Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Katie Lynch Heartbreak Hill 1/2 Marathon Race Report

Well, leading up to this very important race, to say the nerves were a little frazzled, would be an understatement.  I've already talked a bit about the importance of this race for me, but I thought it might be a good idea to go over the background info again.
After the race...........
Katie Lynch was a LP (little person) who had a connection with the Boston Marathon about 10 years ago.  She came up with something called the "Purple Shoes Challenge".  Somehow getting connected with Dave McGillivary, she walked her own marathon of 26.2 feet prior to the Boston Marathon in 2001.  Sadly, in 2002, Katie died and though we attended an LP National Convention years ago, I never met her personally.  In honor of her life and the programs she started to make sure there are programs available for all who want to participate in physical activity, regardless of their different abilities, Katie's family and friends started this race, the Katie Lynch Heartbreak Hill 1/2 Marathon 2 years ago.  Along with the race, is the "Purple Shoes Challenge" where dozens of differently-abled athletes participate in their own marathons.

Through a mutual friend, I heard about this race last season and thought seriously about racing then.  Having never ran in a 1/2 marathon, I thought it best I try a more "friendly" course closer to home to test my endurance over 13.1 miles of running.  In September of last year I raced in the Wicked 1/2 Marathon in Salem and finished in a time of 3:11, which was about 1 minute slower than I had planned.  I was SO HAPPY.

Last Christmas I contaced Katie's mother Joan about my intentions to race both for myself and to honor Katie.  She was excited and from that date onwards, I knew I had her support.

Now to the race weekend.  Leading up to the Sunday, the weather was looking promising, but that all changed Friday evening.  The forecast changed and was looking like rain all day Sunday.  As Saturday evening grew near, I started to freak out and emailed my triathlon team, Comprehensive Racing, for some advice about running in the rain.  Well, the support came in fast and furious.  Most of it centered around lubing my feet, but most of my teammates simply said, control what you can control.  Don't worry about the weather and get out there and do your best, but most importantly, ENJOY IT.  The advice settled me down and I was ready Saturday night.  Before Owen went to bed, he gladly did is usual pre-race ritual and put some "SPEED" in my shoes. What he does is put my shoes on and then walks around in them transfering his speed into them.  Trust me, it's very necessary !!

I got up around 4:30AM and it was raining, HARD.  Had my usual pre-race smoothie and bagel with PB.  I loaded up the car, said good-bye to Sue and Owen and was on my way.  It pretty much rained on and off all the way down and things for a rain free race were not looking good.  I got down to Newton South HS without a problem, arriving at about 6:30AM for a 7:30AM start.  I went inside and registered.  I looked for Joan to say "HI" and then processed to keep hydrating and get ready.

I looked outside a number of times and then rain continued to fall.  I lubed up my feet and after trying to find a place to carry extra socks, I decided to go with only the pair I would be wearing.   For my last trip inside to finish up, I managed to meet and have a chat with Anjali Forber-Pratt who is an Paralympic Medalist.  She was coming to do the 5K race.

As I headed outside for the race, the rain had stopped.  Things were looking promising for a "dry" race.  The skies never really cleared up, but NO RAIN was going to be a real bonus.  After I found Joan to get one more hug before the race, I ran into a dear friend named Ruth Ricker.  She is an LP and is also the friend on Katie's who told me about the race.  It was SO GREAT seeing a friendly face at the start.  I knew Sue and Owen were heading down and would see me at a water stop, but this was such a great final emotional boost.

Now as far as a target time for a finish, this is where I had some concern.  I was told numerous times by one of the race organizers, that this was a hard course.  He rated it as an 8 out of 10 in terms of difficulty.  With my previous only 1/2 time of 3:11, I chose to shoot for a 3:00:00.  Even though the Wicked 1/2 was a much flatter course, I convinced myself I had done A LOT of training.  It included doing about 20 miles per week during the final two weeks of training prior to my taper week.

After the anthem we quickly started the race.  I was expecting to be at the BACK of the pack and it sure happened quickly.  After about 2-3 minutes into the race, I looked back and saw no one.  I was to have my own race without having to worry about other runners.  I ran-walked the first mile and was totally excited to get to the first mile marker at 12:50.  I did not feel I was pushing hard, so this was a good sign.  The course was clearly marked and I only missed 2 of the later markers on the way back in.  The first water-stop came at a little after mile 2.  There was a 5K race that started 20 minutes after us on part of the same course.  The 2 wheelchair racers passed me before mile 2 and then  a few of the faster 5K runners as well.  The course split after the water stop with us going left and the 5K runners continuing on straight.  After the water stop and turn, I was truly alone, but totally ready for it.

The course was well marked with police and marshals at all of the crucial corners.  I never felt abondoned for the entire race.  There was water and gatorade and plenty of volunteers at each stop.  I also noticed a lot of people calling my name, so I figure Joan must have told a lot of them about me.  It sure helped keep me strong.

At about mile 4 or so I started to see runners heading back to the start.  By this point they had already ran a distance of about 9 miles.  As time went on, the amount of people heading back in started to grow.  Lots of "high-5's" and again, I got another boost.  As the miles started to pass, my time was staying consistent around 12:50-13:10 min/mile.

As I turned onto Heartbreak Hill, it didn't seem like such a hill.  Now of course, at this point I have ran about 5 miles or so.  The Boston Marathoners hit this hill around mile 20.  A big difference.  The best part would be all I had to do now was get up the hill, run around a part of BC and then I was heading downhill most of the way back to the finish.  Of course, besides taking care of weather, Katie, my guardian angel for this race, was making sure they were people all along the way to help.  I looked over and who did I see, but Evangelyn Surette.  She is the mother of one of my students at Pingree and is now working in our main office in place of Barbara Savarese who is off sick.  She yelled me some encouragment as I neared the turn around. 

The coach from the Wayland Tennis team met me right after the turn around and ran with me down to the water stop where her team was volunteering.  We had a nice chat about racing and again, it helped keep my mind off of the pain starting to sneak into my knees.  There waiting on the side of the road to cheer for me again was Evangelyn.  I got a nice big hug and kiss, and proceeded to RUN the 6 miles or so back to the start. 
Cheering me on and ringing that COWBELL.

Again, each mile I checked my time and I was still about 6 minutes ahead of my target time.  I was truly alone now with only marshals, police officers and people at the water stops.  I was so happy to see all of them remaining at their posts.  As I turned the corner leading to the last water stop, I could see the table far in the distance.  Not wearing my glasses I thought I could see a couple of familar figures in the distance.  When I removed the head phones from my ears, I knew I was correct.  The sound of the cowbell and Owen yelling "DADDY!" we unmistakeable.  The final boost I needed to finish was there.  I got to them and got a big hug and kiss from both and kept running.  Funny thing, I saw them again a few turns later, as Sue got lost finding the finish and had to ask the police officer for directions.  Her suggestion made me chuckle, as she simply said, "Follow him" as she pointed to me.  I'm glad she didn't as I don't think I would have dealt well with the pressure of them behind me the whole way.  I got to the last big turn before the school where the volunteer said there was only a little more than a 1/2 mile to go.
Listen for Owen at the end of the video.

I continued to run and made it where I could see the school.  I so glad when I noticed I only had to run up to a driveway and then turn to head to the finish about 30 yards away.  In a few races I've been in, once you see the finish, they still make you run around the block.  As I turned in, there were plenty of people there cheering and I saw the CLOCK.  It read 2:55!  Not only was I going to beat my target time by 5 minutes, I was about to beat my first 1/2 marathon time by more than 16 minutes.  That was especially satisfying since the Wicked 1/2 course is much more forgiving.  My official time was 2:55:41.  What a great DAY.  Lots of hugs with Sue and Owen and then a much appreciated BBQ lunch after with some of the volunteers and Purple Shoe Athletes. 
Owen and me after my finish.

A great day with race #1 of my 3 important races this summer now in the books. If only the 1/2 Iron race I am going to be doing on June 18th is as succesful.  It will be the first race I do where there are cut-off times where I might be pulled from the course if I don't get out of the water or off of bike by a certain time.

Up next is the Team Hoyt 5K race on May 26th in Waltham.


  1. You never fail to impress me. Congratulations. I'll see you in a littler less than 4 weeks my friend.

  2. I guess DAD did it!!You are such an inspiring role model for your son and your students. I was so glad to be able to cheer you on Congratulations on a job well done!

  3. Iron John continues to motivate and inspire. The crowd here at Gulu looked at me a bit funny each time I applauded your race time updates. Keep at at brother.