Pedal on Ezra. Pedal on….

EzraNS

Daniel Ezra Caldwell

1973 – 2014

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In one ear and out the other.

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According to my fantastic orthopedic surgeon, the 118th running of the Boston Marathon was not in the cards for me.  If you recall, back on February 4th I sustained an injury during a weekly Tuesday night Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC) speed workout.  It was abrupt and prevented me from running.  Walking was even uncomfortable.  I thought maybe it was a muscle pull or something that would go away quickly.  But it seemed far too painful and spread out so I called my PCP a couple days later to get some advice.  The recommendation was to visit the outpatient clinic at Mount Auburn Hospital to get some X-rays.  No problem.

Carol, my rock star wife, drove me over and after a brief visit to registration I wasn’t long before I was flat on my back getting images done on my pelvis and femur.  Everything looked good according to the doctor but I knew full well that if this was what I thought it was, well, I needed to get an MRI.  As luck would have it, my orthopedic surgeon just so happens to have an office at Mount Auburn Hospital so we made a bee line up there to make an appointment.  A few days later I was back and after some poking and prodding and bending and pushing and pulling, I was told this was probably, and I quote, “a whole lot of nothing.”  Whew.  That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.  Just to be sure, because I was running the Boston Marathon, we scheduled an MRI a couple days later. I got in right before the long holiday weekend.

I would need to wait until after the Presidents’ Day and I was anxious to get my results.  I got a call the following morning and the first words I heard were “I have some bad news.”  I think it was at this point that I stopped listening fully.  Obviously it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.  Considering he said it was probably nothing, I was optimistic.  But my gut told me otherwise.  And this phone call confirmed my suspicions.

It certainly wasn’t nothing.  It was a stress fracture in my pelvis.  In a really bad place.  And to clarify, it really was one of these things:  a really bad stress reaction or a mild stress fracture.  I focused more on the stress reaction because it just seemed less, well, bad.  And my orthopedic surgeon went into great detail as to why I was not going to run. And he didn’t say that I shouldn’t run.  He was quite adamant about stating that I was not going to run.

I think I just blanked out.  I recall hearing something about screws holding together my pelvis if I continued to run.  Something about biking was okay.  And swimming.  Something about no running for several months.  I really wasn’t paying attention because I was freaking out.  How could I continue to raise money if I wasn’t going to run?  Would people really still support me if I was going to be a couch potato for the next 3 months?  Would Ezra still support this initiative if I was sidelined?  All I could think about was how I was going to run.  Because to me, this wasn’t bad news.  In my mind it was really good bad news or really bad good news.

Either way, I was going to work through it.  I’ve been in this boat before, folks.  Early on in my blog postings I briefly describe my previous Boston Marathon experiences.  I have not had good luck by any stretch of the imagination.  In 2000 I had knee surgery just 3 months prior to the race.  In 2002, I got a stress fracture in my pelvis (pubic ramus) that prevented me from training for several weeks.  In 2007 I got a stress fracture in my knee that great affected my training.  In 2009 on my way to my fundraiser I slammed my foot into a curb at a high rate of speed.  I’ve had two surgeries since to fix the damage.  And yet I finished each and every one of these races.  Why would this year be any different?

After I hung up with my orthopedic surgeon, I hobbled around a bit on my crutches and made the decision to, well, um, stretch the truth a tad.  Come hell or high water I was going to cross the finish line on April 21st.  For the next 6 weeks I’d rest.  Take it easy.  At 4 weeks out I’d get on the Arc Trainer to keep my core up.  But rest was my primary objective.  I knew I could take it easy pretty much right up until race day.  And I’m not boasting here, but I’m the kind of person that can just get up with very little training and run 26.2 miles.   I’ve done it before and I put it in my mind I was going to do it again.  No problem.  It isn’t as easy is it was 14 years ago, and I wasn’t going to run an 8:00 minute mile, and I was resolved to that fact.

Luck just so happened to be on my side.  I felt better just a couple of weeks after the injury and was off the crutches.  I was being careful.  I slowly worked back into running.  Walking during the speed workouts and transitioning back to jogging.  I did a 10K on a Thursday night run.  Then a 16 mile long run.  All seemed to be back to normal, albeit at a much slower pace.

Unfortunately something went terribly wrong with my left knee after the long run.  I couldn’t run without great pain.  It also felt like my knee was going to buckle backwards.  I believe the lack of stretching adequately after the long run was the culprit.  I didn’t want to make another visit to my orthopedic surgeon so I made the decision to run through the pain.  And it worked.  I was slow but I was moving forward!  I picked up a knee compression sleeve and that worked like a charm.  I was back in business and ready for the long long run of 22 miles.  I somehow broke my left middle toe before that but it didn’t pose any problems whatsoever.  Always something!

It was smooth sailing through the tapering and I felt great.  Experiencing the injuries really puts thing into perspective.  I really wanted to qualify for the 2015 Boston Marathon during the run this year.  I felt I was healthy and strong enough to do this.  And that would have been great.  But it wasn’t about me.  This race was about raising funds for cancer research.  It was about sharing Ezra’s story.  About learning the stories of so many others on the DFMC team.   Was my experience lessened due to running an 11:00 minute mile versus my targeted 8:00 minute mile?  Definitely not!

So there you go.  In one ear and out the other.  Sometimes it works out.  Sometimes not.  To sum things up, my wife said it best in a fundraising e-mail that she sent to her friends:

He always maintains, however, that whatever shape he is in come Marathon day he is going to finish and just thinks of the 26.2 miles as his “day’s work.”  I am always amazed by his tenacity but I believe that his dedication to those he runs in honor of gives him the mental and emotional fuel to “get the job done.”

Well said!  So, I’m in the afterglow of the Boston Marathon and can’t believe it’s over.  It all flew by so quickly.  As I mentioned in a previous posting, the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC) Pasta Party is the night before the Boston Marathon.  The buffet opens at 3:00 so it’s more like an early early bird special.  I carbo-loaded quite a bit with not just one trip:

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but two:

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I have to admit it was really tasty!  I love dry spaghetti (really, I do)!  The meal goes until 4:00 and is followed by a speaking program that lasts a couple of hours.  It’s actually very entertaining and quite fun.  Uta Pippig always has words of wisdom to share and it’s quite motivational.  Dave McGillivray, the race director of the B.A.A., gave a speech that talked a lot about the resilience of Boston.  In 1978, he ran across the U.S. to benefit the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  What a guy!  The runners with the pediatric patient partners are also inspiring.  The highlight of the night for me was the fantastic video the DFMC put together of the entire training season and highlighted memories of the 25 years as a team.  The pasta party is also a chance to reconnect with people you might not see regularly during the season.  With about 1600 people, it’s tough to touch base with everyone and even tougher to find them!

After the pasta party we headed home and I got everything prepared for the big day:

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Once that was done, Carol painted my nails in the Boston Marathon colors:

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Both Carol and I needed to get up early on Marathon Monday.  Carol was volunteering at the DFMC Hopkinton Refuge (St. John’s Parish Hall on Church Street) and needed to be there at 4:30AM.  Yikes!  I needed to be at the DFMC Gathering Place at the Copley Marriott also at 4:30AM for the walk to the B.A.A. bus loading.  Carol was up at 2:30AM and I rolled out of bed a half hour later.  Considering Carol was driving out to Hopkinton, I needed to find a way to Boston.  Nothing runs at 4:00AM so I got a car service to get me there for the 5:15AM walk to the buses.

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I tried to sleep a little on the ride out but didn’t.  Honestly, the time at the DFMC Hopkinton Refuge was a blur.  Connecting with other runners.  Resting.  Eating.  Resting.  Walking around.  Resting.  Grabbing breakfast at the deli in Hopkinton Center.  Eating.  Deciding what shoes to wear for the race.  Bothering my wife.  Stretching.  Charging my phone.  I wanted to post more via Instagram and Facebook but the cell coverage was spotty at best (for Verizon at least).  I was at least able to write Ezra and it went through.

I didn’t take many photos at all, but did snap a few including one of Bella the therapy dog:

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I grabbed a couple of nice photos from the DFMC photographer.  Here’s one with Carol:

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Here’s some folks decorating their jerseys while announcements are being made by Jan:

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And here’s the team (or well, most of it!):

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Time flew by and it wasn’t long before we were packing up and getting ready to roll.  This was the first time runners had to go through a security check prior to entering the corrals.  It was fast and we were in Corral 9 in no time:

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I believe it was about 60 degrees at the start.  A tad warm.  I would start the race with a couple of my DFMC teammates I trained with over the past several weeks, Nicole and Rachel.  Nicole was going to run an 11:00 minute pace and that sounded perfect to me given the heat of the day.

Considering I was carrying my iPhone with me, the first time I ever carried a phone during the Boston Marathon, I wanted to snap some shots along the way.  Quite frankly, it ended up being too much of a hassle and I only got a few before I abandoned it.  There were just so many people and I wanted to take in that energy.  Plus, I didn’t want to stop to snap photos.

One note, it was in Framingham that I checked my fundraising status on my phone.  I was just shy of the Pacesetter status of $8000 at the start of the race, around $7800.  I was hoping to reach this by the Pasta Party but was quite happy to have raised such a large amount.  Around mile 5 or 6 my fundraising amount was north of the $8000 mark.  I hooted and hollered!  Both Nicole and Rachel are Pacesetters and it felt good to be in that group.  I get a pair of DFMC gloves and a patch for my singlet.  Yes, the race is over but I’m still going to apply it!  I’m quite proud of this achievement I must admit.  Anyway, it made the rest of the run that much more memorable.

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Usually the professional photos taken along the course are quite good.  I was somewhat disappointed with the MarathonFoto selections this year.  I didn’t have any of me crossing the finish line that were any good.  That being said, there were two I liked quite a bit.  First, here’s Rachel, me and Nicole as we just turned right onto Hereford Street:

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I love the energy on the shot.  Amazing we’re at about miles 26!  The other photo I like is of me on Boylston Street.  I did a little editing and like the outcome:

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Not too long after that photo, I had this in my grubby little paws:

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This was a very memorable day.  On so many levels.  I have never run an entire marathon with anybody and running with with two very special DFMC teammates was wonderful.  I have never raised so much money in my 5 previous Boston Marathons.  I have never seen so many people spectating over the entire length of the course.  I have never kissed so many Wellesley College women (hey, I was running at a slower pace so I figured why the hell not!).  There were so many creative signs.  And it had all of the traditional things I enjoyed in years past like the Rocky Theme, live music and the Wellesley College scream tunnel.  And it was a very memorable and historic event because of the horrific events that unfolded at last year’s race.

Anyway, a quick view of the entire collection of my finishing medals and bib numbers:

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Okay, now it’s time for some big love and thanks.

First, thanks and big love to all my donors.  I can’t thank you all enough.  137 donations came in from all over.  $8470.  I am truly blessed to have received so much.  And it went beyond the donations.  I got to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.  I got to hear stories from cancer survivors and those who lost loved one to cancer.  I’m so glad that I went out on top for my last Boston Marathon (seriously, I mean it this time).  I hope that the money we all raised will certainly teach cancer to cry.

Thanks to Jan Ross and the entire DFMC organization for selecting me to be part of the 2014 DFMC.  This is my 4th time with the DFMC and by far my most memorable experience.  The DFMC is an incredibly well run organization that provides an enormous amount of support to its runners.  Jan runs a tight ship, I tell you!  Our DFMC coach Jack Fultz is also fantastic and valuable resource (and all-around good guy) for the team.  He’s with the runners every step of the way during the training.  Both as a coach and friend.

Of course, big love and thanks to Ezra.  I’m so happy he agreed to be a part of this.   A vast majority of you are reading this because of Ezra and I can’t thank him enough for his assistance.  As I’ve mentioned before, his input has been invaluable.  Ezra put the word out as well as consulted with me on so many levels through the entire process.  He also opened up his heart to me and I truly treasured that.  My success on the fundraising front (nearly $8500) is due in large part to Ezra.  I have met so many wonderful people because of him. Donations came in from so many different folks.  His friends.  My friends.  Relatives.  Cancer survivors.  Perfect strangers.  Cyclists.  High school and college friends I haven’t seen in 25 – 30 years.  Ezra brought together quite a diverse set of donors for the 2014 DFMC Boston Marathon.  I hope he can feel all the love and energy that came from all of you who care so very much about someone that you may have never met.  Runners on the DFMC often describe that they’re running because of someone they’ve lost to cancer.  In my case, it was because of someone I found.

And most importantly, thanks to my wife Carol (my favorite wedding photo if us in 2010:

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I really couldn’t have done this without her encouragement and support.  From the very first time I mentioned running while we cheered on the runners at the 2013 Boston Marathon all the way to her going all over creation the day of the marathon, Carol has been by my side throughout the entire journey.  She puts up with me, and let me tell you folks, it’s not easy.  Seriously.  Preparing for the 2014 Boston Marathon was all consuming for me for more than 4 months and she didn’t mind whatsoever.  There is a some sacrifice a spouse will have to endure during the training and this was no different for Carol.  For example, there was a team long run every weekend, and each one is so crucial to the overall training regimen, so weekends away weren’t really in the cards.  We had the best winter in years and I was happy Carol didn’t mind staying local.  We were able to head to Vermont for a friend’s birthday on a DFMC off weekend, though we were only there less than 24 hours because I needed to get back home to run a solo 16 miles.  There were no complaints about this from Carol.

I was also training with the team a couple of nights a week and we often didn’t see each other until very late.  And sometimes my mind so frazzled with all of the craziness surrounding the Boston Marathon that I’d neglect some of my household/husband duties.  Like preparing dinner or finding a fun activity for our weekly date night.  And there were date nights I was just too tired to plan anything and that was okay.   And as I mentioned earlier, Carol was actually a part of the 2014 Boston Marathon as a volunteer out at the DFMC Hopkinton Refuge.  This meant so much to me that she not only wanted support me, but also wanted to join in on the fun.  She has also opened her heart to my newly found DFMC friends and is happy to tag along with me to DFMC events and parties.

It was a particularly difficult winter for me this year with what I was told was a marathon-ending injury.  Carol is often the voice of reason.  She prompted me to call my primary care physician (PCP) to actually find out what was wrong.  I am the worst about going to see my PCP and sometimes I need a nudge to set me straight.  She drove me over and was reassuring and comforting in the waiting room.  I was on crutches for a couple of weeks and she waited on me hand and foot.  Did all of the chores I normally do.  And she sent the most wonderful DFMC fundraising e-mail to her friends.  I should have hired her to write all of mine as hers was so eloquent, insightful and heartfelt.  I hope someday Carol will run the Boston Marathon with the DFMC because I’d love to provide her the kind of support she gave me during the past several months.  She’d definitely breeze right through the 26.2 miles with all the big love!

Oh, and a special little note about our wonderful little pooch Durga who was the best dog ever through my training!

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That’s it for now.  I’ll write a couple more posts.  I have the Pacesetter dinner of which I’m excited.  And of course I’m still planning on joining Ezra for lunch….

If you’d like to donate, select the wicked laaaahge DONATE! link at the top of the page to navigate to my DFMC 2014 Fundraising Page.  That’s right you can still donate up until May 25th!