Race Day Plan and Inspiration

I am running solo this morning.
This race came together quickly. After getting a $50.00 discount from the Rock and Roll Marathon Group for the Arizona race, I managed to stumble upon a cheap airfare. I found a decent rate on a Tempe hotel and after a quick check at the Cincinnati extended weather forecast (Brrrrr…) , I booked everything – less than two weeks ago. Did I mention I really like spontaneity? So all this has come about quickly – many friends may not know I am even racing this weekend…

But I have a plan. And I have inspiration. From those, I will draw strength.

The plan comes from Heather Lueke, one of my best training partners and friends. She helped me with a strategy for running the St Louis Marathon that worked perfectly. I think for now we will call it Heather’s “Five Mile Marathon Method”. (ok, that name may not be so great, so I will remain open other other ideas….). She wrote it out on a menu from Behle Street Cafe, Covington KY during dinner a few weeks before the race.
She proposed breaking down the marathon into five mile segments or “races”. Each “race” has a specific time target to be based on a minutes/mile pace. We made sure the first two segments – start to 5 and 5-10 “races – were slow. .. almost uncomfortably so. One of the most common mistakes in running a marathon is going out too fast in a race. You pay for that mightily at mile 23. The plan results in a negative split , where you run the last 13.1 miles faster than the first 13.1. Mentally, it allows you to pass lots of “those people” in the last five miles or so who when out too fast. If you are too fast of too slow at each five mile marker, you can adjust, but the key is to nail each one. I put it to use in the St Louis Marathon and ran a “modern day” personal record (PR) of 3:35:40.
Below is the original back of a menu she used to write out the plan. You will see 3:35 projected finish on the bottom right. 🙂 I didn’t have a calculator so went “old school” with math on the front of the menu. I am contemplating putting all this into a spreadsheet, securing a copyright on a better name, launching it in a book and making my first million… (don’t tell Heather)!

The inspiration came from Lisa Zangara, who I met only through Facebook when Mary Kallio Brady (fellow Smucker’s employee and Rockstar in her own regard), chose to share a blog post about Parker. Lisa “connected” with Parker and his story. She had lost her father to Leukemia. She shared that she always dedicated her races to her father. I decided to do the same. Starting with the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot and four marathons after that, each was run with Parker and a few others in my mind the entire time. (More on Lisa and how I “ran” with the idea in blog post: The Power of One and the Power of Many).

Skip Svetanics, another friend I only met through this process, ran the St. Louis Marathon and dedicated each mile to someone special in his life. He has an amazing story and had provided me with inspiration by sharing his mother’s battle with Leukemia. He has drawn some compelling similarities of his mother, JoAnn, 74 and with that of Parker as they take on Leukemia together. Through them, it’s apparent Leukemia does not discriminate. See Skip’s story and his own 52.4 mile race here. Did he finish his? Chick here to find out!

So for Phoenix I will combine ideas from Heather, Lisa and Skip – I will dedicate each of the five 5 mile segments that make up the marathon to two-three people. Here is where my mind and heart will be during my four hour race Sunday morning:

Miles Start to 5
Lisa Zangara runs for her dad, Luciano. As noted above, She runs to keep him and their relationship with her. As a result I will likely never run the same again. I think its appropriate that I will run for Lisa and her dad, Luciano and in my mind and heart to start the race. I will also be running for Parker. This entire project started with him in October. Its gone from “52.4 in 48” to The Flat Parker Project. He is also starting his most difficult year of chemo treatments. So equally fitting, I will be running for Parker in the in the first five miles of Phoenix.

Miles 5-10

After Parker, the first person I dedicated my runs and races to was Skip’s mother JoAnn. She is facing her diagnosis of myeloproliferative disease (an early form of Leukemia) at 74 with the same fight and determination as Parker is at five. Matt Michel, is a hero to everyone who knew him. His sister, Beth Michel Cirami continues to champion his passions through motorcycle fundraisers since he passed just over two years ago.

Miles 10-15.
Most of the people I will be running for tomorrow have been impacted by Leukemia, but

Lane McKinney and daughter

not all. Skip asked that I keep Lane McKinney in my thoughts. He has a wife, Penny and 3 yr old daughter, Alayna. He is an Army Ranger and Green Beret. Went to Afghanistan for about 5-6 deployments before he was forced to return home due to unexplained seizures. He had a brain tumor. After undergoing brain surgery to remove some of the tumor, he has completed ten of twelve chemo treatments. My thoughts, prayers and gratitude for what he has done to serve our country are on my mind now and will be during miles 10-15 tomorrow.

Two other people I know lost close loved ones this week. Barb Hartman, is an  amazing person who I have known for over 10 years while at P&G. She was always an informal mentor and avid supporter of me (and many others). I have always loved that about her. This week she lost her brother Michael Lee Steinber, 54. She and her family are headed to his funeral today.
I have only met Jen Wright once while at church last Sunday. She moved in with a friend, Caroline Keating to do PT work at U of Cincinnati for a few months. Caroline called and said that Jen’s father, suddenly passed away last night. Thankfully Jen had flown down and was able to spend some time with him before he passed. My thoughts and prayers are with Barb, Jen and their families.

My Uncle Bill
Niki Gordon

Miles 15-20
This is the point of he race where I will need to just relax, remain calm and be positive. My Uncle Bill Holmes and neighbor Larry Gard will help insure I do just that. They battled their leukemia-related diseases with grace and courage. I am amazed by how much they had in common. Both men had this amazing quiet, calm strength about them. And they both had smiles that would light a room up. Neither knew what a stranger was – someone they didn’t know as more of a potential “friend to be”. They attracted people to them. My family and the Gards take solace to have had such good men like Bill and Larry in our lives.

Miles 20-25
This five mile “race” will be dedicated to my fighters!!! Lauren Marsh is a friend who lives in Cincinnati. I distinctly remember her telling me of some close family friends; two incredible sisters and an amazing family. The girls, both in their 20s, were diagnosed with Leukemia. Niki Gordon is 27 and her younger sister, Carrie, 23 years old, was just cleared to start student teaching. This week a student raised his had and asked,” Miss Carrie, Why do you have boy hair?”. Having not yet shared the news of her cancer with

Carrie Vittetoe

the young students, she just told them that her hair used to be really, really long and last year she just decided to cut it alllll off, but now she is letting it all start to grow back and they will see it get longer every day.  Such an innocent question and such wonderful response.

The pictures are from the day Niki and Carrie graduated from their chemo/radiation! As Lauren said, “Faith, family and friends are getting them through this difficult time.”

Tiffany Gossett

Tiffany Gossett is a young mother from my hometown and also battling leukemia. She celebrated an early Christmas gift on Dec 7 with a negative PET Test (cancer screening)!!! By far, the best present anyone could wish for.





For those counting there is an additional 1.2 miles left after mile 25. This will be all Parker! Enough said!Tonight I had coffee with Marita Sallee and Craig Agneberg, another set of “friends” only through Facebook introduced to me by my friend, Dan O’Keeffe. It was fun to meet in person. They are one of the most amazing couples I know and the conversation flowed like we had known each other for years. As we talked about my race and dedicating miles for friends impacted by leukemia, Craig paused and shared that he lost his father to leukemia. I just couldn’t believe it … this awful disease touches so many people! It goes without saying Craig and his father will be in my thoughts tomorrow!

These are just a few of the people I have met and been inspired by through this process.
Hopefully sharing stories and running for others brings us all a bit closer together. Clearly none of us are facing our struggles and challenges alone. We are all in this big race together!!

…including the Rock and Roll Marathon this morning. I may be running solo, but will hardly be alone!

So thank you to everyone for the support and My Heroes for allowing me to run with and for them tomorrow am! I will FINISH STRONG!