Boston Marathon sold out by November – meaning that we will have to wait until the 2012 race to take our next shot at the course.

That’s o.k., I have no problem being patient as second chances don’t come along very often in life.  But I will say this.  It will be 22 months at the earliest for me to get another crack at the Boston Marathon.  My yet to be born daughter will be walking and talking by then.  I will have had close to two years to think about that race and all the things I want to do differently making my way from Hopkinton to Boston.

This time it won’t be enough to simply “run the race”.  I’m looking forward to kicking 26.2 miles of Boston ass.

If I learned anything from Dom over the past year, it is this. 

Don’t bet against me.

Joe & Dom - Post Pittsburgh Marathon