Monday, September 29, 2008

Week Training Log: 9/22 - 9/28

Another solid week is in the books. I can feel myself rounding into shape on just about every run. My fast runs are getting easier, and my 40 miler this weekend was a full 30 minutes faster than last week's. Sure, the terrain was a little easier than the hills of Rock Creek Park, but still, I kept a metronome-steady 8:30 pace the whole way. This is the pace I'll be trying to hold as long as I can in Texas, so it's nice to know the first 40 miles should go as planned.

I'm super-excited for the upcoming Andiamo 45 miler this weekend. There couldn't possibly be a better time for this race to come up on my training schedule. I'm trying to get as much work in on relatively flat asphalt surfaces to mimic what I'll be running on in Texas, and this course fits that bill perfectly. The course is on an old railroad track that stretches 45.5 miles from the Northern VA country to just south of DC. There are two options for running surface with a paved path and dirt trail running parallel to each other the whole way. Normally I'd opt for the dirt trail on a run like this, but training is training, so it'll be pavement pounding for me the whole time. Since I'm not breaking my training schedule this week for any sort of taper or rest, I won't be setting any course records out there, but I will be looking to keep that same 8:30 pace the whole way. Factor in a few minutes to find my own water along the way (no aid support during the race, but I understand there are water fountains out there), and I should be rolling into the finish in somewhere around 7 hours depending on the weather and if I don't get caught up in too many conversations with some of the VHTRC members along the way!

Week Log:
Monday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Tuesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Wednesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Thursday - 8.5 miles - Treadmill Speed Work
Friday - Off Day
Saturday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Sunday - 40 miles - Random Route all over DC Trails and Paths

Total: 82.5 Miles

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Race & Week Training Log: 9/15 - 9/21

Lots of positive news from this week to report. First off, after years of purposely avoiding joining a running club, I finally found a great group of people who share my philosophy and overall outlook on running (i.e. "Let's simply enjoy ourselves out there"). The Virginia Happy Trails Running Club (VHTRC) has been around for a bunch of years and has a bunch of members from all over - Lots in VA, DC, and MD, but also in NY, NC, etc. It seems once you join, even if you have to move away from the area you never want to leave the club. They don't have any formal meetings, etc, but they do put on lots of races and runs, including a couple major trail races in the area. I witnessed their handy work first-hand at Massanutten back in May, and I must admit it was the first time I seriously considered joining a club. The vibe at the aid stations and among all the volunteers was amazing. I look forward to joining those folks by volunteering at many races for the club in the future.

Another great aspect of the VHTRC are the "informal" races and runs they organize for members. One such race is the "Andiamo 45" on October 4. I've happily signed up for this run, not necessarily to shoot for a great time, but to take advantage of running a few happy miles with some great people while training for the 24 Hour National Championships. I can't wait!

As for this week in training, the most notable fact is that during my long run this week it was 35 degrees cooler than last week...THIRTY-FIVE!!! When I stepped foot outside to start the run I said "Now that's what I'm talkin' about!". Nothing like cool, crisp weather to bring out the best in a long run. I loved it. I also decided to explore some new terrain up in Rock Creek Park. With tons of trails and bike paths that mix and mingle like a bowl of spaghetti on a map, I just ran up there w/ my GPS (about 6 miles from my place) and purposely got lost for about 30 miles. I ended up doing a few miles through the National Zoo, a few miles on paved bike paths, a few miles on hilly single track trails, and a whole lot of back-tracking and sun-navigating to find my way back south toward home. There's something fun about getting lost while running when you have a fuel belt full of gels and a bunch of creeks near by for water if needed. By time I found my way back to familiar terrain, I had just a couple loops of Hains Point to knock off to get to 40 miles total. All in all, a great run to cap off a great training week...and let me be sure mother nature hears me this time: HOORAY!! FALL IS HERE!!

Week Training Log:
Monday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point
Tuesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point
Wednesday - Off Day
Thursday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point
Friday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point
Saturday - 40 miles - Rock Creek Park / Hains Point
Sunday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point

Week Total: 82.5 miles

Monday, September 15, 2008

Week Training Log: 9/8 - 9/14

Just when I thought the nasty DC summer weather was gone, yesterday was a return to 95 degrees with 85% humidity. How refreshing. To properly enjoy this lovely celebration of Global Warming, I had to run 35 miles in the tropical swap air. Trying to make the best of the situation, I woke up at 4:15 a.m. (always nice on a Sunday) and hit the road right away. It was already 85 and insanely humid at that hour, but I knew I needed to cover as many miles as possible before the Sun Beast awoke and really made things fun. I ran the first 15 to 20 miles around the Hains Point washing machine much faster than my usual 35 mile pace in a race against the heat. Since the humidity was so incredibly high, I had to spend a few moments every mile literally wringing the sweat out of my shorts as I ran. The fact that ultra-light-weight quick-dry running shorts can be rendered so useless by the DC humidity never ceases to amaze me. Heavy cotton shorts would have been just as useful out there yesterday.

Anyway, I ended up rising above the heat and finishing my last 3 loops in fine fashion as I hopped in with the final leg of the National Triathlon being run around Hains Point. It felt pretty great to actually pass some of the runners (they were running 6.2 miles) as I was clicking off miles 27 to 33. Of course if I had to actually compete in the swimming portion of the triathlon with these guys, I would have probably scored the first ever 'DNF by drowning' in the history of the sport. To each their own.

One more note: Colonel Denis Dion was nice enough to send me a couple photos from our Canadian Embassy visit last week, so here they are. This is me and Elizabeth in front of the sculpture outside the Embassy.

...and here I am getting my jersey at the luncheon.
Thanks again for everything, Col. Dion!!

Week Training Log:
Monday - Off
Tuesday - 8.6 miles - Treadmill speed work
Wednesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Thursday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Friday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Saturday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Sunday - 35 miles - Hains Point Washing Machine

Total miles: 77.6

Friday, September 12, 2008

Our Great Neighbors to the North

Rewind a few months: I was running a rough 35 miler along the Mt. Vernon Trail after a long day at work. For some reason I just couldn't find my stride as I shuffled through the first 10 miles or so. At that point a friendly guy caught up with me and we chatted for a mile or two before I stopped off to refill my water bottle and he continued on his run. Even though we only ran together for a short stretch, our brief conversation was enough to help me snap out of my funk and put a spring in my step.

Fast forward to this afternoon: Long story short, that friendly runner turned out to be Colonel Denis Dion, Defense Cooperation Attache at the Canadian Embassy. Col. Dion's kind words and support of me during my Run 192 training were inspiration enough, but a good military man always goes the extra mile, and this afternoon Elizabeth and I were honored to attend a luncheon at the Embassy as his guests. To my surprise, the unbelievably generous and kind folks at the Embassy even presented me with an official Canadian Army running singlet. I was extremely honored and humbled by all of their kind words and generosity. ...and I was so excited when I got home I had to take my new jersey out for a spin - here's me still feeling 10-feet tall after a fast 8.5 miles.

I can't thank Col. Dion, his staff, and all those in attendance at the Officers' Club lunch for such a great honor!!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Week Training Log: 9/1 - 9/7

This was a nice easy transition back into full-time training for me. Nothing too fancy during the week, but yesterday's long run was the first of many I'll run around the 3.2 mile loop of Hains Point. Talk about a washing-machine run...after 7+ loops around that thing I was beyond happy to start running toward home. I can only imagine the horrors of having to run 14+ loops on my 50 miles training runs out there. Of course, it's all part of the mental training for the Texas race, so at least I can tell myself that while I'm fighting off the vertigo.

One other note on the week - As those of you who follow the blog know, ran an article last Friday about the 'Run 192', and it was beyond touching for me to read the comments posted on that site by readers from all over. One in particular needs to be posted here:

WOW! What a story and props to him for grabbing life and living it. I myself am beating Non Hodgkins and this story and this man is an insiration to me at a time that I could really use it. Thanks [Dan]! LIVESTRONG!!!!!!!!!

That right there is whole reason I dedicated the past few years of my life to this run. This comment alone made the whole mission worthwhile. Of course, there are many more folks out there who have now had a chance to read about the run (and be inspired!) thanks to all the great media outlets who ran stories, and to all of them I am forever grateful!!

Week Log:
Monday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Tuesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Wednesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Thursday - Off Day
Friday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Saturday - 8.6 miles - Treadmill fun (Hurricane Hannah outside)
Sunday - 30 miles - Hains Point Loops

Total: 72.6 miles

Friday, September 5, 2008

ESPN Story & 'Stand Up to Cancer'

Here's the link to the story about the 'Run 192' that ran today. Thanks again to Alexa Pozniak for all her hard work in putting this together!

...and be sure to tune into ABC tonight in prime time for the 'Stand Up to Cancer' event. It should be quite the inspirational broadcast!

Thursday, September 4, 2008 Article - 9/5/08

Friday, September 5, 2008
Cancer survivor's challenge: Run 192 miles for those who can't
By Alexa Pozniak

EDITOR'S NOTE: On Friday, actors, musicians, sports figures and newscasters are coming together in the fight against cancer in a nationally televised event called "Stand Up To Cancer," which will be live and commercial-free on ABC, CBS and NBC at 8 p.m. ET, and re-broadcast on the West Coast at 8 p.m. PT. The event aims to raise much-needed funding for cancer research and to build awareness about a disease that kills one person in this country every minute, and nearly 1,500 people each day.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Twenty-five hours into his run on this humid August night, the non-stop pounding was taking its toll on Dan Rose. Sleep deprivation had set in, and his mind was gradually losing its ability to process thoughts. His legs burned, his feet throbbed; and like a car running out of gas, his sunburned body began to slow down. But he refused to stop. Rose was determined to keep on running for those who cannot, and fight through the pain for those who are doing the very same.

None of the pain he felt on a pitch-black road in southeastern Massachusetts that night, though, compared to the hardships he had overcome a year earlier -- his battle against cancer.

Four weeks later, 31-year-old Rose, tall and slim, pumps his fist as he watches his beloved Red Sox round the bases on the big-screen TV that dominates the tiny living room of his Washington, D.C. apartment. Dressed in a weathered 2004 World Series tee, this native of Taunton, Mass., recalls how his running career started in high school when his friends convinced him to join the indoor track team as a way to get in shape for baseball season. It didn't take long for him to get serious about distance running. In his sophomore year at Brandeis University, he completed his first Boston Marathon.

After college, though, his interest gradually waned, and he took a six-year hiatus from organized racing. But in 2003, he decided to lace up his sneakers again and tackle the Portland (Maine) Marathon. While he was training, he noticed a small lump in his neck. Physically, he says he felt fine. In fact, Rose says he was in the best shape of his life. Still, when he finished that race, he decided to get it checked out.

"You have a very serious disease," were the words from his general practitioner a few months later. Rose had initially doubted the cyst was reason for serious worry, but he underwent a biopsy as a precaution. The diagnosis hit him like a ton of bricks: He had an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"More than anything, I was just totally stunned," he says. "I got home, sat down and remember feeling just really disappointed. I loved my friends and family and even going to work, and I wanted to do more stuff with my life before it's over."

Twenty-six at the time, Rose immediately saw a specialist at the renowned Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and his roller-coaster ride began. The initial surgery was followed by chemotherapy, which involved heavy-duty drugs to eradicate the disease. With the chemo came a wide range of side effects -- extreme fatigue, nausea and pain. His experience as an athlete helped him persevere.

"The mental training you learn getting through chemotherapy is completely analogous to the mental aspects of running ultra-long distances," he says.

After four months, Rose got a clean bill of health. At first he was overcome with joy, but that feeling quickly gave way to guilt.

"I thought, 'Why am I getting to walk out of here when some of the friends I made are still suffering?' I wanted to keep fighting for those that couldn't," he says.

He knew he had to get himself back into fighting shape. The chemo had taken its toll. The strength and endurance he had built up through his training was gone. Already skinny, Rose had lost 20 pounds, as well as his hair and eyelashes. He had become, as he describes it, a "complete shell" of himself.

"All of the literature you read says you're never going to be the same," he says. "And you don't want to hear that as a 26-year-old kid."

Rose set his sights on a return to the Portland Marathon -- one year after he first discovered the cyst -- with a goal of completing the race with a faster time. Reality, though, set in as soon as he went for his first run post-treatment.

"I got a half-mile down the road, couldn't breathe; everything burned," he says. "When I finished, I plopped on the ground. I looked up and saw the sun and thought, 'I am so happy that is the sun and not a fluorescent light in the hospital.' It was the most pain since chemo, but I was just so happy."

He not only completed the marathon but scraped six minutes off his time. Rose knew he was back. He knew, too, that it was time to give back.

"I didn't have much money, but I did have my legs," he says.

Rose set out to test the limits of the new life he had been given. He upgraded from marathons to 50-mile races, then to ultra-marathons (100-mile races). And he hatched a plan: He wanted to run the Pan Mass Challenge, a 192-mile bike race through Massachusetts in August, to raise money for cancer research. This would be the equivalent of running more than seven marathons back-to-back. But Rose was determined. He called the undertaking "Run 192."

"The whole point of doing this was to have an inspiring story to tell to the patients at Dana-Farber," he says. "'Realize that your life isn't over after you get out of the hospital. You don't have to be Lance Armstrong to accomplish great things. When you get out, you can be just as good, if not better.'"

Race organizers agreed to let him run the course, but he would have to do it three days before the actual bike race began so as not to get in the way of the cyclists.

"The thing that hit home with me is that he was so driven," says Jan Ross, director of Marathon and Running Programs at Dana-Farber. "There was no doubt in my mind that he was going to accomplish his goal."

His job as an event planner at the Library of Congress didn't leave Rose with a lot of free time for training. He squeezed it in before and after work, and averaged over 100 miles a week, including long runs of 40 or 50 miles on Saturdays. Ten months after he began his training, Rose headed to the starting line of the Pan Mass Challenge in Sturbridge, Mass. His wife, family, and friends formed a "crew" to meet up with him at five-mile intervals during the three days of running and provide water, food and, most importantly, the encouragement his body -- and mind -- needed to keep going.

"I basically just planned to put my head down and plow through, just like chemo," Rose says. "There are people helping you, but it's mostly you. Just focus mentally and get it done."

On the first day, Rose ran 120 miles in 26 hours, 20 miles longer than he had ever run in his life. He fought through the pain that hit him at the 25-hour mark for another 60 minutes.

"My feet hurt so bad," he says. "I must have looked like the Three Stooges all in one. Just slapping myself in the face to keep awake. … I was falling asleep as I was moving."

After a 10-minute nap in the back of his brother's SUV, he woke up, thinking he was ready to pound the pavement … until the intense physical and mental fatigue hit him again.

"I picked up my legs to stand up, went around back, reached for the [trunk] handle and then passed out," he says.

His brother, Erich, took him to his home a few miles away, where Rose collapsed on a bed. Forty-five minutes later, he was awake but unable to move. And a sudden sense of urgency struck. He remembers thinking, "'I have 72 miles to go … there's no way I'm going to be able to run. I can't even move. How am I going to do this?' The whole point of me running was to give an example to fellow patients who were fighting. I knew I had to get back out there."

"It was so beautiful and inspiring to see him run," says Elizabeth, his wife of three months. "But at the same time it was frightening, because he was thinking like a machine and not like a human being."

Rose dragged himself out of bed and returned to his run. He started with a slow walk, but soon hit a stride. Along the way, passers-by stopped to tell him how cancer had touched their lives in one way or another. After his story was broadcast on a local news station, he was bombarded by text messages from strangers, whose kind words fueled him even more.

Seventy miles and two days later, Rose finally reached Provincetown, the tip of Cape Cod. Stars dotting the night sky provided enough light for him to see the finish line ahead. His family and friends cheered him on and gave him the burst of energy needed to surge forward and complete his goal.

Afterward, Rose reflected on the challenges he has faced over the past few years.

"Cancer has been a blessing," he says. "I'm sure I would have gone on to be a nice guy or whatever, but I never would have been motivated to do something like this. It was like grad school in a way. It taught me important lessons. I went from being a 26-year-old kid who thought he was invincible to having a better understanding of the big picture and what's important in life."

Elizabeth adds, "People say it's a miracle that he was able to do that run. The miracle is that he's still here."

With his run, Rose raised more than $6,000 for the Jimmy Fund, an organization dedicated to supporting cancer research.

"I think the lesson learned is that everybody has their own talents. Sometimes, they're not so obvious. But there are so many ways to make a difference," says Dana-Farber's Ross.

Now, Rose shaves his head each day as a reminder -- both of the obstacles he has overcome and that his work isn't done. Over the next months, Rose plans to visit with the patients at Dana-Farber to share his story. He has been "overwhelmed" with e-mails and phone calls from friends and co-workers and from complete strangers who have heard his story and whose lives have been touched by cancer.

Rose is also brainstorming ways to continue his fundraising campaign. One possibility: running the Boston Marathon again, and completing the course four times consecutively. And instead of asking people to donate, he is seeking a sponsor.

"I need to keep the ball rolling and turn a snowball into an avalanche," he says.

And so he will continue, one step -- or stride -- at a time.

Alexa Pozniak is a feature producer for ESPN, focusing on human interest stories. She also blogs about sports for She can be reached at

Monday, September 1, 2008

Upcoming Story

This past weekend Elizabeth and I had the pleasure of speaking with ESPN reporter Alexa Pozniak who came all the way down to DC to interview us. Alexa is writing a story about 'Run 192' that will run on on Friday, Sept. 5 in conjunction with the "Stand up to Cancer" event that ABC, NBC, and CBS will all be running simultaneously that evening. Alexa is super nice to go through all this effort to write the story, and I'm beyond excited that the Run 192 message will be spread to such a huge group of readers on the web. Thank you, Alexa!!

In other news, after a nice and easy 40 mile warm-up week (I ran every other day with no long run), I am officially starting my training for the 24 Hour National Championships this week. The humidity was low tonight when I went out for my usual 8.5 mile loop, and it felt great to run fast and smooth for the first time in a month. I look forward to a couple months of more reasonable weather for training than what I dealt with all summer. I don't think there's a single runner out there who will argue that the fall is by far the best season for running.

One more note about the next couple months: An important area of focus during my training for this race will be preparing my mind to run in a circle over and over and over and over again for 24 hours. The 24 Hour race course is a 1 mile loop that, if everything works out, I'll run 135 times by the finish. While running the same loop 135 times might sound like complete torture, I'll be training all of my long runs not on any scenic or enjoyable trails, but on the boring and flat Hains Point 3 mile loop. After a dozen 40 and 50 mile training runs around that loop, I think I'll be in great shape to mentally handle the boredom of the big race. Either that or I'll check myself into a mental institution. Stay tuned to find out which prediction comes true!