Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Big Announcement

So we finally made the big announcement last week - I am teaming up with the Sea Dogs to raise money for and awareness of Tourette's Syndrome!

Last Tuesday the Sea Dogs held a press conference with me, Theo and Slugger to announce an awesome fundraising event.  You see, 20 years ago I was hired by the Sea Dogs (then the new Double-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins) to train their 'diamond in the rough' mascot, Slugger.  It was a great job!  We had a blast together!

But after the 1996 season, with Slugger fully trained, I went back to school, graduated, got married, started my career and started my family.

Well, with Slugger's 20th Anniversary looming, the Sea Dogs asked if I would be interested in teaming up again - sort of like getting the band back together again!  When they told me what they had in mind, I was "all in."

So on Sunday May 4, Slugger and I will be working together again.  We will meet on the field at Fenway Park and then walk - WALK - back to Hadlock Field!  That's 114 miles!!!

We've set up a donation page, because 100% of what we raise will go to Camp Twitch and Shout and TSA's Youth Ambassador Program.  Woot Woot!

We've lined up two sponsors (thus far)

And are in discussions with a few additional possibilities (hopefully they'll be more to come on that front).  And any business owners out there who wants to get on board now, please shoot me an email - 'cuz we are going to get some positive buzz on this from now through May 8th! 

All in all we are looking to raise 20,000 and, more importantly, raise awareness.  All three. TV stations carried the press conference and we had excellent coverage in the Press Herald and in the Sentry.  The response has been awesome - and humbling. In a little over a week, we've raised nearly $7,000 - a third of our way to our goal! I have a hard time believing it!

Oh, and Slugger and I will be blogging about our training at  So be sure to check that out as well.

More exciting news to follow . . . . 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Daylight Savings Time; Injuries and New Challenges/Opportunities

Phew!  It's been a while, eh?

Here's the round up for all the news that's fit to print  . . .

Injury Update:  I've been off the road and essentially out of commission since wrecking my ankle (being a knucklehead) on February 12.  It was a solid two weeks before I lost the limp and I am still not able to run - so I just sit and watch the weather start to get better and fester inside.  I've been going to PT three days a week and hope to be able to run soon. Here's a picture of the ankle a week after the "incident" (can you say "Fred Flintstone ankle"?)

Running Update:  Several weeks ago Anne announced that she had signed up for the Key Bank Vermont City Marathon in May.  She was looking for Renee and I to run it with her.  After all she did for me with the Dopey, I am really not in a position to say "no" to Anne, so I told her I would think about it.  Renee has run that race before and apparently swore she'd never run it again.  Renee did mention, in passing, that she'd run the Disney World Marathon with Anne sometime (more on that in a minute).  As I was "thinking about it," I suffered the devastating injury pictured above.  In the end, Renee and I were able to sign up for the relay, so each of us will be able to run 13.1 miles with Anne.  Phew!  Now I just have to get back on my feet.

runDisney Update;  Renee's passing comment about running the Disney World Marathon started a week of random runDisney events.  The day after the mentioned it, my father asked if Theo had brought up the 2015 Disney World 10k.  He hadn't, but I asked why "would he?"  Turns out when we were all down there for the Dopey, the Old Man offered to run the 10k with Theo next year.  Dad was relived to learn that Theo had not mentioned it and we agreed to not bring it up.  The very next day, literally, the very next day Theo says, "Boy, I've got to start training for the 10k!"  GULP.

So it was starting to look like someone in my family was going to go to Marathon Weekend.  And when Andy heard that Theo was going to run the 10k, he announced that we had to run the half.  DOUBLE GULP.

This was followed up by Anne announcing that she would be willing to do the Dopey again.  GASP!  And then, again over the course of a little over a week, Renee announces that she would consider running the Dopey.  CRAP!

So in the course of 10 days, we go from no plans to the following:

2015 5k - Justin, Renee and Anne
2015 10k - Theo, Pooh, Justin, Renee and Anne
2015 Half Marathon - Andy, Justin, Renee and Anne
2015 Marathon - Justin, Renee and Anne

A completely different experience from 2014 - very psyched about the whole thing.  Can't believe we're doing it again, but its looking like it's going to happen!  Sign ups are April 22 and the entry fees are so steep (like all things Disney) that there's no turning back once we've paid.

Fundraising Update:  I've had several meeting over the past several months about a fundraising event I've been working on with the Sea Dogs.  Can't get into too many (or any) details yet, but we've got some sponsors lined up and will be holding a press conference on Tuesday (30 days until Opening Day).  I think the idea is just crazy enough and the back story just sweet enough that we will get some good press and raise a lot of money.  My goal is $20,000, which is ambitious but I think it is doable.  I will post more details and links to various things as soon as we go public.  For now, I'll leave you with one clue:

More to follow . . . .

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

More publicity!

Check it out - spreading the word!  Just not sure how Team TSA had this on their Facebook page before I knew it existed.  Thanks to Brenda for letting me know it was out there!

Monday, January 20, 2014

My favorite

Picture from Marathon Weekend.  I think this is my favorite because (1) we are done and (2) we are still happy!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Official Pictures

From the 5k

From the 10k

From the Half Marathon

And from the Full Marathon

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Final Thoughts

Well, we made it!  Over a thousand miles run in 2014; hundreds of hours on the roads; ran through heat, snow, rain and ice.  Raised over $7,500 for the Tourette's Syndrome Association; completed the Inaugural Dopey Challenge and was able to walk the next day.  PHEW!

Am I glad I did it?  Yes!  Will I ever do it again?  I don't know.  I can say that, unlike my two prior marathons, there was never a point during the marathon that I thought I had made a mistake or that I swore off future marathons.  If anything, I think my experience this past Sunday made me think that I could do another marathon - it was slow, but it wasn't bad - ever.

I was taken aback by the generosity of friends, family and co-workers.  I had though that raising $5,000 would be a stretch, but we got to $7,500 with ease.

I was impressed by the volunteers and spectators on the course and I've decided to find a race that I am not interested in running and going to cheer.  Having people - strangers - yelling for you or ringing a cowbell gives you a little spring in your step and keeps you moving.  After all the support we got in Disney, I feel like I need to repay the running community.

I was also really moved by the TSA dinner on Friday.  It was so nice to meet other people affected by TS and both Hope and I talked about our desire to stay connected with this community and to do more locally.  The boys have been talking about running the half or the 10k next year, so we'll be thinking about that.  I certainly cannot raise $7,500 every year, and an annual Disney Marathon trip would blow the budget, but we are trying to figure out how we can capitalize on the excitement of the weekend.

I cried a lot last weekend and sometimes at odd things or at odd times.  I was so touched to have Brenda and her family down there and her sons, Kyle and Darren running and raising money.  I spent a good deal of time during the races thinking about everyone who donated; and everyone who sent email or text well-wishes.  I thought about John Hartley standing in my driveway in the snow, ready for another freezing cold run when you knew he just wanted to stay in bed.  I thought of Renee carrying the conversation on Saturday runs so Anne and I would have something to talk about on our Sunday runs.  And where would I be without Anne?  We laughed on most of our training runs and both laughed and cried at Disney.  There is absolutely no way I could have done this without her.  None.  She put up with my constant burping (and other bodily functions) as well as my anxiety-riddled mileage counting and for that I will be forever grateful.

It's been several days since we completed the Dopey and I think I'm ready to get in a nice (slow) run tomorrow.  I am also moving forward on a different endurance-based Tourette's fundraising effort (but one that I will not be hitting up friends and family).  Not sure what to make of this blog thing - clearly I am no longer "Counting Down to the Dopey Challenge" but I may continue to write on the off chance someone is reading.  For now, I need to get my thank you notes out and close out this awesome experience.

4 days, 4 races, 6 medals, $7,500 raised for TSA

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Day Four

More later, but this will have to do for now .....

OK - let's start at the beginning . . . .

I woke up before my alarm (again) at 3:15.  I was in Anne's room by 3:30 (again) and we were at the bus at 4 AM (again).  The crowd was about the same size-wise, but the weather was much cooler and (as we would later find out) much better.

We back in Corral K, which meant that even though the race started at 5:30, we didn't get started until closer to 6:15.  Unlike the day before, the first mile went by pretty quickly.  The first 7 miles of the Marathon follow the same route as the first 7 miles (or so) of the Half.  But, although a little sore, I felt much better on Sunday than on Saturday.

The obigatory "Magic Kingdom" photo (nowhere close to the Magic Kingdom)

It also helped (a lot) that we had family stationed throughout the course.  Hope and the boys were at the Transportation and Ticket Center (about Mile 4), so we had that to look forward to.
A blurry picture of us emerging from the TTC Tunnel.

From there it was only a couple of miles to the Magic Kingdom, where I once again hugged Lou from WDW Radio (and left him a little damp - sorry Lou!).  We again stopped at our secret Tomorrowland bathroom (no pictures so we can keep it to ourselves) before heading to the back of the Castle.

Is she TRYING to look like a Bad Ass, or is she just simply a bad ass?

After running through the Castle, we stopped at our first character spot (mostly - ok, entirely, because there was no line).

And then in only 3 more miles we got to see the family (and a couple of Disney Friends) outside the Polynesian!
We still look happy!

All in all, we were feeling pretty good at that point.  My parents were stationed just out the Animal Kingdom (Mile 13-ish) so that kept us going on what was otherwise fairly tedious miles.

We entered the back on Animal Kingdom around Mile 11 or 12.

Anne and I had talked about trying to ride Expedition Everest during the race, but as we entered the Animal Kingdom it was only 8:45 and the park doesn't open until 9 AM.  Bummer!  We talked about waiting until 9, but thought we'd seize up.  So we decided to keep running.  As we were passing Everest, the Cast Member staffing hte line said, "If you're not worried about your finish time, come on in!"  Anne yelled, "Seriously!?!" as we took a sharp left, ran through the queue and BOOM! Next in line.
Psyched to be riding a roller coaster DURING a marathon!

I kept runkeeper on, so it showed some pretty extreme elevation changes.

We are the freaks in the back row.

After Everest, we took a quick bathroom break in Dinoland and then left the park and ran into our parents in the parking lot!  Yay!  Gulp!  After seeing Mom and Dad, we were entering . . .the dead zone!  From Mile 13.5 until Mile 20 there ain't much out there.  Lots of highway running and then a turn into the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.  Frankly, it doesn't get much better after ESPN as we have to double back a bit on the highway and turn onto another highway before FINALLY entering Hollywood Studios at Mile 22.5 (ish).  To get from my parents to ESPN I counted intervals to myself.  My goal was to count to 10 intervals (50 minutes).  And for the most part it worked.  We just trudged along.  Laughed at the Haunted Mansion Ghosts trying to dig graves on the side of the road; clapped at music; thanked the thousands of volunteers; and just kept running.  We finally made it to EPSN and then weaved our way through various baseball and soccer fields, around a track and then around the braves Spring Training Field before doubling back to the highway.  Ugh.

As we made the turn to the final highway, we ran across the always motivating "Army Guy" - "You CAN get up that hill!  You WILL get up that hill!"

From there we turned into Hollywood Studios (where I completely melted down when I ran the 2005 WDW Marathon) and we got to see Brenda and her family.  I am pretty sure they were yelling obscenities at us, but it was all a blur.  The run down Hollywood Boulevard was awesome!  The park was open and there were thousands of people cheering - it made it fly by!  After HS we took the footpath to the Boardwalk, crossed a bridge and entered the Yacht and Beach Club.  A note on that bridge - it is apparently made of some really bouncy material, which made running over it feel really weird.  I didn't understand that it was the surface that was squishy - I thought I was having a fainting spell.  I freaked out and told Anne "something's wrong.  I don't feel right!"  We stopped for a second and I drank some powerade and water and we slowly got started again.  As soon as we were off the bridge, I felt much better (although my head was still a little messed up).

It was less than a mile until we saw Hope and the boys again 

and half a mile after that we were in Epcot (and saw Andy again, we basically chased us down).  I think largely because people just wanted to be done, there were no lines for character pictures any more! 

In France.

We wound around the countries, through the back gate, past the Gospel Choir and towards the finish line.  I don't think I could carry Anne again, so we went with a choreographed dance routine.  

We grabbed some water and powerade and grabbed a couple of these . . .

Got our official photo:

And then took the bus back to the hotel, where everyone was waiting.  A quick ice bath, shower and a change of clothes and we were back on a bus, but this time the destination was much cooler!

We went on Pirates, the Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain and Mickey's Philharmagic before heading over to the Wilderness Lodge for a couple of these . . . 

And one of the best steaks I've ever had the pleasure of devouring.  After dinner, we headed back to the Magic Kindgom for more rides (Space, Buzz, Laughing Floor, Pooh, Big Thunder) before heading to Beaches and Cream for some much-needed ice cream.

Several weeks ago I bet another TSA guy a beer if he raised more money than me.  Well, he did.  So at 11 PM I paid my debt as Jason Fine (he's actually much better than just Fine), his buddy Matt and Michelle from Team TSA and I grabbed a couple of beers at the hotel bar.  It was a great night - we talked about the race, about TS, about family, about Disney.  It was like being with old friends.

I got back to the room a little after midnight (up for nearly 21 hours at this point) and went to bed.  Ahhh.