Monday, March 30, 2009

Upcoming Marathons

While there are still many more Marathons in the works for this year (as well as further adventures into ultras, national championship races and multi-sport events to come), the following will provide my friends and readers with some of the races I have coming up in the near future.

I am starting a 7-week straight stretch of marathons (which will hopefull grow to include at least one more week). I will break down what I will be doing or planning to do at each one of these races.

First off on 04.11 is the brand-new Illinois Marathon.

I will be leading the 3:10 pace group at this race, helping as many as possible to grab dreams of either qualifying for Boston for the first time or simply reaching a new time goal for themselves. I will be at the expo all day before the race in some capacity, signing copies of See Dane Run for all who wish to get one!

Next up, I get to entertain and inspire in my new town of Salt Lake City at the Salt Lake City Marathon on 04.18.

I will be the featured speaker at the SLC Marathon and while the final schedule of when I will be speaking is not set, you can rest assured I will be at the expo and happily signing books as well!

The end of April will have me once again being the featured speaker and 3:10 pace group leader at the Kentucky Derby Marathon on 04.25.

Here I get to knock off my second new state of the year, adding to Mississippi back at the Mississippi Blues Marathon. I look forward to leading another pack of Boston hungry racers throughout Lousiville!

The first weekend of May has me taking part in the revamped Pittsburgh Marathon on 05.03.

Fortunately for me, I will be revising my role as a Charity Chaser, something I absolutely love to do. If you are not familiar with this particular role, let me use the words of the Pittsburgh Marathon itself!

"By starting dead last, Dane will attempt to overtake as many runners as possible as he weaves his way through the boroughs of Pittsburgh. For every runner than Dane passes, sponsors will made a donation to Pittsburgh Promise, visionary scholarship program vows to help all students in Pittsburgh Public Schools plan, prepare, and pay for education beyond high school at an accredited post-secondary institution within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

This will be the third marathon I have served as the Charity Chaser for and I hope to top the nearly $12,000 I raised for the United Way of Baltimore at the Baltimore Marathon last October!

Continuing my new state quest and continuing my role as a 3:10 pace group leader, on 05.09 I will find myself at the Fargo Marathon.

I will once again be at the expo signing books but this time also sharing the speaking stage at the pasta Dinner with some other wonderful people as well. Now that the pending flood waters in Fargo have receded, I know the Fargo Marathon people are hard at work to make things just great.

I return to the site of my one-time persoanl best at the Ogden Marathon on 05.16.

Speaking all day long about my 52 Marathons, marathon prep-techniques and how to run the Ogden Marathon, I will be a busy guy! I hope to once again set a new PR on this very-forgiving course.

And for the third time in four weeks I get to knock off yet another new state from my running list as I hit the Stillwater Marathon on 05.24.

Speaking both days of the expo, signing books and once again pacing the 3:10 group will keep me quite busy in the birthplace of Minnesota!

So there you have it. for those wondering which races I have coming up, I just named seven great marathons for you. Check back for recaps as always on every one as my adventures take me all over the country!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Running With the Leopards 5k Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 5th Edition
112.8 miles raced in 2009

Race: Running With the Leopards 5k
Place: Salt Lake City, UT
Miles from home: 1 mile
Weather: 30s; windy

Here's the deal. I was supposed to be in Georgia this weekend. Unfortunately, bad business practices precluded me from being there and with no time left to schedule anything travelwise that would not have at least cost a vital organ's donation to cover the airfare, I was going to be in Salt Lake this weekend. I immediately began searching the local race calendar.

I first happened across the Buffalo Run which is a 25k, 50k, and 50 miler that takes place on Antelope Island, the biggest island in the Great Salt Lake. As you may recall, I blogged abut a training run that I did on that island here. Unfortunately, the race had been long closed and while the RD was polite in his decline of my begging to get into the race, he still did decline. No automatic 25k PR for me this weekend.

On a group run with my club, the Salt Lake Track Club someone mentioned that there was 5k on Saturday. I knew exactly where this 5k was as it ended about 1.5 miles from my house. I quickly hopped online and registered just 24 hour before the race. Now, let me clarify something. When I am expecting to race and I do not get to, I get bummed. That was why I was so fervently searching for a race. A 5k is NOT my ideal race. 5Ks hurt. I haven't even done a 5k in close to two years. But I needed a race. So the Running with the Leopards 5k fit that need.

Picking up my race packet I was immediately struck with how unbelievably nice the race shirt was. A red technical tee with the fun emblem from above emblazoned on the front, this short would rival any marathons. Kudos to the RWTL race organizers for such a nice bonus.

Now because I signed up for this race so late in the week, I had hardly tapered or prepared for it. In fact, going in to the race, I had already run 65 miles this week. But I still had designs on setting a personal best. Why not, right? That makes no sense whatsoever but I should definitely expect it of myself.

Let me start by saying that, relatively speaking, my 5k PR is pretty weak. It is also almost completely undocumented. I know I ran a 17:50 in a 5k race in law school but I will be damned if I can find the results. As it was nearly 8 years ago, finding a small 5K's results on the web is rather daunting. So I figured I might as well set a new one today. In my favor was the downhill on this course. There was approximately 300 feet of downhill (with 75 feet of uphill mind you!) which would assist me in my task.

When race morning broke brisk and chilly I felt I at least would not sweat to death! Knowing a very fast girl in our club would be running, I looked for her. One, I thought it would be fun to pace. Two, inexplicably, I forgot my watch. I don't think I have EVER done that in my life. When I found Christina (AKA "T") she said she was hoping to break 18:00. I scoffed as I knew she could do better. It was only after the race that I found out she had never broken 18 in her life. That would change.

Gun was fired and we were off!

Mile 1: 5:29

Almost instantly T and I had to doge people who obviously had no race etiquette and wanted to be at the front regardless of what their time would be. With a 1/4 mile downhill before a quick rise we were soon in the top 5% of runners. But then T and I got separated by another pack and I decided I just needed to run. I assumed I would see her again.

Cresting the biggest uphill right before mile one I was quite pleased to see someone was calling out times. I passed by in a hair under 5:30. I was pretty pleased.

Mile 2:

Down a screaming but short downhill we ran as I passed a few runners. Turning left we eased out for the only flat portion of the course. One guy passed me who I had passed on the aforementioned downhill but I knew I would be passing him again once we hit the final straight down.

Turning right we began that downhill and passed the second mile. No one called out any times here. Damn.

Mile 3:

T appeared at my right and we began running stride for stride. She pulled a little ahead and as I had no watch I did not know whether I should stay with her and push harder or fall back. A little churning in my belly made the decision for me and I held back. We hit a very steep downhill and then made an ankle-breaking turn into the stadium to finish on the track. I was about 10 feet behind T and thought it would be nice to finish together.

That was when I realized we did not have 100 meters to go as I thought but 300 as we had to traverse almost an entire lap. Oof. I did not have that extra kick in me I thought and T pulled ahead. We hit the final 100 meters and I saw I was not going to get a certain time barrier I was hoping for so I eased off a little bit. T finished right under 17 minutes in 16:58 (:59 officially but I think they were slow on their trigger fingers - no chips here) and I set a new PR by ~40 seconds with a 17:10. A 5:32 average made me a pretty happy camper.

We finished 19th and 20th overall and me in my blasted hard division finished 5th. In a race I have not done many times and do very sparingly, I was extremely pleased. That makes it two PRs for the year. Not a bad way to close out the month of March!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Trip to LA - Speeches and Book signings

Next week starts a crazy traveling and running schedule which will not conclude until the middle of June (at least!) I am going to do my best to keep blog posting regular and will always have my race recaps up here for you.

I will start off my Frequent Flyer Miles R Dane Travelpalooza by heading to the greater Los Angeles area. On tap already I have planned some very fun excursions.

* On Saturday, April 4th at 1 PM, I will be leading a fun run, talking about and signing copies of See Dane Run at the Run With Us store in Pasadena, California.

Run With Us was Named "BEST SHOE STORE IN LOS ANGELES" by Los Angeles Magazine and "BEST RUNNING STORE" BY LA Sports & Fitness Magazine. The idea is to have a 4-mile loop that I will run once or twice so that we can get all skill levels of runners in on the fun. afterward I will tell a few tales from my year of marathoning and then answer any questions the runners have about my training, traveling, or lack of a social life. :)

* On Sunday April 5th I will be presenting at the YAS studio in Venice, CA. You may recall I profiled YAS founder Kimberly Fowler in a previous blog HERE.

I hope to also squeeze in a visit to the Split:59 store for a fun run and book signing as well on Monday evening.

Stay tuned for updates on all of these and even more stuff in LA! If you know of a place which may be interested in having me come in, drop me a note.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Boston Marathon X 2

Note: This was originally posted last year after the Boston Marathon I ran. However, it seems to have been eaten by the internet so I am posting it again for those interested readers!

On my long flight back to Salt Lake City I struggled with how to sum up this past weekend. This either had to be a 4-line recap or a 40 pager. I could not see how to possibly do it justice either way. Luckily, for your busy eyesy I was able to settle on a compromise but realized I was going to leave many great details and a plethora of people out of this recap. That is what telling stories in person are for, I guess.

The weekend started with a redeye flight from SLC to NYC and then connecting to Boston. If you have the opportunity NOT to do this, I suggest you take it. Without a doubt this is not how you want to start off a restful weekend before a marathon. Arriving in Boston on Saturday morning, I had the pleasure to be able to be staying with my friends Judith and Emily in Cambridge. While there were many other factors that made this a "must" weekend, not needing to spend $300 a night on a hotel was, without a doubt, one of them. Judith, Emily and I then hopped, skipped, and jumped on the "T" (Boston's subway system) to the expo to get our gear, bibs etc. At the expo, I ran into more friends than I can count. Some I was meeting for the first time after numerous email conversations, and some (like Larry Herman and Rachel Ridgway of the Frederick Marathon) I do not see nearly as often as I would like.

Roaming the expo briefly I saw more running celebrities than I could name. But I knew I needed to get back to my host’s home. I had slept maybe an hour on the plane but other than that I had been up for 2 days. So after a late pasta and meatballs dinner, I settled down to go to bed early.

I spent the next day watching an extremely exciting Women’s Olympic trials and cheering friends in the race onward to the finish. After the race I attended a Dana-Farber Dinner with my friend Judith who herself was running for the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge. I got to meet Uta Pippig at the dinner which was a huge thrill.

But the evening had to come to a close. So, back home we went and it was time for bed. Morning comes early when you have to bus out to Hopkinton!

There really are few words which can encapsulate the feeling of starting line of the Boston Marathon. Or more accurately, you need MANY words. I am going the fewer route for this portion.

My friend Chris George, a BAA member was going to try and meet me at the start and run together for most of the race. Luckily, I am 6'1'' and Chris is like 6'5'' or so. I knew we would find each other. Before the race even started we did.

*BAM* goes the gun and 30 seconds later, we cross the start line. We worked out a deal; Chris knows the area, having trained on these roads dozens of times so he would help lead us through all the nooks and crannies. Having run 75 marathons and being pretty good at even splits, I was going to set the pace. Chris isn't good at listening!

The first few miles ticked away and we were a little faster than we wanted to be. Well, Chris wanted to run 6:45s and I wanted to run 6:52s. We were hitting 6:47s. Before long my good friends Dan Simonds and Tom O'Neill from the Washington Running Club joined us. Dan and I had talked of running together and I was really glad to have found him. With all of our talks of splits and the like, we soon had a gaggle of people falling instep behind us. Chris was directing us where to go and I was telling people to speed up or slow down. Before long our unofficial 2:59:59 pace group had about 10 solid people running together.

Miles ticked by and before we knew it, the screaming girls of Wellesley signified we were close to the halfway point. I told some of the guys in our group to not get too carried away by the women as they were screaming for the race and not for us specifically. I then proceeded to get carried away and slap hands, flex, ask for phone numbers and be a general ham.

First half zoomed by in 1:29:30. Not too shabby. Unfortunately, the cold chilly morning at 9:30 AM had turned into a cloudless bright sun-shiny day by about 10:02 AM (the race started at 10 AM). We knew the second half was going to be harder.

I did my best to hold our group together, but as we neared the hills I saw Dan fall out of my line of vision. A few others fell back as well. Trevor, a guy who was shadowing Chris and I from the start, complained of back spasms. I tried to give him some quick advice and he hung on for another mile. On the hill before the infamous Heartbreak Hill, Tom asked if this was Heartbreak. I said: "Nah, it's the next one." Tom fell out of my line of vision as well here.

Chris and I began working as a tandem.

We were holding steady to our goal of running sub-3 but I knew it was going to be close. Moreover, I knew that I had to turn around and do it all again a few hours later. As such I was running hard but running as smart as my ego would allow.

Right before Heartbreak, it was gut check time. I knew if I could get to the top of the hill on pace, I could use the downhills and flats in the last 5 miles to bring me in under 3 hours. Praying to run a 6:50 mile here, I was disappointed to run a 6:59. A 7:10 next mile made the decision easy to just cruise in from there.

Down Comm Ave, turning right onto Hereford St there was just one last turn and .35 of a mile to run on Bolyston Street.

Sucking in all that is the last 2 minutes of the Boston Marathon, I reveled in being able to do this. To run. To enjoy life in the way I want to. I can only hope others were doing the same. A few whippersnappers passed me in the last few feet and I wanted to yell "Yeah, well I am doing it again in like 120 minutes . SO there!" But I refrained.

I crossed the huge banner and scaffolding in 3:01:49. I finished 1390th out of just under 22,000 finishers.

Now it was time for me to run again.

I thought I had a little more time to recover and possibly grab a shower and a bite to eat, but before I knew it, I was in a van on my way back out to Hopkinton to run with Dave McGillivray. (This is, of course, after walking to the end of the buses to retrieve my gear, walking through thousands of people to Dave's hotel, sitting on the cold concrete outside for 45 minutes or so as I wasn't a hotel guest and therefore couldn't go into the lobby, freezing while still be baked by the sun, cramping and trying to deal with some slight chafing and doing my best to get my body ready for another 26.2 miles.) Changing into clean socks and ignoring a blister that had formed on my toe, I relubed with Body Glide in the places I could reach, downed a Diet Coke and ate a bagel. I had started the first marathon at 10:00 AM, finished at 1:01 PM and at 2:30 was back in transit.

By 3:30 PM, I had met with Dave and a few good friends, toed the starting line of Boston as close as I would ever get in my life and we were off. A group of about 5 of us began this surreal trot through the small towns that make up most of the Boston Marathon course. We had a police escort to assist us through tough spots and a few of Dave's loyal friends and family there to stop every mile or so to give liquids and food.

After about 6 miles, I was really feeling it and began lobbying someone to get me a cheeseburger. Make it a double cheeseburger. The GUs and pretzels, etc. were just not going to sustain me. Like an angel, Ron Kramer, Dave's good friend and one of the organizers of TREK appeared with my magical remedy. Thank you McDonald's.

With bags of trash all collected and waiting to be taken away, we passed by the ghosts of aid
stations which had been packed just a few hours before. We got plenty of cheering from people all about as they are well-versed in Dave's post marathon marathon. Dave and I spoke sparingly. He was without a doubt exhausted after what had to have been virtually a sleepless weekend (putting on both the trials and the Boston Marathon) but he was going to keep his streak of 37 straight years of running the Boston Marathon alive.

As we got mostly knowing cheers and a few puzzled glances, one comment made us all laugh heartily. As a few very well-"hydrated" college guys played catch on their lawn, one of them saw us and made a comment about how we were WAY behind the leaders. His buddy, in what may have been a mock Boston accent (or very well was authentic as could be) said:

"That's OK. He's the Race DirecTAH!"

The miles went by and soon we were into Boston Proper. The CITGO sign loomed ahead. For those who may not know, when you pass the giant CITGO sign in Boston you have exactly one mile to go. Unfortunately you can see it from mile 23.5!

As we neared the finish I did not think things could be more incredible. But as the clock ticked away and began to reach 9.5 hours since the race had officially started, it was obvious we would NOT be the last finishers. Here, facing backwards in a wheelchair, and pushing himself with ONE LEG was a racer. Inflicted with cerebral palsy this unbelievable specimen of true grit (whose name I have not been able to procure as of yet) had been pushing himself for the whole marathon course with his one working limb.

Exhausted, bleeding, sore and slightly delirious from the past weekend's events I smiled. What an inspiration this racer was. I immediately think to all the people I know who say they can't finish a 5K, let alone a marathon. I wonder if they would say that after seeing this racer. Just a few seconds after Dave broke the tape, he finished behind us. Dave shook his hand, gave a few of us some hugs, posed for a few pictures and that was that. The day was now over. Within minutes we were going our separate ways. An unbelievable weekend had come to close.

I then got up at 9 am to go back to SLC because 48 hours later I had to fly to Seoul Korea to run another marathon.  Did I neglect to mention I ran a marathon the Saturday the week before Boston and in between had lost my job as well in that time?

Well, let's say it was an eventful fortnight.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Rules are rules...but give me a break.

North Lawndale College Prep started a very important game (the winner went to the State Championship) against Champaign Centennial in high school basketball a few days ago down 1-0. Now, I don't mean the game started and they were quickly down a point. No, before the clock started, thanks to a ""uniform violation" NLCP was assessed a technical.

when I first heard this, I actually was a little impressed. I thought perhaps someone had finally cracked down on the "shorts" that basketball players wear which are so long that even members of the LDS church (that's "Mormons"to those not in the know) would think are probably too strict. Believe me. I am not for going back to the days of shortie shorts on big men.

But today's lengths are just ridiculous. Maybe not as ridiculous as the scowls that basketballers must have ever present on their faces regardless of what they are doing but ridiculous nonetheless.

However, the uniform violation came not because of short short malfunctions but rather because NLCP's uniform broke a National Federation of State High School Associations rule that states the torso of the jersey — the area from an imaginary horizontal line at the base of the neckline extending to each armhole, down to the bottom hem and from side seam to side seam — must be a single solid color. Also, the side inserts (stripes) must be centered vertically below the armpit, and those stripes can't be more than 4 inches wide. NLCP's were slightly larger than 4 inches.

So, technical foul was assessed and Champaign Centennial made one of two free throws to start the game before it started by leading 1-0. One guess who won and by how much. Yep. CC downed flagrant uniform violators NLCP 66-65.

Now, NLCP says that this foul messed with their game plan and to some extent I buy that. Because of the technical the head coach could not stand during the entire game or even coach from the coach's box. How the heck hard would that have been? Have you seen a single coach ever sit down in a basketball game (besides Phil Jackson) for more than 90 seconds?

Now, I most assuredly wich toi point out that NLCP had a 10 point lead at one time in the 4th quarter. all they needed to do was take care of their own game and they would have been fine. there is also some discrepancy as to whether NLCP had been previously told of the rules violation. Furthermore, the team offered to wear their road uniforms, but Illinois High School Association basketball director Kurt Gibson said they were too colorful. given the coach's suit, I am inclined to believe him.

Regardless, it just seems to darn silly. Then again, so does me caring about it especially when basketball is one of my lesser favorite things to do. I guess in a world where so many tried to squeeze what little power they have to make the lives miserable of so many others, this just seems like an example where perhaps old button-down Gibson could have been a little more lenient, perhaps made it public that the uniforms violated the code (and to be honest they are pretty ugly regardless) and leave it up t NLCP to either make the change or fall on its own sword.

At least they weren't wearing what the Pirates did from 1977-1984.
Or the White Sox. *shudder*

Penalizing them would be quite easy. Unfortunately, there is no time machine so we must be giving technicals to highschoolers for wide stripes to make up for it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pasadena Marathon Expo with FearlesSports

I hope that if you are in the greater Los Angeles area on Friday and Saturday, you will take the time to come say hello to me at the Pasadena Marathon Expo. I will be signing books from the FearlesSports booth with a person who is just an absolute doll of a person and a risk-taker to boot, Yamini Patel.

Yamini began her own company recently after years of working for others as she felt her own brand of clothing could really make a difference. So she set out on her own to do just that!

You see, her company FearlesSports is "Eco-conscious" which refuses to sacrifice style and comfort to save the environment. Her line of Eco-Friendly clothing is designed with earth-friendly fabrics: 100% organic cotton and bamboo fiber. From running apparel to lounge apparel, her clothing is not just for women. In fact, you can see me modeling her men's t-shirt at the expo this weekend (and pictured below).

Come and support those willing to take the chances to enjoy what they do and do what they enjoy. In the process you get some great apparel and a nice book to read as well!

As Yamini says : "To experience more, you must FEAR LESS."

See you there!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Yes, These are My Running Readers - Apologies to Bill Simmons

I am a big fan of Bill Simmons, the writer for ESPN commonly known as the Sports Guy.

As such, I am going to apologize to him for ripping off one of his signature lines. You see, Bill often has a column called "Mailbag" where he answers humorous questions from his plethora of readers about sports, pop culture or whatever. He ends each column with a rather arcane but usually entertaining questions from a submitter but instead of answering that questions says: "Yup. These are my readers."
Click for an example and scroll down.

Now, I hardly receive the volume of mail Bill does but every once in a while I get an email that is just spectacular and I want to share. This one comes from James S in Arlington, Texas.

"Hi Dane

I saw you a couple of weeks ago at the expo for the
Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth, TX. I am glad that I bought a copy of your book. I finished it in short order, and am impressed by your dedication to the sport. In short, it motivated the hell out of me. Getting up and running, whether a training run, marathon, or even a 5k race, is a much better way to spend your Saturday mornings than sleeping off a hangover.

Besides, I just looked this up. My favorite beer, Shiner Bock (hope you had some while you were here in Texas by the way) has approximately 150 calories per bottle. I run with a GPS watch, and it tells me that I burn about 160 calories per mile. Let's say it takes me a dozen beers to get that hangover that causes me to sleep in and miss that Saturday am run. Instead of being up by several miles worth of calories, I'm now a dozen miles worth of calories in the hole.

I guess my point is that when I look at that beer in the bar, I don't just see the $2.50 draft price, I also see the extra mile that I'm going to have to run to make up for it.

James S"

As soon as I finished this one, I thought "Yup. These are my readers." So, I apologize Bill, but I just had to steal that line.

But on a semi-serious note, James hit on something I have said so often. Many have wondered how I could have afforded what I did in 2006 when I ran 52 Marathons. I told them that besides making it my goal to do so and sacrificing many things, I was fortunate enough to:
a. not like alcohol
b. not like coffee
c. not desire to eat out that much.

When you just do simple math it is astounding what that does to your pocket. My friend drinks a Starbucks coffee every morning before work. She said it averages like $5 per coffee. It told her that over a normal course of a year, that coffee costs her $1200. Her jaw dropped.

I have friends that have at least one night out on the town a week. Throwing in eating out and a few libations, they are easily dropping $75 (maybe more; alcohol is so expensive and I haven't had one in 10 years so I honestly have no idea what its price is any more.) Doing that just ONCE a week is $3900 worth of money out a year. Wow.

Am I saying you shouldn't eat out and treat yourself? Not at all. In fact, you should. Life is about enjoyment. However, you must do it in moderation. You see, the other side of all that expense is all the added calories.

For example, in a Starbucks Blended Mocha Frappucino, (Venti) there are 346 calories. In order to burn off one pound a week, a person must have a calorie deficit of 3500 calories. As you can see, if you only have one of these Frappucinos 5 days a week on the way to work, you are making it nearly 50% more difficult to drop calories. Yep, one is drinking over 1700 calories in Frap. Again, that's only if you have that drink just ONCE a day!

As for eating out, well, you do not need me to tell you that eating out is, for the most part, far more unhealthy than eating at home. I don't even want to break down the calories in and the money out for that little fiasco.

So, while James made me feel good about how much he enjoyed my book, and made me laugh with his hangover equation, he 100% hit on something many of us should do. Less Calories in, more calories out and guess who is going to be fit as a fiddle!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Blind Ambition

In case you missed the story about the blind basketball player HERE, allow me to sum it up for you.

First of all, it is not as amazing as it sounds at first blush. The player in question, Matt Steven, missing both of his eyes, does not actually play in his high school basketball games. Let's just get that out of the way first off. Having said that, prepare to be amazed anyway.

In a charity tournament just last month in and around Upper Darby, PA where Matt goes to school at
St. Laurence CY, the coach of the team (and Matt's older brother) Joe, asked the referees and other teams if it would be if Matt (you know, the one who cannot see) could shoot all of the team's free throws. They all agreed.

I will admit my knowledge of basketball rules is not as in depth as it could be. I don't know if a team can have a designated shooter. It seems highly unlikely since you could always put in your best free throw guy whenever anyone was fouled. But if the other teams and the referees agreed to it, then it must be allowed. So, let the magic unfold.

As Rick Reilly of ESPN the Magazine reports, "The first game, Matt came in and -- to the crowd's shock -- made his first two. He was escorted back to the bench, where he grinned as if he had just kissed the head cheerleader. He was 4-for-8 that day."

Matt claims he wishes to be treated normal. Unfortunately, the reality is that he is not normal. Born with two permanently detached retinas, and eyes that were removed when he was in middle school, Matt obviously has some serious disadvantages in life. However, after begging to be taken out of a school for the blind, Matt was allowed to attend a regular school and join the basketball team. He was just happy to be on the team, shooting free throws whenever he got the chances, making about half of them. Or about the same percentage that Shaq makes with two good eyeballs and about $300 million dollars in NBA earnings over his career to do things like, make free throws.

How does Matt "see" the rim? Well, his brother hits the backboard with a cane. Matt then uses the sound to aim. And then shoot away.

Reilly continues. "Which brings us to Matt's moment in that second game. He'd missed his first six free throws, and St. Laurence was down eight to St. Philomena. Then a full-court press pulled the team to within one with 10 seconds left. That's when St. Laurence's best shooter -- 6'4" senior Ryan Haley -- was fouled in the lane."

"And Haley really was going to shoot them, until he looked over at Matt on the bench. "And I thought, He comes to every game, he never misses a practice, he cheers us on. He deserves a shot. I mean, it's everyone's dream to make those shots."

Yep, Matt came in with the game on the line. BAM. He makes the first one and the crowd goes insane. BAM. Second one finds nothing but the bottom of the net. When St. Phil's desperation shot misses, Matt becomes an instant legend.

Visually impaired? Yep. Virtually impossible? Yep.

Nice shooting, Matt.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Losing 80 lbs and counting

My hometown is a small place. Not super-duper small with one stop light and everyone has to quickly check the laws of consanguinity before kissing to make sure they are not cousins, but still pretty small.

So when my cousin married the sister of my best friend's sister's husband, I wasn't too surprised. Stuff like that happens there. The fact that they got married on Valentine's Day was pure genius of my cousin's part, I think. Heck, if his new bride had her birthday on Valentine's Day she might have just been the perfect girl: 3 occasions, 1 present!

What was not ordinary was how both my cousin (who is a grown man but whom I cannot refer to anything but Chuckie) and his bride (Jen) brought three kids apiece to the marriage.

Upon marriage they brought a 7th kid into the mix to bring their happy home to a grand total of 9 people. Crazy stuff.

Well, with those kids (one boy and 2 girls from Chuck's previous marriage and 2 boys and one girl from Jen's marriage, in a surprisingly odd age combination with each gender almost matching identically) and life, Jen let her weight slip away from her. At 5'2'' she was carrying around 270 lbs on what should be a tiny little frame.

Then in August 2008, as Jen says: "I was diagnosed diabetic. I decided that it was time to take my life back...the life that I so missed yet had no idea how to get there. I cried for a solid week feeling sorry for myself as well as the horrible example I was leaving for my the kids. After that week of tears was over I decided that was then this is now and I'm going for it."

And go for it she did. Knowing she did not want to lose weight and regain it (as he had previously on other diets and programs) she went to a dietitian. The plan however did not work for her because the foods she was placed on did not suit her and she knew she would not stick to it. So rather than just giving up, she made up her own plan.

Her plan works for her by "cutting out many carbs and concentration on meats and veggies....I still treat myself to appropriate portion size goodies because I know that I'll always be a food addict. It is one of the hardest addictions to break because you always need to eat. So as I take it one day at a time and make my goals".

What are her goals? Well her first goal was to be under 200 lbs. *BAM* Done!

Her second goal is to lose 100 total pounds which she is nearing as we speak.

Her final plan is to make it to 150 lbs by this fall and run in the Drake Well Marathon weekend's events! after that, she will reassess how far she has come and make even more goals.

Obviously cutting food out alone does not do everything (while it alone would help ANYONE trying to lose weight). Jen incorporates exercise into her routine as well. "My exercise consists of 90 minutes a day...with some treadmill running 3 miles and workout videos for walking and cardio."

And it is working. The point of this is that ANYONE can lose weight and get their life back to where it should be. If a 5'2'' mother of 7 (forgot about those SEVEN kids for a second didn't you?) can be close to losing 100 lbs and still keep going, anyone can do it.

Jen wishes she hadn't ever gotten to the point she was but the simple fact of the matter is she did. But she turned it around. When I asked if she would share her story with me she said:

"I love you and thank you for caring Dane. It means a lot and thank you for sharing my life ...and finding myself again.

To be honest, I am pretty happy that there is a lot less of her to love these days.

Keep it up Jen!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

USATF 50K Road Championship Race Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 4th Edition
109.7 miles raced in 2009

Race: USATF 50K Road Championship
Place: Huntington, NY
Miles from home: 1991 miles
Weather: 30s; windy
When I was changing the header for this race from my last one, I laughed thinking what a difference removing the word "Beach" from Huntington and moving from CA to NY made.

I had really been looking forward to running this race for quite some time. You see, some of my personal bests bother me. I know they are no where close to being in the realm of what I would be happy to call my best for that distance. Without a doubt, up close to the top of that list was my 50k time. I have run two previous 50ks, both in 2007 and both with pretty disastrous results.

The first was the Seneca Greenway Trail 50k. You can read the recap HERE. However, I think the race can be summed up with this picture to the right. My time?

5:20:29. Ooof.

Later in the fall of 2007, eager to avenge this horrific day, I signed up to run the North Face 50k in DC. In August. In 99 degree weather. On Trail. That recap is HERE.

Once again the picture tells the story. At least I set a new PR in 5:06:22.

You can see why I was itching to run a race in better conditions!

I started off the weekend by being in Fort Worth, Texas for the Cowtown Marathon Expo. While I had enough brains to not try and run the marathon the day before an all-out effort in the 50k, I was on my feet for two straight days. I flew out of Texas and got to La Guardia airport Saturday evening and was fortunate enough to be able to have a chauffeur and host (as well as fellow running friend) Rich Burgunder as my guide. He had been monitoring the weather and said it looked like it could be nasty.

The race was to take place in Caumsett State Park in Huntington, NY on Long Island. Nestled right on the water, we had predictions of 20-30 degrees at the start with possible snow and ice. I told Rich I would take the cold over the heat any day and if the road was clear I couldn't complain too much.

Race morning:

Fortunately, most of the snow held off. By the time we arrived at the entrance to the park, the temps were pretty cool but I could tell if anything was going to be a problem it was going to be the wind off of the Long Island Sound. In addition, the course was changed slightly than what was advertised on the website. Instead of ~ 12 laps of a 2.6 mile course it was going to be ~13 laps of a 2.3 mile loop. The change (made for whatever reason) eliminated a little dog-leg part of the course and suited me just fine. While loops like this sound awful to many runners and non-runners alike (guessing by the sour-lemon faces anyone made when I told them what the course would be), I actually don't mind them at all. (Proof: the 84 miles I ran in the 12 Hour Presque Isle Endurance Classic in 2003 which still stands as the farthest distance ever run there).

Before the race I was fortunate enough to meet up with running friend, and course record holder, Michael Wardian. I knew he would be crushing me on this course but it was nonetheless good to see him. I also had the pleasure to meet Kami Semick, a legend in the ultrarunning world in her own right. As we were hustled from one place to another in a slightly disorganized way, I also was able to meet Rich's friend and a guy I would also come to know during the day, Jeremy Shearer. Jeremy and I figured to be around each other during the race, so it was a pleasure to get to meet him while we stood shivering in the wind. I only notice now that his hat and shoes matched my jacket. Twinsies!


We quickly gathered to the line, there was a very brief speech which concluded with the official timer saying "Seven seconds until we go". Why 7 and not 10 or 5, I haven't the foggiest idea but it made me smile. We readied for the figurative gun. The snow started anew.

Lap 1: 16:08 (7:01 pace)
The course was set up as follows: about .3 or .4 of a mile from the start of the timing mat (and eventual finish) there was a mile marker situated a mile from the mat and another situated a mile from the first mile marker (about 100 yards from the start of the race). It was confusing at first, especially when I was going to do my best to keep nice even splits, but after a lap or two, I had it down. Regardless, as we started off, Wardian flew away from everyone and a pack of about 3 runners fell in behind him. I fell into another pack a little bit behind that pack and settled in. After the first lap I knew I was going too fast and pulled back a touch.

Lap 2: 17 ish

I could not figure out where exactly I wanted to hit my watch to try and keep my splits on schedule so I am not 100% sure of each lap (results have yet to be posted with split times). Either way, I felt like I had slowed down a bit and was pleased with that. Rich snapped a picture as I passed through the second lap confirming this.

Lap 3:

I had a man on my tail as we began the 3rd loop. I really don't like people right behind me so I altered my stride a little bit to see if he would pass me. He had been using me on the windy side of the course and as we went through the timing mat and onto the side shaded from the wind, took off. I was more than fine with that.

As I neared the end of this lap, I saw Jeremy up ahead. He had taken off with the pack that was behind the lead pack when I had stayed back.  But here I had reeled him in. I caught him right along the top of the hill right before the timing mat and we began to run in step. I am not sure exactly what his pace or desired goal was but at least here we had someone to keep each other company, if even for a lap or two.

Lap 4:

About half of a mile later, Kami Semick strode by. We shared a few words of encouragement with each other and made some introductions. Soon thereafter she took off and Jeremy said: "Well that was nice to run with a National Champion for about 100 yards".

I agreed.

On the back half of this loop we began to encounter some more people. I had been running virtually alone but was beginning to lap some of the slightly slower competitors here. What was confusing was there were also people out for, seemingly, a stroll, just for the heck of it. Unfortunately, they were taking up the side of the road that we would use to pass runners and really did not seem to care that they were in the way at all.

Near the end of the loop, as Jeremy and I began to navigate through some people, one of the runners (wearing headphones) veered to his left directly in front of my path. I had to jump out of his way and off of the road. I could not just run in the dirt next to the road as in this section there were some rocks placed at juncture of the road and the grass and I assuredly would have twisted an ankle and fell. Slightly pissed and with a surge of adrenaline, I pushed myself back onto the road, shot an ugly look at the guy and went up the hill to the mat.

After crossing the mat together, Jeremy fell back a little bit, said he was going to hit the aid station and would catch up soon. The snow started anew. So did the wind.

Lap 5:

As I started the lap I saw Kami had also pulled off to the aid station. I was doing my best to try and figure out what place I was in and Rich also was trying to tell me. But with so many people stopping and starting at aid stations there was definitely some confusion. With eight laps to go I was feeling fine, and was just about where I wanted to be timewise.

I had been eating nothing and drinking only the water at the one aid station opposite from the timing mat every loop. I continued on doing the same with this lap. After Wardian had lapped me about 100 yards from the beginning of this lap, I saw him quickly disappear into the distance. He was going for a new course record and I knew he was going to be close.

My fuel intake might be criticized but this is what sit best with me. I didn't know exactly what the energy drink was at the aid stations and the water seemed to be suiting me just fine. It definitely was cold enough.

Lap 6:
I began to play mental games here and there knowing that after the conclusion of this lap, I could then look forward to being halfway done in the middle of the next loop. It is little things like this that help me get by during looped courses that I think other runners can utilize as well. I had run one of my faster loops in the past 3 or 4 and felt very much in control of my race. I knew I was barely halfway done and no long distance runner should make judgments this early in a race but I could tell I was doing well.

Lap 7:

As I pulled over to use the bathroom, Kami sped by. I had been wondering when she would arrive behind me and here she was. My planned pace for each mile was 6:45. I nailed the entire lap perfectly using Kami as pacer even as she drew steadily away. It is nice to have a rabbit even when you are virtually running alone.

At the top of the lap, I saw one competitor who I had not seen since the beginning and he looked to be tiring. I decided to try and follow him and eventually take him down. (2013: note: His name was Dave James and Dave and I would cross paths many times in the future.)

Lap 8:
At the beginning of the lap, I asked Rich to get a definitive statement on where exactly I was ranked. I was right on pace to get my sub 3:30 goal but now I also wanted to know where I was placing.

Meanwhile, the entirety of this lap was spent chasing down the one runner who seemed to be faltering. He passed some people who evidently knew him who were also running the race and they cheered him by name. When I passed by about 10 seconds later I held my finger to my lips and said: "shhhh!" in an attempt to not let the runner ahead of me know I was right on his heels They all laughed. Too loudly damn it!

I finally caught the runner at the top of the hill and readied for the final 5 laps.

Lap 9:

Rich was always asking if there was anything I needed and here I wanted a Vanilla Bean gu. He snapped another picture and quickly handed me the only thing I would take in the entire day besides water.

As I looked over at the aid station I saw I was once again passing Kami. At least I thought it was Kami. My mile splits were again right on and I hit the end of this lap knowing if I averaged a 16 minute loop for the remaining 4 loops, I would have my sub 3:30.

Lap 10:

Rich told me he thought I was in 6th place or so but I knew that was not possible unless some people had dropped out.
As this loop wore on, the wind seemed to get a little stronger in places. I am sure it was just me tiring but it seemed to be in our faces longer than usual as if it had shifted some. I soon heard some footsteps and was quite surprised to see it was the guy I had passed earlier who had really looked like he was struggling. Then another set of footsteps revealed Wardian lapping me for the second time. I was hoping to make it to the end of this lap before he did so (just a little personal goal) but it was not too be. I couldn't figure out if the other runner (Dave) was sorta of pacing him, (as he seemed to really be flying) and then would die off so I tried to keep them both in sight.

Lap 11:

The previous lap had been a little slower than I had hoped making a sub 3:30 a little tougher than I would have liked but I figured I would be ok. As I started this loop, the runner who had shadowed me earlier, appeared ahead and he looked just about done. I was wary of making the same mistake twice and passing him too early as I had done with Dave but half a mile later I easily slid by.

This entire lap I kept wondering if he would catch up to me and where Kami was.

Lap 12:

Two laps to go. I began to fatigue for the first time all day. A marathon was now in the books (in a time of about 2:57:50) and I knew that put me a little over 3:30 if I kept the same pace. However, while I could still see Dave ahead, he appeared to be getting stronger and I was definitely tiring.

No worries, it was going to be a huge PR nonetheless. Now all I wanted to know was what place I was in.
Lap 13:
As I went through the timing mate for the final lap, I could see I was not going to get a sub 3:30. I was pretty sure I did not have a 12 minute loop in me after having just done an 18 minuter!

Rich told me he thought I was in the top 10 but could not be sure. Oy. Now the question in my head the entire final lap was whether I was in or out. On the hill on the backside of the course, I took a 10 second break to walk briskly to call up any energy stores I had left for the final 2 plus miles. As soon as I started running a guy I hadn't seen all day passed me. I could not tell if he was a racer or just a guy out for a jog. I decided I was not going to take any chances and immediately fell in about 10 yards behind him. If it was going to come to a final sprint, I wanted to make sure I was in striking distance to do so.

One mile left and we sat in the same place. We hit the final downhill before the last up to the finish and I decided that here was my shot. I used the downhill to pass him and quickly looked over. Yep, he was wearing a bib and was in the race. Man this is going to hurt if he pushed back! "Good job, man!" he said which threw me a little. If he was finishing as well I didn't think he would use his energy to say good job. But I wasn't taking chances.

Up the hill I pushed and the timing mat and clock appeared. I cruised through the finish in 3:37:15. Or a personal best by 89 minutes.

I quickly turned around to see the runner I had just passed. He kept on running. He had at least another lap to go. Geesh! I turned back around as a gentleman put a medal around my neck.

I would soon learn that I had indeed finished 10th overall in my first ever USATF national championship race. I was very pleased.


Wardian just missed his course record by less than a minute or so and I was quite impressed. He had no competition all day and really was out there pushing against nothing but himself and the wind.

Kami had somehow either snuck by me when I was in a daze or had not been the woman I saw pulling over later in the race as she finished in an awesome time of 3:29. It was really a pleasure to meet her.

The gentleman who had shadowed me earlier was none other than William Emerson, a multi-time high-placing master ultrarunner. To be able to best him was indeed an honor.

Jeremy had a tougher day than he expected, just finishing over 4 hours. He has apparently lost count of his loops and had stopped for a few seconds after his 12th, just a few minutes after I had finished. The fact he was able to start running again was a testament to his mental strength. We posed with our medals afterward (as well as a copy of my book that Jeremy got!)

A hearty thanks to all the volunteers who braved the cold that day. I did my best to say thank you every lap but I am sure it was unintelligible most of the time.

All told, I was extremely pleased and see this as just the beginning of a great year for me.