Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Baxter Turkey Trot "Race" Report

The 3rd Annual Baxter Turkey Trot takes place in the Baxter Village Community right here in Fort Mill, SC. It's more of a charity "gathering" then a race.  Everyone is encouraged to bring canned goods and clothes to donate in exchange for the race.  Right, there is no entry fee.  It's a free "race".  You get a bib number and they have a course and they tell you when to start.  So, since there is no timing, is it really a race?  I'll leave that up to you.
Race Director and Baxter Activity Coordinator
We parked right next to the Baxter Town Hall and pool.  They said they had 600 people signed up, but I believe that most people walked from their houses.  They had a 1 mile run/walk, and a trail run, in addition to the 3 mile course.  We milled around some.  I didn't even do a warm up.  They made some announcements, and we all mosied on over for the start.
Heel Strike Big or Go Home
We crammed into this side street and started with an immediate right turn down Richard's Crossing.  I run this road all the time, like once or twice a week. We had a guy on a mountain bike escorting the 'leaders'.  My strategy was to just go as fast as I had to to stay with the leaders.  Yes I had a strategy. Yes, it's basically an untimed fun run.  Yes I tried to stay with the leader.  Don't Judge.
The first mile felt a little awkward: a 6:01 with no warmup.  But it was slightly downhill.  They guy in front was talking with the mountain bike escort guy.  I'm sure they knew each other.  The runner had an M-Dot tattoo on his calf.  I saw him prerace with his Ironman Florida paraphernalia on. That was pretty much motivation alone.
I kinda got into a groove in the second mile, and it wasn't so bad. It felt like the 2nd half of that mile was downhill.  We came through 2 miles sub 12 minutes. I was a little surprised to be within a few yards of the leader.  But soon after the 2M mark, we hit a hill to start climbing back toward the finish.  At this point I thought, well here is where he's gonna drop me.  I tried to hang tough, and he really wasn't pulling away much.  We slowed on that last mile quite a bit.
Coming to the final stretch
We kept coming up the hill and he just wasn't pulling away from me.  We came around the curve close to where the finish was.  I wasn't sure if we were going to make a turn and loop toward the finish, because we were only 2.7 miles in.  I got right up on the tattoo's guy hip and the bike didn't make a turn.  We headed straight for the finish.  So with like 10 yards to go I strode past him and crossed the finish line first. 

Making 'The Move'
I only had 2.88 miles on my watch, but that was it.  What do you want for a fun run?  I walked for a little bit and then started heading back down the course to see my wife coming up.
She's was having a great race and needed some cheering going up that last hill.  She looked good and would have had a 5K PR had the race actually been a 5K.
Wife finishing
The Three of Us are at a Lot of Races Together
Afterwards, we got some water and talked.  It was a really nice morning, so we just enjoyed it.  Soon it was time to head back to the house and check on the Turkeys.  We had 2 birds going as we were hosting 19 people for Turkey Day.  The Baxter Turkey Trot was a great start to the day.  Gobble Gobble!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Breast Cancer and Triathlon

A Really Bad Picture of Our MSA Swim Group
My friend Kelly had breast cancer.  Yeah "had".  She doesn't anymore.  She's been cancer free for 3 years today.  December 6th is like another birthday for her.  I know Kelly because I swim with her.  Well, near her.  OK fine, behind her.  But that's not important right now.  I know Kelly because she does Triathlons.  She is an Ironman, or woman.  Maybe they should rename the whole race because of her amazing story:

S'mores are for Winners
She was diagnosed June 6, 2012 after finding a lump.  She had 2 types of breast cancer, Ductal Carcinoma (this was the lump she found) and is a slow growing cancer.  On the other side of her left breast was HER2+ (positive human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) breast cancer which is a very aggressive cancer. For that she had no idea it was there: no symptoms, lumps, etc. If she hadn't found the lump her story would be much different. She was 39 years old and only 7 weeks from her 40th birthday. Also,  she was training for her 2nd Half Ironman. Her family history does not include cancer.  They do have a history of heart attacks and strokes, which is why she has been so active. 

Once diagnosed, her surgeon, Dr. Richard White, recommended chemo then a mastectomy and referred her to Dr. Gary Frenette, an Oncologist.  He recommended she participate in a study to increase the chances of the HER2+ not to return. This cancer has a high reoccurrence rate in the lungs, brain and liver. Once Kelly and her husband researched the study they thought it was the best way to go. It was going to mean more side effects than just having chemo but it would be worth it. It was the TDM-1 study. Every 3 weeks, a total of 6 infusions, plus a bag of Taxotere, which was the chemotherapy. 

She was at the doctors office for 12+ hours because they had to take blood at different times of the day. She learned a lot, and over the next 3 weeks she would go back to Levine hospital and have blood taken several times. She became great friends with her nurse, Deloise.  Deloise became someone who she laughed and cried with, and will always be thankful for. 

She lost her hair (shaved it one day before her 40th bithday), finger nails, and had hives all over her chest and back for 6 months (and a number of other side effects).   She just kept telling herself this was only temporary. On November 28th, 2012, Three weeks after her last chemo, she had a bilateral mastectomy and lymph node removal and "immediate" reconstruction, which really takes over a year to complete. They removed both breasts (even though she only had cancer in the left breast).  She elected to do that as a precaution. 

Kelly (2nd from left) with the Epoch Performance Therapy Team

From November 2012 to March of 2014, Kelly went though the 4 steps of reconstruction and had to have 12 infusions, every 3 weeks of Herceptin. Herceptin is a chemo drug that has really been proven to fight the HER2+ cancer.  Herceptin side effects are minimal compared to the Chemo. After each infusion, she would be tired and have a headache for a few days. Herceptin does lessen one's heart function.  It did Kelly's as well.  But since she is a triathlete, her heart function was very high to begin with. It only brought her heart function down to the "high" range! 
Kelly with her Husband
While going through treatment Kelly wasn't able to train for triathlons.  She still taught classes at the Y and took some strength classes. After getting the green light from her oncologist, she hired a coach, Kelly Fillnow, affectionately known as one of "The Fillnows".  She started back training in March 2013. That season she just did some local sprints.  Her long term goal was to complete another half and possible a Full 140.6 Mile Ironman.  In June 2014 she completed Ironman Raleigh 70.3 with a PR!  That was to her complete shock, after all she had been through.  She gives a lot of credit to her coach to achieve that.  Then Kelly Fillnow encouraged her to start thinking about a full Ironman. She took a leap of faith and signed up for Ironman Louisville in October of 2015. 

Ironman Louisville Pre Race

Ironman Louisville
For 9 months Kelly trained for Ironman Louisville.  On October 11th, it was time to complete the comeback . She  went into the race knowing it was going to painful.  But she was alive and blessed to be at the starting line.  If anyone was prepared to go to the 'deep, dark, place of pain', it was Kelly.   Throughout the day, when she started to feel tired, she would think about how great it was just to be there. After what her family, friends and herself went through, this felt easy!!! After 13 hours, 24 minutes and 6 seconds she strutted across the finish line and heard "Kelly Sherin you are an IRONMAN"!!!!!! It was a feeling she will never forget. 
Ironman Louisville Finish
Kelly says taking care of herself and being vigilant about her self exams, literally saved her life! She faced death but made a decision that she would never be a victim to cancer. She has become an advocate, reminding anyone that will listen to take care of themselves. She spreads this message at the Y and through being in the Triathlon community. God brings good out of a bad situation. If you're going through a hard time, always look for the blessing. Kelly has said many times since being diagnosed, "I would have never chosen this path but cancer blessed my life!"

Ladies, get your mammograms EVERY YEAR after 40 and perform a self breast exam every month, no matter your age!!! Early detection saves lives!!!!!

I'd like to thank BHG360 Bankers Healthcare Group for providing the above graphic and encouraging me to take an active roll in Breast Cancer Awareness.  They provide financial solutions to healthcare professionals.  My contribution may not be much, but every little bit helps.

Be sure to check out the National Breast Cancer Foundation's Early Detection Plan!  Also check out the "Aiming for the Cure" golf tournament that the Bankers Healthcare Group sponsors.

Everyone knows someone who has been affected.  Everyone can also help reduce the number of those affected.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thunder Road Marathon Relay Race Report

Long title.  Fun Day. Since Kona I have been drinking beer and sleeping in.  Eating bacon every chance I get.  I tried to visit every microbrewery and cidery in Charlotte and York County.   I would say I wasn't in a very high level of fitness.  So when the CEO of Epoch Universal sends you a message asking you to participate in the Thunder Road Marathon Relay, you of course say Yes! But I did warn him about my lack of training for the previous weeks.
Romare Beardon Park
My wife was running the half, so I figured that since I would be down there anyways, it would be a lot of fun.  I teamed up with the Epoch Universal Performance Therapy Race team, or EPT Racing as they are more affectionately known.  They had four teams set up and were 2 people short on the last team.  My Big Sexy Teammate Chris joined me to fill out the last team.  I know a lot of the EPT people as a ton of them swim at MSA masters.  Obviously I see them around races a lot as well.  I kind of think of them as our sister team since we both share Epoch as our title sponsor and they are so many of them around Charlotte.  Great group of people.  Every one I have met has been an outstanding individual.
Skyline View
After a few rounds of emails it was decided that Bernie would go first, then Chris, Heather, Laura and Me.  The leg distances were 4.1, 5.9, 5, 5, and 6.2 miles for the anchor.  They let me be the anchor because they thought I would be the fastest.  I did not divulge to them that my current training regimen consisted of beer and hard cider.  I met Laura down at the convention center on Friday to pick up my bib and t-shirt (as well as Chris's bib and t-shirt).  Since I was driving down in the morning I wasn't going to meet up with everyone until I got to the exchange.  Chris then swung by later that afternoon at my office to get his stuff.
Fort Mill Fast Feet Group Shot
Race morning we headed out a little after 6am.  It was my wife, and a couple of friends in the Explorer.  We got downtown and parking was pretty easy.  We parked across from the convention center there near Stonewall and Tryon.  We walked over to Romare Beardon park and met up with all the Fort Mill Fast Feet people.  They had quite a crowd at the race.  Well races.  They had people doing the 5K, Half Marathon, Marathon, and Relay.  We just hung out and talked with everyone.  It was 34 degrees, but honestly didn't feel too bad.
Just Before the Start
I walked over to the start with the girls and took some of their warm clothes.  I walked down a little bit on Graham street there and watched the start.  As the throng came through, I saw a few people I knew, but missed most people I was looking for.  I walked back over to the Fast Feet tent and dropped the warm clothes.
Early Leaders
I walked back over to the car and changed.  I got everything on I needed to race, along with a few throwaway clothes to keep me warm.  I then trekked about a 1.5 miles to Morehead and the little Sugar Creek Greenway.  I saw the leaders as I hit Morehead.  So I hung out there for a while watching everyone come through.  This was about the 8.5 mile mark.
The Throng
I saw the Fillnows and talked with them on and off most of the time I was there.  I asked them if  they were annoyed that everyone who came by called them "The Fillnows".  They said they were used to it now.  I saw more people there that I knew, including Paul, the CEO.

So my wife comes through at a pace 90 seconds faster per mile that she told me she was gonna do.  She looked great and I ran with her for a little bit.  Relax, I didn't have a gorilla suit on.  I encouraged her and she was psyched about her pace.

After she went by, I started my warmup.  I ran 2.4 miles up Kings to Hawthorne to the 20 mile mark. It was a leisurely run and I averaged an 8 flat pace, which is what I was hoping to do.  It wasn't a bad run, slightly uphill the whole way.
2.4 Mile Warmup (Run, not Swim)
As I got to the exchange point, I saw all the rest of the EPT teams there.   There was also Laura and Carol Ann who had run the first legs.  I still had about a 1/2 hour before our relay team came through.  I had 3 gels while I waited and we basically just hung around and talked.  It was nice as I got to know Jeremy, and Jason a little better as well.
Bernie . . . 
Soon the first relay came through, and they were pretty far ahead of everyone.  Then the second.  And then finally the third team came through and it was a woman to woman exchange.  (As it turns out, I believe it was a mixed team, though.)  Then I was happy to see Bernie come around the corner.  That put us in 4th, but more importantly first of the four EPT teams.
Getting it Done!
I jumped over to the other side of the timing mat and cheered him on in.  I started running and he came up on me to give me the timing chip.  I told him he did a great job, and I took the slap wrist bracelet from him.  I took off.  I fiddled with the strap a bit before I got it on all the way, but it didn't take long.
So I was flying that first mile.  I felt really good and split under 6 minutes.  One part of me thought, man this is great!  The other part reminded me that it was a downhill mile.  But then I pretty much settled in.  The 6:30 pace didn't feel too bad.  I did try to push up some of the hills.  When I got comments like "wow, good job", I felt the need to tell the person that I was in a relay.  I mean, yeah it looks awesome that I'm busting a 6:30 split at mile 22 of a marathon, but it just wasn't the case.

Through the next 3 miles I averaged 6:28.5 to get me to the 4 mile mark in 25:25.  I started to get a little fatigued at this point.  We then went through some turns and onto the Sugar Creek Greenway.  I was hoping to catch the woman in front of us and put us into 3rd place.  Finally I saw her ahead on the Greenway.  I caught her with about 1.5 miles to go in the race.  I tried to put some distance on her, but I didn't really think she would catch back up to me.
Elevation and Cadence
So the final mile is all along Stonewall Street back over to the stadiums.  It is Brutal.  It's a slight up hill the entire way (100 feet of elevation gain) and the wind was blowing in our faces.  I really felt for the marathoners.  That is a rough mile 26 of a marathon.  I was tired and I just couldn't get it going.  I looked at my watch to see my pace had slowed to a 7:10 pace for that mile. (I had averaged 6:24 overall until then.)  I was afraid that I would get caught by one of the EPT guys.
Final Turn
Sure enough, just before the 6 mile mark, Jason went by me.  I can't say I was surprised.  He looked strong (he had split a 6:37 for that tough mile).  He quickly got 10 yards ahead of me.  I gave it a little bit of an effort and kept the gap from growing.  Then it was decision time.

On the Homestretch
In every race there comes the time in which you have to make The Decision: succumb to the pain, or push through it.  Some people say they can ignore pain.  I cannot.  I have learned to file it away as simply another feeling.  Like warm, cool, bumpy, smooth, pain is just another sensation that I recognize but decide to not let affect me.

 We quickly came up to the final turn and about 300 meters to go to the finish.  Jason snuck a peek back, and I knew I had a shot.  I pushed and closed the gap a little bit.  Jason looked back again to see if I was still there.  That spurred me on.  Gave me hope.  I pushed more and got up on his hip pocket, but out of his peripheral vision.  I didn't have much gas left in the tank so I wanted to time the final sprint so that the race would be over before he could react.
So then I was sprinting like there was no tomorrow.  I felt like a gangly giraffe running, but my wife was nice enough to describe it as a gazelle.  I sprinted past Jason and got the Win.  1st Placed Mixed Division (and 3rd Overall).  It felt like all those close races in high school and college that I won.

So I stumbled around the chute a little bit, got a low five from Jason and meandered through the chute.  I grabbed some water and walked into the park.  I didn't see any EPT people at all, which I was kinda bummed about.  I found my group of people and we walked back to the car for clothes, wallets, and phones.  We headed back over to the Mellow Mushroom to eat.  The beer and food was good, but it took 2 hours.  I think they lost our order.  So we finally headed home about 1:30pm. Just in time to shower up, clean the house and get ready for the Kona viewing party.

So it was a great team effort.  I had everyone give me their expected run paces so I could figure out about when I would get the hand off.  I didn't want to miss the exchange.  The actual pace is per the race timing mats
1. Laura:  Goal 8:15 [Actual 8:11 ]
2. Chris:  Goal 6:30 [Actual 6:31 ]
3. Heather:  Goal 8:40 [Actual 8:43 ]
4. Bernie:  Goal 8:30 [Actual 8:34 ]
5. Me:  Goal 6:30 [Actual 6:33 ]

Pretty Impressive really that everyone was within 4 seconds of their goal pace.  Although we were all slower except for Laura.  Full Results Here.

So next year, I want to put together an all Big Sexy Team.  To go for the win, of course.