Book Review – Stronger by Jeff Bauman

indexYesterday, I read Stronger, the book by Jeff Bauman about his experience during and following the 2013 Boston Marathon.  You may not recognize his name, but you would definitely recognize the photo of him from last year.  He was the man in the wheelchair missing his legs.  That photo was splashed everywhere, and in this book, I was horrified to learn that the photo is how his family and friends learned that he had been injured.

I have to admit, I really enjoyed this book.  Bauman didn’t pull any punches.  At times, his spirits were high, and at times, they were very low.  He doesn’t set himself out as some sort of great guy.   Just a normal guy dealing with a crappy situation.

One thing I found very interesting were his comments about the public appearances he was asked to make.  For example, when he was asked to wave a flag at a hockey game, were they just being nice and giving him a cool opportunity or were they just using him as a publicity prop?  Given that at a later hockey game, he mentions that they wanted him to come out on the ice but they wanted him walking (he wasn’t ready for that), I’d say he was being used as a prop.  But he made the appearances anyway because he felt it was important for all of the people who had done such nice things for him.

Because of that now infamous picture of Jeff in the wheelchair, he is somewhat of a celebrity.  People want to know how he is doing, which led to a lot of publicity requests.  It was interesting to see how he chose who to speak to.  The New York Times got interviews because they had sent a 24-year-old intern to cover the marathon and then let him continue the coverage and Jeff thought he was a nice guy.  Brian Williams got an interview because he personally called Jeff’s publicity person (a friend of a friend volunteering to help him out).  But I thought it was cool how he tried to share the opportunities he was given.  He met other “less famous” bombing victims in the hospital and became friends with them and tried to share the opportunities.

Jeff was very lucky, all things considered.  Because of the state of his legs (or lack thereof) when he arrived at the hospital, his treatment was obvious.  There was nothing to save.  Other victims went through more surgeries because they were trying to save limbs.  He was lucky in that he had no infections in his wounds.  He physically healed very quickly.  He had great insurance, though his mentions of the costs of his rehab and his legs make you wonder how he will make ends meet over the coming decades.

I’m sure there will be criticisms of the book.  Some will say that he’s cashing in.  I think he’s getting out a story that many people want to hear.  And hey, I think he deserves to cash in a bit.  He’s going to need that money.

So to sum up, if you’re interested in Jeff’s story, check out the book.  It’s not a tough read, and he doesn’t go into great detail about the medical issues (if you’re squeamish, that might be a concern).  He doesn’t set himself out as some great guy.  Just a guy who happened to be somewhere where his life changed in an instant.

One Year

Though this year’s running of the Boston Marathon won’t happen until next week, today is the one year anniversary of the bombing at the finish line of the Boston marathon.

I wasn’t there.  I am so impressed with those who were there and who plan to go back.  I’m excited to see all the coverage of the injured spectators who are now running.  After last year, Boston will no longer just be about the elites.  And I think that’s awesome.

I think everyone in the running community has seen some of the effects of last year’s events.  I’ve run races where spectators aren’t allowed within a certain distance of the finish line.  I’ve run races where every single runner has to go through a bag check area.  But I think we’ve also seen a great coming together of the running community.

I know that the news will be filled with stories and memorials for much of this week and next.  And we will see plenty of people wearing Boston attire – bracelets and t-shirts and hats and all sorts of other accessories.  I know I’ll be wearing my Boston headband next Monday for sure, regardless of how work appropriate it might or might not be.

I have also seen some people who appear to be taking advantage of the anniversary.  Shirts and the like for sale with the profits going directly into their pockets instead of to a fund related to the event.   Not only is The One Fund out there, but some of the family members have started up their own charities as well, and any of these organizations would be a good place for the profits to go.  But people are greedy and selfish and see a chance to make a profit.  All I ask is that if you want a Boston Strong item, make sure that the people selling aren’t doing it all for themselves.

Next Monday, I will have the live feed of the race going and I can’t wait.  I think it will be an amazing event.  Good luck to everyone running!

Back on the saddle

I know, I know.  The phrase is “back in the saddle.”  But that doesn’t make sense on a bike.  So I changed it.

Yesterday, I took Ethel the bike out for her first ride of the season.  She’s been in the trainer all winter, and by “all winter” I mean “since after the marathon in January.”  I’ve been better about trainer rides, but yesterday’s ride showed me just how much fitness I’ve lost.

I joined the group from Princeton Sports, a local bike shop for their weekly ride.  There was a 15 mile and a 25 mile option.  I opted for the slow 15.  It was pretty much just an out and back, but said out and back was full of hills.  By the end of last season, I was doing pretty well on the hills, but yesterday was a struggle.

I made it up all of the hills without having to walk them, so I consider it a victory.  But my lungs were not happy with me, and I could tell my heart rate was higher than it should have been.  Of course, I’ve been fighting a cold for a week, and while it’s pretty much gone, I have a lingering dry cough that is slowly driving me crazy.  That probably didn’t help much.

I have to say, I don’t know how people get up some of those hills without being attached to their pedals in some fashion.  Seriously – if you’re a cyclist avoiding clipping in, go out right now and buy new pedals.  I would have never made it up the hills if I had to simply rely on my ability to mash down on the pedals.  Being able to push and pull with my legs was the only thing that got me up.  And I didn’t fall.  I consider it a win.

So this was week one back on my bike.  Next winter, no long extended breaks from my bike.  Yikes.

Race Report – Go! St. Louis Half Marathon

And on to day two of the back-to-back weekend.  I felt better this morning than I expected.  No real sore muscles, just a bit fatigued.  One of the benefits to taking it easy the day before.

Again, we lucked out, being near the start line.  Walking to the start is the best.  No super early mornings, no need to get there crazy early to beat traffic, etc.

Katie and I had one goal this day – we didn’t want to get diverted.  Go! St. Louis is relatively “fashionably late” runner friendly (a new term from a new friend we met during the races), but if you don’t make it to mile 9 by a certain point, you get diverted.  You still get to do the entire 13.1 miles, but you have to do it on a parallel course and some of it on sidewalks.  No big deal, but we didn’t want to get diverted if possible.

We had heard that the fashionably late runners often didn’t get water on the course, but Katie and I didn’t have this problem.  We did, however, find ourselves terribly disappointed when we got to the chocolate stop and it was not only out of chocolate but entirely cleaned up and tables put away.  No delicious chocolate for us.

My mom isn’t a huge fan of this course, but I really liked it.  St. Louis is a city with old buildings mixed in with the new, and it was fun to see it from a different perspective.  I loved running through the brewery.  Very cool to see all of those buildings.  And I gave Katie a bit of a tour.  “Here’s where my law school is now, here’s where it was when I went there, this is the hill I walked to get from the parking lot…”  I’m pretty sure she was just humoring me by that point.

I personally thought Holy Hill was a hilarious part of the course.  It’s a pretty long stretch of mostly uphill running, so not only does it have a name, but they play it up.  The results have your split for Holy Hill, and I think the person who runs it the fastest gets an award.  There are banners stretched over the start and finish of the hill and there was even a deacon flinging holy water on the runners.  I was willing to take all the help I could get.  But what a way to make what could be a horrid part of the course a fun part of the course.

Katie and I hit mile 9 and were still feeling good.  No need to stop and walk.  In fact, we kept up our intervals for most of the race (doing some extra walks on the uphills and extra runs on the downhills).  We finished about a minute over our time from Lincoln without trying.  That says we really did find a comfortable pace for us!

The best part of this race?  The post race food!  Oh my goodness, how delicious.  I knew it was going to be good because my dad has raved about it.  I have never heard him mention post-race food before, so when he talked about how good this was, I knew it had to be delicious.  And it was.  We finished the race, and they just kept handing us stuff.  Fruit, pretzel bread, toasted ravioli, and the most delicious ice cream sandwich ever.  YUM.

All in all, an awesome weekend.  Next up was touristing, but first, a shower and some rest.  And more food.  Because what’s a girl’s weekend without food?

Race Recap – Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon

I am terrible about remembering race courses.  And I now have two races to recap.  So this should be interesting.  Also, I’m pretty proud of that race medal picture.  Still bummed that it wasn’t a penny medal, but cool nonetheless.

I’m still not sure how I got talked into running a double, but Lincoln has been on the list for a while.  A fairly sizeable group of us (10 traveling to both races) made plans to travel together, which is always fun.  Thankfully, we had Jenny keeping us organized.

Friday, we flew into St. Louis and hit up the expo for Sunday’s race, then headed up to Springfield for the second expo and a bit of sight seeing.  Unfortunately, because we did have to head back to STL for the second race, we didn’t get to see the Lincoln museum, but we did get to see Lincoln’s house, which was really impressive.  And it’s a reason to go back.

While you couldn’t touch anything in the house, of course, you could touch the railing.  As the guide put it, this is the time when you can touch something that Lincoln touched.  I joked that I hoped I didn’t catch what he died from.  I don’t think anyone got the joke.

Dinner that night was tough.  Springfield isn’t a big place, and we ended up at a local pizza place for carry out.  What we didn’t know was that it was going to take an hour to get our food thanks to a party being held at the restaurant.  Lesson learned – next time, we will order pizza ahead or just stop and get sandwiches somewhere for dinner.

Race morning wasn’t too early, thankfully.  One of the advantages to a small town race is the ability to walk to the start line.  Not having to deal with early morning transportation was awesome.  We loaded up the cars and headed out.

Luckily, in our group, we had people who naturally grouped up by pace, so no one had to run alone.  Katie and I ran together and it was fun to see that we’re both at a similar place even at non-Disney races where we end up walking huge chunks due to crowds.  Of course, she’s been getting faster, so I need to get working.

Sadly, before the race, the anthem singer forgot some of the words.  Every anthem singer’s worst nightmare.  You can practice and practice and sometimes, the words just elude you.  Poor lady.

As I mentioned, I struggle to remember courses, which is why I can run the same race over and over, but I really enjoyed this course.  We ran through some of the historic areas, through a park, and even through the cemetery where Lincoln is buried.  There were definitely a number of photo opportunities on the course.  The volunteers were awesome.

The finish was slightly anti-climactic.  No big banner over the course or anything.  But it was a finish line, so I’m not going to complain.  The race allowed late registrants, and for slow runners like me, that leaves me worried that they will run out of medals.  It’s happened before.  But this race was awesome.  Late registrants got different bibs and the volunteers had last year’s medals to give them.  They would be mailed this year’s medals later.  Awesome!  Then those of us who registered early weren’t penalized, but late runners still got a medal at the finish.  It seems small, but it’s an awesome step to take.

Post-race, I grabbed some water and Gatorade and a delicious, delicious donut, and we headed out to my parents’ house for a home cooked breakfast and some puppy cuddles.  At this point, I wasn’t too sore, so I was hoping for the best for the following day’s race.