Source: IRun4 _____________________ !
rorkchop on Double Weekend, Well Almo…
For my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram friends and family as well as my blog followers (not many I believe), you know that I run for many reasons. Whether it is raising funds for Habitat for Humanity, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society via Team in Training, Cops for Kids with Cancer or by supporting local runs for good causes, like the Wyckoff WEF 5K. but more importantly I run for me. My quest for a half marathon (and quite possibly a full marathon) in all 50 states is a personal goal but more importantly it is a LIFETIME goal. Running will afford me better health and stamina. It will allow me to survive and persevere in my career in law enforcement.
When the days and nights are over and the chase has finally ended, there are still 5 very important people still waiting for me to walk through the door. They are the ones I ultimately run for. Better health means a better life. A better life is a happier life and that means (as the old adage says) a happier wife. Catherine is the glue that holds the family together. We are spread out in so many different directions, sometimes at the same time. She has a firm grasp on the wants and needs of each one of us. Many times it is a thankless job. The words may go unsaid, but the intent is always there.
As 39 approaches, and 52 short weeks later 40, I am faced with the inevitability that I am getting older. Older can have both negative or positive connotations. Older can imply aging or frailty, but it can also imply strength and wisdom. With 4 children spread out between 5 months and 11 years I am running for vitality and knowledge. I want to chase them around. I want to challenge them on the basketball court. I want to throw baseballs and footballs around with them. I want to walk my daughter down the aisle. I want to watch my sons receive their diplomas. So with lifetimes to live, I love to run!
Recently I connected with a group of runners who run for those less fortunate. Runners are paired with a buddy or buddies who can’t run because of physical or developmental reasons. Runners post their runs/workouts/walks/etc on a Facebook page, I Run for Michael, for their buddies to read. The buddies are connected via their parents on Facebook and are continually updated. The posts are inspiring and the buddies in return post their activities as well to keep the runners motivated. Many runners have been afforded the opportunity to meet their buddy in person, many of them completing a race with the buddy. So many runners have been inspired, that there is a waiting list of 1000+ runners waiting months for their “Match Day”.
I have been blessed with 2 sisters Ella & Ainsley from Yuma, AZ. Ella & Ainsley are on the Siblings-Unsung Heroes list. Ella(7) & Ainsley (5) have a sister (Amelia (4 mos)) who is on the main list. Amelia was paired with her runner awhile ago, but Ella & Ainsley’s parents felt that they deserved some extra attention as well, and that’s my purpose. Amelia’s treatment and hospital stays are 3 hours away in Phoenix and that causes their parents to be away from them days at a time. Family and friends have stepped in to support the family any way possible. David and/or Rebecca spend days/nights/weeks in a Ronald McDonald House, and that leaves the girls missing their family. But my purpose is to send them some long distance love. Using the app My Virtual Mission, I mapped the 2,290 miles between Wyckoff and Yuma. I update my runs and it maps the distance achieved towards our goal. Some day I hope to meet these inspiring girls, but until then I continually update them on our journey. I am hoping to include my own children in this incredible venture. I have planned “family races” through the WEF, Run Disney, etc to keep the miles going. But otherwise, it is training miles before the sun rises, jogger miles with my littlest running partner to school pickups and back or anything in between.
So fill in the blank above, because there are so many reason I run. If you run for yourself, I challenge you to run for someone else. Become part of an inspiring story! Sign up and get matched with a buddy. There are children just waiting to find that person who is taking their running journey and willing to include them!
When planning my fall races, I was aware that the weekend of September 25/26/27 was going to be very busy. Not for races, but by weddings on Friday night and Sunday night. So what does a person do with so many hours in between? Schedule 2 races of course, since the mornings are available.
The Bronx 10 Miler was a definite choice for Sunday morning. New York Road Runners offers guaranteed entry into the NYC Half Marathon by competing in the 5 Borough Series the previous year. Based upon my 0 for lifetime slump in securing lottery entries, I plan on completing the series each year, in order to secure a spot in the coveted NYC Half Marathon.
So with Sunday morning reserved, I searched the Half Marathon database and found a local (30 minute drive) race taking place in Morristown, NJ. Little did I understand, what I was going to get when I signed up for Beat the Blerch.
The series, held in several locations on the west and east coasts, offers runners of all abilities the chance to race. Originally, the east coast race offered a 10K/Half/Full on both Saturday and Sunday, eventually reduced to Saturday only. As a loud and proud Half Fanatic the Saturday race was a home run. Matthew Inman, AKA The Oatmeal, based the races upon his comic book about running. The race promoted: a “I Beat The Blerch in 2015 ” tech shirt and medal; large quantities of cupcakes at every aid station, in addition to Nutella (which is an awesome race supplement I found out) and magical grape beverages; there will be actual Blerch(s) in fat-suits chasing you throughout the race; no charges for you to download your race photos after the event; ridiculously awesome goodie bag stuffed with stickers and Blerch surprises and a percentage of the proceeds go to a local charity and the National Wildlife Federation. I found several local 50 Staters and Half Fanatics had signed up for the race and the novelty of the race was intriguing.
Race pickup was done at the local RoadRunners (which is my secret addiction) and had a plethora of Blerch related games, mugs, hats, visors, etc for sale. So I was in and out to save the credit card statement from processing to much ink! Before heading off to Wedding #1, I prepped my gear for the race and double-checked the email for address, parking availability and course info.
Now I want to make sure that everyone sees SOME yes SOME sections that are legit trail running. I am okay with that. I don’t mind trails, I love the challenge they offer. Well after some carbo loading at W#1 and a good night’s rest (despite our 4 month old deciding he likes to be up every 2 to 3 hours) I drove down to the Armory and hoped on the school bus to the starting village at Lewis Morris Park. We were advised the bus ride may take up to 20 minutes, but our bus driver cut that in half as he floored it up and down the hills and around the curves. The starting Village was like none I have ever seen. Situated on a picturesque lake, I found a line 100 people deep to take pictures on the couch with The Blerch, trays of cake and marshmallows covered in chocolate and a free-for-all starting corral, where each wave is decided by how many people can squeeze between the tape.
The course started on crushed gravel/rocks and flat trail before finding pavement. The pavement was short lived as the legitimate trails took over and over and OVER! The SOME turned into MOST. The trails wound their way around the park, up and down hills. Loose rocks, large roots and slowed runners turning into walkers covered the trail. “On Your Left” was the choice phrase of the day (along with others that shall not be repeated on the family friendly blog)! But up and down the hills I went, powering along and passing people when safe. Not going to lie, saved my handsome face a few times with some top notch balancing skills. Picked up a few people along the way that down, some went down hard. But then we climbed some tough hills on the roadway within the park itself, to kick the dust off. I stared at the bottom half of more runners than I care to count. It was the only way to avoid major pitfalls. I skipped the couches and grape drink along the way, but did happily partake of the Nutella! Although challenging, was going well and was on pace for yet another sub 2:00 half, until the bottle neck after Mile 7. The Marathon course was just 2 laps of the half marathon course (no surprise there), but there was also a 2+ mile overlap with the 10K course! A 30 minute head start put me at the tail end of the 10K runners/walkers. And with a treacherous course, which wound up numerous hills and allowed only single file people to traverse at times, stopped me dead in my tracks. When I could pass, I passed, but was bogged down for a long time. I love runners/walkers of all capabilities, because there is a shared love of running and reaching the goal. But this was very poor race management. I surely was not looking for a PR, especially on my first significant trail half marathon, but this was tough to swallow. So when the course finally split again, I took off as best I could, again without killing myself and found myself high-fiving The Blerch at 2:10:31 (good for 116 out of 996). Skipped the slabs of green cake and purple drink but grabbed my bling, water and ok, some more Nutella, before another harrowing ride (same Evil Knievel bus driver)!
The novelty of Beat the Blerch is just that, a novelty. I don know if I outran the course Blerch(s) because nobody chased me through the trails. Nutella aside, the cake, marshmallows and grape beverages along with the couches at he aid stations were not for me. I would gladly run the challenging trail half marathon or even marathon course again. Despite the clogging of the trail, the miles seemed to fly by (probably because I lost about a mile on my Garmin due to the canopy of trees). But unless the courses are changed to avoid the crossover with the mass of 10K runners/walkers during single lane switchbacks, I don´t believe I will run it again. The start ¨corrals¨ and ¨waves¨ needs to be reorganized as well.
The Bronx 10 Mile on Sunday followed on a short night´s rest. I worked a 7 hour football security detail til midnight following BTB and carpooled in at 630am. I like this race for the overall flatness and the scenic route down the Grand Course from 165th Street north to the Moshulu Parkway. It winds around Lehman College and a short loop down the Moshulu Parkway before returning to the start/finish line. Its quite a sight to see the lead runners returning at the Mile 4 / Mile 7. There movements are effortless and they seem to be gliding passed the mass of runners still heading out. I had maintained with the 1:30 pacer and finished at 1:30:24. Happy with the finish time as I felt the strain on my legs growing during the cool down walk to the car. Along with the NYC Half, Brooklyn Half and the Queens 10K the Bronx 10 Mile secured my guaranteed entry to the 2016 NYC Half next March. With the Staten Island Half this coming weekend, I will have all 5 boroughs covered (twice when you count the NYC Marathon on November 1).
So not a double half weekend, but a challenging 23.1 miles nonetheless with an average pace of 9:34 (9:58 and 9:02). A very busy October and November still let to go!
I registered for the 2013 Maple Leaf Half Marathon, based on my love for the city of Manchester VT and finished in 2:24:08 and I distinctly remember how hard it was to climb all those hills. But feeling undaunted, I signed up in 2014 and finished a very humid (15 minute rain storm included) in 2:33:58. Sitting around the post race party with my wife and kids, I remarked how much this race (my now annual kick off to the fall running season) tests my endurance and summer training. Although I put miles and time in from May to August, I seemed to get sidetracked with life or spent too much time on the bike. For 2 years I had nightmares about the crushed gravel hills between Mile 7 and Mile 9. I could close my eyes and see each and every detail, including my feeling of defeat, of those 2 miles.
So whether it was my own draw of Manchester VT, the urging of my wife and kids who look forward to this trip in September or my need conquer a race that has challenged me (aka haunted my nightmares) the last 2 years, I registered for the 2015 race. I took some time off after the NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon that finished my busy 2015 Spring half/full marathon season. But when cinched up the laces and got back into training, I decided to leave my bike in the barn and hit the pavement running, literally.
I am lucky enough, if you would call it that, to live in an area of northeast New Jersey that is NOT flat! I found some daunting hills and decided to make them all a part of my weekly training runs. I found some trails and the beach on our family vacation to Atlantic Beach NC and found some crushed gravel running paths in the area too.
I had also decide too, that my fluctuating weight needed to be controlled. So I opted for Isagenix and over a 6 week period lost 25 pounds!
Despite all the dedication, while packing my gear for this year’s race, I was not sure I had done enough work. So on Friday, we grabbed the kids up after school and made an easy 3+ hour trip in time to pick-up my race number (611). This year’s goodies included winter gloves with smartphone accessible fingertips and local home grown Vermont maple syrup in a maple leaf bottle. Pre-race pasta and chicken was brought to you by Mulligans Pub and Restaurant this year. After setting out my gear and tucking in the 4 kiddies, I drifted off to sleep.
I was up before my alarm at 6:30am. Unsure if that was pre-race anticipation or an almost 4 month old being up almost 2 hours early (thank goodness he wakes up happy and not a grumpy bear). I stepped out into a chilly cool morning and was chauffeured to the start line by my lovely wife.
I found myself lined up with my anticipated pace of a 10 minute mile and after a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, was off with the gun. The first mile starts on a nice downward slope, but then a right turn finds you on a steady climb through Manchester Center, passed The Burr and Burton Academy and eventually along picturesque West Road until the Mile 4 marker. As the first 4 miles ticked by, I found myself at a pace just over a 9 minute mile. Mile 4 is rolling and finally a long downhill stretch between Mile 5 and Mile 7 found my pace around and 8:30 minute mile. Although looking and feeling good, I knew a left turn on Aeolus Lane would bring on the HILLS! I made the turn and began the march along the crushed gravel roads and found myself making the right turn on North Road at a strong and steady pace. But ahead lay Wind Hill which usually took the wind out of my sails the past 2 years. I found several people walking Wind Hill as I had in the past. But I put down my head, placed one foot in front of the other and surprisingly hit the top of Wind Hill feeling strong and accomplished. When I finally glanced at my watch, I realized that I had crossed Mile 9 at 1:23. A quick calculation of mileage left, had me pondering for the first time a sub 2:00 half marathon time. And with a majority of the race either downhill or flat, I seriously began to think a 9 minute mile pace would allow me to accomplish this long sought after goal. So letting my momentum take over, I began to push the envelope down the back end of the course.
Now my wife and kids like to find me at some point along the course to cheer me on. During some races, their support and smiles are what I need to keep moving on. Our prearranged meeting place at time (10:00am) was going to be in jeopardy. I placed what turned out to be perfectly well timed text (on the run mind you) at Mile 10 alerting her that she needed to hurry as I was going to pass the Tire Discount store prior to them getting there! Turns outs he had to pull a wild U-Turn to come back since they were going to head back to the hotel after breakfast. Just prior to Mile 12, I found my family happily cheering on and high-fiving other runners along the course. Most days I stop for quick hugs, but knew I was close to breaking the 2 hour barrier, so this time the boys just bounded along as I tried to tell them what I was trying to accomplish.
So I pushed on through a few more turns and rounded the final 1/10 of a mile looking at my watch constantly to make sure I was ahead of the pace. The beauty of a smaller race is you can actually hear your name announced as you approach the finish line! As I heard #611 is Matthew Rork of Wyckoff, NJ, I pushed the stop button and achieved what I never thought was possible:
The sense of accomplishment is unreal. The water tasted sweeter. My medal was just a little brighter. (on a side note: The medal is locally hand spun glass with a maple leaf stamped in it. This year was yellow, blue and green previously. I love that you get a local flavor with the medal!) My smile was just a little wider.
Being with my family after the race makes it all worth it. This is one race and trip we will mark on the calendar every year. Especially now, this course has so much more to offer. I hope this is just the beginning for me to see where my limits are. My first sub 2 hour half marathon on a tough and hilly course that has challenged me previously. A great way to start my 2015 fall running circuit! I can not wait to see what the Hershey Half Marathon, Beat the Blerch, NYRR Bronx 10 Miler, NYRR Staten Island Half Marathon, Cape Cod Clam Chowdah Challenge and the TCS NYC Marathon have in store for me!
I don’t believe anything will ever compare to my first marathon experience. I hope to run countless marathons, 1/2 marathons or endurances races, but I find it hard to believe that another will surpass the excitement and aura as the Disney World Marathon Weekend.
My wife had surprised me with an entry into the 1/2 marathon as my 36th birthday present. We had talked about making a great family weekend out of it for months with the kids. We left New York City on Thursday and arrived in Orlando before noon. I sat on the plane next to a retired NYPD officer of 34 years. The Ironman Cozumel Finisher shirt made it obvious he was traveling for the race as well. He in fact was a perfect GOOFY!! (meaning he had completed both the 1/2 marathon and the full marathon on the same weekend since the race and half challenge was offered 7 years ago). So suffice it to say this wasn’t his first rodeo, in fact he was also running the Family 5K too! The kids were so excited because we had entered them into the kids races and they told Jay all about. Jay was also traveling with other runners who train together on a regular basis. He was an invaluable resource since I quickly found out how many people sitting around us were entered in the various races too.
Upon arrival, we grabbed our bag, yes 1 bag for a traveling family of 5, (have to love large duffles and warm weather clothing) and headed off the Magical Express! We quickly changed and checked into our room at The All-Star Movies Resort and boarded the Race Day Weekend Transportation provided at each hotel and arrived at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex amid thousands of other entrants and their families. The complex is an amazing array of fields and buildings centered around the Atlanta Braves spring training facility. We gathered the kids and grabbed their registration packets with their personalized bibs and t-shirts, they now truly felt like they were part of race weekend. We found the1/2 marathon registrants and got the official bib 52235!! The kids grabbed a few official marathon souvenirs, and I even convinced my wife to tackle the 1/2 marathon in 2014, so we grabbed a training for the 2014 1/2 Marathon 2014 shirt. Our family crossed the courtyard and entered the Expo building to grab my official shirt and check out the various exhibits. I was in awe as we walked around at the array of products and services being sold. According the official book, 95 runners were Perfect Runners, by competing in the first 19 marathons soon to complete the 20th anniversary race. And at the Expo I found out so many people of the nearly 60,000 were doing the GOOFY! We snapped a few photos at various places throughout the complex and headed back to our resort and Downtown Disney for some pool time and dinner.
Our plan to grab an hour in the Magic Kingdom before the Kids Races were scrapped the next morning as we grabbed breakfast and decided to take the transportation to the EWWS a little earlier. The EXPO opened at 7am and the thousands of registrants who weren’t t here Thursday were certainly there Friday to grab their packets. The entry line was wrapped through the courtyard and the pathways through the fields. The kids were hustled to the far end fields were we were met by the most enthusiastic race coordinators. They had the kids dancing and stretching all over the fields. The 100M dash for the little ones was followed by Evan’s 200M dash. I waited with him while Catherine, George and Laila planted themselves at the finish line for a phone of the finish. He seemed nervous but assured me he would do just fine. I left him at the front of his wave and watched him sprint off the line and around the curve. (I was reliant on the finishing pictures as I dodged numerous parents following their kids through the infield like me). Evan and George swapped places and we headed over to the 400M dash for our 8 year old. He was much more nervous and asked if I would do the run with him, but after he realized that more kids were running solo than the younger races he decided to accomplish it on his own. However, his one stipulation was that I follow him around the infield like I did for his brother. Again, I needed pictures to see the finish as I stampeded around the infield making sure he found me every time. But nothing could beat the look on their faces as they proudly wore their medals and high fived Mickey Mouse at the finish line. George, Evan and Laila scarfed down post race snacks provided my Clif Bar.
The family spent the day at The Magic Kingdom and returned to our hotel for a pasta dinner before we bedded down for the night. I had already OCDed my race day gear, drop bag, and breakfast box earlier that day but double checked and triple checked before I fell asleep. Sleep didn’t last long, as I woke up every hour on the hour with great anticipation…
As I sit down and contemplate my first attempt at the world of blogging, I wonder how I ended up here. My father in-law was diagnosed with prostate cancer in April 2012. I watched as my wife and my mother in-law crumbled at the devastating prospects of the unknown. The only thing I could do was stand-by and support them both as best I could. We hugged, we cried, we prayed and we talked about all options. My father in-law ultimately decided on a prostatectomy in October. The results were not positive. The cancer had spread just beyond the boundaries of the prostate. After even further discussion he and the doctors decided on radiation treatment. Radiation treatment starts tomorrow January 2 and until the radiation treatments run their course, we sit and wait.
The sitting and waiting is the hardest part for him. My father in-law is a proud man. It took him months to gain the courage to talk to anyone about it, even the family. The only information we learned was from my mother in-law. My father in-law has been a member of a volunteer fire department for over 47 years. At the age of 61, answers the pager and drives down to the fire department to hop on the truck at all hours in all weather. He’s been doing it since he was 15. His only time away from his beloved fire department was a hitch with the Army. He has spent countless hours archiving the history of the department. He has been instrumental in the planning and development of every aspect of the fire department. He has seen people come and go. He has been a mentor for every other 15 year old that walks through the door and has aspirations of serving the community has best as he/she can. He has never chosen to run as an officer. He chooses to serve on the front-lines and charge in no matter what the danger. Open heart surgery 12 years ago couldn’t even keep him down, he returned with the same passion he always had. He has never sought recognition or acclaim. He’s at all functions and at all classes. The fire department honored him 3 years ago as a Honorary Chief for all his faithful years of service. But since October, prostate cancer has kept him away from his 2nd home and his 2nd family.
As a police officer I know what it is like to spend my life putting my life on the line. I know what it is like to have that brotherhood, to know that the person next to you has your back no matter what. However, I don’t know what it’s like to have that taken away from you. But like him, I think the sitting and the waiting is the hardest part. I have never been one who could sit still. I’ve always been active. From driveway hoops, to backyard football to sandlot baseball to organized recreation sports and traveling teams. Athletics has carried me through my life. Whether running up and down the court or field or around the base paths my feet have always carried me towards my goal. My father in-law’s prostate cancer has changed my goals. I look at my stepsons and my daughter and realize that they, along with my wife, are my future. Everything I do, I do for them. And so I decided that my feet would carry me towards my new goal; to bring knowledge and awareness to men about prostate cancer. How to help prevent it through lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, supplement consumption and exercise habits. But more importantly to bring support to men and their families affected by the disease and raise money for research.
As a newcomer to the world of triathalons, 1/2 marathons and marathons I have decided to dedicate my running to my father in-law, to the men fighting the daily struggle and to the men who could eventually be faced with the unknown. So I developed Run The Thin Blue Line. A group of men and women running to raise money and awareness. Follow us on Facebook or http://www.runthethinblueline.com. Our team raise money through our association with Athletes for a Cure. So please check us out and follow us on our journey.
We each one man or woman with two feet that are capable of carrying us great distances. Happy New Year 2013! May this year bring our voice as far as we can take it.