|Tani hamming it up pre-run!|
|Matt and Rich dish out crew's 1st meal|
My world had been and was consumed by the Catskill 155, while everyone else moved about their daily routine. I began to talk to myself about what lay ahead, and then my crew flew by screaming out the window and honking their horns with excitement. I loved that but they were gone in about 2 seconds and I was alone again with my thoughts. A sudden reality check that I would have many moments of excitement with significantly longer periods of solitude. I knew it would be like this for most of the next 10 to 12 hours as I had chosen to spend this first night alone while I was coherent and able to run safely through the night. I also thought it would provide a great chance for me to reflect on my life with lucidity during a beautiful starlit night in the country.
|Be visible on the road|
The night remained perfectly clear, the moon lighting the way and millions of stars blazing through my frosted breath. After Jeff left it was eerily quiet but for the sound of my breathing and footsteps. There was also the occasional coyote in the distance with its howl cascading across the valley. During my previous runs through the night I often wished my wife could be out there too. Not to help me, but to enjoy the moment of struggle and serenity with me. I find the early morning hours to be those when I am at my lowest, but it’s also those hours I find most beautiful. Truly alone to your own thoughts and decisions about what you will do at the toughest moments. I was not struggling as we were only about 20 miles in but I asked Tani to come out with me to enjoy the night sky. We turned off our headlamps for a minute or two to really soak in the night. It would have been nice to go the entire few miles we spent together in the dark but too dangerous. At one point as we were passing by one of many farms a pick up truck flew by heading east as we were and then suddenly made a u-turn to begin heading back our way. We were a little nervous as they slowly approached us until they stopped, and two men staring in disbelief simply said, "Are you shittin me?" We all had a good laugh with nothing else needing to be said. It's not often anyone is seen running down these roads let alone in the middle of the night lit up like christmas trees.
My brother came out with me for about a mile or so as well. This too was a special moment as I am certain it has been some time since my brother has worn a pair of sneakers for the purpose of running. I was hoping this experience would be the beginning of something enlightening for him. Time will tell, but regardless we spent time together throughout this journey that we will both remember forever. As we approached completion of marathon number 1 it was a little after midnight and I was in desperate need of a bathroom. I knew there was a gas station not too far up the road and had thought it may in fact be open all night. Unfortunately I was wrong, but fortunately my crew had gone ahead and convinced the people closing up to let me in. Perhaps they were just curious about what I was doing, but be it curiosity or kindness I was appreciative. They also came out to greet me and I had a chance to chat with a couple of them. One of the women told me she was about to light up a cigarette but decided not to because I was there. She also said she had been contemplating quitting. I told her that I was a former smoker and remember her saying "You are not even out of breath!" I let her know that when I smoked I could not walk up a flight of stairs without gasping. She seemed encouraged and I really hope she did not smoke that cigarette.
|Tony and I nearing mile 50|
Shortly before sunrise around mile 40 Tony decided to come out and join me. I was feeling well but I already had a couple of hot spots brewing on my feet. I have never had blister problems, but had also not run more than 30 miles straight on pavement before. With over a hundred miles to go this was a concern at this early stage. I decided however not to look at my feet at this point and continue on. I was more fearful of sitting than seeing what blisters may be developing. Beware of the chair as they say. We continued until just after sunrise when the first crew shift change was scheduled. Tani and Tony were going to stay with me the entire run, Rich and Cheryl were on the first shift and then Matt, Cori and Sean would rotate with them every 10 or 12 hours. This gave everyone a chance to rest including Tani and Tony who could nap in the car if needed (which it was). While we discussed crew responsibility, shifts and so on prior, I really wanted to stay out of crew decisions as much as possible at this point and focus on my running.
|Me and Donna|
|A Yankee fan keeping me on track|
|Bodyguards in Phoenicia|
|Tani celebrates Blue Monkey Pancakes|
|Me and Cori|
|Matt and I getting aid on the go|
At our next stop, Donna was back and now Greg had joined her too. Greg, Donna, Tani and I have been close friend for many years and have actually spent many incredible days riding our motorcycles through many beautiful places in this country including the very same roads we were now running together in the Catskills. I had requested some chicken noodle soup a while back and Greg informed me it was waiting across the street. Although my spirits were very low, I recall the atmosphere amongst the crew and friends being quite good at this time as everyone had gathered in a parking lot as if they were presenting me with the ultimate prize, soup! Well, I was so excited to have it and as I walked away with my sister-in-law Cheryl I began to take what was sure to be the sip that would get me moving well again. "Holly shit" I said after spitting out my only swig. I was not sure what it was but whatever I tasted was incredibly spicy and not what my stomach could take. Cheryl went back as I continued ahead.
Eventually Cheryl caught up to me again with the news that the entire crew tasted the soup upon her return and had no idea what I was talking about. Apparently I was the only one whose taste buds sensed any spice and anything other than chicken noodle. Not only was my mind wasted but so was my tongue.
|Greg pushing me along|
|Smiles before losing the crew|
|Cleanup from the big one|
Once again, it was time to move. I can't remember but I think it was Tony who continued on with me at this point. Now somewhere around 4am we made our way through a few more very quiet, small, residential back roads when we emerged upon a more commercial road. The crew had pulled off a mile or so back to gas up, stock up and do whatever they needed when I was overcome with exhaustion, again. The next few minutes seemed endless as all I wanted was to sleep and was having a very hard time thinking about moving forward let alone standing. When the van showed up I jumped in and said wake me up in 10 or 15 minutes.
I had now struggled to complete about 30 miles in 10 hours. I did not actually realize how slow I was moving until just now as I am writing this. I knew it had been a long night with lots of walking. I wish I could explain just how tired I was. I have literally fallen asleep on my feet before (Bartram 100 in 2010) but this was way beyond that. It was very hard to focus. The big picture had long vacated my thoughts at this point. The finish may come but I could not bother thinking about it. Continuing forward progress was my sole focus, one step and simply one moment at a time. I was hoping that after a long night, just before the sun was coming up that this would be the 10 minute energy nap. As with the other 2 naps, I did not wake up and simply begin running. I was always stiff, achy and exhausted. As I began to move forward, this time with Matt at my side I would not say I was outwardly better. I took all the energy I could muster as I began to discuss with myself what lay ahead. Not the 30+ miles of dreaded pavement, as I said that was too much to bare. What I began to think about was so much more. Matt and I were starting to slowly jog over some highway, the sun was rising, the cars were buzzing by, and it kind of brought me back to reality in a sense. I had been struggling for so many hours through the endless night that all of my thoughts had become compartmentalized in the "poor me" department. The purple and pink sun rise and whizzing cars jolted me back to that sense of purpose. I wanted to help people. I wanted to do something that might fix them or give them hope. I thought of the 8 years Anita has been fighting, the prostate cancer my father battled and all the stories people have shared with me leading up to this run. I now needed to rely on their strength and courage to get me through this. I turned up the music, and began to fight for Anita, my father and so many others. I was also battling with them as I new they were all with me and willing me to finish. The sun was up and we were going to kick some ass.
|Running for donuts|
Anyway, here we were and there was no turning back (This video will give you a sense of the road before it got bad). I may have been over sensitive to the situation because of my mental state but I had asked 7 people to come out and be with me. Although the premise is they are there to take care of me, I felt responsible for them too. As we progressed closer to our goal I felt the traffic increasing and I knew the final few miles of this stretch were the worst. There was a fairly generous shoulder, but cement barricades bordered the road so there was really nowhere to escape if something went wrong. As we approached this section I told my crew, without telling them why that I would run this next section alone. They conceded and all was fine until I turned around and Tony was behind me. I asked "what the hell are you doing here" and replied "we thought someone should be with you". I appreciated everyone's concern but I just shook my head explaining to Tony what lay ahead.
The crew vehicles had already gone ahead so Tony was stuck with me. I was trying to remember how far it was to get to Route 202 which would end this nightmare but I was having a tough time thinking. I was just running. After a couple of miles of hard fought fearful running we ran into one of our crew vehicles that had managed to turn around and come see if we needed anything. I immediately began asking where the road changed. I run roads all the time but this just felt unsafe to me and I was very concerned for our safety. It was so much worse running it than I ever imagined. I knew it had to be soon but was unsure. No one could clearly tell me when the road became safer. At that point I said I am making an executive decision. "Unless someone can tell me where it becomes safe we are all getting in the car and driving us there." In we went and only about a quarter of a mile down the road, I hopped out to a better situation to run the last 3 or 4 miles with my Tani.
I could really sense the home stretch now but was beginning to experience severe pain in my right heal and had trouble running. I did what I could to bury the pain. I was with the most important person in my life, Tani, just as planned. With just a few miles to go I began to imagine how it would feel to run the last mile with my children and wife, my parents and my crew. I also knew that the approaching finish would bring a never to be felt again moment. I would see all those in my life who mean the most. Any time I needed strength I told myself there is no way I am going to let them down. I also hoped at the moment Anita and I saw each other, she would feel strength, pride and confirmation that so many are with her as she continues her fight. Emotions were beginning to take over and so was the physical pain. I was having a very hard time walking now let alone running. I was starting to limp more severely with each step. Tani was trying to keep me on a solid run 30 second walk 30 second schedule. I finally said with a little over a mile to go, lets walk. At that moment we looked at each other, knowing we were going to finish and embraced. Alone on the road we were able to share a very special moment. We were going to do it. Without her support I never would have considered this attempt. Now with her by my side we were about to finish what we started.
|Just A Mile To Go!|
|Home Stretch w Tani, Jared, Kyle|
|Me the crew and family|
I was greeted by some 50 or 60 family and friends and an emotional hug from Anita. Words can not fully explain the finish, but if you grab a tissue, this video will say it all. Enjoy
I again thank all those who helped make the Catskill 155 for MMRF possible and supported me in this endeavour for such an important cause. $30,200 raised for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation this year because of all of you.
To all those whose lives have been affected by cancer, you are not alone and there are so many of us out there fighting for and with you in whatever way we can.