Posts Tagged ‘Dominic D’Eramo’

Dom –

I am having a very hard time wrapping my head around the fact that we lost you to cancer 4 years ago today.  I can remember the last time we spoke by phone like it was yesterday.  I remember where I was sitting, what I was wearing and what you told me about how amazing it was going to be to be a little girl’s Daddy.  Here we are four years later, Landry is now just about the same age that Sierra was when we last spoke that summer and I have a walking, talking, hugging, smiling and sometimes challenging reminder of everything you told me.  Being a Dad is everything you said it was going to be Dom and more.

You didn’t warn me about the Princess stuff though.  I could have used a few pointers there, but I’ll let that one slide as I know you had a lot going on at that point with your own little girl and your son Nico.

On Sunday I was in the kitchen going through one of my rituals before any training cycle, making gravy.

You know the drill, meatballs, Italian sausage, beef, pork, braciole and enough gravy to last me between 10 and 12 pasta dinners that will take us through all of our long run workouts and race day.

So I’m in the kitchen, stirring the pot to keep the sauce from burning and keeping all the meat and vegetables from sticking to the bottom and Landry comes into the kitchen.  She looks at my shirt and says, “What’s that Daddy” and I was wearing my “Run for Dom” T-shirt that Howie’s company made for us back in 2010.

Where do you start a story like that one I thought.  So I knelt down, gave her a big hug and told her that the shirt reminded me of a good friend of mine who is in Heaven now and that when she got a little older I would tell her stories about him.

I’ve got to tell you Dom, we are still missing you like crazy down here.  I’m still lacing up the shoes in the morning, ticking off the miles and not a single run goes by without me thinking about you.  Wednesday morning a gift showed up on my doorstep with a 66 degree morning, no wind and close to a full moon.  I tacked on an extra mile for you at the end of the run, thinking about 8/15 as well as how much ground we have to cover before we are ready to kick-off Austin Marathon training on October 14.

This morning I was in Atlanta for work and even though it was technically a rest day, I took the stems out for a little tour of downtown Atlanta.

It’s been awhile Dom since I’ve been this excited about a training cycle.

Probably Houston or Big Cottonwood and we know how those races went – or didn’t go actually as we had to pull out due to injury.

But I’ve got a feeling that we’re doing all the right things this time Dom and getting back to basics:

1.  A long base building period.

2.  5 Run days per week, 2 complete rest days.

3.  Quality over quantity like we did for our races in Boston, NYC, Austin and Pittsburgh in previous years.

Come February Dom we are going to be ready to eat lightning and crap thunder.  I learned a lot about myself at Ironman Texas – and most of those lessons spell bad news for the Austin Marathon.

On a day where I feel a little bit lost and the questions far outnumber the answers – it was really nice to have you out there with me as the sun was coming up in Georgia pointing me the way.

Thank you Dom, we love and miss you.

 

 

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A few of my athlete friends told me in the weeks leading up to Ironman Texas that after that race, you would never be the same again.

That after Ironman, I was going to feel different, look at challenges differently, have a shift in focus, refined clarity.

After 2 months of enjoying some downtime in June and July, running when I felt like it, riding the bike a bit, a couple of easy swims I have reached that point.

What I have realized is that at the end of the day, I’m a marathoner.

I might not necessarily be a great one.  And in fact, there is strong evidence that I am a much better middle distance runner (10K, 10M, half-marathon), but at the end of the day, that is who I am.

With the four-year anniversary of us losing Dom staring me in the face – (8/15/10 – RIP) – I decided that I wanted to get back to basics, set aside the distractions of being a part-time triathlete/Ironman and get ready to train in a serious way for this year’s hometown Austin Marathon.austin-marathon-600x399

Specificity and consistency are the two things that build a strong runner in my view.  It has always been that way for me.  When I have been able to stay injury free and stick to my schedule of Monday off, Tuesday Easy, Wednesday Hard, Thursday Easy, Friday off, Saturday Quality, Sunday Long I have been a very dangerous runner on race day.

So we’re going to go back into the shop for the rest of August and September.  Get back to our 5 run day, 2 off day schedule and build our base back to the point where we are bullet-proof heading into the 18 week training cycle for Austin.

I haven’t worn my watch all week on my runs and I am not going to put it on until after Labor Day.  I’m running entirely by feel, covering my known routes where I do not need to track each individual mile.  I’ve worn ruts in the streets and trails around our home in Austin.  I know exactly which routes are 5 miles, 6.2 miles, 8.3 miles, 10, 12 and 16.  The combination of those routes provides me with every single distance necessary to complete marathon training from 10 kilometer threshold runs, 8 mile easy days, mid-week medium-long runs and Sunday long days all the way up to 22 miles.

I spent the last few days putting together my training plan and have the 90 workouts aligned in our calendar that will take us from October 14th up to race day on the 15th of February.  There are some rather big days sprinkled throughout that cycle and realizing that we are now in our 47th year on the planet, recovery and rest is going to be more critical than ever to staying healthy and toeing the line at the Freescale Marathon 100% ready to rumble.  It is going to require the occasional vacation day from work to recover after a hard mid-week threshold workout of 12-14 miles at 6:39 pace, but that is just fine.  We’ll make the time.

The question looming out there is can we throw down a best-ever marathon time 8 1/2 years after our first one?  It will be 4 years since we ran Austin back in 2011 and a little more than 3 years since we ran our current PR in NYC.

The answer as of today is, I’m not really sure.  In the coming months that picture is going to come into focus.  I do know this, if we are able to put together a solid cycle, stay healthy and remain determined to put ourselves in the best possible position on race day – the results will be there.

If we get a nice cool morning and no wind, maybe even that elusive sub 3 hour marathon is out there in front of us.  If not, can we PR?  I’d be pretty darn happy with that.  An Austin Marathon course PR which would require a 3:15 flat?  That would be fine.  A Boston time of sub 3:25:00?  Barring a disastrous race, we should be able to throw that down fairly comfortably .

But that’s the thing about going for it in the marathon vs. other race distances.  A small miscalculation in a 10K may cost you :30 seconds.  In a half-marathon, you may fade late and lose a minute to a minute and a half.  The difference between running to your potential in the marathon and finishing :20 minutes behind your goal time is actually razor-thin.  Those last 10 kilometers after mile 20 is when the marathon actually begins.

How you get to mile 20 will define your race more than every other variable.

Fitness, health, nutrition, hydration, your mental toughness, course conditions, the weather – it all comes together in a perfect storm on marathon day.

That’s what makes it such a remarkable event.  That’s what makes it worth going back to.

That’s what makes me a marathoner.

I know that we have one more great race in us.  Time to prove it.

 

Plugging back in …

Posted: November 25, 2013 in Training
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Ever since we started training to “Run for Dom” in the winter of 2009 we have been training, posting and chronicling all of the highs, lows, struggles and victories along the way.

Back then I was concerned with how in the world I was going to be able to run two marathons just 13 days apart.  I trained hard, tried to take care of myself the best that I could and strapped myself in for at the time was the most difficult race of my life.  Pittsburgh in May 2010 was a long day at the office for sure, but in the end it was still over with in less than 3 hours and 45 minutes.

I wondered at the time what was going to be the next adventure, never really thinking we were going to top that effort.  One of the by products of training to run those races for Dom was cross training on the bike. I planned on some day trying a triathlon. Just for fun of course.  But never anything crazy.  Certainly not an Ironman.

Maybe I’m one of the few people who honestly believed that, but I honestly didn’t think we would ever “go there”.  I have told numerous runners that unless you feel like you “need” to run a marathon, you shouldn’t do it.

Wanting to just isn’t enough, to do it in a serious way, you have to need it. The requirements are just too stringent for us amateur athletes. The penalties too severe if you are undertrained or injured.

For Ironman, the same disclaimer applies.

2.4 mile swim.  112-mile bike.  Marathon.

Not something to enter into lightly.  That said, here we are as in just 23 weeks we will slide off the dock into the water with 2,700 other athletes for the most grueling, challenging endurance athletic event in the world.

Dom would have loved this.

So where have I been the last few weeks?

I took a break quite honestly.

I knew what these 6 months were going to be like.  Swims, rides, runs, weights, nutrition, posting workouts.  Many professional athletes do exactly what I did, which is take it easy, let all the bumps and bruises heal and then attack their training with renewed vigor.

Let me tell you something, it works.

I ran ran a bit, biked a bit, swam a bit.

I refined my swim form.  I dialed in my new bike set-up. I trained for and absolutely crushed the 5-mile in 30:25.

I also hit the reset button mentally and I am completely stoked for this training cycle.  Much like Run for Dom, I really don’t know how this is going to all work out.  So much can go wrong in an Ironman, there are too many variables to count.

But there is one variable that I have no concern over whatsoever and that is being prepared for race day. I am attacking this event emotionally detached and very businesslike. The emotions of it all are going to be suppressed until the cannon fires on May 18.  Then it will be time to let it all hang out.

140.6 miles in what I hope will be somewhere around 11 hours.

There is a little more than 7 billion people on the planet right now with approximately 500,000 ironman finishers walking among us. Pretty elite company.  I have no illusions of sneaking onto the podium at Ironman Texas or of securing a qualifying spot for Kona and the Ironman World Championship.

What I do plan on doing however is honoring a close friend who was taken from us far, far too early.   With his name on my flats and my daughter’s on my race kit I am going to race and finish every damn one of those 140.6 miles.

A long time ago I promised Dom that no matter how hairy things got out there I would always try.  Never quit, never give up no matter what.  Seemed like the least I could do.  So after taking a little mental health break here we are once again making the same promise.

Dom, this one is for both of us. As little guys who were told all our lives we were too small, not big enough, not strong enough … I say now to those people they underestimated one thing about us egregiously.

The size of our heart.

It’s a funny thing as you grow older.  You live thousands and thousands of days, in my case 16,805 of them, and you are reduced to only a handful of days, moments really, that leave an indelible image on your life.

March 15 – the day I proposed to Dawn.

July 15 – our first date.

August 29 – the day I became a Dad.

September 11 – we all share this one.

November 6 – the day I became a marathoner.

But when August 15th comes around now and forever I will think about the day we lost Dom to Cancer.  It has been three years since that warm, summer day in Pittsburgh when I flew up to lay Dom to rest with family and friends, Dawn staying home in Austin as we were just two weeks away from welcoming Landry into the world and it was unsafe for her to fly.

I was only away for a little more than 24 hours, much of which I spent in an airport, on a plane keeping quietly to myself, not wanting anyone to ask me where I was going or where I was headed as I just couldn’t bring myself to tell the story just yet.  I remember seeing everyone at the funeral home the night before the service, just a short time after I arrived in Pittsburgh, talking with Dom’s family, visiting with everyone I had not seen since being there for the Pittsburgh Marathon just three months before.

August 15th was a rough, rough day.  Anytime you watch parents bury a child it is hard to make sense of things.  But knowing Dom the way I did and thinking about everyone and everything he was leaving behind was especially difficult.  I flew home in my suit, carnation still on my jacket and nobody dare ask me where I had been or where I was going.  I suppose they just knew to leave that fellow over there alone.  I was grateful for the quiet time to reflect and say goodbye to my friend.

Three years later and I still feel much the same way.  I vacillate between sadness and anger.  Still asking myself the same unanswerable question of why this had to happen to someone so young and wonderful with so much at stake.  So much to lose.

There are other days when I feel blessed and so very fortunate that I was able to be there for Dom and his family and I was along for his journey with eyes wide open.  Every day he was sick, we woke up with thoughts of helping his family in our heart.  We trained hard, ran a couple of marathons in 13 days and raised spirits, awareness and dollars for Dom’s family.

Three years later and I am still racing with his initials on my flats, trying to run the marathon that I know I have inside of me.

I am injured right now, pedaling away furiously on the tri-bike hoping to save whatever fitness I had build up training for Cottonwood so that I might somehow still be able to toe the line on Sept. 14th in Utah.  2:59 is now out of the question.  It would take nothing short of a miracle for that to happen, and as much as I love the marathon and how special an event it is.  Miracles don’t happen on race day at that distance.

If we do make it out there the only goal will be 3:19:59 which should be enough to get us into Boston this year with our qualifying time of 3:25:00.

The irony of the situation is the goal at the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2009 that I wanted so terribly to make it to Hopkinton for the first time – 3:19:59.

I haven’t thought of 3:20 being a huge accomplishment in almost 4 years.  But perhaps fittingly so – in honor of our hero Dom – just maybe – that is the perfect goal to chase.

Just because it won’t be our fastest marathon doesn’t mean that it is not a race worth running.  Just getting to the starting line would be a lesson in determination, perseverance and not to sound too corny, but bravery.  Anyone can start a marathon when their training cycle was perfect and they are 100% healthy.

It is a lot tougher to do so when you know that you are “not  right”.  The last time I did that I was in Pittsburgh, licking my wounds from the Boston Marathon 13 days earlier – hoping to somehow hold it together for another 26.2 miles.  It was one of my slowest marathons and probably my most painful.  But it was also one of the greatest races I have ever run.

So Dom, just get me to the starting line in Utah my brother.  I’ll take it from there.

Rest in peace Dom.  We all love and miss you terribly.

P.S. – I really could have done without the flat tire this morning.  Just sayin’.

After a bout with the track on Wednesday morning our training log stood at 27 miles with 6 miles between 6:25 and 6:50 pace.  Just about 25%.

Only 41 more miles to go this week.

Kind of puts it all into perspective where we are in the training cycle.

There have been times in the past when I was moving from one marathon to the next where I started the training cycle pretty close to “fit” and spent most of the 18 weeks maintaining my fitness, running my hills and simply stretching out my volume making those Sunday 20-22 mile runs the “A” workouts in preparing for race day.

There was a lot of “staying the same” in that approach instead of trying to “peak” for race day and mentally those training periods could be draining.

Training for Big Cottonwood has been very different for me this go round, with 20 weeks of preparation where we first needed to reestablish our base and consistency coming back from a winter injury.  6 weeks of base-building, then a cut-back week to recharge the batteries (last week), followed by 10 weeks of ramping things up and “next-leveling” our training before the three week taper to race day.

This week beings our “10 Weeks to 2:59” period features 68 miles of running this week including our first 20 miler of the cycle.  Volume is one thing, but mixing in enough quality work to improve our efficiency is another and that is what the focus is of our Wednesday track workouts.

This week the plan called for 3X 2-miles with 400 meter recoveries.  Goal Pace for the 2-mile intervals was:  6:50, 6:40, 6:30.

A workout that might not look too challenging on paper and in November or December, perhaps not.  But with 77 degree temperatures and 87% humidity at 6:00 a.m. degree of difficulty?  Plenty.

After a leisurely 2.4 mile warm-up my friends David and Amy broke off from the larger group to do our workout.

David called out the 400 meter splits to us, Amy kept track of our total time for the 2-mile intervals and I kept track of our laps and paced us on the inside.

6:51, 6:47, 6:40, 6:38, 6:27, 6:23 were our splits as we ticked off mile repeat after mile repeat.

As we started the last full mile of the workout I cheated a bit.  I went to a place that I usually reserve only for race day or an exceptionally challenging period of time.

I went to Dom.

With sweat squishing out of my shoes with every stride, my focus starting to shift toward aches and pains instead of my cue of making sure my kicking foot was crossing knee high with my plant foot on each pass, I was starting to hurt.  It would have been very easy to give in and ease off the pace just a bit.

In a race, that is the battle that is going on constantly.  Your head gives up well before your heart does.  The key is to not let your head win.  You have to distract it.  Confuse it.  Focus it on something other than the pain.  And if we have any chance at all at breaking 3 hours in Utah this September we are going to have to do that for at minimum the final 5 miles of the race.  Close to 35 minutes of fighting that internal battle.

I thought on Wednesday if you cannot do it for 6 and a half minutes, what chance to you have of doing it for 5X that long on race day.

So I cheated.  I imagined the conversation that I would have to have with Dom if I gave up in the last mile of the race and what kind of excuse I would come up with for why it didn’t matter.  Why it wasn’t worth holding on.  The kick in the ass I needed to stay on pace arrived immediately and at the bell lap or final 400 meters I found my stride and energy and ran smooth to the finish.  The fastest 400 of the fastest mile of the morning.

No individual workout during marathon training really amounts to anything.  That is the first lesson every marathoner really needs to learn.  You need to flush the bad ones and not celebrate the goods ones too wildly because in the end, they are all just specs of sand on a beach.

But every once in awhile a mile is more than a mile.  It presents a great opportunity to visualize a part of the upcoming race or experience just a bit the way your body is going to feel when your head starts to take charge of your heart.

That to me is what continues to draw me back to the marathon time and time again.  That test of wills.  Mind vs. heart.

Yes I may be getting older.  I might not have the experience that some runners do.  I’m certainly not the most talented nor am I the fleetest afoot.  But I do have one thing that a lot of others don’t.  And that is my buddy who I can summon to my side just about any time I need him when things are starting to look the bleakest.

Dom, thanks for being there for me.  I can always count on you when things start to go a little sideways.

I’m going to need you during that final 10 kilometers on September 14th.  Get ready to strap yourself in.  It might not be pretty, in fact, I guarantee it is going to be anything but graceful – but on that last mile if we only have 7 minutes to get there I expect you in my ear the whole way.

I miss you Dom.  Keep running things for the rest of us up there.

Dom –

It’s been awhile since I’ve written to you and I wanted to let you know you have been front and center in my thoughts even more than you usually are the last 24 hours or so.  I was waiting outside of a conference room yesterday, about to pitch a concept that would bring a new signature race to Austin as part of my new job.  I picked up a magazine to kill a few moments and there was a feature article about Lance Armstrong and his fall from grace.

I thought about you and seeing your yellow Livestrong Bracelet that you wore throughout your cancer battle.  How it served as a great reminder and motivator when I was training for those two marathons in 13 days.  I closed my eyes briefly and could picture it getting bigger and bigger around your wrist that summer, knowing full well the band was staying the same, it was you who was changing.

Last night I met up with Jason and Brian for the first time in several months.  The conversation turned to running, racing and marathons as it often does and Brian started telling a mutual friend Ed about his first “major race” which was the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon the day I ran the full as the second marathon for you and Run for Dom.

I listened quietly as the two brothers talked about having pre-race dinner with you, Val and the rest of the gang and how after only knowing you briefly – they felt so close to you, as if they had known you for years and years.

That was the gift you had Dom.  You truly were someone who people were drawn to.  Your enthusiasm was infectious.  And not just enthusiasm for things you were passionate about, like the Steelers, Penguins, your family or West Virginia Football.  But your enthusiasm for life.

You made everything around you just a little more exciting.  A little more vivid.  A little more special.

I really miss the hell out of you.

Right now Landry is just about the same age as Sierra was when you were first diagnosed with Cancer.  I look at her growing up literally in front of my eyes and I think about how lucky I am to have such a perfect front row seat for her life.  She is swimming, riding her bike and running Dom.  30 months old.  I have no idea where all that is going to go down the line – but the kid has a lot of heart, a lot of spirit and just enough of a stubborn streak (surely from Dawn) to be dangerous.

Landry's 2nd Haircut

Landry’s 2nd Haircut

I frankly can’t wait sometimes to see how it is all going to turn out for her.

Then I think about Sierra, Nico, you and Val and I am still heartbroken 2 1/2 years after we laid you to rest that summer day in Pittsburgh.  I find myself getting angry all over again at times asking the same tired questions that as long as I live I will never get any answers to.  At least none that will make even the smallest difference.

So instead I’m going to do what I always do Dom.   I’m going to pour those frustrations into training.

I put the finishing touches on my race season for spring, summer and fall that will again take us to Ironman 70.3 and this time we’re going to be shooting for that 4:59:XX.

We were 6 minutes off of that in Kerrville last year.  2 minutes in the swim, 2 minutes on the bike, 2 minutes on the run and we’re home.  I’m going to train a couple of thousand miles between now and then Dom for those 360 seconds.  Something that I know a lot of people just can’t make sense of doing.

That’s o.k., I’m learning there are a whole lot of things that don’t make sense to a whole lot of people.  In the end it only has to make sense to ourselves, the ones we love and the people we care about.

Those 360 seconds are all yours Dom.  Make sure you are paying attention on race day in September.

We are going to absolutely crush it.

I miss you brother.

Merry Christmas Dom

Posted: December 25, 2012 in Motivation
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Dom – last year early on Christmas morning you might recall the sound of a runner’s footsteps crunching over the frozen ground over your head to kneel down and spend a little time with you before running back home in time to watch Landry open her Christmas presents.  It was a single 10-mile run in a year filled with more than 260 of them.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

Just like I remember the last time I spoke with you on the phone, the last time we saw each other after the Pittsburgh marathon and all the times in between after you got sick.  Just this past Sunday when I was running my final long run preparing for the Houston Marathon in a couple of weeks I pointed out to my friend Jim who was running with me where I was when “Run for Dom” went from a wild idea to a reality.

You once told me that your biggest fear was not that cancer would eventually take you from us, but that those you left behind would forget about you.

At the time I told you not to worry about that Dom.  That no matter what, you burned so bright during the time that you were with us, that we could never forget you.

Just this week my Secret Santa sent me a package filled with Red Rubber Band Bracelets – just like the Livestrong Bracelet you wore – that were emblazoned with Race for Dom on one side and “Crush It” on the other.

The exact advice you gave me about running my next marathon after we crossed the second marathon finish line in 13 days running for you in 2010.

I am going to proudly wear that bracelet in Houston Dom in a couple of weeks with your initials and the anniversary of your death on my shoes.

I have never been faster than I am right now Dom.  I have never been more fit.  I have never been better prepared.

But when it comes to running and racing Dom – I have a secret weapon that nobody else has going for them on race day.

I’ve got you.

So when things get tough down in Houston and I want to back off of pace to save myself for the finish, I know you are going to be right there with me, in my ear the whole time telling me not to give up.

Thanks for everything Dom – I know that there are people all over that will be thinking about you today, opening gifts, sharing stories and talking about their Husband, Dada, Son, Brother, Cousin, Nephew and Friend Dom.  They will be smiling most of the time, laughing a lot and crying a little.  We all miss the hell out of you Dom and not a day goes by when I don’t think about you still.

You were all-time Dom.  Just know that nobody has and nobody who knew you will ever forget you.

Make sure you keep your morning clear on Jan. 13th Dom.  Something special is going to be going on down in Houston that morning.  Just know you are a huge part of it.  Merry Christmas my brother.