Sunday, February 21, 2016

Character Building

I remember reading old Calvin and Hobbes comics. Every time Calvin was sent outside to shovel snow or wait in the rain for the school bus, his father referred to it as an opportunity for 'building character'.  This is the kind of stuff that comes to mind when I arrive at Wednesday night track practice to see this:

We're pretty spoiled in California when it comes to weather. We're also in a four-year drought, so it's hard to complain about any amount of rain we get. At the end of training, the crosswind drove the rain horizontal. We only had four participants get to Woodside this week to do a modified circuit training workout, doing strength exercises under a small overhang near the restrooms. Each of them got some Rock n Roll Marathon swag for being brave enough to show up. That's a building block for a strong season. They also will be prepared if it rains on race day.

Yesterday before our 4 - 6 mile training, Patty Rodriguez spoke for our Mission Moment. She's a two time cancer survivor. I met Patty in the first few miles of the Hot Chocolate 15K in January. She's got an amazing outlook on life. It inspires me to think about all the things that other people overcome just to wake up, get to training to run, walk or cheer.

Three weeks of coached training and so far so good. This weekend, the participants are on their own for 4 - 6 miles or 1 - 2 hours depending on their event.

On the Roads:
Character can be displayed by determination, like the teammates that showed up last week. It can manifest itself in determination like Shalane Flanagan at last week's marathon Olympic Trials. Shalane paced training partner Amy Cragg for 24 miles before dehydration slowed her enough for Desiree Linden to pass her with less than a mile left. Shalane was able to hold off Kara Goucher for the final spot on the 2016 Rio Olympic team. On the men's side, 10K specialist Galen Rupp, won in impressive fashion, joining Meb Keflezighi and Jared Ward to represent the USA. This was the first time we watched the trials, having had the privilege to meet many of the Olympic hopefuls over the last few years. Being able to have this kind of connection is one of the things that makes the sport great.

The day after trials, our friend Jessica V. ran the Skechers LA Marathon in just under 4.5 hours. The story here was that she was running on serious expo legs as the week before the LA Marathon, she was one of the organizers of the event. She ran her first half marathon less than five years ago and now was responsible for one of the best organized race events of the year by all reports. Her boss told her she was nuts running the marathon on Sunday. For Jessica, "Nuts" is just another day at the office.

This weekend were the Olympic race walk trials. In 2013, at the Moscow World Championship, John Nunn finished dead last, in pain with every step, but didn't quit. Something about representing his country pushed him to finish, regardless of the time. The tight-knit race walk community watched and agonized with him for every step.  This weekend, Nunn fought off a flu bug to win the men's 50K in a personal best 4:03:21, qualifying for his third games. Heart and dedication pays off.

Also finishing up this weekend was the three-day Florida Ultraman - 6.2 mile swim, 261.4 mile bike, 52.4 mile run. Jessica D. won the women's division, finishing 10th overall, setting a few course records along the way. We've watched one IRONMAN event. I can't imagine the amount of extra preparation the Ultraman would take.

Character. It's all around us. You recognize it when you see it. People show it through their words or actions and for the most part, they don't do it for recognition, they do it because that's who they are.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some knots that need some foam rolling. I need to be ready for our next character building event.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Goals, Tools and Missions - Peninsula TNT Summer Team Week 1

When we started this blog, "Marathoning for Life" was a goal. We want to race as long as we are physically able and still have passion for the sport. The title also came to reflect how we use marathoning as a tool to keep us healthier.  

Last week I was reminded that the title is also a mission. The reason we started marathoning was to raise money for Team in Training. Marathoning for us was literally saving lives.

Our Summer season kicked off for the Peninsula team last Wednesday. Our first regional training on Saturday was a quick 30 minute out and back on the Oracle Bay Trail where we got to know the dozen participants we have training for the Tinkerbell Half marathon and Rock n Roll Seattle half and full. 

Training Captain Cathy had an early start marking mileage.

Pre-training words from our team manager, Guy.
I chatted with each of the team members on the trail. Hal was a long time TNT veteran whose goal is to improve on his PR for the Seattle full. Nick has done a couple of half marathons and is recovering from a torn hip flexor, so he'll be staying on the flatter course at Tink. Lauren has done a few 5K's and her mother was a TNT alum who had a great season and recommended that Lauren join. Yuli, another first timer, told me he'd never run more than 1.5K in his life. Saturday's training was officially the longest he'd ever run! We have a few teammates coming back after a few years off like Robin, Andrea and Vickie and some recent alum like Kelly, Valerie and Paul. I hope to get to chat more with them as the season goes on. 

Our honoree speaker was Minnie. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 diffuse large B Cell lymphoma when she was six months pregnant. MRI's confirmed several tumors throughout her body. In the past, if the cancer was caught in the first trimester, the diagnosis would have leaned toward aborting the pregnancy, but medicine had matured in the last 20 years thanks in part to LLS funds. Minnie underwent a modified chemotherapy and she delivered a healthy son, Keiron. Shortly after his birth, doctors found tumors in her kidneys and brain, prompting radiation and more chemotherapy.

Minnie's story has a happy ending. She came through with some short-term memory loss, but has now been in remission for six years with an amazing outlook on life. Read more about her recovery on this article at the Stanford Medicine site.

We had our gear clinic at Road Runner Sports in San Carlos and a went for a post-training breakfast at Hobee's. This season's team is smaller than I'm used to, but so far with the new coaching team things are running pretty smoothly. I'm looking forward to our next track workout Wednesday where we'll start working on technique.


News from the Road:
The Z Adventures - Cruise Marathons group finished another multi-stop event this weekend. About 30 participants ran races in 7 countries at the full, half, 10k and 5k distances. The medals were wedge-shaped and together formed a larger circle. Reviews so far have been positive. White Continent/Punta Arenas alum Tee, Brent and Kamika checked off more countries on their long list of races. 

Also concluding this week was the Marathon Expedition Caribbean Running Cruise. Congrats to Jennifer and Blair, and to John and Jenny for another successful event. Other races for your bucket list this weekend include the Daytona Half Marathon (thanks Tawni for the cool video from the track!) and the 20th anniversary of the Surf City Half and Full marathon (congrats to Stephanie, Melinda, Leah, Jessica, Adrian, Kevin and Jennifer).

100 Half Marathon Club president Jenipher finished her 100th Half Marathon at the Go Hard or Go Home Half in Prospect Park, New York. Congratulations, Jenipher!

We're a month into 2016 and working on two challenges. Susan and I joined Kara Goucher's Run The Year 2016 challenge, targeting 2,016 miles in the year. I'm counting miles from walking around at work (incidental mileage too) so to be safe, I'm shooting for about 2700 miles for the year to clear a 2 mile/day baseline. With a bit over 279 miles through February 7th, things are looking good.

Al, Lisa Marie, Tawni and I are also doing the VIP Joe Challenge in honor of our friend Joe Harris. He underwent surgery after RNR San Antonio and is back on the roads prepping for RNR New Orleans. Joe is the all-time leader for Rock n Roll races completed at 116. The four of use are shooting to finish 116 miles each in February, one for each race Joe has completed. I'm only counting "intentional" workout miles for this one. I'm just over 24 miles for February, so I'll need to step it up a bit.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

When I Grow Up, I Want to be Just Like Nancy

Our friend/mentor/captain, Nancy, celebrates her 80th birthday this year. Friends and family convened to celebrate this milestone and more importantly, a transition into a new age group! Watch out runners, this endurance athlete walker is going to give you some new competition.

In anticipation for her birthday party, she posted, “Oh I'm getting worried. Tomorrow my two families are going to meet! My children are going to meet the people with whom I act like I'm a youngster. Gonna be some shocked people, I'm thinking!” We ALL love you Nancy just the way you are! Walking in the door at the birthday party, I complimented Nancy on the new hairdo. “I like the tufts of purple, Nancy!” 

“It’s actually raspberry. Purple is for old ladies.” 

Nancy with her first TNT Mentor, Tim
That in a nutshell sums up Nancy. She may have been the oldest person at her own birthday party but her spirit and positive attitude toward life makes her seem younger than everyone around her.

Nancy and her three children, Cindy, Bob and Boyd. When their family gets together and someone asks 'who's the youngest?', they all point to their mom.
Ron met Nancy at Clorox 16 years ago where she was working as an on-site nurse. They were both members of Diamond Toastmasters and Nancy gave a speech to the club about fundraising for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS) through Team in Training (TNT). In exchange for raising several thousand dollars, TNT coaches train you to complete a half or full marathon. 

Nancy signed up for TNT when she turned 65. Tim was Nancy’s mentor her first season with TNT in 2001. Nancy was Ron’s mentor his first season with TNT in 2005. Ron was Susan’s mentor her first season with TNT in 2006. We affectionately call Tim our great-grandmentor (he hates the term but I’m sure he appreciates the legacy).

Four Generations of Team in Training Participants
Tim Yagle, Nancy Ryder, Ron Carino, Susan Carino (from left to right)
Clorox has a generous charity matching, making it easier and less intimidating to fundraise. Her first marathon event was the Mayor’s Midnight Sun marathon and since then she’s made 6 trips to Anchorage, Alaska, finishing five full and one half marathon. That season they were headed to Anchorage again. Ron, always happy to help a worthy cause, joined the Team. I laughed at him, being the oh so supportive wife that I am. I told him that there was no way he could complete a marathon with his bad knees. Here’s the catch – Nancy was a mentor on the marathon Walk Team. Ron decided he would walk a marathon, help a worthy cause, and check off 'eating a meal in all 50 states' at the same time. We’ve both come such a long way since then. 

This was taken during a race in Anchorage in either 2005 or 2006. We've all lost track.
Nancy quickly adopted me even though I chose not to fundraise for TNT that season. I occasionally came to trainings as an observer with my friend Wendy. She and I had decided to train for the half marathon in Anchorage because we were only half crazy. However, once we reached 13 miles it seemed too easy so we kept training for the full 26.2 miles.

Fast forward six months, on June 17, 2005 Ron and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary with Nancy and Wendy with breakfast (a meal in Alaska) at Safeway in Seward before going on a most memorable cruise seeing whales and getting dive-bombed by puffins. The marathon was more challenging than we expected. It was cold, wet, and windy. Yet, all of us on the team completed the event forging lifelong friendships along the way. We have several memorable trips including RNR Savannah 2010 and a full marathon at Mount Desert Island (Bar Harbor, Maine) with our friend Michelle.

Michelle passed away in 2010, but not before we got her to finish her first full marathon.
I no longer laugh at Ron for wanting to do a marathon and we’re planning to complete half marathons in all 50 states someday. Well, I guess Ron will also end up eating a meal in all 50 states again but at least this time he’ll have earned the calories.

So what makes Nancy so special to us? Besides being someone who we admire, respect, and are in awe of for who she is as a person. Even Nancy’s doctor is jealous of her and how strong her heart is. She puts new meaning into being young at heart.

Personalities can be broken down into the four elements – Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. Nancy is the WATER personality type. Not just because she fondly gives out epsom salts to all her TNT mentees for the ice bath after the race. Symbolically though her heart is her guide in everything she does, and she is very attuned to other people’s experiences. Nancy doesn’t dwell on the past. She doesn’t live with regrets. She doesn’t focus on the negative things in life. Instead, she focuses on the future and how she can help others. True to her profession as a nurse, she puts others ahead of herself.

Take for example, a race in Monterey, CA a few years back. People often ask me what my favorite local race is and I always recommend the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay in November. The course is flat, scenic along the ocean, and the hand crafted medal is unique, though fragile. Nancy and I raced together several times and one year, Nancy was having a particularly difficult race. We finished together beyond the 3.5 hour cut off after the finish line had been torn down. It wasn’t until she told me that she had given blood the day before to the event that we realized why she was struggling. (Note to the readers, don’t give blood at least a week prior or a week after an endurance event.) You need all your blood for strength to endure and recover! But true to Nancy’s character, she was giving to others first before thinking of herself.

Fellow TNTer Roz put together the Nancy Quiz at the birthday party - 20 questions about Nancy’s life. All of us struggled with the answers (except maybe her daughter Cindy and two sons Bob and Boyd). Of course they debated a few of the answers but we let Nancy be the final authority about her own life. Even after spending hours walking with her, we learned a lot more that we never even knew about!

During the Quiz we learned that 50 of the 52 weekends in 2015, she was either participating in a race, volunteering at a race, or out actively training. Nancy was the first person we knew who broke an unspoken TNT training rule: you need three to four months to train for a half marathon and at least six months to adequate train for a full marathon. We stuck to this schedule for the first two years, completing each event six months apart. 

Rebel Nancy however was known to do more than one race every few months. If fact, she often did more than one race in a weekend. Her reputation raised a few eyebrows among TNT coaches but it opened our eyes to another approach to marathoning. Instead of training every weekend and completing long miles either alone without support, in a small mentoring group, or with the full team, you can get your mileage in at a race. The caveat is that you treat the race like a training event rather than another opportunity for a personal record (PR). Striving for a PR every six months or so is still good advice. Nancy broke the mold and is living proof that you can be active and healthy into your 80’s.

Nancy is young at heart and living proof that attitude is everything. 

We want to be like Nancy when we grow up.


If Nancy inspires you as much as she inspired us, please consider a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for support of research and financial assistance of patients at her web page ( She'll be headed to Alaska this June for a second half marathon, her seventh race there and an well more than 100 since turning 65.