Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In The Bag

Ever look at a woman's purse or wallet? Isn't it amazing what we will hold on to for fear of needing it some day?

I was sitting next to a friend of mine at a dinner party last week, and while she was searching for a few bucks to buy a drink, she actually pulled out a DVD. I think it was Super Bad. Yes, really.

I told her she would have been great on Let's Make A Deal, where Monty Hall would try to stump the audience by asking for odd items. And usually someone had them.

Well, my purse isn't that bad. (I'm actually writing that with a straight face.) But I did find one item of interest while cleaning out a few things today.

Written on the back of my Disney itinerary supplied to us by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society was a list of numbers, along with some barely legible scribbles.
  • 777 Porta Potties
  • 520 Buses to shuttle runners
  • 16,000 runners in the Half Marathon
  • 18,000 runners in the Full Marathon
  • 3,000 that do both races -- the half on Saturday and the Full on Sunday (yes, you read that correctly)
  • 88,000 gallons of water
  • 840,000 cups
  • $5.6 million raised by the TnT runners for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
  • 1,800 Tnt Runners (known as the Purple People by race organizers)
  • 17,000 sponges
  • 900 medical staff
  • 5,000 volunteers
I made the notes during the TnT Pasta Party at Epcot Center last month. (I guess I'll always have a little bit of reporter in me.)

The Pasta Party was probably one of the most emotional and inspiring parts of the Disney Marathon Weekend. As we turned the corner to make our way to the banquet hall on Friday afternoon before Race Day, the sounds of cheering, horns, whistles and almost every other imaginable noise hit us square in the face.

Volunteers, staff members, coaches, mentors and cancer survivors and formed two lines on either side of us. The sights and sounds were almost overwhelming. Costumes of every color. Signs and noise makers everywhere. They were celebrating the accomplishments of the TnT Disney runners. They were celebrating us.

I'm sure I wasn't the only one holding back tears as these perfect strangers showed their support and appreciation. Suddenly, we realized that we were part of something much bigger.

We weren't just individual runners out to reach a goal. We weren't even the small New Hampshire Disney Team or the regional Massachusetts team. We were part of a special group of people that put their sweat and tears into this challenge. We pushed ourselves physically and mentally. We reached out to friends and family members to help make our fundraising goals.

We helped change lives -- not only our own lives but also those affected by blood cancers.

I don't think I really 'got it' until that very moment when the thousands of runners and families made their way into the hall.

Once inside, we piled our plates with pasta in preparation of our upcoming races. We listened to survivors, participants and others. We celebrated the victories of teams throughout the country.

We, too, celebrated our accomplishments.

When we returned from Disney, we asked Coach Jack and Dave why they didn't tell us what to expect from the Pasta Party. They wanted to leave some surprises, they said. Plus, you can't really describe it and do it justice.

As always, they were right.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Anti-Disney

Cold, rain and snow. That's what I'll probably remember most about my second half marathon, which I ran yesterday at Hampton Beach.

Generally, a run along the beach would sound like a treat. But when it's February in New Hampshire, a 13-mile run can seem like it goes on forever. And that was certainly the case yesterday.

When I opened my front door to let Rebel out Saturday night, I saw a steady stream of snow coming down. The roads were covered and most certainly un-runnable. Maybe I wouldn't be running, I thought.

But when I woke up Sunday morning, despite the fresh layer of snow and a steady wind, I decided to go for it. It would make for a good experience, would keep my training up and fulfill another race in the series I signed up for earlier this year. (Two down, three to go....The things we do for a jacket!)

The Hampton Half was the Anti-Disney. For starters, there was no build up and well wishes. I only told a few people that I might run it... certainly didn't send out an email to let everyone know I'd be running.

Unlike the night before my Disney run, I didn't lay out my clothes ahead of time. I got a good night's sleep and was surprisingly relaxed.

Then there was the start time -- 11 a.m. -- a far cry from Disney's 6 a.m. start, which required me to wake up at 1:45 a.m. to make the the team meeting, a 3 a.m. bus and the requirement to be at the start area by 4 a.m.

Everything about the Hampton Half was different. The runners there seemed like serious runners. I can't even count the number of marathon jackets and shirts I saw. A 13.1 mile run was just part of the training for these folks. Unlike the Disney runners, they weren't there for the experience. No one carried cameras or wore crazy costumes.

There were few signs and supporters on the sides of the roads. No marching bands, DJs, cheerleaders.

The run was actually kind of lonely. I missed those purple shirts. It may have been the first time that I wanted my iPod with me.

I chatted with a few people that ran my pace along the way. It wasn't like Disney where people on the sidelines kept your attention (and distracted your mind from the fact that you were running so far).

I did my best to keep up with the pacer I selected at the start of the race. I fell back a little at Mile 5, but stayed far enough ahead of the group to avoid the pacer behind me. I shaved 7 minutes off my first half marathon, which I was proud of , especially considering the weather conditions.

Plus, I had done this one on my own. I took what I learned in TnT training and kept it up.

I won't say that the last three miles weren't tough. At several points along the way, I asked myself why I showed up for this race. The snow came down at a good clip in abnormally large flakes -- which somehow kept finding their way to my eyelashes -- somewhere around Mile 7.

Then, as the route made its way along the New Hampshire coast, the rain came. It was a cold, cold rain. My feet were soaked, making me glad that I chose to wear my old sneakers. That coastline route lasted five miles -- five cold, wet miles.

Normally, the beach is one of my favorite places. I love the smell of the salt air, the sand on my feet and the sounds of seagulls, waves and families playing along the water.

But this beach wasn't inviting. I couldn't see the sand from where I was, but I'm sure there was no one sitting on the beach. I saw one surfer -- the one person that might have been crazier than the 800+ people that ventured out for the Hampton Half Marathon.

The ocean had a green hue to it. It churned and crashed against the rocks. I think it was telling us to go home.

I struggled for the last mile. My body told me to stop, but I made myself keep going. The struggle must have been evident to passersby. At one point, an older gentleman dressed head to toe in royal blue spandex, gave me some encouragement.

"C'mon, kid, just another mile," he said, as he jogged past me.

Believe it or not, just those simple words were enough to keep me going. As the obviously seasoned runner kept pace in front of me, I studied his calf muscles, which looked like mangoes stuffed in the legs of his running tights. How many miles has this guy run in his lifetime, I wondered.

I never thought I'd want the legs of a 60-something-year-old man. But, boy, he looked much better in tights than I do. (Yes, these are the things that I think about while running.)

I never knew .1 miles could seem to far, but as I passed the 13-mile mark I couldn't believe the race wasn't over yet. It probably didn't help that my feet were sloshing through puddles, I was freezing and soaked through to my underwear. At points, we were dodging waves that crashed up over the walls of the beach.

Finally, I saw the Finish Line. A few supporters braved the weather and offered some applause as runners made their way across the finish.

It certainly was the Anti-Disney -- no fanfare, huge crowds or perfect Florida weather. Instead of a victory party with thousands of people the next day, a day full of work and meetings is on tap for me.

But, to add another Half Marathon to my list of races (and to get that stupid race series jacket), I'd do it all over again.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

It's THIS Sunday?

Last night Jamie and I finally connected, after a few weeks of phone tag and text messages. Did I want to meet her at the gym to run, she asked.

Couldn't because of some scheduling conflicts, I said, but hopefully we'd get to run soon.

Then I asked her if she was ready for Sunday's race -- another half marathon she signed up for a few months ago. I agreed to run it with her.

It's this Sunday?? Apparently Jamie thought we had a few more weeks to train.

The thought of running another half marathon so soon after my Disney run was a little daunting. I hadn't really run much, but seeing the Hampton Half on my calendar made me step up my training a bit in the past week or so. At the TnT Informational Night last week, Dave said I'd probably be fine if I did one long run this weekend.

Thanks to my new favorite website (, I was able to find a nice 9-mile route around the lake by my house.

It was a relatively nice day for a long run, despite the coating of ice that had been dumped on us the night before. With temps in the 40s, the ice was melting -- making for a messy run through puddles and sand used to coat the roads.

I'd never run that far without the team. Rebel, my four-legged trusty running partner, enjoyed the challenge and completed the whole run. (Congrats to Rebs for running farther than he ever has -- with energy to spare. He slept briefly while I showered, but then was ready to play ball shortly after our run.)

Hearing the words of Dave and Coach Jack, I made sure to eat well and hydrate before the run. I strapped on my fuel belt and put a GU in my pocket. And the 9 miles passed relatively easily.

Yep, I'm ready for Sunday's Hampton Half ... if Jamie is.