Monday, October 31, 2011

Family Run

I certainly expected to break down emotionally at the end of yesterday's race. I did. But I didn't expect to break down physically during the race.

I haven't talked much about my training the last four months. It went really well. Very good long runs, few aches and sores. Quick recoveries. I entered yesterday's race calm and confident. Three weeks ago, I completed my 22-miler in 3:57 and kicked the last mile. I was going to PR, maybe a 4:40 or better.

Starting Tuesday, my muscles felt achy and I started sleeping hard, nine hours instead of my usual six. One day, I had a splitting headache and scratchy throat. I thought I might have fought off a cold, but I wasn't sure. Yesterday, thankfully, I felt fine at the start.

I had planned to tell the kids at some point before the race that I wasn't just running for their mom, but for them. Throughout my training, I prayed often my kids would see that I was honoring their mother with effort and love, and I hoped they'd find ways to do that all their lives. It dominates my thoughts. So I told them before the gun, "Today is for you guys, and I love you." Off to my PR.

Race conditions weren't the best, but they weren't as bad as we expected. The remnants of an epic Nor'easter, 30 mph winds with 40 mph gusts, were going to make the challenge a little tougher. But a little wind never hurt anyone, so off we went. I ran well for eight miles, cruising a comfortable 10:30/mile pace. I chatted with a nice lady named Linda, running her first marathon in her 50s. She said a few years ago she "freaked out" after her husband left her, so she started running. She looked happy about what she was doing. Good for her.

When I hit the first hill at Mile 8, I felt OK, but not the way I should have felt. This fall, I ran several hilly training runs because the Cape Cod course is challenging. Hmmm. At Mile 10, I felt like I was losing power. The next mile, my stomach cramped. Linda was gone. A few miles later, my legs cramped. Everything ... legs, the arches in my feet, lower back. I could barely run. What the ... !

My legs felt like they were 150 pounds each. I had trouble breathing. So I walked a little, ran a little. I'd never bonked so early. Bonking is supposed to happen at Mile 19 or 20. My mother handed me fig bars and an energy bag at Mile 21. I declined. A race official looked at me funny, like she was going to tell me to stop. I looked at her with red-deviled eyes. She knew what I was thinking. Don't say a word, leave him alone.

I managed to get up the hill at Nobska Lighthouse, but I was done. I'd run less than a half mile, walk, then run again. You probably wouldn't call it running, though. When I neared the town of Falmouth, where the finish line awaited, I saw Kathryn and Will way before the crowd. They were obviously worried, checking on me. I turned for home, finished, got away from the crowd and started crying uncontrollably. The next 15 minutes, I just hugged Kathryn, Will, Mom and Anne. Dori's uncle and aunt drove me home. That was it.

I don't know why yesterday had to be that way, but I don't know why my precious wife is gone. I do know that I have two remarkable children, a wonderful family and many more reasons to live a good life. I love you, Dori, and I always will. I'll see you when I see you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Call From Kanzius

I recently stumbled on this commentary from the director of the Kanzius Cancer Reserach Foundation. He mentions Dori and my upcoming run in honor of her and to raise money for their research.

Last night, a gentleman from KCRF called to ask if they could feature our story in their winter newsletter. Of course I said "yes." I want to raise as much awareness as possible for them and cancer research, in general. The Kanzius folks also are talking about flying down from Pennsylvania to do a meet-and-greet with the many donors who have stepped up for our team.

All of this would make Dori smile.

Someone else I knew died from cancer today. I didn't even know she was sick. She was diagnosed only a few weeks ago, three years after losing her husband to cancer.

Run, donate and pray. That's mostly what I know these days.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


What a month.

I love autumn, but this one has been work. The week leading up to October 15, which would have been my 17th year married to Dori, was hard. I was quiet, introverted, and mostly sad.

The morning of the 15th, I ran 12 miles, six with friends and the last six solo. I ran too hard on the return route, but I couldn't stop myself. So much for tapering. Later that day, the kids and I went to watch Vanderbilt play Georgia. Seventeen years ago to the day, Vanderbilt played Georgia hours before our wedding. I watched the game, a great one in fact, but my mind was elsewhere.

"How are the kids?" I hear that question 10 times a week. I answer it the same: "It's hard for them right now." The good news is they're confronting some of their grief. The bad news is their dad has to watch it. Being a parent right now is taking a toll, but we are making progress. We also have a long way to go.

This afternoon on a hike, I asked the kids if they remembered a homily from late summer. The theme - bad things will happen to all of us, if they haven't already - had my attention. He said our response to tragedy or turmoil is most important. I'm not sure if they believe the priest's conclusion, but I am sure they're thinking about it.

We're working on fundamentals around here. Blocking and tackling. We don't have any trick plays and couldn't run any if we tried. We have a lot of weeding to do. Today's talk and hike killed a few weeds, but weeding never ends, which I think the kids are beginning to understand. My plan is to continue with an honest, direct approach.

Thursday night, my friends Tony and Mary Belle hosted a gathering to raise money for a discovery grant, which can lead to some profound discoveries that make a tremendous impact on lives, for the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center. VICC treated Tony's thyroid cancer successfully and Dori's leukemia. To achieve a grant, we needed to raise $35,000. We're at $44,000 and counting and hopefully will raise enough to consider making it two discovery grants. You can give online referencing the Dori Brown Discovery Grant at: If you would like to donate to my run in support of the Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation you can honor Dori and still give here. Many cyber-thanks you's.

Last night, a friend asked if anyone was running with me at next Sunday's Cape Cod Marathon. I shared I unsuccessfully tried to recruit a friend, then added, "Dori will be with me the whole run. We're going to kick this race square in the a**."

After all the training, 438 miles to date along with cross-training, I am grateful to be pain free. Yesterday, I cruised eight smooth miles in the hills of Percy Warner Park. I am ready and eager to tie my shoes.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

When The Whistle Blows

For most of my life, I looked forward to the weekend. Most of us have been conditioned to work hard all week, then recreate, chill or socialize starting Friday afternoon. My weekends used to be that way. To some extent, they still are.

Mostly, though, weekends take me and the kids out of the distracting routine of work and school. During the week, we are mostly protected from dealing with our loss. We have had some difficult moments in our home, and most occur on the weekends.

I'm not a mother, but a parent trying to fill two roles. Sometimes, even when I do a good job, it doesn't matter. I don't pretend to be the great mother Dori was; in fact, I ask not to be compared to her. Little events can trigger unexpected responses, and how we phrase things matters, especially when emotions are raw. This reality is hard for me and the kids, no question.

Dori and I would have celebrated our 17th anniversary next Saturday. My heart will ache all week. I will start Saturday morning with a training run, then watch football with the kids that evening. This week will also be filled with the knowledge I had an amazing wife who I still love very dearly. I know she is smiling upon us, and I know we will be together again, which comforts me.

Yesterday morning, I ran 22 miles with my friend Mark. I forgot how long 22 miles is. If you just thought "a long damned way," so did I. It felt like it yesterday. At Mile 15, we came upon our buddies Jim, Carey and Dan. They ran the last seven with us, and a girl named Jenny joined us at Mile 19. Miles 17 through 21 were rough, but Dan kept me on my pace, which I was able to drop the last mile. My finish was good, and I'm recovering fine. Let the tapering begin.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

So Far Away

When I was a teenager, I despised psychology, counselors and the like. It was uncool, probably because it was forced on me. Today, I don't know where my children and I would be without "being equipped."

Like most parents, I am proud of my children. They are two very special people, and I see much of Dori in both of them. That is comforting, to say the least, that I know I still have some of her here on earth.

The kids are doing what they can with the tools they have. My role is to make sure all the tools are in the toolbox and that they use them when they need them. Both have kept an open mind to talking through obvious challenges. Through disease and loss, I've seen some families deny completely what has happened to them; those children are not doing well at all.

When a hurricane hits, you better know what to do. And you better be ready to rebuild. That's what Dori wanted us to do, and I'm doing my darned best to honor that. For the first grading period, the kids had all A's with one B on one report card. That's outstanding, given what they're experiencing. Kathryn, who is very musical, is playing the piano and becoming quite the singer. Will loves his friends, who are some of the most funloving kids on this planet.

Days are going well for all three of us. Mornings can be tough, and evenings even tougher. Work and school are very good. We have a long road ahead of us, but I like that we're on the yellow brick road, with a head start on the oil, heart and brainpower we'll continue to need and use.

When you think you've heard it all, you find something special about a favorite, this time on YouTube. Enjoy, sister Anne, from your distant land.