RFD Turns 1 Today …. Happy Birthday

Posted: November 10, 2010 in Motivation
Tags: , , ,

Joe Still Runs for Dom turns 1 today.

It is hard to believe that a year has passed since the launch of Joe Runs for Dom last November.

188 stories have been posted over the last year.  Some happy, some sad, some triumphant and some quite honestly crushing.  37,000 times readers have visited the blog to encourage, congratulate, inspire, motivate, cheer and more times than I would like to count, help me pick up the pieces after disappointment and hurt.

As much as I wanted to write something profound today, I find myself remarkably for me, at a loss for words.

The last year has been a very special one, filled with all of the things that make life so precious.  I cannot thank you enough for stopping by to check in on my good friend Dom as he fought tooth and nail in his battle with cancer.  The first story on this blog, an introduction really, was posted here just one week after Dom’s surgery.  Click here.

Life is pretty tough to predict, I think all of us who have been paying attention to the world around us for even the shortest of time have learned that lesson.  But when I look back over the past 12 months, I had no idea what was about to come my way.

There was a training injury in November that would put the entire Run for Dom effort in great jeopardy before we even reached Marathon Number 1 in Boston on April 19th.  Tense weeks of Doctor’s visits, PT and stretching exercises, anti-inflamatories and ice, ice, ice.  All in the hopes of getting back to it and taking on two marathons in 13 days.

As I was fighting to get back to training, Dom was fighting through his recovery from Surgery.  The procedure which removed his stomach, spleen, tips of other organs and a hot-chemotherapy “bath” treatment went as well as his Doctors could have hoped.

I remember visiting with Dom and his family at his Mother and Father’s house on Christmas Eve, incredibly thankful for how things had gone in November.  If we could only get Dom’s eating back on track, we were all very optimistic that his surgery was going to prove to be a great success.

I remember sitting in the kitchen where Dom grew up feeding little Nico a bottle.  My wife, was carrying our little angel Landry at the time, although very few people had any idea that she was pregnant.

I couldn’t run because of my injury, but I was training on the bike like a demon and doing all I could in the gym preparing for my first miles on the road to Boston.

As I got back to training, tentatively at first, I could feel the resolve building inside of me.  I was finally able to start gathering my physical strength to go along with the mental strength I would need to complete Run for Dom.

I was growing stronger, but Dom was growing weaker.

His nutrition still was a constant struggle and Dom was unable to eat solid foods.  All of his nutrition was coming from a liquid diet via a feeding tube.  He still had a few rounds of chemotherapy to go, and he needed to build up his strength before those procedures could occur.

On the fundraising front, things were going well.  We began accepting gifts hoping to raise $26.2K for Dom and his family. 

Yet another goal, a big goal, which I was unsure of.  But I knew that we were going to do all that we could to try to get there.

As the Boston Marathon approached I was starting to feel like my old self again.  I was about 90% healthy leading up to the race and even though I had to cut my run days down from 5 per week to 4 and could only post two 20-mile training runs instead of 3, I was confident as we made the trip to Boston.

The race at Boston was a tough one.  I never “felt it” at any point during the race.  Even the very first few miles leaving Hopkinton were a bit of a struggle for me – you can read about the Boston Marathon here.

I remember thinking about Boston in 2009 and how it would be a huge accomplishment for me, just an average guy from Austin, TX – running one of the most storied footraces in the world.  But a year later, the race was all about my good friend battling cancer.  It was almost fitting that the marathon took a bite out of me that day.

None of this was easy.  In a way, it never was supposed to be.  We struggled up Boylston Street with a time of 3:22:46.  Narrowly missing our requalification time of 3:20:59 to return to Boston in 2011.  It just wasn’t meant to be.

1 minute, 47 seconds short

Dom and I chatted after the race and he told me how proud of me and the effort that I put out there running for him.  All I could think about was how much I wish I had raced better.  That next time, when I got my chance at that Boston course again down the road, I had a little score to settle both for Dom and for me.

310 hours later I remember standing in the starting coral at Pittsburgh.  Marathon number two was stretching 26.2 miles ahead.  It was warm, humid and there was significant rain coming our way from Ohio.  Dom, Val, family and friends were all at the race to root us home.

All I had to do was finish.

I thought about the night before as I was waiting in the starting area.  Dom and Val made it to our pre-race dinner and we laughed and joked around like old times.  Dom ordered Italian Wedding Soup and could fight down only a couple of spoonfuls.

My friend was very sick.  The cancer that we had hoped had been taken care of once and for all was back.  I remember that being the first time that I realized we might not win this one.

Standing amid a crush of runners, crowding around for the race start, I couldn’t wait to get going.  I needed some space.  I needed to feel my legs underneath me.  I needed to start moving forward.

All I had to do was finish.

I remember squatting down below waist level of all the other runners and I could feel tears starting to track down my cheeks.  I popped back up, looked toward the sky and quietly asked for a little help.  It was going to be a long, tough day out there.  I just wanted to make it to the end and get that finisher’s medal for Dom.

The race was pretty incredible.  A lot of those miles were painful, some of the toughest I’ve ever run, but getting to the finish line was all that May 2nd was about.  We made it upright and with a smile on our face.  It wasn’t my fastest marathon, not even close, but it was by far my best.  Click here to read more.

After a quick shower at the hotel we made our way over to the Dor-Stop for a post-race late breakfast and spent some more time with Dom and his family. 

In the next week Run for Dom would reach its fundraising goal of $26.2K – mission accomplished.

June and July seemed to flash by in a hurry as Dawn and I were busy getting ready for Landry’s arrival.  I was starting to feel strong again on my running legs and took on a summer of racing to change our training plan and approach to build speed.

I knew that I was going to run another marathon in 2011, and I wanted to be sure that we were better prepared to achieve our Boston Time for 2012.

My 43rd birthday arrived on a Saturday.  Not a lot of hoopla when you turn 43, but I was looking forward to what would be the last birthday that Dawn and I would spend together before officially becoming “Mom and Dad”.

1,300 miles away there was an accident.  One of my closest and dearest friends, my best friend, lost his wife and the mother of two boys on a camping trip.  Before I knew it Dawn was dropping me off at the Austin airport and I was headed east to Charleston, SC to be with my groomsman Keith.

The week and weekend were very emotional and difficult.  Seeing Keith’s boys Garris and Fuller and the way that Keith took care of them during such a difficult time hit home for me.  About to become a “New-Dad”, I suddenly knew exactly what that meant.  Exactly what I needed to do for our little Landry when she arrived.

I made my way back to Austin and back into my wife’s waiting car.  It was a tough week.  One of the toughest I had been through in those 43 years.  Click here to read more.

It was about to get tougher.

On August 15th we lost Dom.  After a fight that I can describe as nothing less than heroic, Dom’s cancer proved just too much for even him to conquer.

Just two weeks after my trip to Charleston, Dawn dropped me once again at the curb outside our airport as I traveled east to Pittsburgh for Dom’s memorial service.  Click here to read more.

Traveling back to Austin by myself I have never felt so alone.  So defeated.  It all seemed so unfair, two young families losing a mother and a father just two weeks apart.  Children who were 7, 6, 4 and 1 would be growing up without parents who adored them.

What sense did any of this make? 

Two weeks later on August 29, 2010 at 9:51 a.m. I met my daughter Landry.

"Landry-Gator" home in Austin

For those of you with children, you know exactly what that moment felt like.  For those of you who have yet to have a child of your own, stick around, there is absolutely nothing in this world like it.

As Dawn, Landry and I were falling asleep in the hospital that night, I just knew that this gift was in some small way connected to Dom and Monica’s passing.

Just two weeks ago I passed little Landry over to my good friend Keith’s arms, Landry’s Godfather, at her christening.  Wrapped up in her gown made from Dawn’s wedding dress she looked like an angel.

Landry in her Christening Gown

I couldn’t help but think about Dom looking in on us smiling.  No longer feeling any of the pain he spent all of 2010 suffering with.

Now it is November 10th and our Blog is having its first birthday.

There is still a lot of work to do at Run for Dom, training and racing to help fund the education accounts for Dom’s children.  After the holidays we’ll get back to doing exactly that as we push on to the Austin Marathon.

Later this month when we travel to Pittsburgh, Dawn and I will be introducing Landry to Dom’s parents, one of the two promises Dom asked me for when we were huddled together at the end of the Pittsburgh Marathon.  I am very much looking forward to that visit.

Joe & Dom - Post Pittsburgh Marathon

The second promise?  I’ll let you in on that February 20th around lunchtime after the race.  Until then, I’ll be keeping that between me and Dom.

Thank you so very much for all of your kind words and support over this past year.  I promise to keep running and keep writing as long as you’ll keep visiting. 

Best to each and every one of you!

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Comments
  1. Jodi Higgins says:

    You said in the beginning of this post that you were at a loss for words. I have to say I don’t see that at all in this post. I see an inpsired, compassionate friend that would doing anything for anyone that asked. I see a dedicated runner with a passion to succeed and help out Dom’s family in the process. I see a fantastic father that quickly learned the ropes of this whole parenting gig. I see a loving husband to an amazing wife who is your number 1 fan (just look at that picture of you and Dawn above…it says it all). I guess what I am trying to say is that I see a friend that I have yet to meet but I know would move mountains for me. Keep fighting, running, and writing Joe and happy first birthday to Run for Dom.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Jodi – thank you so much for the thoughtful comments above, it really made my morning. I am really looking forward to the time when we wind up at one of those half marathons you are quickly checking off of your to-do list …. that will be a wonderful race day for sure! Best to you Jodi and thanks again! You are the best, J

    • Jodi Higgins says:

      Glad I could put a smile on your face this morning Joe! Okay, so I was just talking to my friend Deb and I mentioned that we had to meet you in person and I threw out the 3M 1/2 in January and the Austin half in February. She was very intrigued and will be checking airfare today. Do you think we would like one course over the other? We are thinking that the Austin half might fit our schedules better as we are both off work the Monday after for President’s Day. We would have to fly back the same night as the 3M to be back to work on Monday. That being said we are pretty flexible and could most likely make either one work.

      • joerunfordom says:

        Hi Jodi – That would be so great to have you guys down here to Race in Austin with the crowd! We are going to have quite the turn-out for the Austin Full/Half on February 20th.

        From a pure “experience” standpoint, the Austin Half on Feb. 20th would be the race to shoot for. Incredible course, great running city, bands, energy, the whole shooting match.

        From a “PR” chasing perspective – 3M is possibly the “fastest” half in Texas. It is downhill, downhill, downhill – maybe as much as 3-4 minutes worth. It is run on a great course, it’s fun and beautiful, but only about 3,500 runners ……

        I will be at both of course – so you can’t go wrong! But if I were going to only run one of them, I think I’d run Austin on February 20th …..

        Let me know how I can help with logistics – we will have a blast either way! Very excited! Take good care, J

  2. You have had as much of a roller coaster of a year as anyone could ever have Joe, and while I am sorry for your losses through the year, what you have gained in your daughter is an ability to shape the future. And while the importance pales in comparison, what you have gained as a runner in this watershed year is impressive as well, I have no doubt that you will break through to levels of performance that will even amaze yourself in 2011. Congrats on a year of this project (I am celebrating 6 months of Predawn Runner this weekend, was just working on a post that can’t possibly compare to yours), and I look forward to following along on the journey for many more to come.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Greg – thank you so much for the visit, the message and all the support over the past year. It has been great getting to know you through pre-dawn runner, DM and elsewhere – you have had a tremendous year of running and living. It’s been a pleasure for sure.

      As for 2010, it’s a year I know I’ll never forget – I have some goals for 2011 that are pretty big for sure, but none bigger than watching little Landry grow up happy, safe, healthy and loved.

      I think about holding her at the chute in Austin almost every day. That is going to be one heck of a final mile on Feb. 2oth. Best to you Sir and thanks again Greg!

  3. Brendan says:

    You at a loss for words, I think not. What a year filled with highs and lows for you and your family – kind of like running a race. Keep running and writing Joe …your words impact others more than you know. Happy Anniversary RFD. It is clear that Dom’s memory is making you a stronger runner and a better person. Peace.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Brendan – you know how it is once I get going! I have a lot to say, even when there isn’t much to say …. there really have been a lot of high-highs and low-lows this year – We’re still standing, still fighting, still racing and still making a difference for Dom.

      At the end of the day, that’s what being a marathoner is all about – and I’m pretty proud to share that moniker with you.

      Best to you and the family Brendan – you’ve had some ups and downs of your own in 2010 – keep on doing what you do Brendan. I firmly believe we’ll be racing at Boston in 2012.

      Best, J

  4. Sean Brown says:

    I’d like to add a few more things to your list for the past year. 1) Became an inspiration to hundreds (thousands?) of other people. 2) Showed us all what courage is really about. 3) Made promises and kept them. 4) Provided for your family all while making sure Dom’s family is provided for as well.

    I know it hasn’t just been this year that this is true, but I think you have provided a blueprint for what it means to be a man.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Sean – you truly are too kind. Thank you for all the great love and support this year. The year you became a Marathoner and did a lot of great things for Dom, Val, Sierra and Nico.

      I’m not sure I will ever be able to repay you for all that you did for me this year – but I promise like everything else I do – to try my very best.

      Best of luck coming back from that knee Sean, seems like you are turning the corner with that injury. I feel sorry for that next marathon course you run. It doesn’t stand a chance.

  5. Happy Birthday RFD! Congratulations Joe on touching the lives of so many and inspiring us to be better athletes and people. What a fitting tribute for Dom.

    • joerunfordom says:

      AJ – you completely rock! Thank you for the great support and love this year – you are the best. Wanted to let you know I’ll be making it out to LA in March! I think a run is a moral imperative!

  6. onelittlejill says:

    I feel so lucky that I have gotten to “know” you and follow this amazing, sometimes hopeful-sometimes funny-sometimes sad-sometimes crushing, experience. I feel like, through you, Dom was a part of my life. Thank you for always be real, raw and compasionate. Both here on your blog and on mine.

    Much Jersey Love 🙂

    • joerunfordom says:

      Jill – thanks so much for the visit, the message and all the love from Jersey. You have helped me in more ways this year than I know how to count. I can’t thank you enough.

      I see a race together in our future — we need to get to work on that! Best from Austin, J

  7. Lara says:

    Hmmm, two bloggers at a loss for words… how does that happen? I’m sending huge hugs your way. This has been a year for the books in your world. I think when your eyes are fully open there’s no going back. Live on, my friend. Live large.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Lara – thanks so much for all your great support and love from Boulder this year – you are going to run a great, great race at CIM in December. Best to you Lara – you are the best, J

  8. David H. says:

    So many highs and lows … I feel like I know you so well even though we’ve never met. Thanks for sharing so much, and I look forward to seeing what the next year has in store for you.

    • joerunfordom says:

      David – thanks for the visit and the message. You’ve been a great friend and supporter here and over on DM. Thank you so very much for all the great help, support and motivation this year.

      Best from Austin, J

  9. renee says:

    joe this post is amazing and uncanny timing. i’m in raleigh and drove past a wake forest sign and burst into tears where i had spoken with dr john stewart ( http://www.wfubmc.edu/gs/faculty/drstewart.htm ) one of the few dr’s that called me back when i was trying to find a hipec/cytoreduction surgical oncologist to take dom’s case. he was super honest with me and recommended that if anyone could do it, it was dr b. he said he was “fearful” to take on such a case and i shed tears from his demonstration of integrity and honor. i saw his face tonight as i past the wake forest sign. pulled over and had a good cry. and now i’m having another one. no days ever get easier but maybe it doesn’t work that way. TIME DOESN’T CHANGE THE WAY WE FEEL, ONLY HOW WE DEAL.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Renee – So great to hear from you, hoping that we get a chance to catch up over the holidays. That really is a great testament to all of care the he received, and just how much all of the people around Dom tried their best to give him every chance to beat his cancer.

      You are at the top of that list Renee – hang in there, you are exactly right, I miss Dom as much if not more today than ever. Take good care, J

  10. Nicole Nyman says:

    Hi Joe,
    One of my biggest regrets is not formally meeting you at the services for Dom. The whole experience was so overwhelming. I was Dom’s work partner, so I had lots of time to talk with Dom. He has shared with me so many wonderful things about you and your wife. You are very special people, and Dom adored you both. I will stay tuned in for your race updates and I will cheer you on when you run in Pgh. You will always have a fan and a friend in me. Thank you for honoring Dom. I miss him so much, each and every day.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Nicole – thank you so much for visiting and for the great note today, I too wish we would have gotten a chance to meet in Pittsburgh in August. Just one or two people were there right? Dom really was all-time, just a truly wonderful person that I feel so fortunate to have met and gotten close to over the years. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him several times and wish I had a chance to talk with him again. He was one of a kind that is for sure.

      Thank you for the kind words and I hope we do get a chance to connect the next time I’m in Pittsburgh racing for our friend Dom. We’ll have a lot of opportunities I’m sure. Best to you, enjoy the weekend, J

  11. This is such a touching, rich, post. Despite the hard times, happy belated anniversary on your website (I see that you even met your fundraising goal), what a great cause.

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