Sunday, August 9, 2015

12 Years 3 Months 3 Days

Warning: This will be long and very emotional!!!:):)
(if you want to help set the tone while reading!!)

I don't even know where to begin! Over 12 years trying to reach a goal, and finally when that time came, speechless. Emotions boil over and words take a back seat for once. I cried, I let out all of my built up frustrations, anxieties, joys, relief, happiness, heart break, pretty much every emotion I've had over the last 12 years in that one glorious and memory forever lasting moment crossing the finish line in the 39th Annual Grandma's Marathon June 20th, 2015. Here is my journey to Boston....

March 17th, 2003 had this life changing tennis practice! My coach Darren Iverson, former owner of Big D's Family Restaurant, came to practice saying he had signed up for a half marathon which planted a seed that day, a seed I never knew would blossom into this, a seed I will forever be thankful for! For on that day he gave me this goal, this outrageous impossible seeming goal, a goal my body type would be shunned for even thinking: to run and finish a marathon! I got home that night and really thought about what I wanted to accomplish in life, and the first two things on that list:

1. Run and finish a marathon before the end of college!!
2. Qualify for and run THE Boston Marathon!

These two things for the next 12 years would mold my essence, my everything about me, my heart! I started to change after that day, not right away but a little at a time! I noticed myself not eating crap as much, and lifting weights no longer for strength but endurance! I quit football my senior year to focus on tennis, lose weight, and build up my endurance! A decision that you could say was the first step forward to my 26.2 miles worth of steps! By my freshmen year of college I had already shed around 15 pounds and was DETERMINED to not put it back on, especially with the illustrious Freshmen 15 looming over my head!!

I enrolled at the University of Minnesota Duluth fall of 2004, and for those from that area or live in Minnesota know Duluth is famous for their summer race: Grandma's Full Marathon and Gary Bjorkland's Half Marathon!!! I don't know if it was fate or an AMAZING coincidence, but choosing Physical Education put me in close relation with a professor named Jim Knapp (KNAPPERS)!!! I will be forever grateful to have him as my professor!! He was/is an avid runner and had ran Gary Bjorkland's Half Marathon almost every year when I arrived!! After my first year he tried to get as many PE Majors to sign up with him to run it in the summer of 2006!! He said and I quote "if you sign up I can guarantee you getting in, I know the secret"!! Now the half marathon unlike Grandma's Full Marathon was by lottery, they took the first 6,000 registration cards out of buckets, literally!! So registering for the half was no guarantee, unless you knew Knappers!!! He told us the secret, which will forever stay with me and those PE majors (sorry), and sure enough a month later got the famous "Congrats, your registration has been picked to run the 16th Annual Gary Bjorkland's Half Marathon 2006"!!!! I went to Knappers to tell him I got in and he gave me a training schedule in return (oh he also said congrats)!! Still have that very first one to this day!!! As all my training programs I had to start historically and a date that made sense, so Monday January 2nd, 2006 I did my first ever training run in Shakopee, Minnesota! It was a 2 mile run and holy crap did it suck, but felt AMAZING after I got done! It was 2 miles in 20 minutes (10 min pace)! Stopped a couple of times to catch my breath! But was ECSTATIC when I finished back at home!! I knew I was hooked ever since then! After every single monumental run that year I fist pumped, jumped in the air, was freakin loving it!! 2 miles, check! 3 miles, check! 4 miles, check, all the way up to my biggest run that year 10 MILES!! DOUBLE DIGITS!! The first time EVER I ran in double digits, and who knew it wouldn't be the last!!! The thought going into a half marathon for the first time is either you're going to love it or think I am NEVER doing that again!!! June 17th, 2006 was my first competitive run EVER!! Never did cross country in high school!! Got my running packet that Thursday night before the big race on Saturday morning!! Laid out my clothes the night before, with bib and cross on top, and finally got my shoes and watch ready to go!! Morning of I repeated my goal of FINISH THE DAMN RACE!!!! With a bonus goal of under 2 hours and 5 minutes (9:30 pace)!!! I was nervous as CRAP, but weirdly feeling at peace and ready!! Starting pistol went off and BAM I was off on my first race EVER!!! It was over before I knew it and ran it in 2 hours 2 minutes and 3 seconds!! I WAS FEELING AWESOME!!! A college buddy of mine and my dorm RA previous year also ran it and when he finished he told me he was hurting!! I on the other hand was feeling fine, as I knew I had trained hard and was prepared for this race!! It was at that moment, that second I said to myself, Grandma's Marathon 2007 bring it on!!! Screw my timeline of finishing a marathon before the end of college, I want to do it NOW, in the middle of college!!

Almost immediately registration opened up for the 31st Annual Grandma's Marathon 2007 in June and I put my name in immediately!! That fall did some 5 and 10k's, starting to feel like a real runner now!!! Knew this was my off-season to a BIG training time period coming up so wanted to maintain that momentum from this past spring but also not get burnt out!! As always wanted to start this training period historically as this was the FIRST EVER marathon I will be running!!! SO as if fate had handed me a perfect calendar, Monday January 1st, 2007 New Year's Day I went on my first EVER MARATHON TRAINING RUN!!! 2 miles in 19 minutes and 16 seconds!! I was a little better off this time around compared to my first ever training run almost a year previous to that!! But this training schedule was from Grandma's Marathon training site itself!! A "Beginner" training schedule that had me going for 6 months (24 weeks)!!! This time around the energy and excitement after every longer Saturday run was GINORMOUS!! 12 miler, YESSSSSSSSSS!!! 15 miler, HECK YEAH!!!!! My first ever 20 miler, HOLY CRAP DID I JUST DO THAT?!?!!? Run after run my confidence for my goal of FREAKIN FINISH WITHOUT DYING (with bonus goal of sub-4) was becoming higher and higher!!! I was thinking, wow I might actually be able to pull this rabbit out of my hat!!! Now I was a HUGE Rocky fan during college so my entire training "theme" was 'No Pain' as in "No Pain, No Pain...No Pain, No Pain...No Pain, No Pain"- the exchange between Duke and Rocky whilst fighting Ivan Drago!! And my physical physique was changing once again!! Losing 10 pounds overall during that training period and coming in at a cool 187 pounds pre-race day, while gaining a 10 pound beard!! Another Rocky IV homage!! January 1st to June 15th let the facial hair go untouched, same as Rocky did in Rocky IV while training in Russia!! Side note: a tradition I have kept ever since while training for a major race!! The night of June 15th started another tradition, this time with my dad: the ceremonial shaving of the head and face!! I went from Grizzly Adams to Alien in less than 30 minutes!! It was bald and clean shaven, it felt weird but light!! For the past couple of weeks it was torture to go running in the heat with that beard, and now I felt light and cool!!!:):):) Had my dad's spaghetti at the cabin that night, and then tried to get some sleep! Now they say the night before a big race sleep is key and try to get at least 6-8 hours! YUP! NOPE!!!! On average they say runners get around 4-5, mostly because of anxiousness and anticipation for the morning of!!

June 16th, 2007: RACE DAY!!! My first marathon ever!! Woke up at 4:45am and EVERYONE was awake and ready to go it seemed, no one was tired or drowsy!! Got a ride from my family to the Miller Hill Mall bus pick-up, gave me HUGE hugs, and off I went!! Now if you've never done Grandma's Marathon before, especially the bus pick-up from anywhere minus Two Harbors, it is intimidating!! You literally drive the ENTIRE marathon route distance out to the starting line!! You keep going, and going, and going, and going, and going it seems!! About 5 minutes from the drop off point you're thinking what the HELL have I signed up for?!?! I was intimidated and humbled immediately!!  Got off the bus and knew there was no turning back now, it was NOW or NEVER!!! Hung out, went to the bathroom like 3 times, forced out 2 poops and 1 pee and was ready!! 7:35am headed to the starting corral, with the other 6,000 runners, felt like herding cattle!! I closed my eyes for those next 10 minutes and just felt the energy and soaked everything in!! Started goosebumps at that time and they didn't even go away until mile 1!! I repeated in my head my goal and strategy, FINISH THE RACE!! FINISH THE RACE!! JUST FINISH THE DAMN RACE!!!! Bonus goal of coming in between 3 hours 40 minutes and 3 hours 50 minutes (little bit under a 9 minute pace)!!!! A pace 30 seconds faster than my previous year's half marathon finish!!! It was a beautiful morning for a race (as years pass I would find out NOT a good thing for runners!!), the sun was shining and like metal hitting metal I heard this loud BOOM!! It was the Air Duluth fighter pilots flying over for their ritual flyby!! All the runners went crazy as we knew, this was it!! It was under a minute until the gun would go off and my marathon career would officially start that day!! 10....9....8...7...6...5...4...3...2..1... BAM!!! Starting pistol went off and off we went!! Now we walked for the first 3 minutes as it was a traffic jam just to cross the starting line, but once we crossed we were running!!! The first 3 miles were a blur, I had goosebumps and tears in my eyes!! I couldn't believe where I had come and where I was at physically!! It was a dream!! Every single mile there were fans cheering us on!! Including my family at mile 5!! The moment I saw them I knew I had it that morning!! This was one race I HAD TO and was GOING TO FINISH!!! By the half way point I was feeling fantastic, my goal time was right on step, 1 hour and 49 minutes exactly, putting my finishing time within my dream goal!! The next 6 miles were critical ones as I heard and read about around mile 18-20 was "the wall"!! A dreaded point in the marathon when your body physically says "I HAVE HAD ENOUGH STOP!! JUST STOP ALREADY!!!!!" I got to mile 18, hurting but good! Mile 19, still strong!! Mile 20 let's do this!! Mile 21 and Lemon Drop Hill NAILED IT!! The crowd when entering Duluth is something of a dream!! The energy is buzzing, the runners are encouraging each other, it was ALIVE AND KICKING!!! Now this next part, to this day I have never told anyone, not even family, but I feel it's time to let it go!! At mile 22 I walked, I stopped running, I walked for 47 seconds (the longest 47 seconds of my life)!! My goal was to RUN and finish a marathon, I felt failure in my heart, I couldn't believe it, "the wall" got to me!! BUT it was in that moment, it was in those very 47 seconds I promised myself NEVER AGAIN, NEVER WILL I QUIT! NEVER WILL I WALK ANOTHER MARATHON!! I DUG DOWN DEEP!! DEEPER THAN I HAVE EVER REACHED BEFORE!! I grabbed my water, took a couple sips, threw it on the ground, said thank you, and TOOK OFF RUNNING!!! I had this feeling of determination and will that I never knew I had until this moment!! I RAN mile 23, I RAN mile 24, I RAN mile 25, I RAN mile 26, AND I SPRINTED THOSE 200 METERS TO THE FINISH LINE!!!!! I crossed the finish line and just collapsed!!! It was over!! My lifelong goal of running and finishing a marathon was accomplished!!! I cried!!! And I cried!! And I cried tears of JOY!!!!! All these lifelong memories flashed before my eyes!! Not being able to run a mile in high school without stopping, being teased for being fat in middle school, all of these memories came.......and then went away!! It was like my soul was cleansed that very day!!!! I did it!! I ran a marathon!!! I looked at my watch!! DID IT UNDER 4 HOURS AND WITHIN MY GOAL!!! 3 HOURS 48 MINUTES AND 32 SECONDS!!! A time I will never EVER forget!!!! That moment in time will last an eternity!!!! I found my family after it was done and just collapsed into their arms!!!! Mom and sister were crying, dad was on the verge, Cindy was tearing up, it was an amazing moment to have with them!!!!!!!! I still couldn't believe it!!!!!! They asked the question all runner's get asked after a marathon "how are you feeling?" I said.......... exhausted. But it was the greatest feeling of exhaustion I have ever felt in my entire life!!! (Real life pause for tear wipe and nose I said emotional, well at least for me!)

After Grandma's I went home and tried sleeping but couldn't, I was feeling alive and exhausted at the same time, IT WAS GREAT!!!!:):):):) I sat on the couch at the cabin while everyone else slept and thought, yeah this was good, this is something I can get into!!!! I had already thought about next year's Grandma's Marathon and a 3:30 goal!!!! And a 3:29:59 I DID in the 32nd Annual Grandma's Marathon 2008 (8:03 pace)!!!!!:):):):):):) But it was in that winter of 2008/2009 something happened, something life changing!! I went to an International Job Fair in Iowa!! Not knowing what to expect from this I went in thinking hey if I can land a job in Europe, specifically one of the Scandinavian countries AWESOME!! I went, found out VERY quickly those jobs require minimum 2 years experience and/or Master's Degree, both of which I did not have!! But as if an angel was looking over me that day, a school I never heard of from a country I would never have expected to go to put their school's pamphlet in my personal folder!! I went to open my folder and looked at the pamphlet and read the school's name: Woodstock School! What and where is this school?!? It took me all of 3 seconds to get hooked as I opened it up and saw the beautiful Himalayan mountain range and the endless hills!!! I interviewed with then HR Head Polly Peterson and was offered a job as a PE teacher the very next day!!! I accepted and was heading to India!! INDIA!!! INDIA!!!! Of all the countries in the world India was not even on my radar as a possibility, BUT I took the job!!

As for my running ambitions and goals, well needless to say those were kind of put on hold for the moment!! Not knowing what to expect in India and what racing opportunities I would even have, running marathons was put in a folder and stacked in a "to-do" pile on a desk in my brain!! I arrived in the fall of 2009 and within 2 months I had already wanted to extend my contract from 3 years to 5!!! Fell in love with the school, the environment, and of course the students!!!!!:):):):):):):) It was within the students that motivated me to get back into my serious quest for Boston!!! I did a devotion in a middle school assembly in the fall of 2009 entitled "The Wall"!! My experiences as a marathon runner, what it's shaped me to be, what my goals are!! It was within that devotion I found my passion for running again!!! Dusted off that folder in my "to-do" pile and went out and bought a pair of running shoes!!! Now the only problem was, WHERE THE HECK CAN I FIND A RACE??!?! Then someone told me about the New Delhi Marathon!! I was like, WHAT?!? New Delhi has a marathon race!??! Needless to say, before I got to Woodstock half marathons, 10kms, marathons were all the same title "marathon"!!! I found out very quickly that A. I had already missed the registration deadline for the New Delhi Marathon!! And B. it was the New Delhi HALF Marathon!!! But no worries, had been dreaming of traveling to Finland, Sweden, Norway all my life!! Now with this job had a chance!!! I saved up like crazy, set a budget for everything, AND built this trip all around the Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Turku, Finland Saturday June 26th, 2010!!!! I was freakin pumped!! Not only would it be my first marathon since Grandma's 2009, but it would be in FINLAND!!! I set my goal for 3:09:59 (at that point 3:10 was the qualifying time for Boston)!!! I was back in it once again!! Feeling energized now, more than ever!!! My students were super pumped, and some even took up running with me!!! That definitely helped and inspired me to train even harder!!! Now instead of taking up more time and going into each detail of each marathon up until this past June, here is a summary of my last 4 Boston qualifying attempts, including Finland as the first!!!

1. Paavo Nurmi Marathon (Turku, Finland; 27th June, 2010)
4 hours 16 minutes 25 seconds (body problems!!!)

2. Grandma’s Marathon (Duluth, MN; 16th June, 2012)
3 hours 12 minutes 13 seconds

3. Mumbai Marathon (Mumbai, India; 27th January, 2013)
3 hours 6 minutes 18 seconds

4. Phoenix Marathon (Phoenix, AZ; 19th January, 2014)
3 hours 5 minutes 19 seconds (depressed!!)

So there it was, 4 attempts over the past 5 years and all ending in heart break and failure!!! But the greatest thing ever happened before Mumbai and Phoenix!!! December 19th, 2012 Shubhra took the most important test of her life!!! A pregnancy test!! SHE PASSED!!!!! WE WERE HAVING A BABY IN SEPTEMBER (or so we thought it was September)!!!!!!:):):):) So Boston was again put on hold for the time being!!!!!! August 17th, 2013 (3 weeks ahead of schedule) the greatest day of my entire life, better than any Boston Marathon would/will ever be, an angel entered this world: Aleksia Steven Luukkonen born August 17th, 2013 2:22pm at LCH in Mussoorie, India!!!!!!! Needless to say having a baby definitely makes training a LOT tougher!!!! Getting very little sleep, sleep patterns disturbed due to poopy diapers or upset stomach!!! Had to miss some running days due to exhaustion!! Shubhra and her mom were saints though as they took care of Aleksia at night and throughout her maternity leave and allowed me to get decent sleep as I still had to work!!! And Aleksia was the best of all as her first year was pretty amazing, slept well, was never fussy throughout the nights, it was amazing to live through!!!!:):):):) We were headed back to the states that winter so I asked a buddy of mine Jay if he wanted to run the Phoenix Marathon with me, a very "FLAT" course and labeled one of the flattest/fastest in the US!!! As you saw missed my Boston goal by 19 seconds and that one hurt, it was heartbreak!!!! The Phoenix Marathon hurt the most out of those 4 attempts, as those 19 seconds haunted me!!! It put 19 different ways of doubt into my head!! Can I ever really qualify for Boston at this point?!?! Well more determined than ever after the Phoenix close call, I signed up for Grandma's Marathon that summer of 2014!! However, with a more determined attitude that also meant a step up in training, pushing my body harder than ever!! Sadly too hard at one point, as after one of my runs in late February I noticed a stabbing pain just under my patella in my left knee!! I thought nothing of it as I've never had a serious running injury before, so why would one happen now?!? I took the next day off, and then the following day I went for a run and within 1/2 a mile I was done, out, PAIN IN MY KNEE!!! Went home and got out my runner's injury book and sure enough found EXACTLY what I was feeling: patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS)....aka runner's knee!! My heart sank, I couldn't believe it! I just dropped the book and sat there in denial!! There is no way I am injured, couldn't be, not now, not when I'm so close!! I never went to a doctor but I knew it was that!! I took 3 months off from running, Grandma's was obviously out the door and instead I took up biking and iso leg exercises!!! That summer I did go up to Duluth for Grandma's Marathon and biked the course during it! That was pretty emotional in itself!! Biked all the way out to Park Point and just sat on the beach for hours, thinking about Boston and qualifying!! I didn't even run until I got back to Minnesota that summer!! I went outside with my running shoes for the FIRST TIME in months, started off at a VERY generous pace (9 minute miles), and went for only 3 miles!! BUT RAN PAIN FREE!!! Was this it?!? Was my pain really gone?!? I went on a run every other day that summer, ALL pain free!! I got up to 10 miles (my pre-determined limit that summer) by the end and was back down to a 7:30 pace for that 10 miler!! I was JUMPING FOR JOY!!! I FELT ALIVE AGAIN!!!! Going almost 4 months without running killed me, it took away my spirit!!! I had set a goal after the summer to run the New Delhi Half Marathon, but to run it in a PB!!! 1 hour 24 minutes!! They say if you can run a half marathon in an hour and 24 minutes you can run a sub-3!! Coincidentally I needed a sub 3:05 to qualify for Boston!!!!! I did MASSIVE research on new training schedules, training schedules that don't "PILE" on the miles, but instead go by a theory of less is more!!!! I had a professor in college who again I wouldn't know where I would be without him!! TOP DOG!! Professor Ken Harkins of UMD had always preached in his classes his LESS IS MORE principles!! Of course never listening to him until now, I finally gave in and gave it a try!!!!:):):) I found this 3+2 training program, where they have you run 3 days a week and do cross training cardio the other 2!! Running 3 days a week to get a PB, WERE THEY CRAZY?!?!? But I went all in on this one!! I lived and breathed by what they told me to do!!!! If I was going to save my knees it would have to be a radical change in my state of training mind!!!!! I could live with Top Dog telling me I told you so if I accomplished my goal of 1:24 in November!!!

I started my training and sure enough by November, 2 weeks out, I was tapering already, something I had never done before either!! November 30th, race morning came, I was nervous as EVER!! This was my first real race since Phoenix and not knowing if my knees would hold up was killing me!!! If I ran this race and something happened to my knees I don't know if I would ever have the confidence to run again!!! I met my friend and two of my student's father Pritam before the race started!!! We had gotten closer as the years went on as we both loved running and gotten faster!! He however was shredding time off of his runs like crazy, his goal for this half was around 1:22!! We wished each other luck and BAM the corral gates opened and the race had started!!! I started off right away falling into my pre-determined race pace of 6:24 per mile (4:00 minute per kilometer since it was in kilometers), Pritam took off and literally that was it for seeing him until the finish!!!! First 5km I was on target, hitting 3:59's, 4:00's and 4:01's!!! Knees were the only thing I was thinking about and they were fine, in fact feeling stronger than ever!!!!:):):) Half way through the half I was feeling AMAZING!!!:):):) At the 11km mark I knew I had this!!! In fact at the 13km marker I saw this guy I raced a year ago at the Gurgaon Half Marathon who beat me by 2 minutes!! PASSED HIS SHORT SHORTS BUTT WITH A HUGE SMILE ON MY FACE!!!!!:):):):):):):):) In my head I was like "suck it" mister I don't smile and I'm from some foreign country in Europe!!! I mean seriously he looked like he didn't even enjoy being out there!!! But passing him, knowing he has ran Boston before, made my confidence rise even more!! I passed him and never looked back! Okay I looked back a couple of times to make sure he was eating my imaginary dust!! I'm sorry but in Gurgaon I tried and tried to catch him but never did, and after the race was over he didn't even smile or anything when I said good run!! SO I was his running karma biting him in the butt to make him try and appreciate and enjoy running again!!!:):):):) Came to kilometer 20 and put on the after burners!!!!:):):) Sprinted the final 500 meters and crossed the finish line with a time of 1 hour 24 minutes and 4 seconds!! I WAS BACK AND LOVING IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:):):):):):):):):) No pain in the knees and CONFIDENCE WAS HIGHER THAN EVER NOW!!!!!!!!!!!:):):):):):):):):):):):):) I found Pritam close to the finish line as he had just finished 2 minutes ahead of me, not really sure as his watch died!!! But he definitely reached his goal and he was feeling pumped as well!!!! We said our goodbyes, I found Shubhra and Aleksia and we headed back to Mussoorie, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!!!!:):):):):):):):)

Took the winter off from serious training as I knew the next time I got serious would be in February for Grandma's Marathon 2015, so I wanted a refreshed training mind and spirit!!!! Did a lot of biking again and 3 days a week running!!! Then the day came, March 3rd, 2015.....1st day of my 16 week training schedule!!!!! Shaved off all of my facial and head hair and began the 16 weeks of untouchable beard/head hair!!!! With a success at the New Delhi Half Marathon, I took to the same theories, less is more (3 quality runs a week) and full body strength training is KEY!!!!! Combining these two aspects hopefully would bring me success in June!!!! After each month passed by, I felt stronger and faster but my confidence was still shaky!!! Training in the hilly roads of Mussoorie was hard to get down to the pace I needed to be at, so in late April and May, my tempo and 20 milers were on the treadmill!!!! May 30th, 5am I woke up to my final LSD (Long Slow Distance) 20 miler!!! This to me was my make or break run, the run of all runs in my training thus far!!! I had to keep a 7:05 pace for all 20 miles!! I was nervous!! I walked to the gym that morning, turned the fan on, started the treadmill and was off!! After 20 miles I was done, pace ACHIEVED!! My confidence was boosted a little bit, I still was unsure since it was on a treadmill and not road!!! After that run it was taper time!!! Took the next 3 weeks and steadily and easily backed off the intense runs and boosted up the strength training a little bit more to get that final push!!!! Flew back to Minnesota with my girls, did a lot of biking with Aleksia in the trailer those 10 days, and on Thursday June 18th evening traveled up to Duluth, MN to try accomplish my lifelong goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon with a sub 3:05 in the 39th Annual Grandma's Marathon 2015!!!!!!!! Dream goal a SUB-3!!!!! But I would be happy to get anything lower than a 3:05 at this point!!!!

Thursday June 18th, 2015 (Packet Pick-Up)
8:05pm - arrived at the DECC and picked up my race packet and bought some sweet new running shorts and jerseys to last me the next 4 years!!!!!
9:00pm - arrived at the cabin exhausted but relieved to have picked up my packet!!!!!!!

Friday June 19th, 2015 (Rest and Relaxation Day)
8am to 1pm - did a lot of switching between laying on the couch, walking around with Aleksia, and snacking!!!
1pm to 7pm - repeated the routine of 8am to 1pm, but then SAID HI TO JOELY JOELY JOELY JOELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
7pm - started the traditional shaving of the head and face!! I decided in honor of my personal best marathon on the same day June 20th, 2008 at Grandma's Marathon I went with the single shaved mohawk on top and of course the Prefontaine mustache on the face!!!!
8pm - had the traditional dad spaghetti with whole wheat bagel and water/gatorade!!!!
9:30pm - left with JOELY JOELY JOELY in his truck to do my traditional drive Grandma's Marathon route while listening to "The Race" playlist on my iPod!!! We didn't even arrive at the starting line until 10:10pm, and when we got there I stepped out of his truck and walked right up to Grandma's Starting line (of course not going past it as I never step on the actual race course until race morning)!! I got to the starting line, got down on one knee and just prayed!! I said "Amen" looked up and into the distance, pressed play to "The Final Countdown" and off we drove!! We went all the way to about mile 21, and then took a right up 21st Ave!!!!!!
11:15pm - arrived back at the cabin, focused, ready, anxious!!!!
11:55pm - got next to my bed, went down on one knee, prayed one last time, hit play again on my iPod and laid there picturing the race the next morning!!!!! (fell asleep around 1am I think??)

Saturday June 20th, 2015 (A Day Forever in My History; Race Morning)
4:45am - FUNKY COOL CELL PHONE SONG PLAYS!! (My alarm on my cell phone goes off)

If you haven't been playing the song, do play this song for this next part and just let the pictures and song gel into one story!!!!

5:45am - Eye of the Tiger!! Felt focused and more determined than ever!! My dad dropped me off, gave me a HUGE hug once again, and I stood in line to get on the bus!!! This time the bus ride was more light hearted than the very first time I rode it back in 2007!!!! Talked to a guy named John the whole trip, how it was his first time, he was coming off a knee injury, etc. etc.!! But near the drop off point got focused!!

7:45am - Start of the Race!!! It was absolutely down pouring leading up to the start!! Runners were seeking shelter under trees and large air vents next to the Ford dealership!! But with 15 minutes before the start of the race I got up, started to do my pre-race warm-up, and walked to the starting corral!! I saw my buddy Jay in his traditional kilt!! We talked a bit, and then with 1 minute before the start of the race I bent my head down, closed my eyes, and said one final prayer!! This was it, the moment the last 12 years 3 months and 3 days have been leading up to!! The hopefully qualifying run for THE Boston Marathon!!!! 7:45am and BAM!!!!!!!!!!! 39TH ANNUAL GRANDMA'S MARATHON HAS STARTED!!!!!

Miles 1 to 5 went by like a breeze of fresh air!! The rain had stopped a mile into the race and the weather was perfect!! Cloudy, slight mist and drizzle, energy from all the other runners were HIGH!!!! This is mile 5 where my family saw me and I saw them for the first time!!! I had requested to have mini snickers and jolly ranchers ready to be handed off at this point as I had trained with them at mile's 8 and 16 for a sugar boost!! I saw my dad, Cindy, Nat, Dusty, JOELY JOELY, but couldn't find my mom with the Snicker's!! I kept on running, searching the crowd, but nothing! Then I heard "STEVEN! STEVE! STEVE" .....behind me! I had missed her!! I had a moment of panic, was this it, the moment that would be the turning point of my Boston Career?!? I went on and said "screw it, this aint going to change nothing, let's do this!! NO PAIN!!!"

Mile 13.1 (Half Way) and right on pace!! I saw EVERYONE this time as they were a lot more spread out!! My wife and Aleksia are right there in the pink, and that's JOELY JOELY JOELY in the black!! He had my snicker bars this time! I ran up to him, bobbled the handoff and dropped them! I said "SHIT," stopped, turned back around to pick them up, and then carried on!! I saw my mom who ALSO had snickers waiting for me, but I was full at that point! Had 2 snickers and 2 Jolly Ranchers, I was set!! My pace was spot on, if not a little head of schedule!! 1 hour 29 minutes and 22 seconds!!!:):) I was feeling amazing right now!!!!:):)

Miles 13.1 to 16 were in the zone!! Tunnel vision and flying!!! Came up to mile 18, where in the past at Grandma's had slowed down a little bit and felt the fatigue!! NOT THIS TIME!!! I had this gut feeling! This gut feeling I had never gotten before in my past 4 attempts, this gut feeling that I WAS GOING TO DO IT THIS TIME!!!! They always say listen to your gut, so I did!! I had the confidence, the will, the desire this time!!! I WAS READY TO QUALIFY!!!! Mile 20 I saw a familiar Woodstock face, Ajay Mark!!! Now in my head after I saw him I KNEW, I JUST KNEW I couldn't let down Woodstock another year!! I couldn't go back to my students another time as a failure!! I passed Ajay and put my head down and increased my speed!! It was an amazing feeling!!! (Real life pause for tears wipe and nose blow)!! I knew I had to do it this time!!! I said to myself "we got this, we GOT THIS!!!!!!!" I thought of my students and took off!!!! Mile 21, faster!! Mile 22, faster!! Mile 23, faster!! Mile 24, faster!!! Mile 25, faster!!!

Now I come to the final mile of Grandma's Marathon!! I am mentally and physically exhausted but know I CANNOT GIVE UP!! I CANNOT SLOW DOWN!! IN 1.2 MILES IT WILL BE OVER!!! I put my head down again, dig down deep, look into my heart and GO!!!! I come to the overpass which leads to the final turn before the straight away!!! At this point I am 200 meters from finishing!!! I see my wife and Aleksia standing there, then Joely, then my mom, then Cindy!! That right there gave me my final kick of speed!!! I turned the final corner and started to SPRINT!! Tears starting to build up a little bit, but I felt a face of pure determination and grit!!!!

100 meters away now!!!!! I see the time on the clock and realize I'm going to do this!!! I'm going to qualify!!!

I cross the finish line......

....and collapse!!!! It's over. All these years, all those months training this time, over with. Nothing more that I could do! I'm on my knees crying my eyes out with joy!! I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!! A SUB 3 HOUR MARATHON!!! 2 HOURS 59 MINUTES AND 41 SECONDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 19 SECONDS FASTER THAN A SUB-3!!!! THOSE 19 SECONDS I COULD HAVE USED IN PHOENIX NOW WORKING WITH ME AND NOT AGAINST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:):):):):):):) Officials and first aid come around me making sure I'm fine, I'm still on the ground crying my eyes out, but I look up at them with a HUGE SMILE ON MY FACE AND SAY "I'M FINE! OH GOD AM I FINE!!!" They roll the wheel chair away to someone else who needs it more than I do!!!! Right now at this moment I am speechless, I can't believe what has happened!!!! I just think back to all those years ago when I first wanted to accomplish this!!! I look around and see my dad, I lose it again!! Start the tears all over!! I hug him, then I see my mom, Shubhra, Aleksia, Joely, Cindy, Dusty, Nat all come up and I hug each one of them!! Crying all the while (Real life pause, can't even type right now tears and snot) and absolutely loving the fact I am with them at this moment!!!! I couldn't have planned a more perfect day and moment to qualify for Boston!!! It was at the marathon that started it all with family (pause again more tears)!! It was the moment I had dreams of and now I was living it!!!!!:):):):):):):) 

I went to Shubhra, who was also tearing up at this moment, and Aleksia, who was scared as heck and trying to escape, and just fell into their arms and cried again!!! Everything I have fought through, every failure I had to overcome, every moment of doubt I had to run out of my brain, was conquered!!! This was it, the moment had come and I was overrun with emotion!!!!! I was speechless!!! 39th Annual Grandma's Marathon 2015 will forever be in my memories as an opening and closing chapter!!!! This race opens my future of Boston and closes my 12 years 3 months and 3 days of pursuit!!!!!!:):):):):)

On a personal note I want to thank all of you who have been with me throughout these years, my motivation, my support crew, my family, my friends, my students, everyone who has had to hear about my failures and overcoming adversity time and time again!!!!!!!!!! I cannot express enough the love I have for you and the (pause break again for tears) thankfulness that you are in my life!!! I could not have done this without you!! I had days where I thought all hope was lost and you came to my side and picked me back up again and said "DO IT"!!!!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!!!:):):):):):):) They always say you should hire a coach to motivate you more and get you to accomplish your goals!!!!! I'm lucky and blessed that I've had hundreds of personal coaches and motivators along the way, all through love and support!!!! Again without you I could not have done what I did on June 20th, 2015!!! A special thanks and love to my mom and dad, who always believed in me no matter what!! To my sister who always said I could do it and never doubted me for a second!! Dusty for being the brother from another mother!! Cindy who was equally as supportive through all of this!!!!! ALL OF MY MINNESOTA/WASHINGTON FAMILY/FRIENDS!!!! MY WOODSTOCK FAMILY!!!! And last but certainly not least, my daily rock, my talisman, my wife Shubhra!!! And even though she will have no idea what all of this means until she's about 6 or 7, to my Aleksia, which everything I do at this point is for you and making sure I am alive to see you grow into the beautiful woman I know you will be, both inside and out!!!!!!:):):):):):):):) Thank you all again so much, as it still feels like this is just some wonderful and amazing dream!!!!!!!


Next up...

April 18, 2016

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Super Terrific of Awesomeness!!!!!!!!:):):):):):):):)

Family: a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for

I can't believe another vacation in Minnesota has come to an end!!!!!! This one was definitely the hardest, as every time I come back to Minnesota it gets harder to say goodbye!!! Especially since I stepped on the court and actually did some games with the kids for the first time in 6 years!!!! I do some pretty long runs and bike rides now, so it gives me a chance to see other tennis programs during the day as I run/bike past them (since I have that freedom during the day as I am still not officially back with Shako tennis....YET)!!!!:):):):) But as I bike past them for those mere 15 seconds, I don't get the warmth and family like atmosphere I absolutely fell in love with my first summer with Shako Tennis back in 1992 (wow feeling old) and continued throughout my 17 years with the program as player, coach, and finally Assistant to the Director of Tennis!!!:):):) I guarantee that ANY 15 seconds throughout a lesson at Shakopee tennis will be an exciting, loud, energetic 15 seconds (minus water breaks and picking up balls, even though I did have some pretty exciting ball picking up moments)!!!! But with all that loudness and energy came a loving care from the coaches, wanting to see each and every single player succeed but more importantly LOVE the game of tennis!!!!:):):):) And we did this through fun and teaching how to have character on the court, not solely on winning!! If we could/can have players leave Shakopee Tennis with an amazing character on the court and love of the game, than we did our job!!!! And yes we had some wins along the way too!!!:):) AND A HECK OF A LOT OF FREE ICE WATER THANKS TO WALL DRUG!!!!:):):):)

I know my blog is still up on the STA website, so please do not think of this as a cheap plug for Shako tennis (even though every kid will absolutely LOVE being involved in it)!! This is merely a nostalgic moment for me as I'm heading out from Minnesota once again and reliving the moments of this summer and past summers!!!:):) Shakopee tennis was and will always be my family away from family!! I had some tough years as a kid going through a divorcing family, and as cheesy as it sounds Shakopee Tennis was my family away from family every single summer!! Still to this day, I keep in touch with those that helped me through those tough times!! It's definitely one of those feelings only those who have lived through a divorce will feel, not even my parents will understand as they didn't have to be a kid trying to understand what is happening and who to go to now!! But one thing I knew that would always be in my life was summer tennis and the pure joy and excitement that one can find on the courts every single day you're out there!!:):) Be it Wacky Wednesday or some crazy made up game I'm pretty sure only Shakopee players know!! Or even better yet, the moments after a lesson and everyone is just relaxing and talking under the Constenson stand or goofing around and not having to remember what some of us had to go back to in the real world!! For me Shakopee Tennis was and will always be my Emerald City/Field of Dreams/(sorry couldn't think of a tennis movie with a made up wonderful place)!! A place where for one single moment, all the hardships of life would melt away, and you're with people that care for you and are also there for one thing: fun!!!:):)

So as I am packed and ready to go back to India (which I am definitely looking forward to as always, as much as I love it here in Minnesota, Mussoorie is definitely becoming a 4th home), I think back to the wonderful times this summer being back on the court, ESPECIALLY with my daughter!! A future tennis player/coach?? Only time will tell on that one!! But as I was feeding See-Ya today for the 3rd time this summer, I couldn't help but think about next summer already and maybe being involved a little bit more again?!?! I know the last 3 previous summers I visited I was extremely hesitant on being involved, as I didn't know what emotions would come up and if that coaching "spark" would still be there!?!? Well on my final "Give Jenny a heat stroke" feed during See-Ya I knew that spark was still lit inside and I must say, next summer I think it's time to give it a little more oxygen!!!:):):) It's time!!!:):)

To my rock and support group growing up and my extended family, I thank you Shakopee Tennis for all the memories and everyone I've met and stayed in touch with through the years!!:):):):) This blog post has been a long time coming and it feels good to finally write it!!:):):):) I love my family dearly (my actual family now) and no one could ever replace them, this is not about replacing or trying to find a new family, that is not the purpose of this post!! But instead the purpose of this is to let those who also had/are having the same hard times right now with a divorce or something equally as scarring, that there are places out there that can bring joy into your life, that can make you feel a part of something wonderful, that can, for a moment, take your mind off whatever hardships you are going through and give you something to smile about again!!!:):):) Maybe it's not Shakopee Tennis, maybe it's not even sports related, whatever it is I do hope you find it some day and can have the same nostalgic feelings I am having right now, years later!!:):) For what is life if you have nothing to smile about and fill you with happiness?!?! I have my family, my Shakopee family, my Shakopee Tennis Family, my UMD family, my Woodstock family, and forever all will have a special place in my heart!!!:):):):) As I defined family in the very beginning, family is a group of people who care for one another, blood or non-blood related!! I love you dearly!!!:):):)

HAPPY SMILING AND LOVING!!!!!!!!!!!!!:):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

You are YOU and no one else!!!!!!!!!:):):):):):):):)

With running season beginning in full force now, Boston Marathon, London Marathon, Grandma's coming up in less than 2 months, I've found myself hearing all of my friends kicking some major butt on the courses with PB's!!!!!!!!:):):):) FIRST A HUGE CONGRATS TO MY RUNNING BROTHER JON-O FOR RUNNING HIS FIRST BOSTON MARATHON!!! AND UNDER 3 HOURS!!!!!!!:):):):):):) ALSO A HUGE CONGRATS TO MY OTHER RUNNING BROTHER PRITAM FOR RUNNING LONDON THIS PAST SATURDAY IN UNDER 3 HOURS!!!!!!!:):):):):):):):):) For those who know marathons, a sub-3 hour is not an easy feat!!! Especially for those who aren't natural runners to begin with!!!!;):):):):):):):)

Not going to lie this past month has been hard to swallow, everyone reaching their goals in a major marathon, running under 3 hours, people who've never ran one before finishing their first!! Which makes me think, I've tried for a Boston qualifier 3 times now, with number four coming up in June!!!! It really puts doubt in your head, am I good enough to even run this fast, can I do this, I've already tried 3 times and nothing to show for it?!?!? Is altitude screwing everything up?!?!

But then I take these doubts and use it for even MORE MOTIVATION!!!! HELL YEAH I'M FAST ENOUGH!!! YES I'M GOOD ENOUGH!!! I WILL DO THIS!!!!!!!! You cannot get sucked in to what others do and accomplish, you are YOU and your body is yours!!!! If I was a twin of someone else, even THEN my body would still be different!!! So many times I hear my students say, I want a body like this persons, or I want to be playing ball like this athlete!! I tell them, so what about working your butt off and being YOUR type of player!! Making a name for YOURself!!! Or having YOUR type of body!!! It's VERY easy to get sucked in to the comparative world, it takes mental toughness and determination to block all of that out and do what YOU do best and that's BE YOU!!!!:):):):):):):):)

I'll get my goal of sub-3, when my body and mind is ready!!! When will that be, hopefully June 20th, if not than another time!! All I know is I'm putting in the BEST AND HARDEST effort that I can right now, especially with a little crazy 2 year old at home!!!!!;):):):):):):):) Would I change ANY of my past failures or current external factors right now, NO WAY TIMES A BILLION!!!!!!!!:):):):) You learn from failures and I love my family to death!!! If being around Aleksia sacrifices my Boston qualifier a couple of more years, than so be it!!! Yes my goal 10 years ago was to qualify for Boston by 2015, however making that goal not knowing what would happen in year 10 changes things!!!:):):):) I will still try and give it my all, but being a father right now is first and foremost!!!!:):):):) BUUUUUUUUUT, who says there aren't fast running new fathers out there!!!!;):):):):)

JUNE 20TH IS 52 DAYS AWAY!!! LET'S FINISH STRONG BABY!!!!!!!!!!:):):):):):):):):):):):):) HAPPY SMILING AND BEING YOU!!!!!!!!!!:):):):):):):):)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift"

A quote taken from one of the bravest US middle distance runners ever, Steve Prefontaine! A man who was never scared to take lead in any race, and in fact was quoted on saying what is the point of winning if I'm not out there giving it my all every single time! How do you "win" a race if you're second the entire race and then at the last second sprint out in front and take it?!

It's been over a year now since I've written a post, but these past 8 months have been the most physical and emotional in the 8 years I've been running half and full marathons, and figured it was time to write again!! A quick thank you to Pritam who is my inspiration for writing this post, who told me I was his inspiration to get into running, so thank you Pritam for pushing me to write once again!!:):):):) It has been too long!!!!

Listen to this while reading, it makes it way more powerful!!!:):)

8 months ago last March I suffered my most fierce and scariest running injury: patellofemoral femoral pain syndrome (commonly known as runner's knee)!!  It was devastating to my running confidence!! Every time I tried to push through the pain while running it shot up through me like someone was driving a nail through my knee!! Walking down the stairs was agonizing during the 2 most intense weeks!! I decided to quit running for the first time in 7 years, and quit I did for 2 solid months!!! It was the most important 2 months of my entire running career!! I've heard WAY too many stories about runners who get runner's knee and can never be without pain again while running, BECAUSE they didn't heal properly!! So I hit the bicycle and rowing machine hard, along with light, rehabilitating strength training with resistance bands, focusing mainly on the hip flexors, IT band, quads, and hamstrings (with of course full body exercises as well)!!

By the end of May I decided it was time to try running once again, and fingers were crossed!!! I started my running again inside on the treadmill, instead of the hills of Mussoorie!! Ran a solid 2 miles at a nice easy pace and was fretting "that pain" coming back every second!! That run went as good as it could have for coming off runner's knee!! There was pain but nothing that I knew I couldn't push through (nothing close to the pain I felt back in March)!! My confidence was shaken still, but this one run boosted it ever so slightly!! Slightly enough to set a new goal, run a 1:24:00 at the New Delhi Half Marathon in November!! They say if you can run a half in 1:24 you can run a sub-3:00, and that is EXACTLY what I need for Boston!!:):):)

The next couple of months were physically and emotionally draining!! Every run I would do my confidence boosted a little bit more, but in the back of my head there was still doubt and fear building up that once again there will be extreme pain!! I didn't even touch Mussoorie outside with my running shoes until end of July!! My first outside run was completely pain free minus running downhill, those parts freaked me out the most!!! It wasn't until mid-August that I was running pain free on the treadmill finally!! Confidence was even higher now and I could feel things were finally going in the right direction!!! My 1 run outside still had some pain going downhills but it was noticeably less than it was in July!! 

September came along and I am running faster and stronger now than I have ever before!! Adding 2 days a week strength training this go around made the WORLD of difference!! Not only were my legs stronger, but my entire body!! Confidence and determination to dominate the New Delhi Half Marathon were at an all-time high!!! I was feeling like this goal could actually be doable in 2 months!!!! By the end of September I added my 2nd run outside and found it completely pain free!!! Now I was feeling confident and ready for the Mussoorie Half Marathon 1st November in the hills!! Not even touching the hills until mid-September, I felt I was ready to push it while running through the rolling hills!!!

Mussoorie Half Marathon came and it felt PERFECT!!!! Absolutely no pain what-so-ever, enjoyed every minute of the run!!!!! Having a hundred plus other runners, running along side of you definitely helps as well, and keeps your mind off the run!!!!  Finishing the Mussoorie Half 5 minutes faster than what I was expecting was the FINAL confidence boost I needed to prepare for New Delhi Half!!! The final couple of weeks were my tapering to give my legs the final rest they needed to be 100% ready for 23rd November!!!

The week leading up to NDHM 2014 was a scary one!! Developed a little bit of a head cold on Tuesday and it carried all the way up through the weekend!!! I was certain the cold would take me out of the race on Sunday!!! However, with my confidence being at an all time high and knowing I needed to run this race, I kept thinking the cold will have to wait until Sunday after the race is done!!! 

After only 3-4 hours of sleep (normal before a major race) I woke up with a sharp headache, which later went away after moving around, getting ready, and having a light breakfast!! Even though the congestion was still there, I knew I just had to be mentally tough for this one and literally pushed the cold out of my thoughts!!! Got to the race starting point (Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium) around 6:15am and had about 45 minutest to get ready!! Was so thankful Aleksia and Shubhra were with me the entire time!!! That also took my mind off the cold!!

7am came and we're 5 minutes away now from starting the race!! Met some familiar faces, had some laughs, but it was game time!! Got into the "zone" and blocked everything else out!! It was now or never, no pain, no cold, nothing but my shoes and the cement of Delhi!!! Starting gate opened and we were off!! The first 3km went beautifully!! My goal average per km was 4:00 (6:26 mi) in the first 10km, and didn't want to start off TOO fast and ruin my pace like I did 3 years ago in Delhi!! Finished the first 3km in 11:57, a little faster than planned but still felt strong!! The next couple of km I knew would be a piece of cake, but it was the 10km-16km points of the race that would test me!! I got half way and still feeling magical, everything was going to plan, my body was in beautiful harmony with each other, I thought I was dreaming!!! No knee pain what-so-ever, cold was non-existent, holy crap this was the perfect running feeling!!!:):):) Once I finished 17km and was almost EXACTLY on the pace I needed to be at I KNEW I had this race!! Any long distance runner knows once you get within a couple of miles of the finish it's all heart and determination from there, any training you've done goes out the window, for it is your heart and the finish line that is battling now!!! Your muscles stay quiet, brain goes into coast mode, for it's your heart that you listen to will guide you the rest of the way!! Finished 17-20km as fast as I could have hoped!! It was the last kilometer now and I KNEW MY LEGS WERE READY TO PUSH IT TO THE MAX!!! I KICKED UP MY PACE, MY ADRENALINE WAS FLYING, I WAS GOING TO DO IT!!!!! I SAW THE 500M SIGN!! I WAS WITHIN 2 MINUTES OF THE FINISH LINE!! 400M SIGN CAME AND GONE!!! 300M SIGN FLEW BY!!!! 200M SIGN (saw Shubhra and Aleksia and knew I couldn't fail now)!!!! TEARS WERE COMING OUT OF MY FACE!!! 100M TO GO!!! TURNED THE FINAL CORNER AND SAW THE FINISH LINE!!!! I FELT LIKE I WAS FLOATING TO IT AS I WAS SPRINTING MY GUTS OUT!!!! I CAME TO THE FINISH LINE.........CROSSED IT......STOPPED MY WATCH...........

1 HOUR 24 MINUTES AND 7 SECONDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):) I felt freakin ECSTATIC!!!!!!!!!! Those 7 seconds were like a cherry on top, yes it would have been nice to finish just under 1 hour 24 minutes, but right now I was so incredibly pumped to finish with this time!!!! My previous PB was 1 hour 26 minutes and 40 seconds, so this alone kicked the crap out of that time!!! I just bent over in complete exhaustion and was thinking did I really just go from nothing to a personal best in 8 months?!?! Tears were continuing and I just couldn't do anything except live in this single moment of joy!!!! I dried myself up, walked through the medal distribution, and saw a familiar face!!!!:):):):) Pritam, who was also running, was extremely pumped with his "effort" as well, can't say time at this point since his watch stopped half way through!! But we were two extremely pleased men right now!!! We had some laughs, met some other runners, than said our goodbyes!!! I walked out of JLN Stadium to meet Shubhra and Aleksia!! On the walk I was still in disbelief of what just happened and couldn't wait to tell Shubhra!!!:):):) I found her and of course Aleksia was fast asleep!! Can't blame her for waking up at 5am!!! I hugged the life out of Shubhra and we walked back to the metro, and from there back to Mussoorie!!!!!!!!!

I finally had some time these past couple of days to reflect on everything that has happened the last 8 months!!! There is no greater ability in life than to come back from failure or an injury!! It is what makes us human and great humans at that!!! To learn from our failures and eventually succeed has no better feeling!!! Yes it would be easy to give up, try something else, and move on, but what are you telling yourself?!? To never try?! To never go for it?! To never feel that over sensational feeling of accomplishment, that you actually did something hard in your life and you FEEL AMAZING!!!! There is not a day I would trade to eliminate that knee injury back in March!!! For if it wasn't for that injury I don't know if I could have ran a 1:24 like I did on Sunday!! My whole outlook on running wouldn't have changed that day for the positive!!! I am truly blessed for having these moments of adversity, and I only hope all of you at one time in your life can face such adversity and find the courage and strength to fight through!!! I know this is nothing compared to some of the adverse situations others face on a daily basis, but I can only deal with what is dealt to me!!! Find your passion in life, don't let fear over take you from accomplishing your dreams, and my God if you fail don't sulk and feel sorry for yourself, you STAND UP!! YOU LEARN FROM THAT FAILURE!! AND YOU GO OUT AND YOU DOMINATE!!!! Always try and eventually you will succeed!!!!!!!

HAPPY SMILING AND DOMINATING LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift" - Steve Prefontaine (1951-1975)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Exercise/Healthy Eating Craze at Woodstock!!!!:):):):):)

For as long as I've been here at Woodstock (my 4th year at the end of June) I have been dying to see exercise and a passion for healthy eating start to take over students!!!! AND IT HAS BEGUN!!!!!!:):):):) I AM SO PROUD RIGHT NOW OF THE STUDENTS AT WOODSTOCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:):):):):):) Well at least 50%!!!!!!! Especially the graduating seniors and juniors!!!!!!!!

The best part of this craze is the HUNGER and THIRST for knowledge!!!!  They aren't just following some crazy, online diet plan, they are actually coming to staff who are knowledgeable about proper nutrition and exercise regiments!!! I mean for goodness sakes, students are starting HEALTHY eating clubs for PASSAGE next year!!! These clubs require students teaching other students (and some staff helping) how to cook healthily and how to ENJOY it!!!!:):):)  Never would I have expected this level of dedication!!!  Well maybe a little, but not to this extent, and it is AMAZING!!!!!!!:):):):):):):)

Coming from the states and the "fried food" kingdom, it is so refreshing to see students learning how to cook with fresh NATURAL ingredients, no packages or store bought products!!! But actually combining ingredients and tasting the texture, etc.!!!!:):):) Using whole wheat flour, fresh vegetables, fruits, all of that!!!!:):):) And then to add on top of that, a regular exercise routine!!!!!:):):):):) AWESOME!!!!!!!!!

So it has been a FANTASTIC year at Woodstock from a physical standpoint!!! Now yes, we are not at every student being this dedicated, but it all has to start somewhere!! And right now it has started!!! Oh and THANKS TO A SALAD BAR to jump start the healthy eating craze!!!!!!!:):):):)

Keep up the AMAZING work Woodstock students and keep up the passion towards a lifetime of fitness and healthy eating!!!!!!:):):):):)

GOTTA LOVE IT AND HAPPY SMILING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:):):):):):):):):)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A dream come true!!!!!!!!!!!:):):):)

September 2, 2003 was the first day of school for my Senior year of high school!!!!!! And this day would forever change me!!!! For the first day of school was my first time doing the morning announcements over the loud speakers!!!!!! And let's just say I had the most fun EVER!!!!! Started off every morning with GOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING SHAKOPEE SENIOR HIGH!!!!!!!!!!! One of my teachers told me that I had a great radio voice and should look into radio sometime!!!!  I told them OH I will one day try and be on radio!!!!!  It is a dream I have!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 17th 2013 will be a day I will remember forever!!!!  It was the day I went live for radio!!!!  A month ago I e-mailed some of the ICT and AV crew staff at school asking if it was possible to do a live radio broadcast, since last year we tried the video streaming and failed horribly!!!  2 weeks before Win Mumby Mike Pesavento (which I'll get to him later) said he has found this site and it looks like it will be possible to do a live stream!!!  At that time Mulan (our 7-9th grade Spring drama) was in full force so I didn't want to overload Mike and cause him a mental breakdown so we would work with this after Mulan was over!!  Well Mulan finished and sure enough he had Spreaker, the same link on the bottom of this post, up and ready to try out!!! Only problem is we had NO games to try it out on before Win Mumby!!! So our first LIVE broadcast would be WIN MUMBY!!!!!

Wednesday night!!!!!! Woodstock Girls vs. Lawrence School, my first live broadcast and a game I would never forget!!!!!!! I was SO freakin nervous!!!  Not sure how I would sound, if I would talk to loud, fast, mumbley, etc.!!!!!!  The great thing about Spreaker is you not only get to go live BUT it gives you the option to record all of your broadcasts as well!!!! So I knew, okay let's get through tonight and I could go back and listen to them and analyze and change things if I needed to!! And man were there things to change!!!! However, first night went AWESOME!!!!!!! It was SO much fun!!!!!! The games seems a THOUSAND times faster when you try and call out every single play!!! I'll get to that part at the end!!!!!;) During the first 3 games that night we were also unsure if anyone would even listen or comment!!! But sure enough we saw listener after listener log on live, AND we even had comments!!!!!  One of the girl basketball player's moms was AWESOME over the 3 1/2 days!!! She would be the first one to comment and would comment multiple times with such inspiring and positive words!!!!!!!:):):)  So I did 3 games on Wednesday night, that was the easy part of the entire tourney looking back!!!!!!!:):):):)

Thursday!!!!!!!!! And I do mean THURSDAY!!!!!!! 7:30am Mike and I set up for a LONG day of basketball!!!!!!!!:):):) Listening the night before I talk with Mike about the things I heard, and both he and I were up until 1am listening, editing, taking notes, etc.!!!! I'll talk about Mike later as well!!:):) So 8am the first of 10 games for the day!!!  Games 1-4 in the morning and 5-10 in the afternoon/evening!!!:):) And between the morning and afternoon there was about a 2 hour break!!!! So really Mike and I were sitting on that freakin wooden bleacher from 7:30am to 9:30pm with a 2 hour break, broadcasting BASKETBALL!!!:):):) You REALLY have to enjoy what you do to do that!!! Which we did!!!!!!!!:):):):)

Friday!!!!!!!!!!! And again I do mean FRIDAY!!!!!!! Same thing, 7:30am Mike and I were there, and 9:30pm we were done!!!!!!:):):)  We had 11 games that day 5 before lunch and 6 after lunch, so break that day was only an hour or so!!!!  And this is where I could tell, okay you best start being smart about your voice, because it was fading a little bit!!!!:):) Of course though, the BIGGEST games of the tournament were that night!!! Both Woodstock teams were undefeated (2-0) at this point and Friday's games would decide if they were #1 or 2 seed in the Saturday fixtures!! So I knew it would be a full house and energy would be high!! No boring broadcasts coming up that night!!!!!!!:):):) Woodstock ladies played Modern School (future Win Mumby champs) and lost, followed by a great victory by the Woodstock boys team over Doon School!!!!!!!!:):):):) After the games my voice was in trouble!!!!:)  It wasn't gone, BUT it wasn't strong either!!! I knew Saturday was going to be 50/50 getting through it!!!!!!!

Saturday!!!!!!!!!! Again got to school at 7:30am ready to go with Mike!!!!!!:):):) Voice took a while to warm-up, but once it did it was decent!!! Not great, but not bad either!!!:):) Decided after the first 5 minutes of the first semi-final game that this was going to be a blow out so would save the voice for the next two games, which happened to be back-to-back Woodstock games!!!!! And being bias towards Woodstock, those two games were FAR more important!!!!!!!!!!!  Ladies played Welham Girls, and let's just say you need to listen to that one to see what the crap happened there!!!! The most bizaar and childish event ever by a visiting coach!!!!!  And sadly that coach was the Chief Official of the entire tournament!!!! So Woodstock unfortunately lost that game vs. Welhams!  But then Woodstock Boys played Modern School and THAT to me personally WAS the Championship game!!!! Back and forth all game, winning score was 83-79!!! Only in the last 1 1/2 minutes was the lead more than 2!!!!!!!!:):):):) And got some EXCITING comments from listeners!!!!!!:):):):)  However then we had a break after 1:30pm and that is when the voice went sour!!! And when I mean sour, I mean like NON-EXISTENT!!!!!!!! I drank some hot tea, an entire liter of water, sat down for the girls game, practiced talking a little bit and thought it might work out!!! Mike gave me the thumbs up and BAM...................... nothing was coming out except some squeaks!! Instantly I knew that the 2 Championships game would not happen!!!! I saw David (another Woodstock staff member) sitting in the far bleachers and we had talked a couple days before how he used to sit at home and commentate during basketball games to his wife!!! So I immediately stood up, tried to wave him down, mimed with my hands to get over here ASAP, and take over!!! My heart sunk!!!! The entire tournament lead up to these two games, the most important games that people want to listen to, annnnnnnnnnnnd I can't even say a simple sentence at this point!!! I wanted to struggle and try it, but didn't want to do that because the listeners would have a tough time!!! So David took over for me and I just filled out my stat sheet for him!!!! Woodstock won the Championship and all was well with Woodstock!!!!:):):):)

Now back to the things I said I would get to!!! Listening to the growth from Wednesday night to Saturday morning was so much fun!!!! From a frozen deer in the headlights with everything moving so fast on Wednesday night, to the feeling of the Matrix when they slow everything down was awesome!!!! I went from saying the visiting teams players numbers only on Wednesday to saying both numbers and names, while writing down the stats of the game!!!:):)  It got to a point I could watch a part of the game, memorize that part, replay the part via radio while writing down the stats!!! It was truly an awesome feeling!!!:):):) And during Win Mumby and my breaks I would listen to different play-by-play broadcasts and memorize their descriptive terminology and use that to paint a better picture on the court!!!:):):) Oh it was the BEST time ever and would not have changed a single moment!!! And holy crap the experience within 3 days was MIND BLOWING!!!!!!:):):):)

Now back to Mike!!!!!!!!!! I don't even know where to begin!!!! The silent hero of it all you could say!!! Even before Win Mumby started Mike was working on this and trying to get EVERYTHING ready to go so once we went "On Air" it would be perfect!! WHICH IT WAS!!!!!!!:):):):) And the fact that Mike sat with me at my side for EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF EVERY SINGLE GAME was a blessing!!!!!:):):):) Without Mike, my dream of doing this was impossible!!! I didn't even know where to start and without his equipment I could have never done it!!!!!  Also, the fact that we got so comfortable as the games went on was AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!! I still remember the first couple of games where we were both trying to communicate what was going on, how we had to quickly cut off air to fix things or pause something!! And by the end it was a simple gesture of a thumbs up, or a single finger in the air (without a single word mentioned) and Mike knew EXACTLY what that meant!!! And I could give him cues over the air and he knew what to do right at that moment!!! I would say things and now we have a 1 minute time-up and we'll be back in 45 seconds, which he knew and took that cue as play a song for 45 seconds!!! Then once the timeout would be up I would give a thumbs and I knew he knew what that meant!! He would lower the volume of the song and within 2 seconds I would be in broadcasting again!!! Like I said we were a well oiled machine!!!! And cannot wait for next year!!!!!!!!!:):):):) I would have had no one else except Mike sitting next to me!!!!:):):):)

And of course Shubhra!!!!!!!!!!:):):):) Who when I got home finally on Saturday said, watching you doing the broadcasts and interacting with the crowd like you do makes me think how much I would have regretted not marrying you if something were to go wrong before!!!!  Love is as simple as that!!! I responded by saying "............................................" :):):) Yeah I had no voice to respond!! Just kissed her!! But again without her at my side through all of this, there is no way I could have made it!! Just like when I run my marathons!! Without her, family and friends there, what is the point!!!:):) She is my rock!!!!!:):)

This was such a dream come true that the moment this entire weekend and tournament was over I just burst into tears!!!!!! It was the same feeling as finishing a marathon within my goal time it was THAT amazing!!!! Reasons for bursting into tears, exhaustion!!! Emotions ALWAYS run higher when exhausted!! The boys winning Win Mumby and coming over to me and giving me a big group hug saying thank you!!!  Seeing the girls emotionally shattered after there game hit hard as well!!! And then being so thankful for everything, Mike, the broadcast, my wife, just added as well!!!!!!:):):):)  Which again I have to say to always go after your dreams no matter how hard or easy that will be!!!!:):)

If you would like to check out the broadcasts please check out this link, I did every game except #'s 29 and 30!!!:):)

That is all for now!!!! HAPPY SMILING AND TALKING!!!!!!!!!:):):):):):):):)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

26.2 Miles of Sadness

Where to even begin with this blog.  If you have not heard already about the Boston Marathon terrorist attacks, and that's exactly what it is absolute terror, the finish line of the Boston Marathon had two back-to-back explosions (within 15 seconds of each other), killing 2 on the spot and injuring more than 130 fans.

It is no secret that the Boston Marathon has been my life's ambition for running, which is why I have taken this horrible event to heart.  To have finished so many times, and to think what the runners and fans must have been going through is unimaginable.  Why Boston?  Why running?  Just why?  What the hell has running done to any political, environmental, military topic (the usual cause for terrorist bombing)?  Why did these runners and fans today deserve to die and get injured?

It was the same reaction I had when a close friend passes and I didn't even know anyone involved this year in Boston.  It was shock for a good hour, followed by an emotional 2nd period.  Again just can't get over this and how for so long I have dreamed to run THE Boston Marathon, and to hear something like this happen is disgusting and makes me literally sick to my stomach.

My heart and prayers go out for all the families and the city of Boston with this horrific event.

From a running perspective I, and all other runners who are aiming for Boston, have NEVER been more determined now than ever to qualify and run Boston! THOSE RESPONSIBLE WILL BURN/HANG FOR THIS, BUT THEY WILL NEVER TAKE THE FIRE AND PASSION OUT OF THE RUNNING COMMUNITY!!!!!!  THIS EVENT HAS GIVEN ME EVEN MORE MOTIVATION AND PASSION TO QUALIFY IN JANUARY!!!!!!!!!!

Rest in peace those who lost runners and fans today.