Saturday, September 5, 2015

Six Month Run, Run, Run

For those who have graciously followed my exploits these past 9 years from barely reaching the end of my block to running all over the world, you will in no way find my six month schedule unusual.  In fact, you might indeed declaim, as my running pal Lyndsey did today, “the old Laird is back.”

After a quiet 2014 that started with a medical issue sidelining marathoning for 6 months (in between which I helped sell our company), the end of 2014 saw my running totals increase.  I entered 2015 with a goal to regain, if not entirely, then in spirit, my 2012 form when I completed 20 marathons (or longer) events culminating in the JFK 50 mile race.  With one 50 mile event complete, the urge to try that again or to even think of a longer distance does not drive me onwards.  Instead, the 50 state quest - approaching state 34 on Labor Day - dominates my planning.  Just 22 and 1 week months separate today from my big 5-0 birthday.  With 17 states to complete by that day, I need to average about 1.5 races every 2 months.  While daunting, I had a streak of 25 months from January 2012 through January 2014 with at least 1 marathon completed (35 total).  I know the 17 are doable, and the challenges become more of scheduling because I need those 17 marathons in 17 specific states.

Finishing up the ABW Summer Splendor
To chase this goal, I’ve scheduled a big push over the next 6 months:

7 marathons (MO, NE, OR, WV, TN, MS, AL)
7 half-marathons (CAx5, CO, FL)
3 10ks (CAx2, FL)
3 5ks (CAx2, FL)

And I’ll add some sort of race in on Thanksgiving since I try to race that date every year.

I started 2 weeks ago with a run in Santa Monica organized by a local group, A Better World Running.  Their Summer Splendor Half-Marathon was a great kick off with a flat easy triple loop course along Santa Monica Beach’s bike path.  A quick sub 1:43 finish added to the enjoyment.

During this push, in January 2016, I will attempt my third ever double marathon weekend with a race in Mississippi on Saturday and then a two hour drive into Alabama to pound out 52.4 total miles in about 30 hours.

Preparing for that race weekend inspired this Labor Day quad race bonanza. Starting in Anaheim, for the third year in a row I am running the Disneyland races.  Friday was the 5K which I finished in 22 minutes.  Today, Saturday, was the 10K in just under 48 minutes (which when looked up my past results is on the longer side for me).  Sunday brings the half-marathon through the parks and then to Angels Stadium and back.  While that’s all relatively Goofy, the true Dopey-ness continues as I fly to Missouri to run the Heart of America Marathon for my 34th state.  Heck, Walt Disney was from Missouri, so this combination makes some sense in my mind.  More likely, I am just as crazy as a Mad Hatter.

In any case, this weekend totals 48.4 miles, so good training on the distance and legs for the pinnacle challenge down south.

Stay tuned for more updates and photos.  Thanks as always for your support.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Jolly Good! London's Canal Journey

The goddess Nike, drawn on by a quadriga, caps the Wellington Arch near the entrance to Hyde Park. Could a better place exist in greater London to start a 20 mile early sunny Sunday run?  I did not think so, and thus started a 3 and ½ hour run past monuments and buildings, along the Thames and then into a 13 km canal that I did not know existed until twenty four hours previously.  Join me on a photo journey of this awesome mid-summer saunter.

Aligned on an east-west axis, the Hyde, Green and St James parks form a greenway to the River Thames include some spectacular sites.  Whenever I journey to London, I run some combination of this triple parkland.  Numerous paths at various angles allow for any amount of variety in running routes from a mile to probably more than 20 miles.  My goal today was further afield though - I wanted some truly new territory under my feet.  I found that and more.

Just across the circle from Wellington’s Arch, and my next highlight of the run stands Memorial Gates.  Compared to the 150+ years of Wellington’s tribute, this memorial to the territorial armed forces of the British Empire who fought in the World Wars opened in 2002.  Maybe the planes in the sky are coming from one of the listed places: Africa, the Caribbean and the five regions of the Indian subcontinent (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka).  The memorial sits at the western end of Constitutional Hill.

Less than a mile further comes Buckingham Palace.  The flag, limp in the windless morning,  indicated Queen Elizabeth II was in residence.  (Though apparently not out for a Sunday jog.) 

Friday, August 7, 2015

2015 Charity Update 6 - Final Tally and Further Thoughts

I had a nearly perfect birthday.

While the calendar shows about four weeks elapsed since my last marathon and your tremendous support of my charities and my running, those good feelings continue.  The momentum of my birthday run carried through the entire week that followed both professionally (closing an acquisition) and personally (my sister delivering a healthy amazing baby girl).

When I last posted, we were sitting at just over $23,000 in donations.  I wistfully wondered if we could possibly push over $24,000.  When doubled, this would equate to $48,000 - One cool grand for each of my forty-eight solar cycles.  Instead, you came through with big and small gifts to take us clear past $26K!  That’s a thousand per marathon mile!  And doubled is an ultra marathon amount of $52,000!   Thank you all so very much!

And in parallel, I continue to hear from people about how thankful they are to me for this campaign.  I am touched by the sentiment when I hear others say (as one of my coworkers did recently), “I figured I could work-out if Laird finds time for all those marathons.”  I was furthered honored this past week when Dr. Paul Turek, with whom I often fly to and from LA, produced a wonderful summary of this blog for his own website:

One reason I like running races is that this effect is amplified.  The group self selects - one does not attempt a race if not actually interested in running.  Of course, it might happen, but rarely, especially at longer distances.  When staying at the Waitsfiled Inn, the host hotel for the Mad Marathon, the breakfast room was populated almost entirely by fellow runners.  So, comparison conversations popped up immediately - what’s your favorite or best time or next race?  And sometimes the topics stray to a deeper enquiry - why did you start running?  Why do you keep running?  The answers vary and sometimes are surprising.
Below the Bay Bridge before the SF Run

I met a professor from Iowa who, besides completing the 50 state marathon quest with his wife (Vermont was 38 for them both), he was also completing at least 100 kilometers of cycling in all 50 states too. There is a whole community of people who do this and host each other on official routes in all of the states. After Vermont, he was hitting New Hampshire and Maine in the following days.
Andre & Marina from Brazil

At a different spectrum, I have recently been pinged by someone who started running in his 60’s to raise money for research into a disease ailing his brother.  Now about to turn 80, Bob will be celebrating by competing in his first triathlon.

When I ran the San Francisco half marathon a few weeks ago, I met a couple from Brazil.  Andre and Marina wore identical outfits other than their shoes, and I asked them about this fashion choice.  Recently engaged, the couple were traveling the coast of California and attending two different weddings of friends.  They asked me if I knew a good late march marathon as they had just become engaged themselves and wanted to run one together on their honeymoon following their March 19 nuptials.

Liz smashes her first marathon
In the same race, I ran 3 miles with Liz.  Liz was doing the full marathon, so we said goodbye at mile 12 as the course split between the half finish and the full continuation.  Liz was actually one of those accidental marathoners.  She signed up only after her neighbor told her about the race.  Originally from Washington but now living in SF, she decided to try it for the challenge.  Her friend became injured and did not compete, but Liz continued. She planned to do more marathons if she enjoyed the experience.  Her speedy 3:33 finishing time - even for her young 29 years - certainly suggests her impressive first finish is nor her last.

My co-workers Raul and Kit also ran in races at SF - Raul did the full marathon and Kit finished his first 5K.  While we did not get to meet during the runs, we texted back and forth before and after.  Knowing we were out there cheering for each other gave a further sense of community, and a series of high fives the next day in the office.
Raul nears the finish. Love that shirt!

Meanwhile, I continue to run.  I have 7 marathons planned over 4 months.  I have at least two half marathons too.  I am posting this from Germany where I am working this week, and have already logged 28 miles near the Rhine river.  Today I did 13 and hope to run 20 on Sunday in London.  Each run is special and rewarding.  I wave at the fellow joggers and cyclists.  Most wave back or nod.

My last thought as I close out this sequence of posts is to address the shy way people tell me they exercise.  For some reason, people feel compelled to apologize for "only" running 1 mile or 3 or 5.  I always encourage any amount of running or walking or just getting off the couch.  Whatever you do to be active - enjoy it.  Do it.  Reward yourself.  Whether you mow the lawn, do the laundry or run a marathon - or all three - that’s great.  We can inspire each other with our passions and our accomplishments.

For now, another day, another run. Perfect.

Sunrise in Cologne

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Thank you times 3 or 33 or 48 or $23,000

Running a marathon requires training and dedication.  Child’s play in comparison to fund raising.

We’ve proven success at both.  Together, we’ve raised over $23,000 for The Andrew Reisse Fund, Children International and The Alliance for Children’s Rights.  Plus a lot of new people learned about their missions.  And this is before our match.

I am beyond thankful for the support you have shown me and these wonderful organizations.  My birthday presents this year were seeing all the donations and to receive amazing thank you notes about my work here.  People gave money and thanked me for the opportunity; how awesome is that?

I am not alone in my appreciation.  Each of the charities has sent along a thank you note:

From Margy Feldman, Director of Development at The Alliance for Children’s Rights

Dear Generous Supporters, 
Thank you so much for your contribution to The Alliance for Children’s Rights. Your gift in honor of Laird will enable us to bring stability to the children and families that we serve. Your generosity will ensure that many more children continue to get access to timely medical care, an equitable education and the support they need to finally have a permanent home. For children who spend every day in poverty, abuse and neglect, these basic rights often go unmet. You help us achieve these goals and allow more children to lead more safe and stable lives.
On behalf of the children whose lives are made better because of your support, we thank you. 

And from Sarah Schubert, Children International
Nearly 30% of India's 1.2 billion people are families living in poverty.  They suffer from unsanitary conditions, substandard housing, inadequate health care, nutritional deficiencies and limited educational opportunities. Thank you for supporting Laird's audacious 50 state marathon goal so that in turn Children International can reduce the daily burdens for 5,000 children living in the Shahabad Dairy community in Delhi, India.  Through your support and the kindness of others, we look forward to investing in these children's potential and provide them with opportunities to grow up healthy, educated, empowered and employable to break the cycle of poverty. 
Thank YOU! 
Sarah Shubert

And BK Adams at Maryland
To everyone who donated to the Andrew Reisse Memorial Scholarship Fund, the Computer Science Department at the University of Maryland sends you our deepest gratitude.  Your donation will help to educate the next generation of Computer Science students, who will go on to create exciting software that impacts all of our lives. Through your generosity, Andrew Reisse's legacy of creativity, mentorship, and ingenuity will continue on.

UMD Computer Science Shirt and my medal
If you wish to learn more about these charities and to continue your support in other ways, please contact them; I am happy to provide their email addresses.  They are run by amazing people doing incredible work.

I feel like I celebrated my birthday for over two weeks since you all kicked off the donations responding to my appeal.  It is time to wrap up birthday 48.  Still lots of marathons to run - 17 before I am 50.  Back to training!

I’ll be keeping the blog updated too and posting on Facebook.

And if you are ever interested in a run or have a charity you support, let me know.



Bye until the next run...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad. Mad Marathon and that's just fine

It's just really green here!
I mean really green!

Sunday dawned brightly upon verdant Vermont and Waitsfield, the home of the 5th annual Mad Marathon.  Started by Dori Ingalls in 2011, the marathon supports a few local charities including Hannahs House which helps mentally ill people in need.  Not knowing this before, I was happy to learn why so many people were wearing running shirts emblazoned with that logo. (Around mile 22, I finally asked.)

If you have had a chance to read the proceeding blogs, then you are likely bored of hearing about this race!  So, the short story is this:

  • It's beautiful here!
  • The race went great!
  • I ran with a fellow Marathon Manica, Jc, for about 22 miles of it which was fun.
  • The charity update is that we are $30 short of $23,000.  I would love to hit that and then $24,000 if at all possible.  With our 100% match, that would be $48,000 = $1000 for my 48th birthday today.
  • It’s beautiful here!

Still with me? Then let’s get into some details.

Strangely, I did not sleep well before the race.  Normally I do, but it’s hot here and I think that had something to do with the tossing and turning.  When you wake at 2, 3 and 4 and don’t need to be conscious until 5, doubts start to settle in.  The race schedule stated 7 am for the gun to fire, and I like 2 hours ahead. This is not about preparation time - I can get ready in 15 mins for a marathon.  I just prefer the body to do its thing if you catch my meaning before I run.
A gathering of Maniacs

So, all, em, ready at 6:35 am, I heading across the street to the starting location.  I made it just in time to jump into the obligatory Marathon Maniacs photo shoot (which in looking on Facebook, I see I am just off frame - oh well).  Anyway, due to re-construction of an 1833 bridge on the course, we will be starting two waves.  Those 3 hours and less go first and those of us over that run 1 min later.

Race Director Dori fires the gun for wave 2, and I’m off.  This is a hilly marathon. It features 1950 total feet of elevation gain.  What I quickly discover is that there are really no flat bits.  There’s lots of ups and lots of downs.  Most everyone walks the super steep parts.  No shame in that.
I caught the gun going off perfectly! Would my race go as well?
The first covered bridge, circa 1833

Somewhere on the first down, my buddy Jc taps me on the shoulder.  We’ve run parts of races in Fargo, Niagara Falls, and one other place neither of us could remember.  We were also both at the Route 66 Marathon together too but never saw one another.
Jc (right) takes a drink before heading through another covered bridge

Running backwards (show off!) to pose for Jc's photo of me
Jc knows everyone.  I mean everyone.  The route features a series of out and backs, and as we were returning, he just kept calling out names of people going the other way and introducing me to them.  Small races like this are just great for that.  There is really a community feel; it’s low key.  In fact, I am finding Vermont to be very relaxed overall, but this small race feeling is pretty universal.  Dori greeted us upon our finish and took pictures with us.
Laird, Dori and Jc

The scenery is why you come to run this race, and it does not disappoint.  From tall trees to distant mountains, the race really featured a lot of this central Mad River Valley.  Because I am crazy, I took a bunch of photos.  Jc patiently walked while I did this, and he even snapped the one of my on the course running backwards so I could pose.

A bit on Jc’s resume.  Today was his 199th marathon.  He will hit 200 next week in Colorado. His wife was running her 6th today, and his daughter, sister and brother-in-law were running too.  Two other daughters greeted us around mile 24.  So, it was a family shindig for him.  He finished his 50 states 2 years ago a week after his 50th birthday. I cannot recall if he has done the continents yet, but he did give me a good recommendation for the Philippines where he is originally from.  But let it be known there are people crazier than I with my party 140 less marathons than he has.

It was more uphill than this looks
Fortunately, the worst of the course happens from mile 6 to about 18 leaving the last 6 miles or so pretty all downhill other than one big dip and a small uphill to the finish.  We both came in sub-4:15 which considering the terrain was quite good.  We finished 68 and 69 of about 300.  Not bad for two old men who promptly dropped our hot and tired feet into one of two inflatable ice pools kindly provided by Dori and team.

This was my first birthday marathon, and it was great.  I was well prepared, ran with a friend and met a bunch of new ones.  I’ve completed all of the New England states and 33 of them all.  And all of your contributions have been amazing.  My goddaughter called me a little bit ago.
Ahh, felt soooo goooood

Thanks for making birthday 48 super special.

On to state 34 and marathon 60!



33 States and counting...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

2015 Charity Update 5 - On the way to Vermont

Shrek & me before marathon and state number 1 - LA Marathon 2007

Dear friends and family - 

Well, I’m heading east.  If GoGo inflight internet works out, I’ll post this from 35,000 feet. (It worked!)
Over Wyoming's hills on the flight

Great news in that we passed $21,000 today in donations. I cannot thank you enough nor can the charities.  More over, so many of you have shared kind words about this campaign that I am overjoyed. The feelings and charity gifts both are amazing birthday presents.

Over the past few days, I’ve endeavored to share with you some information about the charities in our campaign and how in some small way I have been personally connected to them.  You can find those blog posts here, here and here.

Now attention turns to the run itself.  The marathon as I have written is quite hilly (not as hilly as Wyoming which we fly over a few hours ago).  When asked recently how do I train for that, I of course answered that I train by running hills!  Fortunately I like doing so.  I'll experience about 2,000 feet of elevation gain. And loss - down is sometimes harder on the legs than up.  Your support will certainly keep the spring in my step as I go up and our charities do as well.

July 14, 2013 - State 20 - Montana
As part of this goofy quest to hit all 50 states before I turn 50 (2 years to go), scheduling becomes a challenge.  And finding summer marathons in new states is not all that easy in any case although I have managed to find them.  The closest I’ve come to running a marathon on my actual birthday was in Montana two years ago (Sunday, July 14).  I just stumbled across this weekend’s marathon almost by accident.  (I have run on my birthday every year since 2007 though and did do a 5K once.)

The race itself is not all that large - I think a few hundred competitors as 282 finished last year's.  In fact, the run has few enough participants that the race director, Dori, emailed me personally after I signed up. This is the fifth year of the race, and having a personal touch is amazing.  She even gave me her cell phone!  And she kindly offered to give me whatever bib number I wanted.  I selected 12 (the other option were 33 and 48 I guess).  I look forward to meeting Dori and her team this weekend.  There is actually a whole series of events from a concert Friday night to lots of places hosting dinners on Saturday.  And there is a farmer’s market they recommend on Saturday too.

As for training, a lot of people ask me about tapering - the reduction of running before a race.  I do in fact do this to some extent, although since I run a marathon every 4-6 weeks, I am sort of always training for them.  So, I go up and down in more of a sine wave than a square wave.  This week has been just 5 miles Tuesday and I’ll do 5-7 miles tomorrow.  Post run, I’ll run again on Wednesday - probably an easy 5.  Now, some people just think those are nutty distances.  I tell everyone that any run is amazing even to the end of the block. Or just walk.  The key is to get out and be active.

Running for Andrew Reisse June 2013
The other question I get a lot is about food - do I carbo load?  That I do not do.  In fact, I try to eat a grain-free diet. So, no pasta for me.  I do love to eat fish before a race - got to get in those fatty acids!  Being back east, I am hoping some good fish options appear on the menus.  I try to really keep to the same diet as normal even when traveling. I've been known to find the closest Whole Foods, and it's even better when I can find a real co-op with local foods.

Once again, thank you for the donations. If you haven’t donated yet and wish to, here’s the link again.

More news from the weekend as it happens.



Monday, July 6, 2015

2015 Charity Update 4 - The Alliance for Children's Rights

Just 6 days to go until the Mad River marathon in Vermont.  I’ll run Tuesday in Palo Alto and then Friday in New York City, and neither run will be long.  I’ll do strength training on Wednesday and maybe get an early morning bike ride Thursday before I fly east.  Saturday, I’ll rest.  It's all about planning.

More about this blog article series: 2015 Charity Run Campaign
Please donate by clicking here.  We are matching all donations 1:1.  So even $33 yields $66.

On the donation front, we passed $19,000 today which continues to be amazing.


This third update will give you a little background on The Alliance for Children’s Rights.

The Alliance is a Los Angeles charity focusing on supporting and helping children in the foster system.  They provide free legal services (usually by practicing attorneys who give their time pro bono), help families adopt children and mentor and train children and teens.

Here’s how they introduce themselves:

“The Alliance for Children’s Rights protects the rights of impoverished, abused and neglected children and foster youth throughout Los Angeles County. We provide free legal services and advocacy to ensure that children and youth—from birth to age 24—have safe, stable homes, healthcare and the education they need to thrive. We also work statewide to improve child welfare practices and policies in order to remove the many barriers our clients face.

“Whether it’s finalizing a foster child’s adoption, getting a toddler speech therapy or helping a young adult find housing and support services, we level the playing field and give vulnerable kids a voice.”

The Alliance Score on Charity Navigator
We found the Alliance through charity navigator, a great resource for evaluating the quality of non-profit organizations and how well they direct funds to their goals.  The Alliance is a top rated 4 star organization, and 93% of funds raised go to their programs.  We were contacted by the team after our donation, and I got involved not only as a donor but as an active member of the community.

Dinner with Friends Host Committee
In the past 5 years, I have co-chaired two LA Marathon fundraising campaigns for the Alliance, served on the Friends of the Alliance committee and helped host a fundraising dinner.  I also had a chance to volunteer at a teen workshop where the kids learned everything from car maintenance to healthy cooking.

Particularly from this last event, I was able to really meet and speak to some of the people the Alliance helps every day.  Only when you speak to these amazing youths do you really feel their dreams and passions and fears.  They are friendly and polite, but they also open up and are honest about what life will bring.  Maybe this is because most of them have seen sorrow and felt pain - growing up without their parents, often separated from siblings, low on money.  The story is not the same for all of them, and the slope is slippery to stereotypes. However, what I also heard was hope - hope they can create their own destinies.  I think the Alliance’s clear mission is to inspire that sense.

The Alliance is also active in state politics having championed various legislature changes to help foster kids.  As an example, they worked to allow fosters to go to age 21 instead of 18.

They believe in education and health care and work to expedite these services for kids in the programs they run.  Since their founding in 1992, they have helped over 125,000 youths.

As you hopefully understand, the Alliance is a great organization.

Thank you for your support!