Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Giving Thanks

I know, the Thanksgiving holiday has already passed and I'm behind the times, BUT.

Have you ever really thought about the countless things you are (or should be) thankful for?  And not the big things, but how about getting out of bed, seeing the sun rise or set over the horizon.  Having clothes.  Being warm.  Having food.  How about your health?  Your spouse?  Your children?

Thanksgiving has passed, but the meaning of truly giving thanks hit me like an lead brick yesterday.  I've spoken many times about my involvement with the HCM Foundation, how the Foundation helps individuals and families who are dealing with the devastating effects of cancer.  Well, I got word from a friend that a little boy, 2 years old, passed away from cancer yesterday.  Yes, two years old.  Yes, he passed away from cancer.

I went to his care page and started reading the updates and I couldn't fight off the tears.  Could you imagine being thankful during the Thanksgiving holiday while dealing with that?  Well, his family was thankful, thankful for the brief time they had with him, thankful for the many doctors, nurses, friends and family who were part of his treatment and there for him in the tough times, thankful that he was no longer suffering, but rejoicing among the angels in Heaven. 

I struggled with this situation in my mind.  The photos of beautiful smiles on this little boy's face despite the adversity he was dealt.  The faith of a child.  All of the good that can come out of bad times.  God has a plan for us, and he obviously needed this little boy to fill a role that we won't understand until we walk into those Heavenly gates. 

It brought a whole new dimension of Giving Thanks to my mind.  I was thankful that through involvement in HCM, directing races to raise money, giving back to the community and the support of family and friends, HCM was able to reach out and touch this family and make a donation to offset costs of a funeral, something that no mother and father of a two year old could imagine dealing with. 

More than that, I want to take nothing for granted and Give Thanks for everything.  Each breath, the sights and sounds of mother nature, a wonderful wife, two incredible kids, health, food on the table, warm place to sleep.  I did nothing to earn ANY of this, I count it all as a gift, a blessing.

Sorry for the heavy post, it was weighing on my heart.  But I challenge you, how can you count your blessing and have a positive impact in this world?  Foster the faith of a child.  Think of what you can do to make a difference.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Shut'n down - Runner's World Half Festival

I was lucky enough to be a part of the inaugural Runners World Half Festival a couple of weeks ago.  The two day, three race event showcased the city of Bethlehem, PA which is basically our back yard.  Not only did I run the race, but I organized and directed the pace teams for the half marathon and I spoke at one of seminars (course strategy).  We basically camped out in Bethlehem for the whole weekend to take in the running, the seminars, the pasta parties, VIP gatherings, etc.  Runners World and Lead Dog Marketing nailed it out of the park with a top notch event and some incredible weather.

I got there Friday afternoon to set up the Pacer Group booth and Friday night I headed to an intimate VIP reception where I got to meet Shalane Flanigan.

Saturday morning we headed to the race site.  I was running "The Hat Trick", all three events in which they were tracking cumulative times (5k, 10K and 1/2 marathon).  Lauren and Autumn were running the 5k together.  My running hadn't been right since the Wineglass Marathon so I just wanted to finish to the best that my body would allow.  I started the 5K conservatively and ended up in the top 10 overall with a 17:12.  Autumn had a blast, taking in the water stops, skipping, singing, etc which was awesome, I'm so glad she got out there and did it.
What a backdrop for the start / finish area!
It was one of the larger 5k's in the area with nearly 2,000 runners and of course EVERYONE who was local was running so it was great to catch up with so many people in one place.  About an hour later I toed the line for the 10K.  Again, a conservative start and took what my body gave me.  Not my best or fastest 10k, but another top 10 at 37:06. 
The finish area was so cool.  Through a "tunnel" created by old blast furnace buildings, then under the "steel arch" through the screaming crowds and to the finish line.
Went home, grabbed a shower and headed back to hang out at the expo and take in some of the seminars and ultimately chow down at the pasta party.  Funny little story, my wife and her coworker Craig (one of my training partners) are physical therapists.  Shalane Flanigan was having some calf pain so the Runners World crew (who are treated by Craig) tracked him down so he could massage out her calf so she could run the next day.  Needless to say, he was a big fan of Shalane BEFORE she was his patient, now he blushes at the sound of her name!

Up bright and early the next morning and we all headed over to the race.  Lauren, my brother (and Craig) were pacing and I was "racing", if my body would let me.  What a beautiful AM.  I took advantage of it and went out conservatively and met a couple of runners who I chatted with for much of the first 8 miles.  We were clicking off 6:00 +/- pretty consistently but I knew my time was coming.  I could feel my piriformis pain and knew I wasn't as strong as Todd and Brian.  As we approached mile 10 they picked it up and I, well, "stayed" where I was.  I had nothing but "hold on" mode.  
Crossing the Fahy bridge on the way back to the finish, about 11.5 miles in.  Solo.
Approaching mile 12.  Note the old Bethlehem Steel "artifacts" in the background.  Steel Stacks is a cool place.
 The finishing stretch was my favorite part of all of the courses.  It felt like a tunnel in between the old steel production buildings and on Sunday there was about 15 drummers welcoming runners to "the tunnel".  It was an awesome sound that inspired you to push to the finish line.
In "the tunnel" headed to the finish.
 I crossed the line at just over 1:20, top 15 overall for the day.  I'm happy with that, but do wonder how well I could have run if I wasn't injured.  I ended up finishing 5th overall in the Hat Trick as well which was a surprise.  They had over 800 people doing the Hat Trick.

And speaking of injury, that was likely my last race of the season.  It looks like I may have a bulged disk in my back which was referring the pain to my piriformis / sciatic nerve.  A few weeks off of running and some exercises and hopefully I'm good to go.  That's the plan....

 In other news, I got a new road bike!  Specialized Tarmac Expert SL4.  Wow, seems pretty awesome so far.  The SL4 frameset has gotten some great reviews.  Internal cable routing and a matte finish gives it a cool looking finish.  Excited to put some miles on it.