Saturday, December 31, 2011
Well 2011 went by in a blur but it was certainly a memorable year! I am grateful for all that I was able to accomplish and look forward to more adventures in the coming year. There is alot on tap and I'm sure more will reveal itself.
Once again, I entered the lottery for 2012 edition of the Western States but sadly I was not picked this year. I am a bit disappointed but I am grateful for the opportunity to have run this race two years in a row. Many go years without being selected so somebody else will have the chance to have their life changed by this incredible race. However my good friend Kenny "the gambler" Rogers was selected this year and he asked me if I could pace him. Of course I gladly accepted and will be in Squaw Valley this coming June to support and help bring Kenny across the finish line. I will be able to view the race from a different perspective and still represent Team Owen and the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation at WS100.
Which brings me to the purpose of this post. Once again SMA ass kicking will be in full effect again in 2012 and you can join us and help make a difference in a child's life. On March 18th 2012, the New Bedford Half Marathon kicks off and Team Owen will be running strong in Memory of Owen Simmons. Last year was our inaugural event and it was a smashing success. We had over 100 runners running for Owen and this year I know we can top that number. It was a such a great day, an exciting day, a day that we still talk about. " There are big days, and their a little days.......Make this your BIG DAY."
We are in the process of ordering t-shirts for the event and also planning an after race dinner/party. All we ask to join Team Owen is to purchase a t-shirt and wear it proudly on race day. We will also have a fundraising page set up on the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation page to make it super easy for any fundraising you want to do. We encourage fundraising for our cause but it is not mandatory. Every penny counts though in helping find a cure for this crappy disease. Again we will take a pre race photo on the steps of the New Bedford Public library to show everybody that we are in the SMA ass kicking business and business is booming! We will also have some training runs on the course starting in February and I will be posting when they will take place. For any further info, don't hesitate to contact me at email@example.com or on facebook.
I would just like to thank my friends from Team Owen for all their help this year. Without you guys, all of this would not have been possible. A very special thanks to Andy, Heather, Adyn, Bill, Victoria and Gwendolyn Strong, Gillian and Claudia Sampson. You guys rock and I am fortunate to call all you friends! 2012 here we come!
Sunday, July 3, 2011
With Western States 2011 in the books, now is the time to reflect on a truly special and epic weekend!
First off, I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to run Western once again(two years in a row) It is such a special event, a world class affair that is terrifically run. There was about a 7-10% chance of getting in this year so a bit of luck was on my side. There are so many factors that make this such a special race. The first thing is the course/trail itself. I live at exact sea level so I don't get the opportunity to run on such a beautiful trail. The Sierra Nevada's are amazing. The history, the elevation, descent, flora and fauna etc, it is a beautiful part of America.
The other factor that makes Western so special is the volunteers and race officials. The size and scope of this race is huge and I am very thankful to the race committee for the hard work they put into this race every year. The Sierra's had been blasted with snow all winter and still had huge amounts of the white stuff for the first 35 miles. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to make all these last minute changes, a logistical nightmare. The race went off without a hitch and went very smoothly. As for the volunteers, they are second to none. They give up there whole day(sometimes two days) to help you accomplish a life long dream. They are so happy, supportive, willing to do anything for you(including taping up my nasty dogs). When you are feeling at your lowest and you come stumbling into one of the aid stations, the volunteers will always send you on your way feeling so much better. I salute all the volunteers at the Western States 100.
The pre-race buzz was electric. Myself and the Mullenator had changed rooms and were now in the center of the Squaw Village. Tons of world class runners and back of the packers like me milling about. It was a great place to stay and we were right in the middle of everything. All the pre-race briefings went according to plan but I have to admit I was a bit frazzled. I freaked out for a spell when I thought I had lost my race number. Little did I know or I had forgotten that they had not given it to me yet, it was to be given to me the next morning. Mullen could only laugh and tell me to try to keep my head in the game.
Something special did happen during the pre-race briefing that I want to share. I was wearing my 100 Miles 4 Owen shirt when I was approached by a man whose name escapes me. He asked me if I was affiliated with the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation. I was a bit surprised and said that I was. He stated that he recognized the 100 Miles 4 Owen from the GSF website. He mentioned that they have a child with a disability and that his wife follows the Strong's blog religiously. I felt so proud and also a sense of accomplishment. Myself, Mullen and Magda received so many compliments from the shirts we wore and the slogan "we run for those who can't". I love being able to take the time, explain the story of why I am running these races and spreading the message of ending SMA.
Magda arrived on Friday afternoon and the team was fully assembled. I had my running guru/pacer and now I had my chief crew member/Facebook posting officer/No hands Bridge or Bust runner. Team Owen was fully assembled and would not be denied. Let the SMA ass kicking commence!
The morning start was again a literal blast, approx 400 runners and there friends and families assembled at the base of the Squaw Valley Ski resort. The shotgun blast signified the start and we were off. After about 100 yards of running, this part of the race turns into a power hike/sometimes run up the ski slope. They modified the beginning of the race because of the nasty white stuff on the other trail. This I certainly appreciated. After approx. 50 minutes of hiking/running we reached the top of Escarpment. Again I took time to take a look around and was again treated to breathtaking views. Now the fun part.
The big story of Western States 2011 initially was the SNOW. The course had been modified even more than last year because of the snow pack. There was still over 8ft of snow pack in some parts of the high country making the running a bit dicey. I decided before the race that I wasn't going to worry about it or complain about it because there was nothing I could do about it. Last year I found it not to be that big of a deal and kind of enjoyed it. It wasn't running so much as skiing but it was fine. This year was a bit different. The night before the start had been a bit cooler and I found the snow to be more icy. It was tough going but it wasn't that big of a deal. I found myself working a bit harder and I think for some reason the altitude effected me more this year. I fell on my ass a good 8-10 times but no significant injuries or problems. I actually fell right on the back of my head but it didn't hurt. I 've been accused of being a bit a hard headed!.
After about 15 miles of running through the snow, we dropped into the French Meadows Reservoir for some sweet single track. It was a welcomed change from the snow slog and I ran fairly well. My lungs for some reason were still feeling it but no major issues. We came into the Duncan Canyon Aid station and I replenished with some fuel. I was feeling pretty good at this time and ran out of the aid station fairly quickly. This would be a new part of the course we were running because of the snow. As soon as I left the aid station, I ran into a a little low point. It wasn't a big deal but I felt that my energy was sapped. It might have been the extra work through the snow, or maybe the altitude, but whatever it was I slowed down a bit. The one thing that was nagging on my mind was the condition of my feet and how they would hold up. Last year, my feet were crushed with blisters by mile 80 and I didn't want to go through that nastiness once again. I was using hydropel for the first time and I was def satisfied with the results thus far. However I was feeling a hot spot in the area that had given me trouble last year. It was gnawing at me but I knew there was nothing I could do at this time.
This section of the race brought us down a highway road to a new section of the course. The running was easy and I quickly regained my strength. I felt OK and that I was back in the game. We left the road and started a pretty steep climb(over 1000ft) up towards Little Bald Mountain. This was in lieu of Robinson Flats aid station. The climb was tough but I was running ok. I was still feeling my chest though and it was like I couldn't catch my breath. A little further up the trail, my breath was taking away literally as I ran right into a little rattlesnake(at least i think it was a rattler). I am by no means a snake expert but it scared the living bejezus out of me. I definitely picked up the pace after that. There were all kinds of wild life sightings this year, a couple of bears, one of which actually slowed down some of the female lead runners toward the end of the race. This is not your local 5k road race.
After what seemed like a lifetime, we reached the top of the climb and came into an aid station. Again I was in a bit of a lull and I took a little more time than I usually do in this aid station. I changed shoes and socks and did a quick assessment. Feets were looking ok but I was feeling the hot spot on the right foot. I decided to press on and deal with it later. The sun was bright and warm but it was not overly hot. This was also a new section that took us out about 2 1/2 miles and then back. There was still snow all over this section which was hard to believe. I was working hard, actually working too hard I think. This section was pretty unremarkable but it did bring us back to the original part of the course, a nice slow descent toward the canyons and the Last Chance Aid station.
As the air got warmer, something stood out to me. There were a ton of butterflies this year through out the course. Last year as I ran through the canyons I observed many birds hovering skyward with the heat vents. I was reminded and thought of my SMA angels and this year it was the butterflies that gave me pause and reminded me of why I run ultras. My thoughts turned to Owen and his family, Gwendolyn and her family, and all other babies effected by SMA. I also thought of my Grams throughout the day this year. Grams was a huge inspiration for me and a guardian angel for me. She was always there for me when I was down and I owe her alot. She played a big role and was hugely responsible for helping me become the man I am today and I am eternally grateful for her.
As I entered Last Chance, I knew I had to have my foot looked at before I plunged into the canyons. I took about 20 minutes inside Last Chance while a volunteer nurse tended to my feet. She couldn't have been nicer and she had the greatest bedside manner. I was disappointed that I was inside the aid station so long(I am usually right in, right out) but I was sticking to my plan to take care of myself and let the chips fall as they may.
I left Last Chance and entered the Canyons, the toughest part of the course. The first downhill section into Devils Thumb is very steep and unforgiving. Downhill running is not my forte and my quads took a beating as I tenderfooted down the canyon. No turned ankles or injuries occurred so I was quite happy. I crossed the bridge and headed up the Devils Thumb climb. What I remembered from last year is that the first switchback literally took my breath away. And this year was no different. My hill training consists of rolling trails on the Cape so this rugged terrain takes it's toll on me. I was planning on doing more hill training this year but my hernia surgery put a kink in that plan. Oh well, I trudged on and found it a little easier than last year. It was not easy though and it sapped alot of my energy. I was feeling Ok and made my way into the Devils Thumb aid station. Again the volunteers were great and I was quickly rejuvanted for El Dorado Canyon. This is some sweet running, a deeper canyon but more gradual in its descent and ascent. I ran the downhill very well, probably a bit too well. By the time I got down to the bottom my quads were crying momma. I climbed up El Dorado with no problems and was even able to run a bit of it.
I made it out to Michigan Bluff(mile 55) feeling ok but a bit tired. Usually your crew is able to pick you up there and give you a bit of energy but because of logistical issues, Magda and Mullen could not meet me there. I was ok with that because the aid stations are really stocked well, but it would have been nice to see my team. I was buoyed by the site of Jim Guilford and the members of the G.A.C. running club. They cheered my every step and definitely gave me a boast. Gilly and the rest of the members of GAC always make the trip out to Western and they are what is good about the sport of running. Great people! I quickly made my way out and started running towards Volcano Canyon. Only 6 miles until I see Magda and Mullen and make my way into the final 38 miles.
I made my way up onto Bath Road on my way to Foresthill. Mullen was at the bottom and he was a site for sore eyes. I never have a problem going at it alone but it is always easier if you have somebody to pick you up when your feeling down. We made our way to Foresthill Aid station and I was feeling pretty good. I wanted to get in and out because I was about an hour earlier than last year and wanted to make some time. But I stuck to the game plan and had my footsies looked at. I had the pleasure of being attended to by my new friend George Miller. He took great care of my feet and he taped up those badboys with some Rocktape. They felt great and I felt pretty confident that the blister issue of last year would be last years problem. George was great along with all the other volunteers of the aid station. In particular a young lady who was with George whose name escapes me. She was very helpful and supportive and a great example of all the volunteers at Western. After about 20 minutes we met up with Magda and did a quick systems check. I was feeling pretty good and wanted to get going into the trail. I am so very grateful to Magda for making the trip out to Western for me. Crewing at these races are never easy, lots of running around and lots of waiting. Magda does it without complaint and is always willing to do for others. She was amazing and a huge boost as I made my way into the final 38. If I made it to mile 93, Magda would be pacing me the final 7 miles across No Hands Bridge and Robie Point.
As we entered Cal Street there was still plenty of daylight left. I wanted to run as much as I could with daylight still on and made it about 1/2 hour before the headlamp came on. The trails and running were fantastic and I was feeling pretty good, except for the quads. Myself and Mullen fell into a pretty good rhythm and enjoyed our run. I hit a few rough patches but all in all there were no problems. Mullen did a great job of pacing me and keeping me company. I can be a long day on the trails and I some time put my crabby pants on. Mullen put up with my bullshit and was a great pacer. I would pick him again to pace me in a heartbeat. He's got great mojo!
I put on the headphones for a little bit as we ran along the American River. The running was good and strong and pretty memorable as I listened to the Dark Side of The Moon while running along the American River. It was very cool. We then approached the Rucky Chucky River Crossing at mile 78 feeling pretty good. The volunteers were again great and were a huge boost. Again this year we had to cross the river using boats, which was fine with me. One year though I would like the challenge of crossing that river late in the evening. Maybe next year, hopefully. One of the volunteers told me to step onto the boat and as I did I slipped and fell hard into the boat. Everybody was laughing including myself. At mile 78 you don't mind making a fool of yourself. We made it across the river with no problems and made it to the next aid station, Rucky Chucky Far Side. Magda had made the long 2 mile walk from Green Gate aid station to meet me. I quickly changed my shoes and socks and we made our way up the 2 mile climb towards Green Gate. This climbed sucked and I was in full bitch mode. I was feeling so good crossing the river and now I was struggling to climb up this steep road. I was complaining, bitching, moaning and groaning lol. I was in a low patch for sure but kept my head down and kept on plugging.
The next 20 miles are in the deep of the night for me and were a struggle last year. This year I felt a bit better and I felt I was running more of these sections. I was running pretty well for a while but I was in full grumpy mode, Right after mile 85 aid station, I rolled my ankle in the same exact spot as I did last year. These little damn holes along the trail got me again. I was able to walk it off and then run it off and it didn't present any further problems for me.
We made it into Brown's Bar aid station(mile 89) and I knew I was coming to the end. At this time I knew I was going to finish the race but I was a bit disappointed in my time. I knew I was a bit faster than last year but I guess I had higher expectations. After running out of the nasty part of the trail leaving Brown's Bar, I was able to run alot better than I had last year. This was the direct result of not having a blister problem in either foot. We plugged along to Highway 49 where we would meet Magda so she could pace me in.
As we entered Highway 49 to pick up Magda, I was feeling Ok, actually alot better than last year. I even told Magda as we started running that I wasn't as crabby as I was last year and we got a laugh out of that. The running was slow and painful but we were making some progress. Halfway through the race I was hoping to run somewhere in the low 25 hour range but that ship had sailed. I was pretty close to the 27 hour mark and it was pretty doable. However my quads were toast and were not functioning that well. We pressed on and kept going. Magda was doing a great job, gently prodding me to keep going and then letting me know that we had to pick it up if we wanted to make 27 hours. I told her that breaking 27 was not a big deal to me and that my quads were hurting to much for me to push it to hard. Typical baby talk. She stuck with me and we made our way across No Hands Bridge. No hands Bridge and the surrounding area is breathtaking. The sun had just come up and the canyon river basin was live with different colors. The American River was roiling and very powerful! I love the area.
As we approached Robie Point(Mile 99) Mullen made his way down the steep climb to greet me and encourage me. We trudged our way up this climb(whose idea is it to put a steep ass climb at mile 99 of a 100 mile race anyways lol). We made our way out of the trail and made it out to the familiar road towards the track. It is great seeing all the residents of Auburn up early, cheering you on. After running all night in solitude, it definitely pumps up your spirits. I really wanted to run and push the pace into the track but my quads did not want to cooperate. I ran for a little while and then I stopped. I was spent. Magda then let me know with about 1/2 mile left that I had about 12 minutes to make 27 hours. I got my ass in gear and proceeded to run as hard as I could.
As I entered the track, I was again overcome with emotions. The very same weekend in 2007 was a terrible low point in my life. I was adrift and felt that I had no purpose or hope. My life had turned to shit. As I entered the track it struck me how much life can change and I am so grateful for that. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and know good thing dies! I was running 100 miles for the second year in a row instead of being stuck and spinning my wheels. Unbelievable.
The time around the track is much too short, you don't even realize that you are running. As I made it too the finish line, John Medinger announced my name, and that I run for Owen Simmons and to find a cure for SMA. I made a quick look skyward, a little point towards the O-man and then onward to the finish line. I finished in 26 hours and 54 minutes. Someday i will get that silver buckle, I know I will but for the time being I am totally happy and satisfied with my time. Just finishing or starting the race is reward enough.
Again Western States was a truly remarkable experience and life changing event. I love this race and will run it every chance I get. I ran 100 miles and I feel so grateful for that. I have been given a gift, the gift of endurance and the gift to persevere. I feel on top of the world and love feeling like this.. I will continue to run Ultra's in honor of Owen and will keep on running until a cure for SMA is found, or until my legs fall off.
Again a special thanks to all of Team Owen, for without your help no of this would be possible. A special thanks to Claudia and Gillian Sampson who I can always count on to get stuff done. They are Team Owen's foundation and are the best. Even though I am still mad at them for cleaning my house, fixing stuff, etc. lol Magda and Kevin, you guys were great and I am forever thankful for your sacrifice. Magda is always quick to help out and give of herself and for that I am eternally grateful. She is always thinking of others and she is a power of example on how to be selfless. I will be there for Magda when it is her turn to run Western! Kevin I had a great time at Western this year and hopefully we can do it again. You can pace me anytime or next time I will pace you. To Bill, Victoria, and Gwendolyn, thank you for all your support and positive vibes. You don't know how much a power of example you guys are and I am grateful for your friendship. We will not stop until our work is done. Bill the marathon is going to be epic! To Andy and Heather, again thank you for sharing your little angel with all of us and for being the people you are. You guys are amazing and I cant wait to do it again. Finally to my main man Owen, thank you so much for inspiring me, for helping me become a better man. We will continue to honor you and to make changes in children's lives. You are not forgotten, only remembered more strongly!
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
As the Western States 2011 has approached, alot of different things have been going on in my cluttered head(and boy is it cluttered). Last years event was truly a life changing event, a memory that when I'm old, grey, senile and ready for the nursing home, I will be able to reflect back, smile, and say I gave my all. I was able to honor a little boy who has done so much for so many people. Unfortunately Owen never got the chance to even know it. He never got the chance to be, just a little boy. I was also able to meet an amazing family, Victoria and Bill Strong, proud parents of the lovely Gwendolyn. As I corresponded with the Strongs, I immediately got the sense that I was dealing with an amazing family. Like Andy and Heather, they have a child afflicted by this dreaded disease. Also like Andy and Heather, they are a power of example. I saw first hand how devastating this disease is, not only to the little warrior but to the whole family in general. And I saw how Andy and Heather handled it with Owen, and I see how the Strongs deal with SMA. How to conduct yourself in adversity. How to take the high road when the low road would be that much more satisfying. How they are doing everything in their power to come up with a solution to this hideous problem. How SMA families do it, I do not know. I often think to myself, how would I handle this adversity, would I be strong enough, would I have enough grace under pressure? I dont think I'm that strong a person.
As the race has drawn a bit closer I have got a bit more excited. The excitement however was nothing like last years run up to the race. I was just beside myself in anticipation last year. I don't know what it was, maybe just because it wasn't a new experience. Not that I think I'm an old 100 mile veteran, I'm just trying to quantify why I was feeling the way I was. When I had surgery in April I was really hoping I would be ready but internally I was at peace if I couldn't run. As I healed from the surgery I was fairly certain that I would be able to run and again I got slightly excited. May rolled into early June and I started thinking more and more of the race. Then Victoria posted a blog and it gave me pause. Victoria talks about how unrelenting this disease is to Gwendolyn and the family as a whole. How it is totally consuming and its like they can't even catch their breath for a minute. Every SMA family feels this pain. I was choked up. Well anyways, I thought to myself, "this is why we run, we run for those who can't." Why I am doing this? Obviously there are selfish reasons, I'm able to do something that I love to do and do something that not alot of people are able to do. But the real reason that I'm able to do this is because i was given a gift of inspiration. And I can't forget that! I have to give back and give everything I got! So it was time to get pumped for this gift of running Western States once again and boy I am.
Before I left yesterday I made sure that I grabbed my sheet of paper with the that lovely smiling face of Owen and all the names of SMA Angels who are no longer with us. And I'm mad as hell because sadly there are more names to add. There is more work to be done and its time to do more. I'm mad as hell because on a daily basis another child or family has to deal with SMA. 100 Miles 4 Owen has started a small fire that is growing. Friends who have never run before are now running for those who cant. Endless messages of support and encouragement are flowing in as well as the generous donations! The message of ending SMA is being spread but we need to do more. Its time for everybody to do a little more so some of the pain that is felt can be eased a bit and so no other families have to endure this hardship. Thats why I'm mad as hell!
So yeah for the last 10 days or so I've been super excited and motivated. Like truly motivated to do the best that I can. I can't wait to get out there and lay it on the line. And this year's edition of the Western States looks like it may be a bit more difficult conditions wise. The course has been altered due to huge amounts of snow(8ft snow pack) in Robisnon flat. So it looks like snow up to about mile 34 plus as an added bonus it is 100 degrees in Sacramento right now. Forecast for Auburn this weekend looks to be in the low 90's which will make the Canyons a bit toasty. And you know what, I cant wait. Again I will have my SMA angels with me carrying me through the day.
This year's crew will have a bit different feel to it this year. The lovely Magda will once again bring me in from mile 93 across No hands Bridge. Again Magda has been a huge help, and inspiration. She is always going the extra mile for all that are in need and is so selfless! Thanks again Magda for all you have done! My main man Kenny "The Gambler" Rogers was unable to make it this year, so Kevin "the Mullenator" is stepping into the breach. He is going to do awesome and I am looking forward to hitting Foresthills with him. It's going to be epic!
PS Please go to GwendolynStrong.com and check out what Im talking about
Monday, June 6, 2011
This years Pineland Farms 50 miler would be my last heavy duty training run for the 2011 Western States Endurance Run. Since I was sidelined with hernia surgery in late April, I was a bit nervous and apprehensive that the 50 miles would be a challenge. I couldn't have been happier with my results or my performance. I came through with zero pain or issues and feel that I am ready to tackle WS100 once again.
Myself, Kenny "the Gambler" Rogers, and Kevin "the Mullenator" Mullen headed up early Saturday morning for a couple of small races. Myself and Kenny for the 10k trail race and Kevin running the barefoot 5k. It was a great day to run, a bit overcast and not to warm. I finished right at 48 minutes and placed 35 out of 204 entrants and 9th out of 35 in my age group. I was very happy with the run and held back a bit knowing I had fifty miles to cover on Sunday. Kenny also ran well and the Mullenator had a great frolicking barefoot run in the woods. Mullen is definitely a rare breed and one of the reasons I chose him to pace me this year at Western.
Instead of bunking at a local hotel, we decided to "rough it" and camp out on Saturday night. After running on Saturday, we headed back to the camp grounds to set up camp. One problem though, we forgot the tent. Now I don't mind camping but I'm more of a motor home type of camper. We made the best of the situation and trekked out to buy a new tent for the city clickers. We had a great time and alot of laughs. We also met up with the newlywed power running couple, Bethany and Ryan Couto. After a good meal, we bedded down and chilled for the rest of the night. I probably slept about 2 hours the whole night. Call me tenderfoot all you want.
On Sunday, myself and Mully were running the fifty mile option while Kenny, Bethany and Ryan, and Lori Watkins and Paul ? ran the 50k option. The race started out very well but I felt a little sluggish for about the first 2 miles. My quads were a bit tight from going hard the day before but they loosened up quite nicely. I ran very well with no issues and felt very strong. After completing the first 19 1/2 hours in 3 hours and 4 minutes I felt that I could finish around 8:30. As I started the second loop I entered the farm/hayfield section of the race. This field was a bit soggy and wet and as soon as the sun came out, it turned into a sauna. It really felt like running in the amazon, even though I have never run in the Amazon, I can imagine that's how it would be. The temps got to be 85 degrees. I slowed right down but didn't struggle at all. This race was very uneventful where I didn't have any real lows or any real highs. I just ran pretty well and plugged along. I finished the race in a little over 9 hours and shaved about 11 minutes of my best time at Pinelands. I felt I could have run a bit faster but didn't want to dump it with Western right around the corner. It was a great day and I couldnt have been happier. Most importantly my hernia was left in tact and I was pain free. All my fellow runners ran extrmely well and everybody had a great time.
With Western just right around the corner I am very happy with the way my training has gone. I am definitely stronger than I was last year even though I missed about 3 weeks of heavy duty training because of the hernia surgery. I am very fortunate and grateful for all I have been given, the chance again to honor Owen Simmons, to raise funds for the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation, and to give Spinal Muscular Atrophy a swift kick in the ass! See you in Squaw Valley folks! Stay tuned. The Madman and the Mullenator are Western States bound!
Sunday, May 22, 2011
This past December, I was fortunate enough to be selected(AGAIN) for the Western States 100 Endurance Run. The 2010 Western States was my first time running this race, my first 100 miler, and an event that really changed my life. Running to honor Owen Simmons and all the SMA angels made that day so special. It was difficult, epic, challenging, exhilarating, yada yada yada. It was bad ass! Runners from around the world clamor to get one of the coveted spots in this race and I have been fortunate enough to have been selected two years in a row. This year the odds were about 7%-10%. of being selected.
Training was going really well and I had thoughts(however small) of finishing under 24 hours. My mileage was up and I felt so much stronger than I had last year. Ultrarunners often say if your feeling good, just wait a minute, that will change. During a heavy weekend of running I felt some pain in an area that I've never felt before. I noticed a bit of a bulge that wasn't supposed to be there. Long story short, a damn hernia. If I was to be sidetracked, I was to assume it would be from plantars, knees, shins, but no, a hernia. I'm almost ready for the retirement home. This diagnoses put me in panic mode and I was unsure if I would be able to run this years Western.
I was referred to a local surgeon(Dr Nixon) and set up an appt for a look see. I explained my plight to his secretary Olga and she told me she had heard all about Run for Owen and the work we have done trying to raise awareness for SMA. Well Olga in all of her awesomeness snuck me into surgery within 6 days. On April 26th the engine was given an overhaul and I'm feeling ready to go. Dr Nixon was awesome and I highly recommend him for this type of tuneup. I was able to start running again within a week and the mileage has been slowly increasing within the month. Today I was able to do a nice and easy 30 mile trail run with minimal discomfort. I felt strong and I feel ready to go. Again I have been blessed and will be able to toe the line for the Western States. My running angels must want me to kick some more SMA ass! I dont know what that day will entail or how I will feel but i am going to give it my all.
Again we will be fundraising for SMA. I know it is late in the game but I didn't want to go all in until I knew I would have a realistic chance to finish Western States. We will be having some new, fresh, t shirts being made and we are tentatively setting up another fundraiser dinner. More details to follow. Also if you wish to donate directly, you can go to firstgiving.com/gsf and click onto 100 Miles 4 Owen. Again this year I will be taking along my list of SMA angels who have sadly passed away. I carried this list with me the entire 100 miles and looked at it often for strength and inspiration. Sadly there are more names to be added. "This is why we run, we run for those who cant!" Thank you for all your support
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
On March 20th, over 100 runners committed to stomping out SMA gathered at the New Bedford Half Marathon. Why were over 100 runners united to run for a disease most had never heard of? They were inspired by a boy(Owen Simmons) and his wonderful family(Andy, Heather, Adyn). Some of these runners were first time runners, others were grizzled(Kenny Rogers, Kevin Mullen lol)veteran marathoners. The one thing that they had in common was committing to raise money and awareness to try and eradicate a terrible disease. It was a wonderful day, and one that New Bedford will not soon forget.
The idea of running the New Bedford Half Marathon on behalf of Owen was a total Team Owen effort. After 100 Miles 4 Owen, myself, Magda, Claudia, Gillian and Heather came up with the idea of running for the little man in our home town signature event. The idea was to try and attract as many runners as possible to run and raise money and awareness for SMA. We decided that we would have T-shirts made and have each runner wear it during the race. The T shirts would be made in Owen's favorite color, red(he loved Elmo) and would have the inscription on the back of the shirt "Running to Find a Cure for SMA, powered by SMA Angels and Warriors." The inscription was designed by Adyn and I have to say he did a fantastic job. Everyone raved about the shirts. We were able to sell over 300 shirts and could have sold 1000 if we had that many. Many runners who pledged to run for team Owen also raised money on their own, whether it was on line or through donations they collected. We did not require Team Members to raise money(only buy a shirt). We wanted to assemble as many runners as possible to run for Owen so we could raise as much awareness as possible. Most do not know what SMA is. Honoring a special boy, raising awareness, and raising money for SMA were are goals and they were all met and exceeded.
On the day of the race we had all team members assemble on the steps of the New Bedford Public Library for a group photo. Admittedly I was extremely nervous about how this whole event would go off. Would the weather cooperate? Would enough runners show up and run the race? How would the after party be? Well as soon as I walked up Purchase St towards the library, I saw a see of red already forming near the library. I knew Team Owen would come through and they did with flying colors. After the pic, runners milled around and there was alot of nervous energy around. This would be the longest distance alot of these runners would run. I tried to reassure most that this day would be special and that you would have the power of SMA Angels behind you. I explained how they had helped me through all my dark moments on the trails and that I knew for a fact that they would be with you this day. The day was perfect for running and we lined up for the start of the race.
As the gun went off all I could see or was drawn to were the run for Owen T shirts. It was truly amazing and I was totally motivated. The race takes you down Purchase St and then towards the first big hill of the course, Hathaway Rd. The race course was lined with spectators, the majority it seemed were screaming for Team Owen. I usually run with headphones but took in the pleasure of the cheers from the crowd. Claudia, Gilly and our young SMA Warriors were stationed at Hathaway Rd with a huge Run for Owen banner as well as other signs. The crowd and the runners were certainly energized by their presence and they helped alot of first time runners trudge up the hill. After Hathaway Rd the course turns down Rockdale Ave for a long 5 mile stretch towards the beaches. It is a fast part of the course plus a part of the course heavy with spectators. As we approached Buttonwood park, all I could see were Team Owen supporters. It was so inspirational hearing Owen's name as we motored along the course.
I would be re missed if I didn't mention my running partner for most of the race. I had just met Matthew Robitaille a month prior when he joined Team Owen. He is friends with Andy and Heather and joined the team to run for Owen. Matt and I were going at a pretty good clip for most of the race(good clip for me 7:30min mile). I asked him what his best time was for the half. Matt said he had only run it once before, last year, and had run that in about 1:55. I looked at him kind of funny and was thinking to myself, "I think Matt has left the reservation." I told Matt that I think we are running about a 1hour40min pace. He looked at me like yeah that's cool. I would like to think that I pushed him during the race but I know it was the power of Team Owen that moved him along. He stayed with me the whole race and ended up shaving 15 minutes off last years time. 15 minutes with minimal training. Sweet.
As we hit the beaches we ran into a bit of a breeze but nothing serious. After making the turn towards Davy's locker, the running conditions were perfect. A light tail wind, sun shining on your face, and the knowledge that there were only about 3 miles left. We turned up County St to the last big hill of the race. I felt really strong and just powered up the hill. The crowds were amazing as we came to the finish. A sea of red everywhere. It felt so good to cross the finish line as a member of Team Owen. As I crossed the finish line, I gave a big hug to Dan McCarthy(personal friend and Race Director of th NB Half). Dan and the Friendly Sons of St Patrick host the race each year and every year they outdo themselves. This year was no different. The race kicked ass.
After finishing, myself and Kenny "the Gambler" Rogers went back on the course to try and boost any runners from team Owen. We came across Heather as she was coming up the dreaded County St hill and she looked in fine form. Heather stated she was a bit tired but was kicking some serious butt. We ran by a raucous crowd at County St/Clinton St and the cheers for Heather were deafening. The goosebumps were in full effect now and it was a short trip to the finish. As we approached the finish, we were joined by the lovely Lauren Runs for Owen(SMA ass kicker emeritus)! It was great running down the home stretch as Heather completed her first half marathon for her lovely son. We all peeled off from Heather as she approached the finish line so she could enjoy the spotlight, which she richly deserved. As she crossed, I know she crossed with a heavy heart but I also know that her heart was filled with joy and love. I also know that Owen was with his mommy and was so proud of her. I was so happy and proud for Heather, along with all the SMA runners who kicked some serious SMA ass.
So many runners of Team Owen ran their best races in their life. Lots of personal records were set and I am a firm believer it was because of those angel wings and the knowledge that they were running for something greater than themselves. They were running for those who cant.
After the race was completed, we ventured over to Cafe Funchal for an after race feast/party. Luis Dasilva from Cafe Funchal was amazing in their hospitality. They provided their beautiful bar area to us. They provided free food and drinks for us. They provided a free band and DJ for us. There generosity was tremendous and will not soon be forgotten. A ton of racers, children, families, and well wishers showed up to celebrate. It was so cool seeing so many kids there. I spoke with several young children who told me they couldn't wait to run for Team Owen. During the race and at the party i spoke with several people who were asking "what is SMA." I was able to explain to them a little about the disease and what we are trying to do about it.
Finally after a few words were said, we watched and incredible video that was made by my friend Greg Demers. The video shows so many SMA babies and their families. Some had earned their angel wings and some were struggling with this ugly disease. It was a poignant reminder that we still have so much work to do. After watching the video we went outside with everybody and released a couple of dozen red and white balloons in honor of Owen. Tears and goosebumps could be seen on many a person as the balloons lofted in the air.
In closing, Owen Simmons has brought so many people together in our community. This day was so special and is a highlight in my life. There are so many people I would like to thank but I am afraid I will leave someone out. I would like to send out a special thanks to Heather, Andy and Adyn for sharing Owen with all of us. I also would like to thank my girlfriend Magda, Claudia and Gillian Sampson for helping me with whatever I needed and for truly being the brains behind the operation. Also thanks to Greg Demers, Jimmy Estrella, Hank Turgeon, Dave Conceicao, Wendy Cordeiro Andre, Matthew Robataille and so many others who raised money and awareness for this special day. The early returns are in and I think when it is all said and done we have raised close to $15000 dollars for the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation. We have only begun folks, we still have more to do and we will continue "to run for those who can't" Stay tuned, Team Owen and the Western States 100 is now in full effect!
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Well 2011 is in full swing and we are in full SMA ass kicking mode. On Sunday March 20th 2011, we will be running the New Bedford Half Marathon in honor of Owen SImmons. As of this writing, we have approx. 90 runners committed to running this race on behalf of Owen to help raise awareness for SMA. All of the proceeds will be going again to the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation and also to raise money for a scholarship fund in Owen's memory. Fund raising is in full swing and so many people are raising a ton of money all ready. My friends Wendy Cordeiro Andre, Matthew Robataille, Mike Bates, as well as many others have raised a ton of money. It is going to be a great day. T-shirts are coming and will be in shortly. They have been specially designed by Owen's big brother Adyn. They look fantastic and will have special meaning. We are asking all runners who wish to run on Team Run for Owen to wear this shirt during the race. After the race, we will be taking a group photo on the steps of the New Bedford Public Library to show everybody how unified we are in finding a cure for this damn SMA. After that it is off to Cafe Funchal for a big ol party. Free food, raffles, band, adult beverages, what else can you ask for. It is going to be a great time. Do you want to join Team Run for Owen? We want 100 runners so we still have room. DO you want to make a difference in a childs life. There will be no better feeling for you when you cross that finish line knowing that you have run for something greater. For more info about the race, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. " We run for those who can't!" PS Owen's mom will be running her first 1/2 marathon in honor of her son. Lets support Heather for her first half marathon!
Sunday, January 2, 2011
2010 has come and gone, and to say it has been memorable would be quite an understatement. There have been great times and some not so great times but I have learned so many valuable lessons this year. There are no guarantees in life and I continue to strive to be the best person I can be. I have met so many amazing people this year and I am lucky to have so many winners in my life. For that I am grateful. Here is a quick re-cap of this year.
For me 2010 really started late in 2009. I had just finished my first 50 mile race(North Face Endurance Challenge) and was really looking forward to seeing how far I could go. Running for Owen Simmons had inspired me and had made the training and racing easy. Sadly, Owen earned his angel wings and i wanted to do something more to honor this young man. On a whim entered the lottery for the Western States 100, figuring there was no way in hell I would get into this prestigious race. I had heard of the race before but I never envisioned being able to run that far or for that long. Well lo and behold I was selected on my first try getting into WS. For my first 100 miler I would be running the WS on my first try. Not bad. I was elated but a bit nervous. Sorta like what the hell did I do this for.
My good mood quickly turned somber when the very next day my beloved Beau dog collapsed and died in my arms. He was the best dog a man could have, the sweetest boy. I was devastated. Life on life's terms I guess. My great friends Claudia, Gillian and Manny helped me through this tough time and for that I am eternally grateful for their help.
I knew I would be running in Owens honor but I also wanted to raise money and awareness for SMA. I talked with Heather(Owen's mom) and asked her which SMA charity we should run for. Heather gave me a few suggestions and said they were all worthy but said the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation is really a special organization. Heather told me how Bill and Victoria Strong helped her out during her trying times and that they work tirelessly to raise money and awareness for this dreaded disease. Bill and Victoria's beautiful daughter(Gwendolyn) has SMA. Boy was I glad that I listened to Heather. GSF is a wonderful organization and they are such powerful, positive people. It is an honor to know Bill, Victoria, and Gwendolyn. They are a shining light and a tremendous power of example.
Training started in earnest in January and I was in unknown territory. I embraced it though and looked forward to the challenge. Training in the cold and wind of a New England winter is no picnic but I just trudged through it. Thankfully I didn't experience any injuries and I took really good care of myself. I listened to my body when it told me to rest and I pushed it when I was feeling really good. For me the key is staying off the roads. Of all the miles I logged this year the only nagging injury I suffered was nagging hamstring tightness. When I run on the trails, I am in heaven. The roads not so much. They are a necessary evil for me though. Southern Mass is not exactly a trail running mecca
As the weather turned warmer, training really intensified. Like I said I am fortunate that I didn't experience any big problems running. I ran the New Bedford Half Marathon and had a great time. Everything was on track. I was then fortunate to have met a wonderful woman, Magda, who became my girlfriend. She is just as crazy as I am. We hit it off immediately. She even got my clumsy butt into Bikram Yoga. I am so fortunate to have Magda in my life.
Training in April was a lot of fun as the weather got warmer. I introduced Magda to trail running and she fell in love with it immediately. She even fell down and ripped her pants open on her first run. Quite the romantic run. I was also able to run the Boston Marathon 2010. This was the second time I ran Boston and I had a lot of fun. It was a perfect day. The weather was perfect, the crowds were great and there was a lot of excitement. And remember how I said Magda is crazy. Well she works for Puma and thought it would be a great idea to run a marathon. Not on the road, but inside of the Newbury St Puma store, on a TREADMILL. Thats right, 26.2 miles on a treadmill. Good grief! She made it with no problems and looked beautiful doing it!
Our next endeavor was the Mcnaughton Ultra Marathon in Pittsfield Vermont. This madness had it all, great people, mud, rain, snow, rainbows. You name it, MCnasty had it. The course was a a ten mile loop course throughout the mountains of Vermont. Myself and Magda were only running the thirty mile "fun run" while others had the option of 50, 100, 150, 200 mile option. Thats right, 200 hundred miles. Two hardy souls(Ryan Dexter and Mike Siltman) were able to finish 200 miles. As we started our race, it started to rain, and then pour, and then rain so more. The course quickly turned into a quagmire but we trudged through with no real problems. I was fortunate to meet some great people(Andy Weinberg) and had a fun time in the mud. It was a great mental test and I know it would help for my first 100 mile test..
The training continued throughout the spring with no real hitches. i was doing mileage I never thought I would do and it was a real trial and error situation. Some weeks I felt great, others not so much. But I always had my angel with me pushing me not to quit. For one last training run, a group of new friends I had met(Kenny "the Gambler" Rogers, Kevin "the Mullenator" Mullen", Lori Watkins, Bethany Bertrand, Ryan Couto, Jim Frenette, Sheryl Briggs) and Magda and I made our way to Maine for the Pineland Farms 50 Miler. Magda ran and finished her 50k with no problems and I ran the 50 mile option. For the first 50 miles of the race I was definitely not feeling it. My hamstrings were killing me and I was fried from all the miles I had banked for the Western States. But at about mile 25 I was able to regroup and collect my senses. I honestly felt like quitting but again I was able to dig deep and had a running conversation with my running angels. I don't know what it is or what it was but I was reenergized and felt fantastic. I was able to finish in a little over 9 hours and was totally confident in how I was able to dig deep and battle through the low. As an Ultra runner, you must always face a low in a race. Getting through to the other side is the key because often times you come out the other side totally renewed. Although I knew that veteran Ultra runners say that 100 milers are four times harder than fifty milers, I felt confident that I could accomplish my goal.
Before The Western States, we were able to raise significant funds for the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation with a fundraiser at lebeau's Tavern. It was a great time and a lot of fun. Lots of raffles and Dave "Buck Nasty" Conceicao on the mic made for a good night. And now it was taper time till the Western States.
I won't recap the Western States again(already blogged about it) but I will say this. This was truly a life changing experience. I never, ever in my life would have thought I would have been able to do something as incredible as WS100. I am truly blessed and fortunate, as well as grateful for all my running angels who carried me through this endeavor. I never would have finished without em. As a post note, I just got feeling back in my toes from Western States lol!
After coming back from Cali, I took it easy and thoroughly enjoyed my summer. This race definitely took its toll on me and I kept on twisting my ankle. I went through a little depression after the big race but I guess that's to be expected. It can't be all sunshine and rainbows! I shut it down for a little while and tried to rest up.
Our next little adventure took us out to the North Face Endurance Challenge in Wisconsin. This would be Magda's first 50 mile race as well as Patty Carreiro's first 50. Patty is Magda's friend and decided to join us out Midwest. The day of the big race brought a lot of threatening thunderclouds and lightning. As we assembled for the start, it started to thunder and lightning. Potential nastiness soon turned to immediate nastiness.. As soon as the gun went off it started to pour all over us. Not little bitty rain, but big old fat rain. It was tough going but we kept on trudging along. It rained for most of the race and made everything tough. Magda and Patty were terrific, me, not so much. It was a tough day and I had hit my wall. At about mile 30, I had had enough. I def didn't want to be out there any longer but knew I couldn't quit. My hamstrings were on fire and non responsive. I again asked for help from my running angels but I think I went to the well once to often. I was going to have to gut this out on my own. Magda and Patty were cruising along just kicking the course's ass. it took all I could to keep up. For whatever reason at about mile 40 I started to feel a little bit better and knew I could make it. This race wasn't about me however, it was about showing two lovely ladies the joys of running long and far. Patty went out ahead of us and it was just me and Magda for the last 2 or 3 miles. I knew she would finish the race but I think she was still a little nervous. I settled her down a bit with a little military cadence and we finished with no problems. It was a great feeling seeing the emotions from Magda and Patty. They totally kicked butt and ran their first 50 like veterans. We had a great time In Wisconsin and met some great friends. Thank you Angie, Miranda, and Tom for your hospitality.
Myself and Magda then traveled to London for a wonderful vacation. It was an absolute blast and great time. We jammed in everything you could do and will have lasting memories of a wonderful vacation!
I ran a little in the fall but took all of October off to recharge the batteries. It was much needed and the smart thing to do. The lottery to Western States was around the corner and I was unsure if I would be putting in for it. It was quite an expense last year running the race but I decided that the experience was well worth it. Plus I could continue to spread awareness for SMA and run for Owen and all the other SMA Angels. They have done so much for me, it is the least I can do for them and their families.
As the lottery approached I knew the odds of getting in the race were low, much lower than last year. I figured i wouldn't get in but would try anyway. lo and behold my name was one of the first names pulled from the hat and I was selected to run Western States 100 2011. I believe the odds to get selected this year were about 9% and I am very fortunate and grateful to have the opportunity to run this special race again. I guess Owen and all those SMA angels who ran with me really had a good time last year and wanted to do it again! Yessir lets do this again. I hope not to disappoint. There is still so much SMA butt kicking left to do.
Sadly my year ended on a very sad note. LIfe is life and it has its ups and downs. Like last year, I lost a wonderful family member, Winston. I adopted Winston in October and quickly fell in love with him. He was a cancer survivor and a great dog. Tragically I lost control of him and he ran after another dog into traffic. This was one of the toughest things I have ever had to endure, but thankfully I had the tremendous support of Magda, my great friends(Dave Conceicao, Claudia and Gillian Sampson, and Manny Maciel) They helped me so much and made this difficult time in my life bearable. I also want to thank Dr. William Truesdale and Jeri Poller for the opportunity to be part of Winston's life, even though it was for a short time.
I probably left a lot for this year but i didn't want to turn this blog into a War and Peace novel. It was a great year and one that I wont soon forget. Next year is already in full swing and i cant wait for the challenges that await me. I feel I can tackle anything and will continue to strive to be the best person I can be. Goodbye 2010, hello 2011