Saturday, October 19, 2013

Those Last 3 Miles - Newport RI

The Fab Five Follies Fund Raiser continues.  Thanks to everyone who has donated so far.  I am touched by your support.  Donation Link for those still interested in helping Children International, The Alliance for Children's Rights and The Andrew Reisse fund at University of Maryland:

Day 2 of the back-to-back madness:
After a spot on target Hartford Marathon, my thoughts turned to attacking (or surviving) the UnitedHeatlhCare Newport Marathon in Rhode Island.  This jewel of New England is populated by huge mansions and a seaside attitude to match its miles of coastline around the various islands and peninsulas that comprise the city.

A fellow runner warms up as the sun rises on Easton Beach, Newport

Where the Hartford marathon exuded a big city start with pomp and whatnot, this smaller marathon said local from start to finish.  The expo, in a parking lot along Easton Beach also served as the start area.  Expecting a lot of vendors selling wears.  Yeah, not at this race.

Still, the day dawned on Sunday with some breezes and sun, but lots of good energy.  As I walked from my hotel to the start, I joined hundreds others.  Most were doing the half-marathon (which shared all but 50 feet with the marathon).  A delay of 15 minutes caused by late buses from the parking areas was the only blemish.  The race heads west to lap the famous residential areas of Newport.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Strolling through Hartford

All in all, a very good day for race 2 of the Fab Five Fall Follies Fund Raiser.

What promised to be a rainy one in the end became sunny and actually quite warm as the 20th Hartford Marathon kicked off my 2-day back-to-back marathon weekend.

The race starts at the Capitol building amidst pomp and circumstance.  The Governor's Protective Detail, the oldest such in the country, marched onto the steps of the library and presented the colors.  A police chief sang the national anthem.  A priest from Newtown, home of the senseless tragedy at its elementary school, intoned prayers for a safe run.  Finally, a group of dancers, oddly positioned mostly behind the half- and full marathon runner area, danced with Boston Strong shirts and a dance version of Sweet Caroline singing.  And 7 minutes late, the race finally started.

After that, it was pretty much business as usual.  The first part of the marathon weaved in and out of Hartford's downtown and Connecticut Riverfront areas.  Then around mile 11, it headed northeast into residential areas.  A U-turn at mile 17 sent us back the way we came.

Fall is in the air - but today was warm and sunny

The last few miles found the course crossing a massive bridge over the river before heading down Asylum Street (perfect for Marathon Maniacs such as myself) and a left turn back to the park through the Hartford Arch.  The finish line was a few steps further.

Finish Line - Through There!
I cruised in right at my target pace of 9 mins/mi.  3:55:57 in total.

Near the end, a fellow Maniac (for there were tons on the course, each greeting me with a hearty "Maniac!"), Jc came up to me spotting me from behind somehow.  He urged me to sprint the end with him, but I declined to not waste anything for today's Newport Marathon.  He finished a few mins ahead of me (his first under 4 hours this year - he's trying to run 52).  We chatted as we walked to get our medals, and then he dashed off to the airport to run Chicago today. I zipped to the hotel to shower and get ready for the Newport drive.

Thanks for all the donations that have come in so far!  I'll update everyone after Newport. links to the donation page.

22 States!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fab Five Fall Follies Fund Raiser 2013

Once again good people, I lace the shoes for charity.  5 years ago, I approached the New York City Marathon with my only real injury in my running career (knock on wood!).  Knowing that I could not achieve a new fast time, I decided to change the focus of my running from myself to others - the day would not be about my usual crazy collection of personal goals; it would be about kids.  And thus the annual fund raising campaign was born.

We raised $10,000 and have not looked back since.  Each year, we have raised between $10,000 and $20,000 around one or more races.  Last year was a double run around the LA Marathon and the London Marathon which allowed me to raise money for both US and UK charities.

This year is about a crazy five weeks where I am running three marathons and two half-marathons in five different states.  Add to that runs in five other states as part of my normal training. Five races.  104.8 race miles over 5 weeks.  For those wanting more details, read on.

(For those already inching to make a donation, please visit:

Hard Sell: Darth Vadar says you will donate or else. 

The three charities I am supporting this year are:

Children International
The Alliance for Children's Rights
The Andrew Reisse Memorial Scholarship at the University of Maryland

Each of these is close to my heart, and I am proud to be pounding the pavement and internet for them all.

So, why five races in five states in five weeks?  Well, actually, this is pretty much happenstance with each set of events being scheduled independently from one another.  Only upon deciding how to write this blog post did I realize the madness.  What else would you expect from a Marathon Maniac and aspiring 50 State Marathon Club Finisher?

But ultimately, this is mostly about because I can.  I run because I love it.  I run because I can get to these neat places and because I like meeting people on the course.  (One runner recently told me I had great spirit.)  I run to lead a healthy lifestyle.  I run to relax and to get pumped. I run to be unique and to be part of a community.  I run.

However, I make sure to run when others cannot.  Or when my running can help them achieve their dreams.  Or to fulfill dreams that they can no longer fulfill.  I love sharing my running, and judging by the reactions, other people still like hearing from me about them.  If we can come together and make our lives better, then maybe we can do so for others too. Running is how I do that.  I find solace and excitement and meaning in each race.

That's why I run.  And why I run for charities.

Let me tell you about the three for this year's fund raiser.

The Alliance for Children's Right is my local charity.  Focused primarily in Los Angeles, the Alliance provides legal services for parents looking to adopt children and for children in the foster system.  They set up mentors (my friend Pamela has found this rewarding for years) and help teach kids about how to get ready for life.  These Survival Saturdays are awesome groups events.  The leadership of the Alliance is amazing, and I've been fortunate to be a Friends of the Alliance Committee member for a few years.  We lead a group of dedicate Alliance supporters in various events including Dinner with Oscar with Friends.  If you are interesting in volunteering or being involved in this LA charity, please let me know.  Hit to learn more.

On the global front is the amazing Children International.  CI is a non-denominational charity based in one of my family cities, Kansas City.  We sponsor 4 children in the Philippines.  In 2011, I capped my 7 continent marathon goal by visiting the CI facility in Chile two days after the final race in that same country.  It was a very moving experience that really brought into focus what CI does on the ground in each of its regions.  I saw their medical clinic and got to speak to parents and grandparents who have kids supported by CI's donors.  The staff their was wonderful to me but more over obviously a fantastic team dedicated to helping others in their neighborhood.

For this marathon fund raising, we have designated the money to a specific cause.  This year's program is "Point. Click. Learn" - a computer training program in the Philippines providing impoverished youth with the basic computer skills to move forward in life. From the basics to software workshops, students are just a click away from success. Personally, I have been involved with computers since my uncle introduced me to them when I was 10. I turned my immediate love into my career.  I imagine the same thing happening over 8,000 miles away.  Helping others find this amazing tool and mastering it fits perfectly with my history. for more information on CI.

(And good luck to Sarah, my contact at CI who will be running a half-marathon on October 19 during my own race weekends.)

Lastly, as many of you know and have read on my blog, my new company, Oculus VR, lost one of its founders, Andrew Reisse.  With the support of his parents, I helped establish a scholarship in Andrew's honor at his alma mater, the University of Maryland.  Funds donated will help build an endowment to perpetually support students who embody Andrew's love of computers and the environment.  The Computer Science department at UM celebrates its 40th anniversary next week, so this is a double good reason to support it. to learn about Andrew and his scholarship.  I often think about Andrew when I am running. I am sure this weekend will be no different.

My fundraising page combining all three charities:

Lastly, back to running and the Fab Five Fall Follies Fund - how did I plan this ridiculous 100+ mile 5-race challenge for myself?

Point in fact, my 50 State goal ( led me to schedule the most mad part of this madness - a back-to-back marathon weekend here in New England where I am writing now.  Saturday, October 12 (tomorrow as I write) will find me running the ING Hartford Marathon.  Then, I shower and jump in the car to drive 2 hours to Newport, Rhode Island for the United HealthCare Marathon.  Two days, two races, two more states (22 and 23 if all goes well).

Trying to complete the 50 states by the time I am 50 - July 2017 - inspires a sense of efficiency, and this year the above marathons line up on the same weekend.  Two small states and one long weekend.  I've been eyeing these days for over 11 months.

About 6 months ago, my friend Lyndsey announced her plans to run her first half-marathon in Denver. (She lives in Fort Collins next to my lil sis Jen and family.)  She asked me if I would run it with her, and I of course said yes.  So, that locked in the October 20 event.

Beginning in January 2012, I have run at least one marathon per month.  As I looked at my September 2013 schedule this past summer, I saw that I could run a marathon in New Hampshire (Clarence DeMar Marathon, Keene, NH) about 2 hours from a conference I was attending at MIT.  It seemed wiser and saner given how little I am home to combine my already scheduled east coast travel with knocking off state 21 and keeping my monthly streak in tact.  I have some great photos I will post this week.

Lastly, the LA Half-Marathon is October 27, and I can join the Half Fanatics (the Half version of Marathon Maniacs) by running a third half this fall.  (Besides the upcoming Denver Half, I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon in early September.  I will publish a write up of that fun weekend soon.)  And it doesn't require a plane flight.

So, that ended creating this nutty schedule:

September 28         Keene NH Marathon
October 12 Hartford CT Marathon
October 13 Newport RI Marathon
October 20 Denver CO Half-Marathon
October 27 LA   CA Half-Marathon

And just to keep it fun, I have already run training runs in North Carolina, New York, Boston, Missouri and Kansas.

If you decide to make a donation (or 2 or 3), I hope you will follow the spirit of this Fabulous Five Fall Folly - add $5 or $50 or $500 to your total.  Or sum in the fun runs = $10/$100/$1000!!!!

Here's the link to the donation page again and thank you all in advance.

I run for me.  I run for you.  I run for those who cannot run - however they define running for themselves.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Casual Conversation Running

Amidst the constant drive to achieve my 50 state goal, sometimes the non-descript training runs provide moment of refreshing interaction.  I often write about speaking with fellow participants either on the busses to race starts or actually on the race course itself.  This chattiness is not limited to those situations, but they are usually less likely when just running the local streets and bike trails.

Today was an exception.  In fact, it was a double exception.

For the past few months, I have gotten into the habit of running with music or podcasts.  When I first started running, I did this religiously as a way to get through the miles.  Then I moved away from it entirely when I started hitting the trails so that I could hear mountain bikers and rattlers.  (Lots of the former; never actually seen the latter while running.)  I still rarely, rarely run a marathon with headphones in as I want to experience the sounds of the race.

This morning I felt I needed my 12 mile run to be a bit more natural - I wanted to be more connected to the Back Bay Trail I was running along the lagoon and nature preserve.

A duck swims along the Back Bay Nature Preserve, Newport Beach
Besides actually achieving that connection, I happened upon a training group.  I'm not sure what they are called (it wasn't one where they all wore the same shirts).  Pretty soon I was parallel with Jim and Larry who are both training for the NYC Marathon.  While the conversation was typical runner fare - where have you run?  Where are you running next?  Any injuries? - it was the natural enjoyment of the conversation that was remarkable.  Here we are running 8 min/miles and enjoying our sport and the stories about it.  I probably ran with them for about 2 miles, so that all that long overall.  They then made their turn back as I proceeded on.

I wonder if this will drop the headphones from me for a while.  I sort of suspect it will.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

In a State 19

This post began shortly after I finished my last marathon, 3 weeks ago.  Yet for some reason, my ability to actually complete and upload it remained incomplete.  Even as I prepare today to run my next, a 50k (31 mile) race here in Canada, I am still not sure of its readiness.

On June 2, I ran my first marathon in memory of someone else; I hope I do not need to make it a regular motivation.  (See my pre-race blog post about my fallen co-worker Andrew Reisse.)  Running provides a cathartic release for me, and since plans for the trip were set before the tragedy, and my usefulness in not running would have been minimal, I chose to still travel to Minneapolis for the race.  

I learned of the tragedy from our co-worker, Michael, who was also Andrew's roommate at the University of Maryland 15 years ago, who phoned with the shocking, horrible, head splitting news.  That call remains haunting.  Yes, I have lost family members (all my grandparents, a great grandmother and a series of great uncles and aunts, my "second set" of parents from growing up), but those were all at the end of long lives or illnesses.  The suddenness combine with the young age of Andrew and the potential he had to add to the world are like a riven in reality.  Just a few days ago, I was cycling for a few hours, and I could clearly hear his voice in my head.  I am even more heartbroken for his lovely parents and brother.  I could barely call Andrew a friend; we shared working at the same company, and we had found time to talk about mutual passions.  However, we had not progressed past that stage yet.  For his family, as well as my co-workers who have known him since the 90's, I can barely get my head around this tragedy.

So I run.  And I talk.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Running for Andrew

Last month, I posted my feelings about the Boston Marathon bombings as I prepared to run London.  Over the past 6 weeks, I have been writing and editing a follow up post to recount that race as well as the Colorado Marathon I ran in early May.  In fact, my plan was to post it today (Saturday) as I am on my way to run the Minneapolis Marathon - goal for state 19 and marathon 42. (Douglas Adams - I am sure you would have something funny to say about that.)

That London/Colorado summary will wait until next week, because yesterday my new work family, Oculus VR, which I joined in January, learned that one of our employees, Andrew Reisse, was tragically killed on Thursday.  You can learn the details here:

ABC News: Oculus VR Loses Founder

This story has now been picked up widely by gaming and technology news showing how our very fortunate PR for Oculus and the Rift has caused people to be heightened by any news about us, even shocking, mindless brutality that can touch anyone's life at any time.  The comments online have been wonderfully supportive of us and more importantly Andrew's family.  Our co-founders knew Andrew for 15 years (one was his college roommate at the University of Maryland).  He helped start a previous company and worked with them at a second.  Thank you to all of you who have emailed/facebooked/iMessaged me with your warm and supportive notes.

While only knowing Andrew for 5 months, I liked him immensely and enjoyed our random chats when he wandered into my office to wonder about this or that regarding the business or life.  Our general counsel said it well, "If I could convince Andrew of something, I knew the rest of the team would agree."  Andrew quietly held court with many of us.

Andrew and I shared an interest in being outside.  He loved to hike long, long distances.  He would take his camera and capture stunning images.  So, not only did his hands type out complicated graphics and code routines, but his eye would frame nature and bring it back for all to see.  You can enjoy his work at his website and learn more about his history in this post on our company blog

While I also enjoy hiking, I prefer running trails and roads rather than walking them, and after conferring with a few people at the company and with friends and family, I did not cancel this marathon trip.  Instead, as this is my way to deal with anything at all in my life, I will gain the strength I need to help our team heal.  I feel somewhat selfish that this is how I process, but that is perhaps natural.  A friend reminded me about how I carry my donation sponsors names with me when I run for charity, and wisely suggested that I do the same with Andrew's.  And so I will.

Tomorrow, I will do the thing I love, running marathons, for Andrew Reisse, 1979-2013, who will no longer hike and take pictures and code and do things he loved to do.

Andrew's first experience using the Rift virtual reality prototype, summer 2012.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

When your personal hobby becomes world news

A sunny panorama in London
The clock reads 8:44 AM, Saturday April 20, 2013.  I have just returned from a lovely walk in St James Park near Buckingham Palace, the spring flowers abloom and peaceful here in London.  The sun shines through the cool (perfect running temperature) air.  In 25 hours, I will begin a 26.2 mile point-to-point journey from Greenwich Park west to the Palace winding along the Thames and over Tower Bridge amongst other famous landmarks.  I ran this course last year, and I know my second tour will be at once familiar and entirely different.

As I approach my 40th marathon, a demarkation line has been etched in all of our consciousnesses.  That happened 5 days ago at the world shattering end of the Boston Marathon.  Like 9/11, 7/7 or, as my mom reminded me, January 28, 1986 when Challenger exploded, this journey is point-to-point as well.  Time's arrow is decidedly one directional.
Finishing the Boston Marathon in 2009
Mentally, I began writing this post even as events unfolded last Monday.  Yet, until this morning, I did not even try to start writing.  Sure, as I ran on Tuesday and Thursday this week, mentally I composed the words, trying out angles in my mind as to what to inscribe on my blog.  I knew that I had to say something.  Even if no one reads these words, I cannot let the tragic events impact on me go unwritten.  This was emphasized when my friend John sent me a note yesterday wondering if I was ok given that I had not sent out an update to my mailing list.  Perhaps, I needed to know of some sort of resolution, as happened Friday in Watertown, before I could really get my head around everything.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Easy Run in the Big Easy

Sunday found me pounding the pavement of New Orleans - the Crescent City - as I attempted state 17 of my 50 state marathon quest.  Once known as the Mardi Gras marathon (since the event occurs just after that celebration), the race now belongs to the Rock n' Roll series.  The half seemed the most popular choice, but the marathon certainly did not lack for runners.  And in less than two days, I encountered grossly inaccurate airplane employees, bizarre parental decisions, a woman from Chattanooga (not that it matters) and fractious fraternity friends.

How did I get here anyway?
Why attempt Louisiana now, at state 17, on the list?

To complete 50 marathons by the time I am 50 (July, 2017), I need to hit about 8 new states per year.  After running 20 marathons or longer in 2012, I decided to aim for "only" 12-14 in 2013.  I even decided this reduction was a good idea before taking a COO job at Oculus VR.  This was entirely a preventative measure as I happily ended 2012 injury free, and I wish to stay that way.

If you stare at the calendar of races as often as I do, you will ascertain that the majority of marathons occur between March and May and September and November.  The spring and fall provide the best weather for running, and while rain can be an issue in some areas, generally that is preferable to heat.

And, as you might imagine, smaller states generally have fewer marathons.  Simple population math.  For example, Rhode Island has just three marathons, and one requires a fast qualification time.  Larger states - California, Texas, New York or states with larger populations of runners such as Colorado and Washington - have many more races.  Hawaii also tends to a have a large number given the popularity of race vacations or "racecations" as my friend Miri calls them.

So, as I continue my assault on the roads and trails of the great United States, I need a strategy to be able to get in all fifty by my deadline.  Part of that strategy is trying to run those less race populated states when I can.  Hence, as my travel plans called for me to be in New York early Monday, I added in the extra 24 hours of travel and swung through New Orleans.

Upon arriving Saturday afternoon, I found that my luggage had not made it out of Los Angeles.  No need for panic though as I always take my race shoes, clothes and race food on the plane.  I was more bothered about waiting 30 minutes to find out there my luggage took a header than not actually having it.  The baggage agent assured me the bag was already on its way via Denver.

She said it would arrive that night.

I correctly guessed it would not since Denver had a snowstorm hitting it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Goofy or Dopey?

As you probably know, my lil' sis Jen is here with me in Orlando for the Walt DisneyWorld Marathon weekend.  This four day event features races of various lengths for all ages.  The littles ones get to "run" distances up to a mile on the ESPN Zone track, and the bigger kids can participate in the 5K (which was Friday), the half-marathon and the marathon.

All the longer events wind their way through some or all of the main amusement parks:

5K:  Epcot
Half: Epcot and the Magic Kingdom (the equivalent of Disneyland for those from the West)
Full: Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, ESPN Zone & Hollywood Studios

Fireworks Kick off the 5K!

Jen and I walked the 5K on Friday which was a lot of fun. We stopped to take a ton of pictures and generally strolled through Epcot.  We then wore our 5K shirts (you get one of those with your entry fee) and lots of people asked us about how it went.  They then inquired if we were running more this weekend.

Nearing the finish of the 5K.  Time for an Epcot photo op!

Those that sign up for the half and full are participating in Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge.  This 39.3 mile weekend includes both races, a special medal for finishing both races (as well as the normal medals for each) and 3 shirts.  The park cast members and resort staff are all very knowledgeable about the events, and marathon runners get a special pin to wear saying they are running the marathon.  This cues cast members to wish you luck on the upcoming races.

I am doing 3 races, so anything special for that?  Not officially.  But...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What inspires you? - A Guest Blog

verb \in-ˈspī(-ə)r\

Definition of INSPIRE

transitive verb
a : to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration
b : to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on <was particularly inspired by the Romanticists>
c : to spur on : impel, motivate <threats don't necessarily inspire people to work>
d : affect <seeing the old room again inspired him with nostalgia>


I am heading to Florida tomorrow to join my "Big Brother" Laird for the Walt Disney World Goofy and a Half Marathon.  As I was thinking about this trip and what it means the word "inspiring" kept coming back to me.    But I realized I didn't really know what INSPIRE meant.  When I looked up the definition what stuck with me was "B: to exert an animating, enlivening or exalting influence on"...  fitting since we are head to the 2nd Happiest Place on Earth (can't beat Disneyland).  Then "A, C and D" took hold and I realized that to inspire means many different things.  I was inspired to ask Laird if I could guest blog on his Page "Run Laird Run" and try to identify what it is that inspires you and drives you to be better than you were just moments ago.  So please join me on this journey as I chEAR on one of my greatest inspriations as he tackles a 5k, Half Marathon and Marathon over the course of 3 days.  (I'm just along for the fun).  

And please take a moment and tell us "What inspires you!"


Jen (Laird's Lil' Sister)