Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Valentine’s Day Crank and Grind

You know you’re in trouble when:

1) The forecast for your February marathon is cold, windy, and rainy.
2) The National Anthem is being sung at the starting line and you haven’t decided what to wear.
3) You’re still at your hotel.

Myrtle Beach Marathon

My Myrtle Beach Marathon weekend starts with Tuesday. I’m desperately trying to regain strength lost over the last few months I attribute to lack of training. Over each of the past two weekends I got in a long handbike ride on Saturday and a marathon-length ride on Sunday. I was a little optimistic for the MB Marathon because the second marathon-ride was back in the time range I was hoping for.

Tuesday I put in a ride over the Atlantic Beach Bridge to work on strength. I still felt like I had a long way to go.

Wednesday I got in another AB Bridge climb. Finally I felt some improvement. Nothing like a year ago but better than in recent weeks.

Thursday my teammate and I set out to Myrtle Beach. I hoped to squeeze in a ride in the PM. There just wasn’t enough time in the day. We made it to the expo and picked up our bib numbers. My teammate was registered for the 5K and I, the marathon. The MB marathon not only welcomes hand cranks, they have separate divisions for cranks and push rims and awards for both. And it’s flat. At the expo, one of the vendors was the Grand Strand Bicycle Shop. One of their salesmen told us about a nice bike trail at Huntington Beach.

From MBM09

Friday morning we visited that trail and put in a 10-mile ride at a leisurely pace. It was a nice way to burn off the pancakes I had for breakfast. Anyone who has been to Myrtle Beach knows that pancake houses are as scarce as tee shirt stores. The trail winds through a shady pine forest before connecting with a street bike lane in Murrell’s Inlet.


Later Friday afternoon I dropped my teammate off at Broadway at the Beach for the start of the 5K. I drove over to Coastal Field to catch her at the end. I took a short nap in the van while I waited for her to get underway. At the last minute I decided to catch her out on the course so I wheeled out to Grissom Pkwy. to catch her at about mile 2.7. Pardon the fuzzy picture; I can hold a camera about as still as a paint shaker.

I didn’t get to see her finish, but she said this time she sprinted at the finish; remembering the Dash for Cash when she missed placing in her division by about 10 seconds. When I found her she was searching for her results. She couldn’t find her time but said it looked like there were others that beat her substantially. We were planning on a 4 AM wake-up so we didn’t wait around for the awards.

Bi-Lo Marathon

Friday night I looked at every weather report I could find. I brought rain gear that would feel good if it rained. The problem is it would cook me if it didn’t. I woke up a dozen times or so during the night remembering the Neuse River Bridge Run and how miserable I got in the cold wind and rain.

Saturday morning it looked like the rain might hold off for a couple of hours, but it looked like it would, in all likelihood, rain and the temps would start off in the lower 50s and never break 57. I decided to go with rain gear. Rain pants covered Polartec sweats on my legs and a Gore-Tex jacket covered thin polyester short-sleeved and cotton long-sleeved tee shirts.

The race starts at 6:30 with chairs crossing the line at 6:25. My hope was to be at the starting line at 6:00. The extra time dressing and deciding what to wear messed me up. I thought I gad plenty of time, but after I got on the bike I looked at my watch, which was heretofore covered up by my rain jacket. It was already after 6:00. I was in the parking lot of our motel, which, fortunately, was only about 5 blocks from the start.

Mile 0 Grissom Parkway

I was almost ready to shove off and it was 6:15. By now they were singing the National Anthem. Then I made a crucial decision. I was going to be too hot. I got my teammate to help me out of the jacket (which is a big deal, trust me on this). The clouds were still high and the temps were warmer than forecast. By the time it rained I might even welcome the cooling. About 6:20 I rolled off toward the start. As I got near I could see the spotlight in the sky and began to hear the announcer. He was announcing the chairs were about to start.

About then a charity team walked out into the street right in front of me en masse. What else could go wrong? I was about to find out. After weaving around the charity team I arrived at the start just as the gun was fired for the chair start. The only problem was, there was a crowd control fence between me and the starting line. I pulled up to a joint in the fence and shouted to some bewildered spectators to move one section of the fence. Stunned at the sight of me, it took some more shouted directions before someone moved the fence and I could get through. By that time the runners were starting to move forward to the start.

The starter saw me and waived me forward and off I went. I looked down the road and could barely see the last chair in front of me. The only sign of the lead wheelers was the faint blink of the police car lights off in the distance. About two hundred yards down the course I remembered to start my GPS. My GPS recorded itself being started at 6:24:40. GPS time is usually pretty accurate, so it looks to me like the race started early. Well, I was off. My last race got of with an un-exciting start. This one was anything but.

Mile 1 (about 8:40) Joe White Ave.

I usually enjoy a few minutes at the start meeting other handbikers and wheelchair competitors. Not the case this day. I would have to be content to read about them in the newspaper. As I cruised south on Grissom I was all alone. A handful of spectators were out on the street in the dark and they were all great support. After about a half mile I turned west on Joe White Ave. A motorcycle joined up with me and cruised along beside. I felt pretty good but I wished I could have rested for a few minutes at the start after my “warm up sprint” from the motel. A policeman came along side and told the motorcyclist that the runners just launched.

Mile 2 (7:59) Seaboard St.

I turned up Seaboard and headed north. The road looped around a mall and eventually the lead runners passed. Since there were no cash prizes, the Kenyans weren't out in front. We yelled to each other in support. The road was flat and the asphalt was fast. The course actually looped past our motel and my teammate stood out front yelling in support.

From MBM09

Mile 3 (7:45) Broadway at the Beach

We turned off 21st Ave. N. into the Broadway shopping center. The runners were very supportive. Some stuck out their “thumbs up” others yelled. As we approached a corner, one even asked whether I wanted the inside or outside track. “Wheels yield to heels” is my policy, I said, “you take the inside, I’ll take the outside.”

Mile 4 (9:35) 29th Ave. N.

After a few turns we headed east on 29th Ave. N. It seems any beach town has rolling up and down streets which is the nature of the old sand dunes that lie beneath. We went up a gentle grade along 29th as we headed toward the main drag along the waterfront. I noticed a folding umbrella that someone had lost or cast aside beside the street. I thought to myself, “I bet they will miss that later.” The weather right now was about perfect; cloudy, cool, and light breezes. I was glad had relinquished the jacket.

Mile 5 (7:43) Ocean Blvd.

Along 29th Ave. N. the road drops pretty steeply to Ocean Blvd. Unfortunately it also narrows which made it impossible to safely capitalize on the downhill. I fell into a gap between runners and got a pretty tight turn around the corner onto Ocean Blvd. At about mile 5 I spied my teammate again who was waiting on the sidewalk to take my picture.

Mile 6 (8:22), Mile 7 (9:46), Mile 8 (8:59) Ocean Blvd.

The south end of Ocean Blvd. rolled up and down with gentle grades and not much elevation. No one would ever want for tee-shirts or sunglasses in this part of town. The fellow runners were great. We chatted up little conversations and for the most part they offered a lot of support.

Mile 9 (11:01) Kings Hwy.

At S 28th Ave. S. we turned off the Grand Strand to the west and then back to 27th Ave. S. 28th Ave. had a bit of incline so I got down in my lowest gears and ground my way slowly up the hill. All the runners I have traveled with down Ocean Blvd. went past and I settled in with a new group after finishing the climb back up to Kings Hwy.

Mile 10 (8:34), Mile 11 (8:20) Kings Hwy.

Again I settled in with a group of very supportive runners that passed me on the uphills and I passed them on the downhills. Not to exaggerate; these are minor gradients. I did start to encounter a few self-deafened iPodders that couldn’t hear to move over as I closed in behind them on the downhills. This day, I was less than hesitant to veer into the traffic lane if it was clear when someone didn’t get out of the way. If Ocean Blvd. were Myrtle Beach’s Mecca for tee shirts and sunglasses, King’s Highway is the center for pancake houses and other restaurants. Every couple of blocks there were clumps of spectators that offered great support.

Mile 12 (10:27) Joe White Ave.

I got a nice bit of gravity after climbing a little hill on this last stretch of King’s Highway. I cranked hard and coasted around the corner and started a new gradual uphill grade back up Joe White Ave. The mile 12 water stop has historically been run by a group of middle school kids and today they were out in force with a ton of enthusiastic support.

Mile 13 (9:52) Grissom Parkway

As we approached the half marathon turn off into Coastal field, the half marathon runners began to pick up their pace as they sprinted toward their finish. When we passed the divider for the turn off the volume of runners fell off by about two thirds. I was hopeful that that would make future passing easier.

Mile 14 (12:19) 29th Ave. N.

From MBM09

I met my teammate and stopped to refuel just before the 13.1 split on Grissom Parkway. I ate a Snickers and drank a PowerAde and got back on the road after about a 3 minute rest. Now there were only marathoners left and I settled in with a group of runners that I pretty much stayed with for about five miles. I turned off Grissom and onto N 29th St. and met the 4th place hand cranker on his way to the finish.

From MBM09

Others, including my friend David Swaim had already finished in the time it took me to get halfway! As I crossed Kings Highway I could see my friend, Dan-O coming up the street to his 5th place crank finish.

Mile 15 (9:26), Mile 16 (9:33), Mile 17 (9:02), Mile 18 (9:12) Ocean Blvd.

This end of the Grand Strand is the residential and condo end of the beach. Only a few spots forced me into my lower gears. It was pretty much just crank and grind throughout the 4 northbound miles. I settled in with a group of runners that would pass me when I slowed for a slight hill; then I would catch them on the downhill side. We got a few conversations going but whenever I got down into my lower gears and slowed down, they would leave me and I would mix into a new group of runners. One runner had “Go Julie” written across the back of her jersey. She and I exchanged encouragement throughout the rest of the race. There were a few spectators out but generally the participants provided each other support.

Mile 19 (15:19) 79th Ave. N.

The last stretch along the ocean started with a steep climb and then a steep drop. When we turned up 79th Ave., I once again had to get into my lower gears all the way back to Kings Hwy. Again, I dropped behind the comrades I had traveled with for the last few miles. At King’s Hwy. A policeman said some words of support. I replied with, “Thanks for being here!”

Mile 20 (10:05) Parkwood Dr.

The rest of the way west on 79th Ave. was slightly uphill so I couldn’t maintain the pace I had before. At the end of the street we looped through the driveway of a school where the Myrtle Beach Sun News took the notorious picture of me that they published in their Sunday edition last year.

The photo was snapped when I was heading for a curb at the end of the bus parking area. I have my head turned hard to the right looking at another (female) runner so I can maneuver right and without running into her. The photographer must have thought I was checking out her backside since the caption published was something like, ‘Handcrank participant slows to look at another runner.’ The picture is cropped such that her backside is all you see of her.

My teammate has her own caption for the picture; ‘Handbiker busted checking butt.’ Needless to say, today I had my eyes open for photographers.

Mile 21 (7:26) Kings Hwy.

We left turn around in the school and started down Parkwood Dr. Everyone seemed to be a bit relieved at this point because now we were heading back south toward the finish. As we turned east onto 76th Ave. N. I was rewarded with a slight downhill and downwind stretch. I got as far to the left as I could and went a bit faster. Soon I was catching those I had come down Ocean Blvd. As I passed Julie, I yelled, “Go Julie” again. She shouted back, “Welcome back!”

Mile 22 (11:24), Mile 23 (7:29), Mile 24 (10:55) Kings Hwy.

About 9:30 it started to rain. It was just a faint mist, almost like a damp fog. It felt good. I wasn’t worried about the temperature now. I knew there was a hot shower waiting for me soon. As we made our way south on Kings Hwy. the rain slowly picked up to a light drizzle. It never rained hard; just enough to soak you thoroughly. A few spectators stuck it out in spite of the rain. The water table volunteers were especially supportive.

My teammate rode up on her bicycle about mile 24 and offered my jacket. I declined. I was already wet and not cold yet. Besides, I was slowing down with a headwind and anxious to get this over. She rode along for a couple of miles then headed on back to wait for me at the finish area. What a trooper!

Mile 25 (9:53) 29th Ave. N.

Runners were picking up their pace as they turned west on 29th for the last time. Mentally, there was a “home stretch” feeling. The rain had sent most of the spectators home along this stretch. I should have checked to see if the abandoned umbrella had found a new owner.

Mile 26 (10:27) Grissom Parkway

As I closed in on mile 26 I dialed up my mother with my Bluetooth earpiece to let her listen in to the sounds of the finish. I caught up with Julie again and we both laughed about finishing together after about 9 miles.

A bearded fellow ran up beside me and gave me the greatest surprise. He was a close family friend that I hadn’t seen in many years. Somehow he had heard of my participation and was watching for me. He ran with me up to the finish chute where he veered off while I finished. I hoped to see him on the other side of the finish line but we never did reconnect. His father and mine had served together as Marines, so our families, too, shared a bond. This is one bit of unfinished business from the race; to reconnect with him.

Finish (3:27) .35 mile

From MBM09

I know, it’s supposed to be .2 miles, but I never follow the exact path of the course certification, so my GPS always accumulates a little extra distance. They handed us a nice heart-shaped medal (it was Valentine’s Day).

From MBM09

My chip time was 4:09:09. Not as good as I had hoped for. And not the 3:51 I did last year nor the 3:41 I did in Jacksonville. I just need to train more before the Shamrock.

From MBM09

One of the sponsors was Chick-Fil-A. I parked under their tent and my teammate bought me a sandwich and found me some hot coffee. It never tasted so good.

We searched the finish area for a while for my friend. We didn’t find him and by now the post-race chill was robbing my body heat. We went on back to the motel where I indulged in a half-hour long hot shower.

Later that afternoon my teammate and I had a nice steak dinner for our Valentine’s Day date. We were too tired to do anything else so we went back to the motel to rest. We decided we were too tired for the post-race party at House of Blues. About 8 PM we found the results posted on the internet and learned she had placed third in her age group in the 5K. We have been trying to get in touch with the race crew to get her trophy, but that is still another piece of unfinished business.

All-in-all a fun race and a great weekend! The Sun News did a great job covering the events. Read their coverage.

Hope For The Warriors

I race to benefit this outstanding foundation. They look out for wounded warriors and their families in their time of need. It is my promise to raise $26,200 in donations to support their programs.

This is America. We can go out and run around the country if we want to. Or stay indoors and watch TV. Only because we have brave men and women who are willing to go stand in harm's way to protect our liberty. And for that I am grateful.

Join me in my campaign, 2008 Miles of Hope, to help America's heroes, our wounded warriors and their families.

Donate today. You can easily make a donation to Hope For The Warriors by using our secure credit card donation site:

2008 Miles of Hope

Or donate by check. Download our donation form, fill it out, and send it to us with your donation to our address on the form:

Donation form.pdf

And learn about where the money goes: Hope For The Warriors

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fall Races and Jacksonville Marathon

Followers of my blog have probably wondered why the lack of recent posts. I have to start out with my apology for not keeping my many supporters better informed on my progress. October through December has been the cap to one of the most exciting and inspirational years of my life. The period has also been one of the most hectic times of my life. Or so I thought.

Then the New Year brought my mother a debilitating infection that almost took her from us. She’s in a rehab facility now, fighting to come back and regain her independence. Unfortunately my blogging and my training have suffered as a result. To bring readers up to date, here’s a report on some of my recent events.

Neuse River Bridge Run

In September, I was logging over 360 miles in training including two half centuries in one weekend. Needless to say, I felt in pretty good shape for the Army Ten-Miler. At that point the weather started turning bad, the daylight started becoming shorter, and various activities just started taking more time away from my training. The Beirut Memorial run was the second weekend in October. The day of the race it was pouring cats and dogs. Since one stretch of the course goes off road and across a ditch, we didn’t even get out of bed when the alarm went off at 4 AM. The last thing I wanted was to get stuck in the mud. DNS

The next weekend was the Neuse River Run. For the locals, this is a pretty big event. For one of my coworkers, JC, this was to be her comeback run after being sidelined last year after having a baby. It’s a scenic point-to-point that starts in Bridgeton, crosses the Neuse and Trent River Bridges, loops around Tryon Palace, the colonial capital of NC, and finishes in downtown New Bern. The view from the bridges is unique and scenic. There’s a 5K also that loops through the historic downtown district.

This year it was wet. And cold. And windy.

It seemed like I had a headwind every way I turned. I was the only chair again (everyone with sense was home in bed). I got a five minute (I think) head start. I forgot to start the timer on my GPS so I didn’t record my splits. I also didn’t get an accurate timing because the starter never communicated my start time to the timer. The posted time for me was 55:10. I think my time was actually about 1 hour. I think because the starter didn’t inform the timer that I got an advance start, so the timer didn’t break out the chair time, hence no medal. The good news was that my teammate came in 3rd in her division in the 5K!

Heidi Tucker won the women’s 5K and JC finished first in her division in the 5K. My MCM teammate, SL, finished 2nd in his division in the 5K.

We stood around in the cold and the rain waiting for the awards and I managed to develop a bit of hypothermia. All in all not a particularly fun day. A good wake-up call prior to the MCM and I was able to get in some good workouts the following week.

The MCM was indescribable. I did my best to try with the blog post on that race. I still get emotional thinking back on the race. You should read DCTriGuy’s account of teammate Zach and AJ’s race. Zach and AJ are two WWs that Hope For The Warriors sponsored into the MCM.

City of Oaks

Oaks was the weekend after the MCM. I thought by now I’d be ready for hills. Too many travel days and too few workouts proved otherwise. I did this half marathon with T- last year. It was a brutal course. This year it was worse. For a wheeler, the ideal course is flat. This race is anything but. The next best scenario for a wheeler is a downhill first part with an uphill second, like the Boston. That gives the wheeler a chance to get some speed early and stay in front of the runners on the downhills. Then when you are in the thick of the runners you’re at a slower speed on the uphills. Well this course doesn’t fit that profile either. In fact they changed the start/finish location this year and made the course (much) worse. On top of that I was only able to get in one substantive workout after the MCM.

The City of Oaks folks didn’t seem to care for wheelers too much. In fact, that seemed to be a persistent theme in my fall races with the exception of the MCM. The race started out with a slight uphill grade that turned steep after bout one block.

The head start for this race was one minute if I recall correctly.

By the time I had cranked my way to the top of the first hill, nearly the entire field of runners had passed.

Any time I made up on the downhills was made trying to get shout my way around the iPod zombies. Fortunately my teammate was able to ride her bike and guide for me. That was a big help in getting through some congested areas. It is a scenic course through several of Raleigh’s nicer neighborhoods and the downtown district. The full marathoners do an off-road excursion through Umstead Park. Overall it was a tough course. A lot of steep hills.

One good aspect of going up hills was that the rest to visit with family spectators was welcome. The other runners and spectators were great. I got a little inspirational boost toward the end when Heidi passed me toward the finish. While it was good to see another home-town runner, it was a little disheartening to remember that she was finishing the full marathon.

My time was 3:07. Not a good one for me but given the hills and my lack of training it was to be expected. No awards for chairs again this year. At least they had a nice finisher medal and hot pizza. My finish was not as heartbreaking as the Kenyans, though, who missed the turn-around for the half. One of them went on to finish the marathon with the best time, but because he was registered for the half, he wasn’t eligible for the prize.

From Oaks to Coast

The OBX half was the following weekend. It’s a flat course and the event website advertises that a 35 foot high bridge is the only hill on the course. I was anxious to clock a fast time after the hills ate my lunch at MCM and Oaks. I was also determined to put in a few workouts before the race this time. I always seem to do my best on the third day after two hard workouts. I have a saying about “come-back” workouts. I say, “First day you cry, second day you die, and third day you fly.”

The race was on Sunday and we caught the Cedar Island Ferry and drove up the Outer Banks on Friday. On Ocracoke Island I got my teammate to get me on my bike and I rode the 14-mile length of the island. This is undoubtedly my favorite ride. The cool air and ocean breeze felt great.

Event Director Robyn Keenan

Friday PM we went to the expo and got settled in our motel. Saturday we drove the course and discovered that 35-foot bridge was more like a 90-foot bridge.

Later that morning I got on my bike again and rode the course. The half marathon course winds its way through several residential neighborhoods in Kill Devil Hills and past Jockey’s Ridge. It goes over the main bridge to Manteo, the home of the Lost Colony.

Sunday was to be my “fly” day. I got on my crank chair at the motel and started off toward the starting line. My teammate stayed behind to get packed up so we could load up the van and get a late checkout after the race. I arrived at the starting line and met one of the race officials. He was looking for me to let me know I was going to start 20 minutes early. Holy cow! I wasn’t ready. I called my teammate on my cell phone and asked her to expedite.

I made my way to the start and met my bicycle escorts. I was the only chair (again) although one other has registered but didn’t show. Someone helped me out of my jacket I had worn from the motel and I drank an energy drink I had brought with me. About that time my teammate arrived, just a few minutes before my start.

The weather was perfect, sunny and a bit chilly. There was some discussion back and forth between the race officials regarding who was the timing official and who was the starting official. It only served to confuse me because I then heard the announce get the crowd to shout a ready, set, go. I hate to disappoint anyone but not knowing if that was the start or not, I waited until the timer said to go ahead.

I launched with my usual slow roll and a yee-ha!

Only a handful of spectators were out that time of the morning so my bike escorts and I pretty much owned the road.

With a twenty-minute lead, it was fairly far along before the Kenyans passed me. I was almost at the bridge before the lead female passed.

I was having a pretty good day. Not a PR, but considering my recent (lack of) training schedule, not bad. On the way up the bridge I made a strategy with my bike escorts. I stayed on the left side of the runner’s lane. As I neared the top, one escort would go on to the top and begin warning the runners to stay right going down the bridge, (particularly the iPodders). As I started down, he would go ahead and the other would lead by about thirty meters to warn anyone that had forgotten to stay right.

It worked without a hitch. Partly because the field of runners was still fairly thin and partly because of the help from the escorts, I was able to make up a good bit of time lost ascending the bridge. I’ll remember that strategy. I made to the community of Manteo and crossed the finish with a time of 1:54:38.

There were 1330 marathoners and 2770 half marathoners. Anne Wheatly, a girl from my hometown, won the marathon, and KD, a high school classmate of mine, also finished the half so yeah for the home team! All in all not my best time but a great day and I was starting too feel a little better after my slow times in the hills of Oaks and MCM.

Dash for Cash

On December 7, I did the Dash for Cash 10-Miler in Greenville. The race is a memorial run named after Army Captain Chris Cash who was KIA in Iraq. Cash was an avid supporter of learning in the community and the race funds a scholarship in his memory.

About all I remember about this race was the cold. I remember undressing that night and creating a three-foot pile of the many layers I was wearing. I have to layer my legs heavily in cold weather because they lose heat. I have to be careful to keep from layering up too much on my upper body where I generate a lot of body heat.

It was a cold and windy day. It seemed no matter which way you turned, you were fighting a headwind. The course does a stretch through downtown Greenville then past East Carolina University and back to the Town Commons area where the 5Kers split off and finish. The 10-milers head on out into the countryside for an out-and-back to make up the distance.

I added this race to my schedule at the last minute. I emailed the director and got a response back, “We thought you were going to come.” I guess the word is getting around.

I was privileged to be able roll across the starting line with my MCM teammate Ed, who was using his pushrim chair for the very first time.

My teammate did the 5K. She, too, was out of practice. She didn’t sprint at the end since she hadn’t been training much. At the end she said there was another lady about her age just in front of her. Turns out she missed placing by about 10 seconds.

The finisher “medals” were dogtags with the name of the race stamped on them. Since Ed did the 5K, I got the wheelchair prize for the 10-miler. My time was 1:47:27.

Jacksonville Bank Marathon

Too much Thanksgiving eating, office parties, and sweet food, coupled with an insatiable appetite was wreaking havoc on my weight. I tried to maintain my workout schedule but it seemed something was always getting in the way.

On Friday before the race we drove to Jacksonville, drove the course, and had a nice dinner at a Japanese steakhouse. The weather was perfect-just a tiny bit cool. On Saturday we picked up my race number. A local runner’s store organizes the race so they are the expo.

I was looking forward to this race because I was going to participate along with another Hope For The Warriors fundraiser, Army Capt. Jason Lynn. Capt. Lynn was also running with some of his West Point classmates. The two of us has been collaborating in preparation for this race for about a month. Between the two of us we had raised over $27,000 in contributions for Hope For The Warriors at that time. Though we had never met in person, we were “virtual” teammates working toward the same goal.

Saturday, I had the opportunity to get my tires on the course. My teammate and I drove the course, this time in the daylight, and returned to about mile six. I got on my handbike there and rode about 15 miles of the course. I was able to ride on the only “hill” on the course, a stretch of residential neighborhood where the street drops down to the waterfront along the St. John River. It is a very flat course but it doesn’t take much of a hill to kick my butt, so it was good to try that stretch before the race. I learned which gears to use where and when to shift.

The Marathon and the Half both started at 7 AM, which was still dark. I’m sure the idea was to beat the Florida mid-day heat. We got to the start and found a place to park although navigating to the starting line in a chair took a bit of resourcefulness. This was again proving to be somewhat of a chair-unfriendly race management crew. I had emailed the race director a few weeks prior and only got a ‘we don’t have a wheelchair division’ response. The director said chairs didn’t like the finish because there was about a quarter mile stretch across a soccer field before entering the stadium at the finish. Several people met me at the start and ask if I was so-and-so. Apparently no one knew how many chairs were registered. Not surprising since there was no place on the registration to enter as a chair, much less a hand crank.

It turned out that one other push rimmer showed up. He was a local guy and this was to be his first race. I never saw him after the start but he was expecting to finish in about 3 hours.

I met Jason, his fellow runners and his family at the start. It was neat to meet them after several months of emailing and collaborating on publicity for our fundraising. One of his teammates, AL, was apparently critically wounded by an IED and lost an eye. We all got some pics and shook hands, exchanged hugs and got lined up at the start. It was getting close to 7 and usually there is some advance start for chairs. Finally some guy walked by and spoke to myself and the other wheelchair and simply said, “I’m going to start you guys in a few minutes.” About five minutes later he appeared again and walked over and said, “you guys can go now.”

Unceremoniously, it began. We started south down San Jose Blvd in the dark If there was any wind it was a scant breath from the north. My fellow chair competitor was off in the darkness ahead. I could follow his progress by the police lights from the lead vehicle. I felt good and was glad for the training ride the day before. I cranked hard and enjoyed the solitude for the moment. A few minutes later I heard the starting gun fire some distance behind me and knew the race was officially underway.

I realized I hadn’t started my GPS at the start so I didn’t accurately record my splits. I started it about four minutes into the race and tried to sych the lap button at mile one. I can only guess that we got about a two minute start, but don’t know for certain because they never published the chair times accurately adjusted for the lead start. By mile one I knew my time was pretty good; not a DSS pace, but I was happy.

The race proceeds shout along the east shore of the St. John River. It winds along though some nice neighborhoods with some magnificent homes. The old live oak trees provide a tremendous canopy of shade, a welcome feature during any month in Florida. The lead runners passed and we exchanged mutual shouts of encouragement; mine, my signature “Yee-ha!”

We turned off Scott Mill Rd. onto Mandarin Rd., again enjoying the welcome shade. As we approached the turn into Mandarin Park the shade was less and the sun was getting enough elevation to start getting a bit hot. I caught a glimpse of a coworker who is from Jax and who was in the area visiting her family.

A little later, at the turn around in Mandarin Park, I met my teammate who had a welcome Snickers bar and an energy drink.

As I headed back I met Jason and his Army buddies. They were still smiling and looking good.

I was settling into a group of the same runners now and we were striking up some conversations. The trip back up Brady Rd. offered plenty of shade. The sun was getting warm although the air was still cool. By the time I got back to the I-295 overpass on Scott Mill Rd. I asked one of the volunteers at the water station to dump a cup of water on me. It was nice and cold.

It was a routine crank and grind back to the finish area. There I got a rude surprise. To get to the soccer field you had to first cross a dirt parking lot. The previous day there was some construction taking place in the lot and the dirt was loose and soft. I got into my low gears and had enough momentum to get across the dirt to the grass. At that point the course didn’t go as it had been described to me.

Instead of turning right and going straight into the stadium, we looped around to the left behind one softball field and back across another. The areas behind the fields were covered with soft dry sand about the consistency of a beach sand dune. When I got off the grass, my wheels literally sunk. And I stopped.

I had to get help across the sand in two different spots. I later emailed the race director. I suggested he could easily modify the course in the future and could get rid of the sandy spots if the course went straight from the soccer field into the stadium and the turnarounds were extended a bit. He wasn’t interested.

Once in the stadium there was a timing mat which I avoided. I thought that it was there for the 13 mile split for the half marathoners. Turns out it read your chip so the announcer could call out your name. So I finished in anonymity.

My time, I think, was 3:41. The clock read 3:39, but I never got an accurate posting of the time including the wheelchair advance start. I had hoped for a few minutes faster. I had been able to do 3:30 in training last summer. But after my times in the hills of Arlington and Raleigh, I was happy. And it was a PR.

Jason finishes strong


Because we can!

What’s next?

See my 09 races on the sidebar. Next week is the Myrtle Beach Marathon. Last year it was my first marathon. I was stronger then than I am now. I hope to do as well as last year. In March, join us at the Shamrock.

In October I’ll be at the MCM again, the Lord willing. In November, I plan to do the ING NYC. Last year I did four marathons, six halves, and two 10-milers. The good folks at Camp Lejeune recognized me again this year in their Grand Prix awards.

This year I plan to do five marathons.


I do it to show my respect for the brave men and women wounded in the Global War On Terror. For seven years, their selfless sacrifices have kept the wolf away from our door. I enjoy the freedom to do the things I do because of them.

Do not let their sacrifices be forgotten…nor their needs go unmet. Help out with whatever amount you can donate.

In the words of Hope For The Warriors President, Robin Kelleher, “While the country seems to think we've got this covered, we really don't.” She said the organization received $10,000 worth of requests in 2007 to aid injured soldiers. In 2008, the need has exceeded $200,000, she said. –Virginian-Pilot

Hope For The Warriors

I race to benefit this outstanding foundation. They look out for wounded warriors and their families in their time of need. It is my promise to raise $26,200 in donations to support their programs.

This is America. We can go out and run around the country if we want to. Or stay indoors and watch TV. Only because we have brave men and women who are willing to go stand in harm's way to protect our liberty. And for that I am grateful.

Join me in my campaign, 2008 Miles of Hope, to help America's heroes, our wounded warriors and their families.

Donate today. You can easily make a donation to Hope For The Warriors by using our secure credit card donation site:

2008 Miles of Hope

Or donate by check. Download our donation form, fill it out, and send it to us with your donation to our address on the form:

Donation form.pdf

And learn about where the money goes: Hope For The Warriors

You can help—they gave for you.