Monday, February 28, 2011
On Friday as I was preparing to run the Hyannis 10K on Sunday, I felt the presence of an earth angel from my childhood. His name was Joseph Stetz, MD and he was one of my counselors at Badger Sports Club. where I was so blessed to be a camper for 3 years. I had attended another camp but was miserable there. It was probably my polio doc who recommended a swimming camp and Badger Sports Club was just the place I needed. It is still in existent today being run by the founder's sons. Here is the info about John Collins, Jr the Executive Director from their website:
"The Badger Swim program is led by world recognized swim coach John Collins Jr. For the past 30 years John Collins has strived and created a world class swim program in Westchester, New York. During that time John has coached 5 world champions, NCAA champions and Olympic atheletes, including westchester’s Olympic gold medalist Rick Carey. Himself a former Badger swimmer, Indiana University all american butterflier and American Record holder in the 200 Butterfly. John is currently a member of the United States National Team coaching staff." Pictured above is a photo of end of the year Olympics - a tradition at Badger.
Joe qualified for the 1964 Swimming Olympic trials but he decided to not pursue his Olympic dreams in order to continue his medical education. I hadn't thought about Joe in years but in 2004 I happened to be reading the Boston Globe and his obituary leaped off of the page. He died in an automobile accident. He was a cardio thoracic surgeon just down the street from me at St. Elizabeth's Hospital and lived in Lexington, MA. Joe saw something in me at the age of 10 that inside a polio ravaged body that was being abused (no I didn't have to tell him that part. He somehow sensed what I needed) was an Olympic champion.
The summer he was my swimming counselor, he told me that at the end of the summer Olympics at Badger, he wanted me to compete in the butterfly heat. I couldn't believe it. The butterfly stroke is the most difficult stroke but no one else would compete and he told me to have a full and fair race there had to be at least 3 swimmers. He told me to just go out and do the best I could and it didn't matter when I finished; the important thing was I had the courage to take on a race that no one else would. After camp he gave me his address. He was a med student at Downstate Medical School and told me to write to him. He provided me with so much love and support through his letters. I was going through a lot of medical problems and he would explain everything to me in simple language. Those physical letters are long gone but the love from them I carry in my heart.
Fast forward to this past weekend. I told my husband that I felt as though I was going to Camp Hyannis. The Hyannis Marathon is a tradition and a phenomenal event put on by Paul Collyer. We get to see old friends who we only see once a year at Hyannis i.e. returning campers, meet up with friends who are going for the first time and make new friends. There was also a sense of sadness that two of my dearest fellow Hyannis campers would not be able to run this year. Doug and Lex Welch were hoping to run the race together making it Lex's first half marathon. She lives with Muscular Dystrophy and she has discovered, as have I, that running is a wonderful therapy for neurological disease.Lex had to have surgery and could not run but I know in my heart they will be back next year.
I felt Joe's presence as I was going into the weekend and knew he was going to be with me when I ran the race. Why was I so anxious about Hyannis? Well first of all it's in the middle of a New England winter. While nobody likes to run in the cold, it is a particular challenge for me. This winter has been grueling as all of my fellow runners will attest to but I knew I had done everything I could to train for the race.
I am also 'amping' up my training (as they say in the wonderful world of yoga). I'd been trying out different equipment at the gym and had begun the practice of yoga. How would my body perform with the introduction of new training? When I trained for Boston I had to abandon all other training because it taxed my body too much. But it's a whole new ballgame and I'm adding on the miles nice and slow this time laying the foundation which, because I was training for Boston, did not have the time to do. While I was running with Sparkling Diva, Deborah Doiron, I was also running with another woman who I had never met. I also was not running with life and running partner, Tom who knows me and knows how to get me through those miles. I was certainly going outside of my comfort zone. It was also an emotional return to Hyannis. Last year I so wanted that bling around my neck but I couldn't run. I did not know if I would be able to run in Hyannis again.
When we arrived on Saturday, we met with Dick Hoyt and Kathy Boyer of Team Hoyt. File under the heading of returning campers! Dick recently had knee surgery and would not be running. I felt very nostalgic about our reunion with Dick and decided I needed to get an autographed copy of his book and take a picture with him.
After checking into our room and unpacking it was time to head out to the Expo. Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers would not be returning campers ahem speakers this year. Instead the guests were Jack Fultz, 1976 Boston Marathon winner and Jimmy Garcia, an ultra marathoner and winner of the 2003 Hyannis Marathon (pictured below). We stood in line waiting for an autographed poster of Jack Fultz and I was able to share with him my inspirational journey. Tom and I also had our picture taken with him.
We went through the Expo. We met the amazing owners of Wag Your Tail and even got a donation for our Take a Chance at the Wine Tasting Reception Fund Raiser for Tom's Boston Marathon run! And then it was time for lunch at Bogey's. I texted fellow Sparkling Diva, Deborah Doiron and we met up at the Expo psyching ourselves up for the next day's run. Then it was time for swimming!
A lot of campers began to arrive with coolers and running clothes in tow. The energy was electric and we bumped into returning campers exchanging hugs and how was your year? After swimming it was time for the pre race pasta dinner. Here's where the camp theme really kicks into high gear. The food is lousy but you don't care. It's pasta and salad and fococcia bread. Instead of singing 99 bottles of beer on the wall, there are 99 bottles of beer (or more) stocked in the bar which everyone is using to add to the carbo loading. We sat with Mike with whom we have shared the last 3 years' pre race pasta dinners getting caught up on each other's lives. We shared photos in our phones of the family and we were joined by two new campers who were friend's of Mike. I called fellow camper Ric to see where he was and he was on his way with a host of campers old and new. He asked if I would save him a table - honest to God - just like we used to do at camp only we'd throw a sweatshirt or use our hand to save a seat for our fellow camper. I turned the chairs in at the banquet table to reserve their seats.
After the speeches and more poster signings (I got to meet Jimmy Garcia and see all of his bling from his ultramarathon runs), we hung out for awhile before saying good night knowing tomorrow was race day. I was so blessed to meet two new camper friends, Mark and Laura. Laura is a Childrens Hospital miracle who was treated for scoliosis and has two rods in her back but in May she is going to run her first marathon! Pictured below is the blink that Jimmy Garcia shared at the pre race pasta dinner:
I had the usual pre race anxiety dreams like my alarm didn't go off but I awoke before the alarm and slowly stretched and calmed my nerves. We bring our pre race breakfast adding to it from the Starbucks in the lobby. We awoke to snow; about 2 inches on the golf course outside of our window and flakes coming down steady.
No matter what I was going to run this race today. I calmed the butterflies in my stomach by listening to my iPod running playlist, meditating on the falling snow, recalling the words of Joe Stetz and drinking in all of the love and prayers from Tweets and Facebook that had been sent to me. Tom listened to his meditations in his mP3. 9 am - time to meet up with my Sparkling Diva teammates and check in with fellow Luna Chix campers Ashley, and Jessie. The Expo space was overflowing with campers ahem runners. I could feel my nerves really go into high gear when we decided to go outside. There was Chris Russell. Out of over 5,000 runners, we bumped into each other. He was going to try to run after a calf injury but knew it wasn't meant to be. He gave us trash bags to keep us warm and dry - and boy did it ever work and suggested we wait to head out to the start.
10 am Gun Time
We heard the Star Spangled Banner from the back of the pack and saw everyone begin to move forward. Usually at the start of a race I feel my heart pound and have a difficult time getting a rhythm but not today. I flowed to the starting line (thank you yoga) and was pacing my fellow Divas. I had initially decided I would not check our time until the finish but I felt a nudging at two miles to take a peak. We were at 29 minutes - a little under a 15 minute mile. Deborah and I smiled as we knew we were running faster than the Tufts 10K but felt we were at a comfortable pace. Amy, Deborah and I talked about everything and nothing and at mile 3 I checked my watch. 43:00. When I smiled Deborah said - what are you grinning at over there? I said, we just did a 14 minute mile.
We did not look ahead of us or behind us and stayed in the moment. I felt my breathing was even and my body felt strong despite the elements of snow and rain. There was mercifully no wind even as we got to the beach. I told Deborah and Amy about my Camp Hyannis theme; I teased myself and said I am the camper everyone hates for having so much camp spirit. We laughed. I noted the beautiful scenery in my mind and the expanse of ocean and sky. I felt euphoric that I was back out on the road in Hyannis. I was wet and cold and my feet were soaked but none of that mattered. I had one thought in my mind - to cross the finish line. I knew Tom was out there running his half and I would occasionally send angels to bless his calf and keep him running safe, strong and at a steady pace.
After mile 5, we picked up the pace but wanted to leave enough in the tank for a strong finish. The volunteer were wonderful cheering us on telling us girls we were doing a great job and then the finish line was nearing. We began to take off into a sprint; Deborah and Amy surged ahead of me and I couldn't keep up but what a blessing that I did not feel left behind as I once did with a polio limp. My joints were tight and I knew that I had done so much better than Tufts already so I wanted to just pull into the finish line uninjured and without throwing up (see my previous blog post Heading for Hyannis). I crossed the finish line at 1:30 - taking 6 minutes off of my 2010 Tufts 10K. Chris Russell was there as I finished and he took my hand in a cross between a high five and a hand shake. Boy did that feel good! Deborah, Amy and I hugged and Deborah and I celebrated our phenomenal performance. We were Sparkling Divas indeed. Here is my official time from Cool Running: Hyannis 10K 594 42/42 F5059 1:30:05 14:30 1:34:42 Mary McManus 57 F 4895 Chestnut Hill MA That is a full 6 minutes off of the 2010 Tufts 10K and over 2 minutes off of Operation Jack 6.1 mile run in December. My fourth 10K in less than a year with improving time at each race. (Harvard Pilgrim was 1:38 finish). All of that running in 17 degree cold, doing a 7 miler and cross training really paid off big time! My average heart rate was 160 with a peak of 178. But I was not uncomfortable running at that pace. We were able to talk the entire time. The peak heart rate for me is supposedly 140 - well we all know that I tend to go push the limits!
At the finish line, waiting for Tom, I met Ashley's mom. I can see that the apple doesn't fall from the tree. Ashley's mom overflows with love and warmth. We talked about where Ashley was on the course and I had no idea where Tom might be since he left his phone in the room. I finally decided it was time to head inside and get a hot shower before Tom came in because he would need the bathtub for his ice bath. While coming inside and walking through the Expo, I stopped by to share my great news wih my new friends at Wag Your Tail. I saw campers Mary and Tony and other friends and we all asked how each other did.
After Tom came in (great performance by the way a 2:22 half post injury) we packed up and got ready to leave Camp Hyannis. Camp T shirts, bling and memories were all packed! We hung out in the hallways for a little bit meeting new campers, exchanging stories and no not singing Kumbaya but it was a very Kumbaya kind of moment. Everyone had coolers and dirty laundry bags. We met up with Deborah, Amy and their families at the British Beer Company. Unfortunately there was a long wait and Tom had to get up at 5 so rather than a rowdy celebration, we had a quiet celebration at at Caffe e dolci. There was a solo runner with a Hyannis Race shirt on and as we were both getting ready to leave, talked about the great weekend. Another new camper friend was made!
Today I am sore but so happy that I went out and had a great performance but more importantly I know that I can trust this body; that I can continue to train and grow stronger and healthier with every passing day. Is it hard work? Oh yeah! Is it worth it? Oh yeah! Do I get to have a happy childhood at the age of 57? Oh yeah. So today instead of everyone signing the autograph book on the last day of camp and giving each other our addresses, we are all finding each other on facebook to become friends.
God bless, be well and live like you were dyin'
From my heart to yours with love and gratitude to the wonderful running community who has embraced me and my journey,