This weekend I got to participate in a relay in the Buffalo Marathon! Four of us ran as part of the #IMLPproject, to raise awareness for Footsteps of Western New York.
Footsteps of Western New York was founded by my friend Marty Gregoire, who is a multisport athlete competing with Cerebral Palsy. Marty is on the far right in this photo, he ran the John Beshline 5K on Saturday (part of the Buffalo Marathon weekend) with Team RWB.
Marty founded Footsteps of WNY to help ease the unbelievable costs that CP brings to a family. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars for families who ensure this disability. Therapists, walkers, splints, etc. Footsteps helps make that burden lighter and I am personally committed to helping spread the word.
The #IMLPproject is a free Ironman training program I created last summer. We have a group heading to IMLP this July, and it was just my personal way to give back to the sport that has given me so much.
I had the opportunity to crash with some of the race crew this weekend (specifically Rich my friend for 20+ years!!!!!!) which I often do. By now I am accustomed to the amount of work this crew puts in, and this event was no different. What amazes me about this team…. is that they are a team. They function like a group of friends with a great purpose. I can’t even explain it, but this crew is special.
Crashing with Rich afforded me the chance to have my first “down weekend” in years. I had nothing due for grad school. No commitments of any kind. Nothing. I slept in a big comfortable hotel bed for two nights, finally started waking up at 0400 on my own again, and got the chance to soak up the energy.
I haven’t truly been present enough to let myself soak it all up, in a long time. I got to chat with Bart Yasso and Jeff Galloway. I got to meet the race’s oldest runner. I got to meet first time 1/2 Ironman and Marathon athletes. I got to catch up with friends. I got to drink a beer, actually TWO! I got to stroll around Canalside and take the time to look at arts and crafts that reflected the amazing city Buffalo is once again becoming.
This was my first time competing in a relay, and I was excited. The requirement of the Stars and Stripes Relay was that we had to carry a big American flag the whole way, I was so nervous I would drop it. I took the shuttle to the 30K mark and my good friend Jeff was there (he’s part of Score This !!! and he’s been a friend for years).
I got to see the elite runners come hauling through, and then came the parade. 30K (18.6 miles) is an interesting spot to be at. It’s where sh*t gets real for many. I saw so many smiles and a few moments of agony.
Then came Mike with my flag, and off I was. My segment was roughly 8 miles, which was my longest run in over a year. As I am slowly building up my run mileage I am only at about 20 miles per week for my fall marathon (I need to get to a point where I average 40-50, and I build really slow. I have been through too many injuries to not build slow). While I stayed fit through grad school I am nowhere NEAR race shape. People thought I was kidding…. no…. I don’t kid. I am not one of these athletes who says “Oh I am not ready, I haven’t run”…. and then goes and wins a 5K OOPS! No. Not me! I am honest! When I say I am unprepared, I am unprepared!
Truthfully it was kind of nice coming into an event on the underprepared side. I don’t know why, it just was!
Running with the flag was amazing. It took me about a mile to get used to it. Any time I came to a group of people they would go bananas with USA USA USA chanting! Each intersection I would raise the flag up high and people would scream, cars would lay on the horn and the Buffalo Police would salute. I felt SO incredibly proud to be carrying Old Glory. I get emotional when it comes to racing, I attach great meaning to it and I am not ashamed of that. This is where I get to experience life a little more raw, a little bit deeper. The playing field of sport levels all of us and it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. Here, it’s us working towards a finish line…. and to somehow become better people.
From mile 18.6 onward is an interesting place in a marathon. It’s where there is carnage, it’s where people realize how close they are to the finish. It gets emotional out there and I love it. It was also a good reminder of what it is like…… it’s been a while since I have been here!
My friend Jamie appeared on his bike around mile 24 ish, he had just run an awesome 1/2 and provided some really great encouragement. Friendly faces lined the street and I couldn’t help but stop for a few hugs. I am a sap, I am a hugger, like I said I get emotional out there, I get peeled apart a little bit!
I rounded the corner on Deleware and two of my teammates Mark and Pat were ready. They joined me and we ran the last 0.2 miles together (holy cats I wish we had all run the whole way together, they are a freaking riot). We brought that flag home in style, our combined finish time was 4:23. I was SUPER proud of that, and I was the slowest one on the team. The photo below is courtesy of Diane Sardes.
Wow, that whole experience was awesome. Carrying that flag was a better feeling than winning. Being part of a team like that, for Footsteps of WNY…. also better.
I walked away from the weekend feeling so incredibly ignited. I have been putting in the work to develop race fitness. I will not say regain, I will not say come back because that gives me too much of a chance to look backward. I don’t want to regain anything. I am really proud of my multisport career. My wins, my records, my good days and bad days, I love all of them. Don’t waste your time trying to recapture the past. Instead, go create your future.
Photo courtesy of Ken Smith
I have worked hard to come through severe burnout, adrenal fatigue… whatever whatever. It takes time, it takes patience and it takes 100% belief in yourself. Right now I am present again to develop into an athlete that will accomplish some great things. I have actual goals on paper that I am working to achieve.
It’s going to take time, longer than the few months I have put in. I am willing, I am working, I am having a LOT of fun, and each day is progress.
Thanks so much to the incredible crew at the Buffalo Marathon. Thanks to the amazing volunteers, the Buffalo Police Department, and to everyone who worked so hard to make the day appear so effortless. Even though I am a native Buffalonian, I have never participated in this race, a mistake I will NEVER make again!