Monthly Archives: June 2009

seattle pride, watching and marching

This past Sunday, I took my daughters to the Seattle Pride Parade.  I’d always been interested in attending Pride.  It’s a great chance to show support for equal rights for all.

The girls took to the equality issue right away, and loved carrying the rainbow flag.



The parade was fun, albeit a bit long for us.  The beginning with "Dykes on Bikes" was LOUD.

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There were many groups represented, many we’d heard of, and some we’d not.  For the most part, the day was all about equal rights and fairness.  The girls and I talked about the folks representing marriage equality and parental rights.  We also spoke about how things have changed over the years – even within my lifetime.  And we also spoke about how important it was to express support for equal rights, especially because their Uncle Matthew and Uncle Patrick deserve the same legal protection and rights as we do.


Not all of the people in the parade were "kid appropriate", but that was a chance I knew I was taking.  I could explain the nude roller bladers with body paint, but there were a few others I skirted explaining.

From my perspective, the point of taking the girls out there was to show them that not only is it okay to be gay, it’s important that we treat them fairly.  We spoke about how gay couples face challenges in the medical rights realm.  I explained to them that if Kris and I had been a gay couple, the doctors would not necessarily have asked Kris for permission to operate on my brain bleed following my accident last year.  Instead they would have asked my parents, or made their own decision about it.  This despite the fact that Kris and I have talked quite a bit about how we each wish to handle medical life/death questions.  We trust each other to make the decision that the other would want made.  This level of trust is the basis for all kinds of love, independent of whether you’re gay or straight.

And love is what binds people and families together, independent of whether you’re gay or straight.

After watching much of the parade go by, we got to join in and march with the Unitarian-Universalists, including people from our church.  We’d not coordinated with my parents, but were very pleased to join them as we all marched together.  All in all, a good day, with some great learning experiences.

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happy birthday kayla

Today is my eldest daughter’s 12th birthday.  Being a parent isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely a labor of love.  I’ve been reflecting on Kayla’s growing up today, and thought I’d share some pictures and thoughts.

She was born at 9:25 on the morning of June 23, 1997.  This is the first picture taken of her, right after she arrived.

Here, we’re celebrating her first birthday over cupcakes in beautiful Seward Alaska.  She braved the vacation nicely, even sleeping well despite the midnight sun.

One year later, we celebrated her birthday at her grandparent’s house in California.  I’m not sure she noticed the duck.

We celebrated her third birthday on the east coast.  I’d had a business trip to NYC, and we decided to make it into a family vacation as well.  Here, Kayla is upset because she didn’t understand that Aunt Sandy had gotten her an ice cream cake.  I think her words were "I wanted a birthday cake".

Her fourth birthday was celebrated at home, with her friends.  Here, she’s covering her ears to avoid having to listen to her father sing to her.

Here, she blows out the candles on her fifth birthday.  This was her first birthday as a big sister.

Here, she observes the morning of her sixth birthday, over special pancakes prepared by her Grandpa Solem at the lake home in Wisconsin.

Just before her seventh birthday we visited her good friend Lauren in Bellingham.  Here, she cradles Lauren’s gerbil during our visit.

In 2005, we celebrated birthday number eight in Sunriver Oregon, where Kris was doing her first half-iron triathlon.  My parents joined us for the occasion, and some very good cake.

Birthday number nine was observed with a knitting party at the "new old" house we’d moved into months before.  It was a lot of fun watching the girls enjoying learning the basics of knitting.

Kayla learned to sail just after her tenth birthday.  It was a big thrill for me watching her navigate the waters of Lake Washington on the fourth of July.  It’s really something watching your kids learn to do things you don’t know how to do yourself.

Here, Kayla smiles after blowing out the candles at her eleventh birthday party in Cottage Grove Minnesota, surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Here’s a picture taken last week, just before the family birthday celebration in Wisconsin.  She’s enjoying listening to music with her cousin Eric, sharing earbuds.

Pictures don’t really ever tell the whole story of a person, but they do illustrate our daughter becoming her own person.  We’re very proud of you Kayla – Happy Birthday!

happy father’s day

It’s a happy day for me.  This past year has definitely given me some new perspective on being a Dad.  It’s a big part of who I am, and has been a big part of my recovery.  There’s no better motivator than knowing your kids are looking to you, and learning about how you’re working through difficult times, and appreciating each other.

I remember my first Father’s Day, eleven years ago.  We celebrated in Anchorage, Alaska, a day after I ran my first marathon.  We also celebrated KK’s first birthday on that trip too.

This morning, the Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church is marking Father’s Day with talks from several dads in the congregation.  Originally, I thought I’d get off the hook, but my friend Mitch suggested videotaping mine.  It turned out to be a bit of work to do, but lots of fun.  Here’s what I came up with :


I had help from my two girls making this, inspirationally and also in the practical sense.

Here’s a picture taken of my father and I just after I completed The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon last week.  He’s been to each of the five marathons I’ve run since recovering.  He’s been a great role model to me, in showing his caring and love, through good times and not-so-good-times.  I love you Dad – thanks for everything you and Mom do!

I’m feeling very thankful today.  And yes – the nicest thing anyone’s ever called me is "daddy".

the light at the end of no tunnel marathon

I completed the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon, my fifth in just ten weeks.  My stated goal was to do six in six months, so this puts me most of the way there.  It’s been lots of fun so far.


I ran the Green River Marathon the previous weekend, and I wasn’t sure about doing another quite this soon.  I felt pretty good after Green River though, and am unsure when I’ll be able to do another, so I thought "Light" was a good opportunity to run one.

In previous years, Light at the End of the Tunnel has started up near the Snoqualmie Pass summit.  We run down a railroad grade, with two miles heading through an old tunnel.  It’s pretty strange to go through a dark tunnel with a hundred others.  I speak from experience, having biked through it while doing the Mountains to Sound Relay several years ago.  Riding through by the light of a bunch of headlamps was ‘exciting’ to say the least.  While safer, running through leaves you vulnerable to someone stomping on your limbs, tripping, or something else.  But it’s actually lots of fun.  I’d registered for this run last year, but the bike accident interfered.  Naturally, I wanted to make up for lost time this year.

Small problem though – several months back, there was a partial collapse of the tunnel.  When the tunnel closed, race director Brian Pendleton had to decide whether to change the course, or cancel the race.  Fortunately, he took the first option, using part of the original (and certified) course to form an out and back course from Iron Horse State Park, near Rattlesnake Lake.  While the formerly all downhill course has acquired 13.1 miles of steady uphill, it’s a beautiful place to run.

So we found ourselves lined up at 7:30 in the morning, looking forward to a run in the Cascades.


The first stretch was a bit steep, but the slope settled down pretty quickly once we entered the railroad grade.  These usually don’t get to be more than 2%, so it felt pretty mild.  Surprisingly, my heart rate stayed between 145-153 while I was clicking off 9:15 miles heading uphill.  I figured I’d be able to maintain 8:30-8:45 on the way down, so the uphill pace led me to believe I’d be able to sneak in under four hours for the race.

After going out towards the front, a bunch of folks passed me in the first couple of miles, and then I settled into a solo run.  My mile pace was very consistent, as was my heart rate.  All I’d need to do was to stay smart and take it easy, so I had some steam left to speed up on the way down.  The morning was a bit chilly and cloudy, a change from the previous days of 75 and sunny.  Really it was a perfect running morning.

I tried to drink my Cytomax regularly, and ate a couple of Endurolyte capsules each hour, along with a gel pack.  And I enjoyed running over the high trestle bridges, although I made a point of not looking down (we were a couple of hundred feet over trees and creeks).  Very pretty.

Around mile 11 or so, a runner came up from behind and began chatting.  His name was Matt, and he was very pleasant, and quite clearly a faster runner than I.  We traded some running stories and talked about how to balance two competing endurance training schedules in one household (his wife is also a marathoner, apparently going for more Maniac stars).  Just before the turnaround, he sped up a bit and I was solo again.

By now people were passing us coming back downhill.  They looked pretty happy.

I reached the turnaround and grabbed some gatorade.  My watch told me that I needed to make up about two minutes in time in order to finish under four hours.  I figured that was accomplishable, provided I didn’t try to do it too quickly.  So I tried to pick up the pace, but not overdo it.  My miles splits were regularly down around 8:30 now, which put me in good shape.  By the time I got down to mile 17 and 18, I’d made up most of the deficit, and was now aiming for 3:55.

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My father surprised me by appearing at the aid station at mile 18 to snap some pictures.  I was hell-bent on making time by now, so didn’t linger to talk.  I felt like I was on a roll now, with my mile splits mostly around 8:30 (plus or minus 15 seconds).  A couple of miles were longer (over nine minutes), and I’m not quite sure why.  By mile 23 though I was feeling some fatigue and getting concerned about maintaining a good pace.  By now, I was pretty sure I’d be under four hours unless I collapsed, but wanted to try to see how strongly I could finish.  After a slow mile 24, I tried to pick things up a bit.  Clicking off an 8:22, I decided to see how fast I could do the last 1.2 miles.


I leaned a bit forward and tried to increase my cadence and extend my stride a bit.  It was not as hard as I’d thought, meaning I’d run a fairly smart race so far.  I hit mile 26 after just 7:22 and pressed for the finish.  Zig-zagging around the final stretch was fun.  It was a bit steeper than the railroad grade, so I found myself careening a bit.  I pushed hard for the finish and hit it right around 3:51:48.

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Very surprising to have negative split that much (to the tune of about nine or ten minutes less for the second half).  I’d expected to be much closer to four hours.  I’ll definitely take it.  The support and atmosphere around this race was great – even considering that a number of the aid stations were self-service.  And Race Director Brian Pendleton is a really nice guy too – he allowed me to register at the last minute – even crediting me for last year’s registration.  He didn’t have to do that, and I’m very appreciative.  Lastly – the post-race eats were great too, especially the vegetarian chili that Brian found the recipe for!

It was definitely a good morning for a run in the mountains.

pictures included courtesy of hal david

Charts and Graphs for Running Geeks

The difference in between uphill and downhill is clear.  I recovered about twenty seconds of average split after running the 13.1 uphill.  That’s good.  Also, my uphill splits were pretty consistent (though they did trend upwards).  Downhill was a bit more varied, but I feel very good about my strong kick at the end.


green river marathon pictures, and more

I’ve added some pictures to the Green River Marathon race report.  My intrepid father was out on the course with us, as was Stefanie (Matt’s wife, who also ran with us for the last 10k or so).  One of the course photographers has posted his pictures from the race as well.  They’re a lot of fun, and help to tell the story of the race for us.

I’m feeling very good about this race, primarily because it reminded me of some of the big reasons I love running.

First – it’s all about enjoying the process, not just running to the finish.  A marathon is a long time to be out there, so you’re best off enjoying yourself.  We have good days, and not-so-good ones – so it’s important to remember that’s it’s supposed to be fun.

Second – it’s definitely fulfilling to share the experience with others.  I’d run a first marathon twice before, once for myself, the second time with Kris.  Most recently ten years ago.  This was a great reminder of how much you pour your heart into the process. 

In some ways, I felt like I was running another first marathon a couple of months back while doing the Yakima River Canyon Marathon (being my first post-recovery 26.2 race).  But a lot of that was about trying to prove something to myself.  This one was about enjoying the miles.

I am very impressed with the way Matt ran his race.  With a steep training ramp, and a maximum training run of 18 miles, he made it happen.  Watching his family and friends rally around him was very special too.

I’m hoping to do another marathon tomorrow morning.  This would mark five in just ten weeks.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon is being held with a course changed because of a partial collapse of the tunnel.  Rather than being a certified all downhill course, we’re going out and back, half up, half down.  I’m not sure of the ascent on the course, but it’s pretty clear that I’m not going to set any speed records out there.  It should be a nice training day, in line with my expectations for running marathons in quick succession.

biking on lopez island with the sixth grade

Kayla invited me to join her sixth grade class from Seattle Girl’s School for a three day biking trip on Lopez Island this past week.  Given the chance to spend three days camping and biking with my nearly-twelve-year-old daughter and her classmates, how could I say no ?

First of all the organization put in place by the teachers and staff was great!  There were detailed timetables governing when we were to drop off our gear, how/when we were to help out, and what the trip rules were.  Kayla and I spent several evening packing our stuff for the trip : sleeping bags, a tent (for me), clothes, mess kits, and some books to read.  Then we were ready.


We gathered at the school on Wednesday morning, ready to go.  The bikes were packed into a rented truck.  Our gear was packed into another truck.  We gathered into carpools and set out for Anacortes.  At the ferry terminal, we unloaded the bikes, then walked them onto the ferry.


After landing on Lopez, we gathered up and rode out to Odlin County Park. where we would camp for two nights.

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A slight bummer was that there was chip seal on the road to the park, which meant we rode the whole way on gravel.  I was counting the minutes until I got a flat on my road bike, but it never happened :).  The road work meant that there were a steady stream of gravel trucks on the road while we were riding to the park as well.  It took a bit of the shine off our first ride, but the work stopped that afternoon.  Once there, we gathered again to set up camp, and enjoy a little down time before dinner.


The really great thing about this trip is that the girls were responsible for lots of the setup, and the work.  This meant they all needed to work together, and to depend on each other.  If only we spent as much time priming adults in our workplaces for such strong teamwork and collaboration!  They assembled the tents quickly (and correctly), and then set out to begin setting up the eating area and to cook dinner.

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The adults were charged with "supervising" the girls as they performed these tasks.  While there was a bit more to it than simply "supervising", the girls did a great job.

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There was a little bit of time to enjoy the beach before dinner too.  That first day was pretty warm, so some of them went into the water.

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After dinner, we gathered around the campfire for some sing-along, and some skits that the girls performed.

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This time of year in the Pacific Northwest, it stays light until nearly nine-thirty.  Right around then, we headed for the tents.

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The next day was our big bike ride.  We were split into two groups : the long ride (about 25 miles), and the short ride (about 12 miles).  The girls got to choose which group they preferred.  The idea was to pick the ride they’d enjoy the most, with the hope that they’d want to go out and ride some more.  If they finished thinking they could have gone a bit farther, that was ideal.

We started getting our stuff and ourselves ready early the next morning.


Then the girls started making breakfast, and we all ate a hearty meal.  They also set up lunch stuff for everyone to make sandwiches to eat on the ride.

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And then we were off.  Kayla and I were part of "Pod A" on the group doing the shorter ride.  We wound eastward across the island, out to Spencer Spit State Park.

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Once at Spencer Spit, we dismounted for lunch at this beautiful beach.  The girls spent some time looking at some crabs on the beach, and watching bald eagles fly overhead.

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After taking a nice long break to enjoy the beach, we began riding up a long hill to traverse the island and go to Lopez Village to enjoy some ice cream.

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Back at camp, we gathered for another campfire, and more skits.  The second night Kayla and her friend put together a couple of hilarious mad-libs for the group to enjoy, and we did some fun sing-alongs again.

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As it began to get dark, the girls were asked to each take two index cards.  On one, they wrote down something from this school year they wished to leave behind.  They would put these into the fire.  On the other card, they wrote down something they wished to take with them.  These they put into their pockets to keep.

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Then, they took turns saying something to J, the teacher responsible for the trip, who is leaving SGS at the end of this year.  Their words were funny and heartfelt.  The evening ended later than expected for the girls, so the parents were asked to take responsibility for cooking the breakfast the next morning.  The picture below was taken just after the sun went down over the Puget Sound, with an evening ferry approaching.  It was beautiful and very quiet.


Preparing breakfast with the parents the next morning was a lot of fun.  It was a good group of people, all working together nicely.  In addition to preparing regular French Toast and a big mound of Veggie Scrambled Eggs, I was given responsibility for preparing Kayla’s gluten-free French Toast.  Then we broke camp, packed things up, and rode back to the ferry.  On the way, one of the girls in my pod became upset when she had trouble riding up the hill because her legs were cramping from the ride the previous day.  I hung back with her while we walked together, reassuring her that there’s nothing wrong with having to take the hills slowly – and boy do I mean that truthfully !  I shared a funny story about a friend of mine who found himself trying to run through waist-deep snow because he thought it’d be a lot easier than it turned out to be.

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They gathered for a group picture at the ferry dock, and then we all walked our bikes onto the ferry, and rode back to Anacortes.

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If this all sounds mundane, that’s not my intent at all.  I was amazed at how well-organized things were (thanks SGS teachers and staff!), and how well the girls braved the ride, and how well they worked together.  Sometimes it’s easy to overlook how much effort and positive spirit it takes to get things to work so well.

A great trip!

four marathons in nine weeks – couldn’t do it alone

Yesterday’s Green River Marathon run marked four marathons in nine weeks for me.  My stated goal has been to complete six marathons in six months.  This is really just a means to accomplish a training goal – to build my strength and stamina to the point that I can run better and faster.  And obviously, to have lots of fun doing it.

I’ve run several different kinds of races along the way.  Yakima River Canyon sits by itself – my goal there was to show myself that I could run a marathon following my recovery.  The Tacoma City Marathon was a real surprise – I’d no idea that I’d be able to run that fast so soon.  Call of the Wild was another surprise.  There – I felt strong throughout, and I was able to maintain a strong pace all the way.  During the Green River Marathon, the focus was on pacing Matt to his first marathon – a great experience I’ll remember for a long time.

In my writeup about the Green River Marathon, I focused a lot on the support Matt’s family gave us along the route (and during training I’m sure).  But I need to mention some great support I’ve gotten over my recent marathon spate.

Kris and the kids continue to make it possible for me to chase these dreams.  Without their logistical and emotional support, it just wouldn’t happen. 

When I ran Yakima River Canyon, my parents made the lengthy trip over the pass and were there to see me finish.  I don’t think I fully expressed my thanks to them at the time, possibly because of the tangled emotional state I was in, feeling like I needed to prove something to myself.  But it was truly wonderful of them to brave the weather over the pass, and endure a long trip home, all to spend literally about 30 seconds watching me labor across the finish.

And for all four of these races, my father has joined me.  In a number of ways, I’m surprised that he’s interested enough to come out.  After all, watching an endurance running event means a lot of standing around and waiting – punctuated by thirty seconds of action each time you see your runner.  That’s a huge boost for me each time I see him.  I can only hope he’s enjoying himself doing this – the positive vibe, the stories, and getting to know some of the people too.

All of these examples demonstrate that we usually don’t run alone.  Usually there are a number of folks in our lives who make the miles possible.

running the green river marathon – a first marathon experience

This morning I set out along the Green River to run 26.2 miles with my friend Matt.  This race turned out to be lots of fun.  It was a great opportunity to share in Matt’s first marathon.

Backing up several months, shortly after I began running again, my friend Landy told me that Matt had wanted to do the Green River Marathon.  We’ve known each other for a couple of years, although not very well.  Matt’s son was on a baseball team that Landy had recruited my dad and I to help coach.  He’s a great kid – great attitude, and a pleasure to work with.  Having spent a bit of time with Matt, it’s clear that his son comes by this honestly. 


I’d tried to connect with Matt and his wife Stefanie a couple of times in the months before the race, but we weren’t able to get together.  I’d heard that Matt training curve was steep, meaning he’d ramped quickly and perhaps not done any 20+ mile runs, which made me a bit nervous.  I worried that he’d get out there to do this, and it wouldn’t be fun for him.  In my view, the key is to balance the challenge with fun, otherwise you won’t necessarily want to do another one!

So when I rode up to the start of the race, I was pleased to see a bunch of folks out there to support Matt.  Experience with running and lots of other things tells me that when you have lots of support, even difficult challenges (like doing a marathon) become much easier.

I’d not originally planned to go out on the early start, but the chance to run the course with Matt was too good to pass up.  I’d missed the start by a little bit, but ran out to meet them.  I’d not seen Matt since he’d run out to Marymoor Park back in January.  He and Landy had run up some steep hills on the way, stopping to say hi.  Matt tells me that starting out on those hills was pretty difficult, but having someone like Landy to enjoy the run with helped motivate him.

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I ran up behind Matt’s pack, including his son, his dad, as well as Landy and his son (all on bikes).  We shook hands, and I asked him if it would be okay to join him on the run.  At this point, Landy assured Matt that if he ran with me, he could count on me to talk most of the way – that’s either entertaining, or it’s a good reason to run faster.

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Since we’d gone out with the early start, there was scant aid station coverage in the early miles.  I shared some Endurolyte capsules with Matt, and encouraged him to take some of my sport drink as well.  As we went on, Matt’s support team provided him with fluids and Power Bars, and the aid stations opened up.


We ran together, and I told some running stories.  We talked a bit about my recovery, and exchanged some training stories.  Winding along the Interurban Trail as we traveled up the Green River, I began to recognize how much fun it was to share the run with a first-timer.  Make no mistake, running 26.2 miles is hard.  And running it for the first time can be even harder.  But running it with a guy like Matt who rolled with the challenge, kept positive, and laughed a lot was great.

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Before we knew it, we reached mile 19.  Matt pointed out that this was a mile farther than he’d ever run.  We observed that after a couple more miles, it’d be a matter of doing the equivalent of a weekday training run after work before we reached the finish.

Through all of this, I was reminded that I enjoy running distance because I love the stories it generates.  The connected conversations, jokes, and the fulfillment of meeting a challenge together.  Earlier in the week, I’d remarked to someone that I’d easily trade off any future PR’s for assurance that I’d be able to run into my 70’s or 80’s.  Running marathons is an excellent way to clarify perspective on many things.  You don’t evaluate yourself based on a single day, it’s more a matter of working towards longer term goals.

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Stefanie joined us again around mile 20.  I ran a bit ahead, letting she and Matt spend some time talking, while I talked a bit with Matt’s dad, who was with us on the bike.  The thing that really touched me was just how warm and genuine the family is.  I’d seen this before when we were coaching the baseball team – there was always a big turnout to cheer on Matt’s son.  It made a huge difference for him playing baseball and other sports too.  And it made a huge difference today too.

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So as we loped along the Alki waterfront for the final stretch, Matt was definitely feeling the miles.  His stride had shortened, and he was quieter.  But he never complained, and was always able to reflect on how huge the occasion was.  It’s easy to lose sight of this when you’re at mile 24 and hurting all over, but Matt’s spirit definitely prevailed.


When we crossed the finish, much happiness followed.  It was good to call the run complete, but I’d definitely like to capture what carried us along the course.

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Running a race takes support from other people – friends and family.  Thanks go to Stefanie for joining us for the hardest miles, after the wall can hit you.  Thanks go to Matt’s father for riding the whole course with us.  Special thanks go to Matt’s and Landy’s sons, who rode around 15 miles of the course with us.  And of course thanks go to Matt’s and Landy’s families for being there on the course, cheering us on, and providing fluids and fuel.

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Running a marathon is a great metaphor for so many other things in life.  It can get difficult, it can hurt, you can focus on any number of negatives.  Or you can make the most of your time out there, and enjoy yourself.  So – thanks Matt for reminding me of that, and sharing the run!

pictures are included courtesy of hal david, stefanie hodovance, and

(more pictures to follow when they’re available)