Tuesday, 31 May 2016

2016 Subaru Shawnigan Lake Triathlon

Well, if the Delta Spash 'N Dash did not herald in the 2016 triathlon season, the 2016 Subaru Shawnigan Lake Triathlon did. With just 2 weeks before I (literally) jump into the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon, Shawnigan was a good race to mentally prep myself for my second tri season.

Early Saturday morning, I loaded my gear into the rental car and started my drive to Vancouver Island.  Although off to a late start, I still managed to make the 7:00am ferry.  After a very rainy drive, I arrived at Shawnigan Vacations.  If you are ever in the area and need a place to stay I HIGHLY recommend it.

After unloading all my gear (sans bike), I decided to head down to West Shawnigan Lake Provincial Park early for a quick swim.  Athlete/Bike check in was not until 1:00pm but wanted to make sure I knew where everything was before raceday.

I arrived just in time to watch the IRONKIDS Fun Run.  It was a great to see the many kids who may one day grow up to love endurance sports and inspire a future generation.

Leading the kids race was LifeSport's own Dan Smith.

I first met Dan last year before the Subaru Vancouver Triathlon when Andrew (my coach) was still with LifeSport.  Dan remembered me and had been following my progress on facebook.  And apparently I'm "half the size" I was last year.  I don't see it, but we are our own worst critics.  But more on that later.

I put on my wetsuit and proceeded to test the waters.  I recently invested in a new, triathlon specific wetsuit.  My old one is still good, but is a little on the cheap side and stiff side.

While shopping around for a new wetsuit, I narrowed it down to the 2XU Race 3 or the HUUB Aerious 3:5.  Both fit and moved very well, but my gut kept leaning toward the 2XU Race 3.  It had less paneling than the HUUB.  In my research, I found that wetsuits with a lot of paneling are more prone to tearing.  I am a pretty strong guy and did not want to invest in a wetsuit that had the potential to rip after several instances of putting on and ripping off.

The water was very cold, and as I was walking in I noticed the bottom was very rocky.  The race was a waste deep start, so that did not worry me, but I would have to swim as far in as I could to avoid tripping on the rocks during the swim exit.  Luckily, my courses with SeaHiker have prepared me for just such situations.

After my nice, brisk swim, I headed back to dry off and check in.  I grabbed my bike from the car, checked in, put my race number on my bike, then dropped it off in transition.  I covered the bars with a garbage bag due to the rain.  It did not matter much seeing as how I would be soaked when I got back on it the next day. I grabbed my bags and heading back to my room for a shower and lunch before coming back for the pre-race briefing.

Back at my room, I started to organize my gear for the next day.  I realized I must have left the bag with all my check-in stuff (stickers, bib, timing chip, swim cap, etc) at the expo.  Once I had the rest of my stuff laid out, I headed back to the lake to find my bag and for the pre-race briefing.

While waiting for the meeting to start, I saw a few friends I knew.  Carlo and Diana, who train with me under Andrew (Coach Powell).  Diana was nice enough to lend me an extra race belt, since I had forgotten mine.  She said it was Race Karma, as she forgot a helmet at a race once, and someone had an extra.  Now she brings 2 of everything.

I also saw Gary, who was the volunteer captain at the Whistler Ironman last year.  I had the privilege to volunteer at the finish line from 7:00pm-Midnight and see so many amazingly inspiring athletes finish.

After the race briefing, I grabbed some dinner, went back to my room, did one last gear check, read, then went to bed.

The alarm went off at 4:00am.  Then again at 4:10am. And again at 4:20. When it went off at 4:30am, I got up.

I showered, prepped, grabbed my gear and something small to eat, and was out the door.  I parked at the Community Center and grabbed a shuttle to the start.

It was a beautiful morning.  The sun was rising right over the water.  This turned out to be a slight issue, but more on that later.

The first thing I did was check my tire pressure. Leaving your bike out overnight in the cold can (and did) greatly reduce your tire pressure. I then checked my gears, making sure to keep it in a relatively easy gear for the bike start, and the sensors; cadence, speed, heart rate, all good. Then I proceeded to set up my transition area. As I set up my area, I chatted with the other athletes. We were ready to go. I had walked through transition the day before so I knew the swim entrance, what landmarks to use to find my bike (turn right when I line up with the yellow Power Bar flag then 2 sections in on the right), where to go with the bike (straight down, turn left, up the hill, through the trees, turn right), I knew where the mount line was, I knew where the dismount line was, how to get back to my transition, and where to exit for the run.

I did one final check then began to put on my wetsuit.  I made my way down to the water to get acclimated to the temperature and get in a quick warm up.  The water felt very warm at first, but turns out that was just because the ground had been so cold.

During the warm up, I looked for a landmark to use for sighting.  The sun was right over the swim course and with the glare there was no way to sight the buoys. Looking for an alternative, I saw a large hill in the distance just to the right of the first turn buoy.  If I sighted that and aimed just to the right a tiny bit, that would put me where I needed to be.

I was not nervous for this race at all. My continuous training had me physically prepared and having done this distance a couple times before, I was mentally prepared as well.  My brain had spent the last few months prepping for Escape From Alcatraz and I knew this would be way easier.

It was 90 seconds to the start.  I was in the water and found myself mid pack. At first I wanted to move back, but decided to give starting with the pack a try.  This had not gone well in previous races, but I felt better today.

The Swim

There was no countdown.  No, "Ready? Set? Go!" No, "On your marks."  Just a loud, sudden cannon blast.  For a split second, we all just looked at each other, unsure as to what just happened. Then, before I knew it, I was in the washing machine.  The water was white with thrashing feet.  Hands slapped legs and feet met faces.  I tried to stay calm, but could feel my heart rate begin to climb.  I started doing the breast stroke in an attempt to calm down.  Soon the pack was ahead of me and I could not breath.

I'm in there somewhere getting kicked in the face.

I signaled to kayak that was close by and asked if I could hold on for a bit.  I felt stupid.  This is the second time this has happened in a race.  The volunteer in the kayak asked if I was ok and I told her I just needed to let my heart rate go down.  She could tell I was frustrated and told me to relax and just do what I needed to do to have a good race.  A race official in another boat came up and told the kayaker to move me out a bit, as the women's wave was going to start in 2 minutes.  I told them I would not need that long.  I took another 20 seconds, thanked the volunteer, and began to swim.

While waiting for my heart rate to drop, another swimmer swam up and asked the volunteer if she had extra goggles. Apparently, his had been kicked off.  I have no idea what he did, but I hope he found a solution and had a good race regardless. 

It was slow going at first.  Front crawl for a bit, then breast stroke for a rest.  I kept my sight line and soon I was at the first turn buoy.  At this point, purple caps started to swim past me.  The women's wave had caught up.  This did not phase me however, I am a strong swimmer, but I have no allusions about being the fastest.

As I rounded the corner, I took a moment (doing the breast stroke) to find a good sight line.  There was a very tall group of trees just above the second turn buoy.  A Star Wars quote was in order.

I continued switching between front crawl and breast stroke around the second turn buoy.  As I turned and began to sight off the big blue arch that was the swim exit, I began to find my groove a bit. More and more front crawl and less and less breast stroke.

As I got closer to the third turn buoy, and the second lap, I remember thinking, "I better swim in case anyone is watching."  Then I realized that no one watching knew who I was.  "Screw it." I thought "Give 'em a show anyway."

As I made my turn into lap number 2, I was feeling much better.  My groove was found and before I knew it I was back at the first turn buoy, then the second, and then I was sighting the swim exit.  I concentrated on having a smooth, efficient stroke.  I did not want to sprint to the end and have nothing left for the short jog to my bike.

I swam though all the tall weeds I noticed the day before and the water began to shallow.  I saw the swimmer in front of me stand up and all I could think was, "Too soon!"  The shallows were rocky, your feet were numb, and the less you have to deal with rocks, the better.  I waited until the very last moment to ' pop up and monster.'  My SeaHiker people know what I'm talking about.

I ran up the little ramp while putting my goggles on my forehead and unzipping my wetsuit.  Since last year, I switched my goggles to a pair with flatter lenses with less of a protruding nose bridge.  I found that curved lenses and a nose bridge that stood out too far caused my eyes to adjust and go crossed during the swim.  This became an issue when I would get out of the water, as my eyes did not adjust back well or quickly.  This caused me to be unbalanced and feel nauseated. But the new goggles worked great!  No unbalance, no nausea. Crossing the timing mat, I lapped my watch.  The swim was over


As I rounded the corner into the transition area, I found my landmarks and quickly found my bike.  It was easy as all the other bikes around it were already gone.  I stripped off the rest of my suit, put my helmet on straight away, snapped off my watch and snapped it to my bike, socks, shoes, visor, and after one last quick look for insurance, I was off. 

As I ran through the bike racks, I  shouted to the other athletes in transition.  I did not want one of them to back up and get run over.  They graciously moved aside and I made my way though the woods on the carpeted path up to the mount line.  

Running that far in bike shoes was a bit awkward, but it needed to be done (and I am no where near the level of leaving my shoes clipped on the bike, putting then on during the ride).  

The Bike

I mounted my bike to the sound of roaring encouragement from the volunteers and was on my way.

I was sure to get water and a bit of nutrition in me right away.  This race I tried something new.  I know. I know.  Nothing new on race day, but this worked out... Sort of.  There are no gels allowed on the bike course at Escape From Alcatraz, so I bought a small 'gel bottle,' poured 3 gels in it, and mixed it with water.  The bottle came with a small clip that fit right on my aero bottle. The only problem was that when the Velcro got wet, it would not clasp.  That, and the fact the bottle mounts upside down, so if you didn't close it all the way, you end up with a sticky stem and front fork. 

I soon found my groove and powered on.  My bike skills have shown huge improvement this year and this was the first race with my new bike setup. Hills are still hard, but my new compact crank and cassette make them a bit easier.  My pro bike fit done by BC Bike Fit helped me to be way more efficient in generating power.  This and my new aero wheels came in handy on flats and downhills.

The course was full of rolling hills.  I made sure to gain enough speed on each downhill to not only compensate for time lost going uphill, but to also achieve enough speed to aid in my next climb.

2 laps with the above elevation profile.

At one point, another rider and I played a friendly game of Tag.  She would catch me on the up hills, and I would catch her on the down hills.  At about the 10k point, I bombed down a hill and never saw her again.

About a kilometer and a half later, I hit the one very steep hill.  With my bike in its easiest gear, I climbed.  There was a large group of extremely encouraging volunteers working an aid station at the top.  Once over the top, the course evened out for a bit before heading back down hill. Then it was back the normal rolling hill course.

I was beginning to think to myself that the course felt very long. And about a kilometer after that, I finished my first lap.  The same encouraging volunteers at the mount line cheering as I rode by.

The second lap went by a bit faster, but not by much.  This course felt long (a little over 4k long).  I stuck with my strategy of gaining enough speed on each downhill to make up time and get me up the next hill.

As I reached the top of the first up hill of the second lap, I saw a rider struggling to climb.  As I passed her, I yelled, "You got this!  Almost at the top!  What goes up must come down!"  She stood and began to climb harder.

I bombed down the same big down hill and dug deep up the same steep climb.  When the course flattened out again my watch said I only had 4 kilometers left to go.  My mind began to visualize the run.

Suddenly, a car passed me.  Although not technically a closed course (at least not to local traffic) it was surprising to see a car.  She passed me and then pulled into the lane behind a few riders ahead of us.  Soon, I was passing her and the other 2 riders. Then she passed me again!  Only to, once again, be passed by me.  I was beginning to become very annoyed when she finally moved on.

At this point, my watch read 40 kilometers, but no dismount line yet.  I remembered from the first lap that there was a group of mailboxes on the right very close to the end.  Then, all of a sudden, there were mailboxes!  I was close.  Then.... More mailboxes!?  Which ones where the ones that signaled that the end was near?!  Then, I saw the dismount line.

I rode up, unclipped, lapped my watch, and began to jog. 

I said..... I began jog.  

My legs were not moving.  I had to focus very hard to get them to start moving off the bike. I thought it best to walk to T2 due to the downhill nature and the impaired legs.


As I made my way into T2,  I asked a volunteer which way to go.  On the way out, officials made it very clear to just run one way to avoid accidents.  It would have been quicker for me to go the other way, but I wanted to be safe.  The volunteer looked at me and shook his head saying, "I don't know." So I opted for the quicker route.

Once again, I announced my presence as I ran through the bike racks. I racked my bike, remounted my watch to my wrist strap, took off my shoes, helmet off, visor off, running visor on, shoes on, race belt on, and I was off.

The Run

 Lapping my watch, I ran out of T2 and was on my way.  Usually, when coming off the bike, my feet are a little numb, but today, with the cold as an added factor, I could not feel my feet at all.

As I ran around the finish area and up to the trail head, I realized I was going too fast.  After an uphill, I soon had to walk to regain feeling in my feet. Once at the road crossing, I began to run again, but once again, on an uphill, I had to rest.

Another runner past me and said she knew me from SeaHiker, but I did not recognize her and she was running too fast for me to catch up and find out who she was.

Once up the hill and on the Trans Canada Trail, I began to run again.  My pace was slow and I was upset with how poorly my run was starting out, but I was moving.

At a kilometer and a half, a runner passed me and complimented me on my tattoo.  I began to think about Abi and got a little boost.

I soon found somewhat of a groove and tried to hold it as best as I could.  I had to take more walk breaks than I would have liked, but I was making forward progress.  I watched as the more elite athletes were on their way back on this out and back trail run. I saw Carlo and Diana, who both had nothing but encouragement for me.

At the 2 and a half kilometer mark there was a little confusion.  As I grabbed some water from an aid station, they kept shouting, "Turn around! Right here!"  A few runners and myself stopped, very confused.  We could see more runners ahead of us and this was only 2.5k.  That was when we realized that this was the sprint distance turn around.  The volunteers did not make that very clear.

Around the 4k mark, I began to focus on the scenery to take my mind off my poor pacing and frequent walk breaks.

I have recently been watching a show on the History Channel called Alone. Basically, 10 people are dropped off in the most remote areas of Vancouver Island, alone, with only a set amount gear, and the one who makes it the longest, wins.  Apart from the survival aspect, the ones that lasted the longest had the best mental game.  They could get inside their own heads, assess the situation, and occupy their minds to better cope with the isolation.

I began to take this lesson to heart and started to shift my focus away from my poor pacing, frequent walk breaks, and being passed.  I began to think about triathlon, endurance sports, and training as a journey.  I was at this specific point in my journey, the athletes who were passing me were further along in their journey, and I was further along in my journey that those I passed.  We were all out there for different reasons.  We all had to start somewhere.  Some of us started later in life, some of us earlier, but we were all out there, on the same course, continuing on our own separate journeys.

This, in addition the all the superman comments, helped to put me in a better head space as I reached the 5k turn around.

As I began the back section of the out and back, I heard a "Fly us to the finish supermanI"  To which I replied, "I only fly when I'm on the bike!"

The woman caught up with me and we began to talk. I told her about how I was feeling and she reminded me of the fact that I was still out here doing it.  We spoke about our upcoming races and training before I let her take off and run her race.

As I passed an older man, who was just ahead of us during our conversation, he encouraged me and said, "See you at the finish and at Arizona 70.3!"

The rest of the run was small goals. Walk to that bush, then run as long as you can.  Make it to that pole, then you can walk.  Walk to that tree, then run. This went on until I had half a kilometer to go.  At that point I was determined to run the final 500 meters all the way in.

I turned around and saw one of the High School athletes who started the run at the same time I did struggling.  I called back to him, "C'mon! Only half a K left!  Let's run this in!  You got this!"  He began to run and as he passed me I shouted, "That's it!  One left turn, down a hill, across the street, then onto the finish!"

The Finish

Before I knew it, I was at the left turn.  I sprinted down the hill, dodging roots and rocks.  I ran across the street and onto the carpeted path, dodging folds in the carpet.  The last thing I wanted to do was trip this close to the finish. Then I was on the grass.  One final left turn and there was the finish.  By the time I thought about what I wanted to do in my finish photo, I was already across.

As I was presented my medal, I stopped my watch and almost fell over.  I was beat and my legs were screaming.  I grabbed something to drink and slowly made my way out of the finisher area.

I saw a few of the athletes who encouraged me on the run, shook their hands, and thanked them for their help in getting me through it all.

While watching other athletes finish, I stopped and spoke with Carlo. I walked back over to transition to begin to pack up and spoke with Diana for a bit.  She had come in 3rd place in her age division last year and (unknown to her at the time) she had done it again this year.  I expressed my frustration with not having a good run and she tried to cheer me up.  I made a joke about getting my moneys worth.  "If you do the math, I got the better deal.  If I'm gonna spend all this money on a race, I'm going to stretch my dollar."  Everyone within earshot had a good laugh.

I made the mistake of looking at my division standing, which I will not discuss here.

I packed up everything but the bike (which I came back for later) and made my way to the shuttle.  The 3 other athletes on the shuttle and I spoke about the race. One of them informed me that lots of people sign up for this race, but due to the weather or the temperature, they back out. This causes to the race to be full of elite and/or serious athletes.  This helped me feel better about my division standings and put the race in better perspective.

The gentleman asked me what got me started and I told him about Abi. He told me how he had a 7 year old son and wanted to be a good role model and show his son how to be strong.  He also told me not to stress about the panic attacks in the water.  This only being my second year in the sport, he promised me it would get better, but only with time.

I drove back to my room, showered, packed up, picked up my bike, and headed home.

Not until today, while typing this race report, did I start to feel better about my performance.  Actually looking back at the bike course and the elevation changes, this was one of the hilliest courses I've raced.  And averaging almost 30kph on that course!? No wonder my legs were spent on the run!  And my run time was not relatively bad either considering the rocky terrain and elevation changes.  My swim, despite the breaks and panic attack, was still right where my other swims at this distance had been.

I guess it took reliving the day though fresh eyes and a closer look at the course to realize that I have nothing to be upset about.

In 2 weeks, I will racing Escape From Alcatraz, a race that kind of terrifies me. But that is the reason I signed up for it.  I just need to take the lessons I learned at Shawnigan and apply them to whatever gets thrown my way in San Francisco.

Thank you for taking the time to read another one of my race reports! 

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

2016 BMO Vancouver Marathon Relay

I debated doing a write up for this race.  The distance was nothing new to me, it was not a destination race, and I was not running it with a specific goal or PB in mind.  But the reason I started this blog was due to my love of endurance sports brought on by the tragedy and strength that is Abi's story.

Having ran the full marathon in 2014 and the 8k in 2015, I was very familiar with the BMO Vancouver Marathon.

I try not to repeat the same race at the same distance. And since the full and 8k had been ticked off my list, I was contemplating running the half. But due to a very big race in June, my coach and I decided that the half marathon was not a good idea.  Luckily, through Team in Training, I was able to assemble a Relay Team.

The relay is comprised of 4 legs, 12k, 12k, 5k, and 13k, and follows the full marathon course.

Needing the hill training, I opted for the first leg. Sean, whose daughter was an honored teammate a few years back and whose family has benefited first hand from the money raised by TNT, opted for the next leg. (More about Sean) Heloise, a friend of Alice, the Senior Campaign Coordinator for LLSC, had the 5k, and Tony, a coworker and friend of Sean as well as a fellow TNT alumni, was our anchor. 

We needed a name for our team.  Sean had the excellent idea of combining the names of the people we run for into one name.  Team Shaliannabi was born.  It combined Shaelyn, Anne, Abi, and Alice.

The Saturday before the race, I volunteered for a bit at the Team In Training booth at the race expo.  My girlfriend joined me and we got a few great pictures at the photo booth.

That night was the TNT Inspiration dinner.

I was asked to share my (and Abi's) story in a short 5-8 minute speech.  5-8 minutes?  There is no way I can give a 5-8 minute speech.  I need at least a half hour! Nevertheless, I was able to put something together.

After the welcome, introductions, and main course, I was invited on stage to give my speech.  I have told several people Abi's story, in a variety of settings, but never in a formal setting to such a large crowd.

I took the opportunity to be the first of many to thank everyone for what they do with TNT and LLSC.  I explained that I do not like to read my speeches, that I would much rather speak freely, but that this story was too close to my heart.  I did want to leave anything out.  I apologized for this and explained that because of this, my speech may not be as eloquent as it could be.

Every word seemed to stick in my throat.  I have no problem in crowds, and even less when giving speeches/talks.  But this was a very emotional thing for me.  I was nervous about not being able to even give my speech though the emotions it would surely spring forth.

I pulled most of my speech from my very first entry on this blog.  I did indeed break down a few times during my speech.  Every time I looked up to engage the audience, I saw the same red eyes and sad faces that surely mirrored mine.

Here is the speech I gave:

I grew up in a small town in Indiana. When I was 4 years old, I met my best friend. Ben had 2 younger sisters and a few years later, his youngest sister, Abi, was born.

Abi brightened any room she was in. With a smile from ear to ear and a wonderful singing voice, she was a truly a joy to be around. She went to school to study horses, but found she missed interacting with people. She later became a greeter at Wal-Mart. Her co-workers tell stories about how she could cheer up any customer who walked in the door with just her smile and a friendly hello. She constantly went out of her way to talk with anyone and everyone who seemed to be having a bad day. She always put her own bad days aside to help those around her.

Truly, the most selfless person I ever knew.

In June of 2011, Abi went to the doctor complaining of leg pain. At first the doctor wrote it off as a lymphedema (a condition in which fluid is not carried away from a specific part of the body). She was told to find a good physical therapist and begin treatment. After working with her therapist, she was told that a CAT scan was recommended. The CAT scan revealed what we all feared, but never spoke. A tumor. After running a biopsy, we found out it was a rare (but treatable) form of sarcoma called Extraskeletal Ewing’s Sarcoma. This was a shock because that specific form of cancer was so rare and usually attacks the very young. At 21 years old, Abi took this challenge face on and was determined not to let this get her down. She literally looked death in the face and smiled.

By November of 2011, the tumor had not responded to the chemotherapy Abi's doctors had put her on. There was talk of surgery to remove the tumor. This, however, was very risky as they had no idea if the tumor was intertwined with the surrounding blood vessels of the leg. Abi smiled and reminded us all that God gave her 2 legs. Luckily, the surgery was a success and Abi was able to keep her leg.

Though it all, Abi smiled.

In February of 2012, after several months of remission, Abi was rushed to the hospital, presumably pneumonia. The scans reveal that the cancer had returned with a vengeance and had a strong hold in both of her lungs. She was put back on chemotherapy and medication to battle the blood clots associated with the infection in her lungs. It was at this time the doctors had to tell this sweet 22 year old that she was fighting a battle she could not win. Abi, with no fear and no regrets, continued living her life. Day by day. Hour by hour.

And through it all, she smiled.

In March of 2012, Abi was rushed to the hospital for what appeared to be a stroke. Scans revealed that the cancer had spread to her brain. This, in combination with the blood thinners to battle the clots, did not bode well. When she was not in the hospital for chemotherapy, she was there to have blot clots removed, and when she was not there for that, she was there to have fluid drained from her lungs. At this point, the doctors gave her a month to live.

On March 23rd, 2012, I flew back to Indiana to visit Abi and the family I had known since I was 4. For a very brief time, we were all kids again. Laughing and playing, joking and singing. It was as if time never moved.

That Sunday I flew back to Los Angeles, and the following Tuesday, I got the call. That Thursday, I was back on a plane for the funeral.

Now Abi looks down on all of us. And she is smiling.

That May, I joined Team in Training (TNT).

I was never a runner. At one point, I was pushing 300 pounds. Could I run a marathon? Screw it. This is for Abi.

Originally, I was signed up to run The Disneyland Half Marathon, but ended up switching to The Nike Women Full in San Francisco. This race was being held on
October 14th. This would have been Abi's 23rd birthday. I could not think of a more perfect situation for my first race.

I completed that race with Abi's picture held high over my head through a stream of tears.

Since then, I have ran 4 fulls, 17 halves, countless 10 and 5ks, 5 triathlons, a Ragnar Relay, a Tough Mudder, and am currently training for Escape from Alcatraz and my first Half iron. Several of which I have done with TNT

Throughout my years with TNT, I have met so many amazing people, with so many amazing stories. Many of those people would not be here if not for the treatments we help fund.

I've met Mothers who survived for their children,

I've met children, with smiles as bright as the sun, who have shown strength and resilience above and beyond what any child should have to endure. But they endured. And they Survived

I've met families, who though the struggle of this malicious disease, exhibit unyielding positivity, though on the inside they must be screaming. Knowing the whole time that the fight can be won.

I've met Children, who run for their parents. Friends who run for their friends, and perfect strangers who run just to make a difference.

The bonds and the people I have met through my 4 years with TNT and continue to meet, will live in my heart forever, right next to Abi.

Those who know me, know that I have an affinity for superheroes. I'd like to share a quote from a recent super hero movie that I feel pertains to us all.

“Four or five moments—that’s all it takes to be a hero. Everyone thinks it’s a full-time job. Wake up a hero. Brush your teeth a hero. Go to work a hero. Not true. Over a lifetime there are only four or five moments that really matter. Moments when you’re offered a choice to make a sacrifice, conquer a flaw, save a friend. In these moments everything else falls away.”

When you are running, when you are training, when you are fundraising, know that these are your moments.

Make tomorrow a moment. Make every step you take, from the start line, to the finish line, a moment. Make every person who see's you in your Purple know, that this is a moment.

Make the sacrifice.

Conquer this disease.

Saves Lives

Be a hero. 

I returned to my seat, not looking at anyone.  The room was silent.  I was not sure if there was an applause or not.  All I could feel was my heart pounding, my eyes watering, my legs shaking, and my girlfriend squeezing my hand. 
I do not remember the name of the next speaker, but she was from the Florida Chapter.  She began her speech outlining how her experience was that of a caregiver.

She told us about her son, who while away at University, constantly complained about not feeling well.  After a year of this, and seeing various specialists, he was diagnosed with a blood cancer.

She went into extensive detail about the treatments, remission, more treatments, and the toll it took on everyone.  She shared her feeling of helplessness as a mother, who never thought any of this could happen.  

"You never think about things like this when you are changing a diaper, or getting them ready for school."

The toll it took on her had made her selfish.  She would constantly lament about how this could happen to her and her son.  Why was this happening to me? 

I. Me. My.

As she continued her story, I remember thinking how hard it must have been, being so powerless to help, so powerless to fix the one thing wrong with the one thing you care the most about, your own child. How hard it must be to recognize that it's out of your control and the only thing you can do, is to do only what you can.

My mind raced to my own future, to my own son, and what I would do if I was in that situation.  I would love to tell you that I would be strong.  I would love to tell you that I would be the rock that fathers are meant to be.  While I know that I would do everything humanly possible to help my son, in the process I would most likely shut down.

The strength these parents exhibit, is beyond my comprehension.  How do they do it?

They are superheroes. They are my heroes. 

As she continued, a thought crossed my mind, either her son survived, her son is still battling, or her son lost his battle (and she is taken it better than I ever could).

As she finished her speech, I let out an audible sigh of relief, as she told us her son has been cancer free for 3 years.  The room burst into applause. 

He was at home, taking care of the dogs, while she was in Vancouver running this race for him, accompanied by her husband.

"There is is less 'I' and 'me'.  Now here is more 'us' and 'we'."

Through these sad, heartbreaking, emotion wrenching stories, I find hope.  For those who survive, they and their families surround themselves with a community dedicated to the eradication of cancer.  For those who lose the battle, their strength exhibited during that raging battle gives strength to those they leave behind to fight even harder.  

And we continue to fight.

The next morning was race day. My girlfriend dropped me off at the skytrain station early so I could watch the half marathon start (and so she could beat the road closures out of downtown).  I had several TNT teammates as well as friends who train with me through my coach. I wanted to support them.

The walk from the skytrain to the start was long, but I thought it would be a good way to warm up. I remember this walk from 2014, but today, it was warm and sunny.

I made my way to a small hill, just passed the start line.  From there I watched at each wave was given their countdown and start.

As the sea of people ran by to the rhythm of footfalls, my eyes darted as quickly as they could to try not to miss any of my friends/teammates.

After the half marathon was fully underway, I had to make my way back to the skytrain station for the relay gear check and meeting.

There was a wave of full marathon runners arriving, so I just followed the line of participants back to the skytrain.  I made note of the route they took, as it was much more direct and faster than the route the half runners were taking earlier. 
I met my relay team, gear checked my sweats and jacket, and showed them the timing belt we would need to pass off.  After some encouragement, I headed back the start line for my race.

For some reason, they had our relay start in the last corral.  After doing some warm ups, I made my way to the front of the corral.  I ran into my friend Jamie, who was about to start her very first full.  She is a TNT alumni from my second Vancouver (third overall) TNT team.     

Our corral soon merged with the one ahead of us and I was able to chat with another great running friend of mine, Angela.  She told her friends that she knew she would run into me, because I am apparently at all the races. She told them about our adventures doing the Tough Mudder.  I also saw my friend and former LLSC Executive Directer Liz, who was also about to run her first full marathon.   

I then realized that the full was not a wave start, it was a mass start.  I got my watch set and started my ipod. 

Let's do it.

The first section of my leg I was more focused on winding around slower runners.  The last corral was not ideal.  I am only running 12k and pacing myself accordingly.  The rest of the runners were running 42.2k and pacing themselves accordingly. 

As I started up a gradual incline at the 1k mark, Hold Your Head Up, by Argent starting playing.  A very fitting song for an uphill. 

At the 2k mark, I saw Tony watching as he waited for his shuttle for his relay point.  I waved and told him I'd see him at the finish line. 

I remembered the course from 2 years ago, but I was in better spirits today.  Maybe it had to do with the weather not being horrible or maybe it was because I was running 12k instead of 42.2. Not sure. 

At the 3k mark, I overheard a woman ask what 3 kilometers was in miles.  I told her that 10k is a little over 6 miles.

"You can use that as a key to figure out the rest.  The best part is, by the time you do the math in your head, you are at the next kilometer mark, and you have to do it again!  Just keep doing that, and before you know it, you'll be at the finish line."

Everyone had a good laugh and I continued on. 

At around the 7k mark, I felt I was pushing a little to hard.  I knew the hill was at 9k, so I took a short walk break.   I used this time to re-adjust my shoes.  The Speed Laces I bought were still working great, and the slight loosening I needed took about 2 seconds.  So far I am still really liking them.

At the 8k mark I was psyching myself up for the hill.  I knew the hill from 2 years ago as well as a few times we have done cycle repeats on it.

As I rounded the corner to start my ascent, Iron Maiden's Run for the Hills began to play.  I cranked it. 

As I started up the hill, I focused on short steps, high turnover, and upright posture.  I found another runner with the same pace as me and I drafted behind him. I focused on his heels and tried not to look at how much further I needed to go. 

The problem with this hill is not that it is steep, it just keeps going..... for almost a kilometer. 

There were tons of spectators cheering as we trudged up the hill.  At the top, people were shouting congratulations as we reached the top.

I joked with one spectator, shouting back, "There was a hill!?"

One spectator was shouting that we had made it up "the only hill" on the course.  I knew this to be a lie, there was one more at kilometer 23, but it was not this bad and I did not want to discourage those running the full marathon.

As I reached the very top of the hill, my coaches voice rang in my head, "No reward at the top!"  I kept pace and continued on.

Between 10 and 11 kilometers, I saw an older gentleman with an Ironman tattoo.  I asked him which Ironman he did and he told me Arizona.  We got to chatting about Ironman and triathlons.  I told him my story and he told me his.  I told him about how Arizona 70.3 would be my first half iron.  He asked me when I was taking the leap to a full iron.  2018 seems to be the year I'll make that jump, pending how my first (and following) half irons go.  I told him I was thinking Louisville, as it's really close to were I grew up.  The only problem is, I grew up on that river and I'm not sure I want to swim in it. 

We wished each other luck and I pulled ahead off to kilometer 11.

With 1k left to go, I could feel my heart rate rising.  I focused on breathing and settled back into my pace.  Soon there as the sign, 'Relay Exchange: 100 Meters'.  I saw the spotters and shouted my number to them.   I wanted Sean to be ready.

As I rounded the corner,  I saw the exchange.  It was on an uphill, but I was too focused on finishing to care about another climb. I shouted ahead, "Be ready Sean!!"

I unclipped the timing belt, passed the timing mat, and handed off the belt.  After a short good luck and have fun, Sean was off!

I was done.

I took a little time to let my heart rate settle.  I was feeling a bit sick.  Towards the end, I took a little too much of the sports drink and that, mixed with the heat, did not help. 

I chatted with another runner who was wearing a Northwest Passage RAGNAR shirt before it was her time to join the relay. 

After my heart rate had come down and the sick feeling had gone, I noticed there was no water and no shuttle.  Several other relay runners noticed the same thing.  There was a volunteer with a megaphone who was shouting the relay numbers for the next runners to prep.  After proclaiming, "I bet the guy with the megaphone knows," He made the announcement that both water and the shuttles were at the bottom of the hill.

After walking down the hill, getting some much needed water, and boarding the bus, I began chatting with another relay runner.  We shared stories of the races, training, coaching, weight loss, and running in general.

Once off the bus, I made my way to the relay tent were I picked up my gear check bag, thanked the volunteers, and received my medal. 

I then went to the TNT tent to check in and grab some more water and food.  There, Alice and Nicole congratulated me and we chatted for a bit.  Nicole was the US Flex Team's staff person on site and was also at New Orleans

I made my way up the finish line in time to catch the top 3 male and female full marathon runners cross the line. 

Kenya’s Daniel Kipkoech--2:21:04

Ethiopia's Lemma Gemechu--2:23:29

 Canada's Ryan Day (from BC)--2:36:44

 Ethiopia's Hirut Guangu--2:39:52

US's Allison Macsa--2:42:07 

 Canada's Ellie Greenwood (from Vancouver)--2:45:21
 (sorry for the bad photo)

When Allison Masca crossed the finish line, I was standing next to her friends.  They were upset they did not take a picture.  I showed them mine and asked if they wanted it, so I texted them the picture.

As more and more runners crossed the finish line, I stayed and cheered them all on as I looked for people I knew.  

Soon, Sean and Heloise joined me and we kept a keen eye out for Tony. 

Tony came across the finish with the 3 of us cheering him on.

We all met at the TNT tent to share congratulations and stories. It was pretty cool that the relay medals were purple to match our TNT attire. After some more water, we congratulated each other one last time before heading out.

Thank you for taking the time to read today's entry. I know there was less about the race in here than usual, but I felt it was important to share the events leading up to it.

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Thanks again!