The world lost an incredible mother, wife, daughter, friend, attorney, underprivileged advocate, and community member suddenly and unexpectedly on October 16, 2013. In honor of my late wife, Holli Wallace, I am training for the Hallucination 100 mile trail run and raising money for the Children's Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region.

My training progress

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thanks for your support at Relay for Life!

 
First, I would like to thank everyone for their support and donations leading up to SVSU's Relay for Life on April 8th and 9th.  At last count, we raised $3,285 dollars.  That's an incredible amount of money and part of a record amount raised at a SVSU Relay for Life event.  Thanks to my wife and son, my mother and father, my mother-in-law Denise, the Management Staff of Genetron Engineering, my cousins Eddie, Sandi, Herman, and Simon, my brother Dave, all of my uncles and aunts, my friends Chris, Karen, Beth, Mike, Erin, Brian and Heather, Dave and Terry.  You generosity came so quickly and in such volume that I am likely missing some names.  I deeply appreciate your outpouring of support.

The event itself was wonderful and I'd like to thank Jon Ward and the rest of the dedicated SVSU students that put the Relay together.  At last count the event had raised $51,000, had almost 700 participants, and 53 teams.  That is a major undertaking.

It was really unlike any other event that I have participated in.  It was more of an all night party than any sort of race.  After the opening ceremony, my mom and dad, Holli, Elliott, Denise, and I walked a couple laps together as Team Single Step.  Then, as the crowd loosened up and groups headed back to their team sites I started jogging.  It was a little crowded so I had to do a little dodging and weaving, but I wasn't in a hurry so that wasn't a problem.  I felt a little funny since I was the only one running, but as Holli reminded me early on, that's what I was there to do.

Minutes turned into hours and the laps faded by.  I didn't bother counting laps and just enjoyed the spectacle of college students raising money for a good cause.  There were pie eating contests, tug of war contests, a cross-dressing date auction, and more entertainment than I typically encounter on a run.  Elliott discovered a giant, inflatable obstacle course that was, no doubt, the highlight of his evening.  There were even some very memorable laps jogging around with my mother.

Elliott, Holli, and Denise headed home to get some sleep and Team Single Step dwindled to my parents and I.   At one point, my dad took over walking and I relaxed at our campsite and chatted with my mom.  It really was both entertaining and a great time to just relax and spend time with love ones.  As time passed, I began to overhear comments like "Is that guy still running?"

Team Single Step was down to me by 11:00 or so.  I was still feeling pretty good since I'd been keeping a slow pace and taking periodic breaks to chat with friends and family.  The crowd at the event was going strong and it was around that time that many college students, who exist on a much different clock than the rest of society, began to show up.  The energy in the gym made running easy.  At one point one of my students sent one of his team mates running after me to sell me a cupcake, which provided much needed sustenance.  John and Pat, my son's former swimming teacher, joined me in jogging for several miles as we swapped running stories.  At one point several students formed a human tunnel for me to run through.  There were also a couple very moving ceremonies during the night that broke up my running.

Around 4:00 AM several teams had packed up and the energy in the room was starting to diminish.  Similarly, my energy was starting to diminish.  The long run was starting to wear on me.  I sat down in a lawn chair and even dosed off for about 10 minutes.  I took another lap on sore and stiffening legs, but didn't really have it in me so I put on my sweats and decided to call it a night.  I'd been in motion, on and off, since around 6:15 PM the night before.

Pat, who had been running with me earlier, stopped over to check on me and I told him that I was calling it quits.  After chatting for a minute, Pat moved on.  Much to my surprise he came back a couple minutes later to tell me that he had decided to finish the run for me.  At that point there was about an hour and a half left in the event.  Team Single Step lived on.  Despite having not run for 3 months, the newest member of Team Single Step finished the race in style.

Thanks again to all of you for your support. If you would like to read more about the 2011 SVSU Relay for Life, check here:  http://orgs.svsu.edu/clubs/vanguard/stories/3237

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SVSU Relay for Life

Three days until the 2011 SVSU Relay for Life and at $2,100 in donations.  Our team has slipped from 3rd place in terms of fundraising and we won't reach the goal I set when we started fundraising.  That's okay.  I'm fairly certain that our donations per capita are the best of any team. ;)  Still, I'm spending the evening taking one last shot at picking up more donations.

As one of the event organizers pointed out to me, EVERYONE is impacted by cancer.  EVERYONE knows someone who has been impacted by cancer.  In some ways it would seem that this makes asking for donations easier.  For me, it just makes it more intimidating.  The issue of cancer feels so ubiquitous that I feel we are inundated with messages to donate.  Perhaps we even become numb to it at times.  I'm sympathetic to that.

But I'm also grateful that my mom's surgery and chemotherapy were, by all indications, successful.  I'm grateful that Mike's surgery a couple years ago was successful.  I'm happy that my good friend's mother survived her breast cancer.  I'm glad that my grandmother's skin cancer many years ago was successfully treated.  I'm saddened that my other grandmother's cancer was not.  I'm sure that I am missing other friends and family.  I wish it had been harder to generate this list.

So, I urge you to go to www.teamsinglestep.com and click on the "I'm a proud supporter of Relay for Life" button on the right.  Please donate.  I don't really care how much.  Heck, donate to someone else's team or at another Relay for Life event.  Don't donate because it will cure cancer--it won't hurt, but unfortunately our individual actions rarely carry such power.  Donate for the people you know who are impacted by cancer.  Even if your donation does not cure cancer, it can demonstrate your gratitude for and appreciation of these people.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Land Between the Lakes 50 Race Report

Well, I successfully finished the Land Between the Lakes 50 this weekend.  I was reminded how ultrarunning often forces us to be honest with ourselves.  I was only marginally trained for the run and definitely not ready for the hills or the 60+ degree weather.  That being said, I finished in 10 hours and 35 minutes and met my primary goal of qualifying for the next Western States lottery.  Perhaps most importantly I still had a great time.

I headed south on Thursday and spent the night at my parents' place in Ohio where they were kind enough to treat me to a delicious Thai dinner.  The drive was long, but it was nice to see everything get greener as I went south.  It's been many years since I've been to Kentucky and I was reminded how much I like the rolling hills and forests in the area.  The race starts and finishes in a very small, tourist-oriented, town between two large lakes.  The race would involve four loops on single-track trail between the two lakes (er, hence the name of the region).

Despite memories of the snow that I had driven through on the way from Michigan, I decided to start the race in shorts and a t-shirt with only a handheld bottle.  My plan was to do a 15 minute run-5 minute walk combination.  The 10-5 combination I did at the Fall 50 in October went so well it seemed like a good plan.  Unfortunately, the unexpected number of hills (nothing high or steep, just relatively unrelenting in a way similar to the area around Pinkney, MI) and the congestion of the first loop made this difficult and I quickly settled into a constant run.

By the second loop, I began to notice the hills and the heat.  I even flirted with a little nausea, but it never got particularly bad and I think may have been the result of too many electrolyte tablets early on (I felt better after I stopped taking them).  By the third loop many of the shorter distance runners were done so I was able to start the 15-5 combination.  However, the hills (and my lack of hill conditioning) required more walking than I hoped and I quickly saw my vague goal of running it in 9 hours slip away.  I didn't let the slower pace bother me and focused on enjoying the pleasant scenery and beautiful weather.  After being informed that I needed to complete a short 1.2 mile out-and-back (um, I thought I was almost done), I made a final turn towards the final 1+ mile stretch to the finish line.

I'd recommend the race.  It was very well managed with well-stocked and frequent aid stations.  We received good swag, including a running hat, running shirt, and light gear bag (I'm a sucker for stuff.)  We even got a very nice buckle at the finish, although I always feel a bit like these should be reserved for 100 milers.  Actually, the buckle is nicer than the one I got at Burning River in 2009.  The start/finish was conveniently located near some cheap hotels.  I do recommend stocking up on supplies before heading to Grand Rivers as the grocery store in the town is only marginal.  As a mini-personal vacation to wrap up my spring break, it was perfect.  Thanks to all the race volunteers!

Next big run: Relay for Life

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Land Between the Lakes 50 miler

I'm taking off on Thursday and heading to Ohio.  I'll spend the night at my parents and then reach Grand Rivers, KY on Friday for the Land Between the Lakes 50.  This is the only formal race I'm planning this year (Relay for Life isn't technically a race and the Macomb Orchard 50 is run Fat Ass style.)  This means that Saturday will be my last long run before Relay for Life, the finale of my spring break, my qualifying run for the 2012 Western States, and the start and finish of my 2011 racing season.

The primary reason, of course, is that we are expecting another little boy to join our family sometime towards the end of July.  I'll probably take a break from running during the second half of the year.  I still remember the chaotic and sleepless lifestyle of having a newborn around so it seems unwise to set any meaningful training goals.  I also like the idea of giving the running thing a bit of a rest.  Maybe I'll focus on strength training.  Maybe I'll find something new.  Of course, I only anticipate a rest from running.  Not accidentally, Saturday's race does keep me qualified to enter the Western States lottery.  I've also noticed that the jogging stroller in the garage has been looking a bit lonely.  My initial journey into ultrarunning was certainly assisted by an infant who would only easily nap for me in the jogging stroller.  I think that Elliott's record was a 20 mile run in the jogging stroller...

P.S.  If you haven't yet donated to my Relay for Life run, click on the link to the right!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Miles of trials

Holli calls Elliott her baby a lot and I confess that I tease her sometimes about it.  In truth, I understand why she does this because the memories of Elliott as a small, helpless infant are so burned into my mind and I am still sometimes shocked to see him run, jump, talk and play as the four year-old that he is.  At some point since my mom was diagnosed with cancer I realized that this frozen image of baby Elliott is not something that just impacts parents.

Last month, Holli, Elliott, and I were down visiting and my parents gave me a digital picture loaded with a variety of childhood pictures that my dad had recently digitized.  Despite the fact that I had not seen many of the pictures in decades, the images still seemed very fresh to me.  It was easy for me to remember what my parents looked like when I was a young child and, even as I followed the old pictures through decades and both I and they aged, they still seemed very much the same to me.  They are my parents and they will forever look like my parents, just like Elliott will always look to me like the small infant we brought home from the hospital.

That is why it was such an emotional shock when my mom was diagnosed with cancer.  The impact was compounded by the medical issues my dad suffered around the same time.  Frozen in my head was the image of them as middle-aged parents rather than the retired grandparents they have become.  I know that this shock was not one only felt by me and I'm very grateful for the support, especially from Holli, during those difficult early months.  I know intellectually that cancer can impact people of all ages and that medical issues come inevitably to everyone over time.  Still, there are times when changes comes so fast and so unexpectedly that it is difficult to catch up or to change with them.  It wasn't really on my emotional radar that either of my parents was getting older, much less that something like cancer could impact our family.

Thankfully, the fear and uncertainty of those early months is past us and this is a success story.  Tomorrow my mom starts her last chemotherapy treatment.  Friday she will have the portable pump for her last chemo drugs removed and she will officially be done with chemotherapy.  All signs indicate that she is cancer free.  Borrowing a phrase from John Parker in "Once a Runner" I think that she has gone through both a "trial of miles" and "miles of trials."  While I am grateful not to be able to speak from first-hand experience I suspect the latter is at least as challenging as the former.  In Parker's fictional novel about distance runners, the "trial of miles" refers to enduring through the miles of the current training run.  On the other hand the "miles of trials" refers to the necessity of getting up each day to do it again and again and again.

My mom's miles of trials are finished this week.  She went through chemotherapy again and again and again.  Soon she will be done.  In honor of this, I'd like to encourage you to make a donation to the American Cancer Society by clicking on the link to the right and then clicking on "Donate to Our Team."  If you are planning on joining us at Relay for Life on April 8th, please click on the link to the right and then click on "Join Our Team."  It should be fun and I figure I'm good to run/walk at least 60 or so miles over the 12 hour event.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy 2011!

Despite my best efforts putting together a training plan about a month ago, that basically fell apart after less than two weeks.  Perhaps it was my fault for starting a training plan during the holiday season.  That being said, I did get a solid 20 mile run and several 10 mile runs in over the break so I'm probably still on track to be in condition for Relay for Life in April.  I'm also planning on going to Kentucky for the Land Between the Lakes 50 miler on March 12 so that gives me an intermediate goal to keep me motivated.

Speaking of motivation, I haven't really had much lately.  This is despite that feeling of obligation to set some goals that I always feel at the beginning of the year.  Part of that feeling of obligation certainly stems from the talk of New Year's resolutions that permeates the media for the week following New Year's Day.  Also, since my birthday is January 5th (yes, tomorrow) I tend to get a little introspective in terms of what I would like to do before another year passes.  So do I have any grandiose plans as a 35 year-old?

Not really.  I'd like to do a little more cross training.  I'd like to finish the Kentucky run under 10 hours and to raise $5,000 through Relay for Life (there is an organizing meeting in a week or two so I'm going to start pushing for more donations soon).  I plan on entering the lottery for Western States again, but that's out of my control so I don't really consider that a goal.  Honestly, this all feels a little unspectacular when I consider the last few years of my first 50 miler, my first 100 miler, my 50k solo run on the Great Wall, and so on.

Perhaps 2011 will be my year of non-goals.  35 seems like a pretty good age to coast for a little bit--enjoy time with my family and enjoy running just for the sake of running.  The only problem is that I'm not very good at coasting and I keep thinking of other new things that I could be working on or striving for...