(Edited by Brad Minus) The Decision My 3 years of running experience started with multiple injuries including a couple of ankle fractures. However, I still managed to complete a marathon, a 50K and...
NYC Marathon 2015: The Why
My Why – PKD
The human brain is an advanced computer that controls many different systems. The body is like a room full of servers each independently managing a different system with one major system, the brain, as the master controller for all of them.
When the master controller has a difficult task to undergo, the systems will cluster together in order to complete the task as efficiently as possible. If one of the systems begin to fail, it doesn’t mean the task will not be accomplished it just means another system will take over the lack of work. The work may not be handled as efficiently, but nonetheless, it will be completed.
Only when the master controller issues a command to stop will the other systems desist what they are programmed to do. The question would be “Why did the Master Controller issue the command?”
This long analogy comes right down to a quote I use all the time. Internally, and with my client athletes. “The mind will quit 100 times before the body does.” Every excuse will come to mind while an athlete may be suffering, but it is the reason “why” they are challenging themselves that will override the mind’s command to stop.
My 15th Marathon was the 2015 New York City Marathon, and my “Why” was tested.
In 2014, at the completion of the New York City Marathon, I said to myself, “Self, I am really happy I did it. It was a tough race, in tough conditions (sub-40 degree temperature with 33 mph winds), but we did it. It may not have been the time we wanted, but scratch the largest marathon in the world off the list. I will probably not do this one again.”
My reasoning was the logistics of the race.
First, it is located in New York City. That just says a lot of $$$ is going to be spent.
2) Getting around the big apple in a timely manner is difficult for someone not living there.
3) I have a lot of friends that live in the city and I want to see them, which means, more travel, meals and more $$$ spent.
4) The race doesn’t start until 9:50 which at 4 hours means 1:50 which is after the usual 12 pm checkout time. Again, more $$$.
5) In order to pack the corrals with 50,000 runners, it is required to be in the runner villages close to 3 hours early, and in sub-40 degree weather for someone from Florida is somewhat uncomfortable.
6) After leaving the finish line when the legs are burning and everything is getting stiff, it is another mile to get to checked bags and then another half mile to get out of the park where there are no cabs. Then another 5 block walk to the subway.
Other than that the race is amazing.
This year, the reasons above meant nothing to me, because I ran this race not for me, but as a member of Team Tampa PKD for Erika Bragan, Jennifer Thomas and all of the other people affected by Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).
In 2009, Scott offered me a chance to run the Chicago Marathon for the Polycystic Kidney Disease. At the time we were both in a boot camp class at a Lifestyle Family Fitness. He mentioned it to a few others as well, so I brought up the idea of a team concept, where we could organize events to raise awareness and funds for PKD and then split up the money so everyone could reach their goal. it actually worked for the 10 of us that competed that year, as we raised around $26,000 for the PKD Foundation.
In 2011, we resurrected the team and signed on twenty-two members and raised over $56,000 for the foundation. Again in 2013 we had just Five members and raised over 25,000 that year as well.
This year, we again signed five members. Scott, Rich, Myself, Kevin, and Karen. we raised over $25,000 again, but this year we also accomplished something else. Over the last few years, Erika’s kidney functions were reduced to less than 5% apiece. A normal human being can survive on 5% of one, but with PKD it is inevitable that the kidneys will fail.
Erika had already been put on the donor list for over a year, but it had yet to pan out, so we added not only raising as much financial assistance for the foundation but finding a donor for Erika as well.
For over a year, Erika has been in pain, not sleeping and basically been in a state of misery. Scott has recounted this for me numerous times, so when he said that it was time to start thinking about a transplant, I immediately asked him for the details to get tested. I wanted to help any way I could and if it meant giving up a kidney so be it.
The Bragan’s waited to see if being on the donor list would pan out, but as Erika’s kidney functions continued to deteriorate, family and friends stepped up to be tested as donors.
I was tested as a kidney donor, with the preliminary tests proving positive, meaning I was a match.
However, the secondary tests diagnosed protein in my urine which is common in endurance athletes. Unfortunately, for the medical staff, it is a risk for kidney stones which have a small probability to clog my ureter and if that was the case now, I would have another kidney to fall back on. If I donated one, it could be fatal.
I was heartbroken when I found out, but I understood the reasons.
On July 10, my friend and Team Tampa PKD teammate, Rich O’Dea was on a blind date at the Imagine Dragons concert. While getting to know each other Rich made mention of Team Tampa PKD, the marathon and Erika. At first, it seemed a nonchalant question when she asked how to get tested, so Rich took as her just being nice, but even after she ended up returning to a long relationship, she still communicated with Rich she wanted to get tested.
Her preliminary tests proved she was a match, and the secondary tests proved she was healthy enough to donate, so on Friday, Oct 23, the Tampa General Hospital Transplant committee approved the living donor kidney transplant from Jennifer Thomas to Erika Bragan, and scheduled the surgery for the 18th of November.
When I found out that Jennifer passed the second round of testing, I was absolutely ecstatic that she would be able to do what I and three other people could not. I am still absolutely overjoyed that Erika will lead a longer more normal life and Scott, Madison and Spencer will continue to have their wonderful wife and mother.
While in an interview with ABC, Jennifer was asked why should give up her kidney for a total stranger. Without skipping a beat, or even taking a breath she said, “Why wouldn’t I? The more important question should be, why is it so shocking that I would.”
I happened to be in the room when she was getting interviewed and I just about fell over. Without trying to sound conceded, or take away any thunder from her, but I felt like Jennifer was someone who actually thought just like me.
Jennifer’s medical bills will be taken care of 100% by the Bragan’s insurance, but the recovery time may cause a little bit of financial hardship.
Of course, Team Tampa PKD is stepping up and hosting an event called Tailgate for a Transplant prior to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New York Giants NFL Football game on November 8th at 1 pm. (If you would like to help, but cannot make it to the tailgate please click here)
This is my “Why”.
What is your ‘why’?
How to Start Cycling
One of the scariest things for a beginning triathlete, besides getting in the open water, is cycling. The first image that wandered into my head upon deciding to start seriously bicycling was of a that scary peloton. Those tight formations of bikes moving at ridiculous speeds, during the Tour de France, so close together that one wrong move could cause serious damage to my body or someone else. Scary right? Luckily, triathlon doesn’t allow for huge groups like that, as a matter of fact it isn’t even allowed. Whew!
Buying my first Bike
I didn’t have a lot of money when I first started in triathlon, and I also didn’t really know if I was going to like it. I spent a lot of time in bike stores drooling over the expensive bikes, while studying cheaper entry level bikes. Every bike store had a different angle they played. One would say, purchase the more expensive bike, gain more speed so when I improved I didn’t have to buy another bike. Another would tell me to buy the entry level but load it up with expensive components so I could ride faster, and when I wanted another bike, the components alone would warrant a good price, and of course that store would buy it back from me and give me a discount an another bike. Decisions, decisions what to do, what to do?
I researched different road and tri bikes online and in magazines, and while I was pretty sure I would enjoy triathlon, I decided on an entry level Canondale CAAD 9 road bike. I also included in my purchase, a pair of pedals, cleats, shoes and a helmet. The helmet was very important especially since I hadn’t actually rode a bike in over 10 years. Would I really not forget how to ride a bike? The answer to that my friends is YES. It is not a skill that is forgotten. It maybe a little unsteady the first couple of times, but not forgotten. Luckily I will have my trusty helmet, just in case.
I also read something that resonated with me. The most important thing that is needed after the purchase of a bike, is the fitting. At first I thought, “what? Don’t I just have to find the most comfortable height of the seat and then get going?” I had no idea that there are so many different adjustments on a bike, to a point that bike “fitters” actually have to be certified in order to properly fit you. They have to take courses, pass tests and be mentored. “Really?”, you ask? Yes…really.
The fitting took about an hour where they put my bike on a trainer, and with my shoes and bike shorts I pedaled, then the fitter took measurements and made adjustments to my seat post raising it and lowering it to a perfect dimension. Then he took angle measurements from the ground to my hip, knee and shoulder and from the pedal and a bunch of other places. He moved my saddle not only up and down by forward and back. He then took my handle bars and put different size spacers on the tube underneath my handlebars to find the perfect height and then was able to move them back and forth to find the right angle, height and most comfortable spot for me. I had no clue there was this much to it.
As I left the store after my fitting, Jo-el, the general manager and friend from my track club, gave me some good advice. I had never rode in cleats and pedals before, where my feet were clipped into the pedals where they wouldn’t just simply lift up. I had to turn my heel so the cleat would unclip from the pedals so I could put my foot down. Jo-el said to take my bike in the house and put it between a doorway, and practice clipping and un-clipping from the pedals. Also, I needed to find the most comfortable side to unclip first and then stick to that side no matter what. I followed that advice in detail. I clipped, unclipped, clipped and unclipped till I was sure I had mastered it. Then I took a little ride around the block and practiced even more till I was confident I mastered at least that part.
I had a feeling of euphoria that first little trip in my neighborhood. I felt fast, free traveling under my own power on this brand new, tuned Cannondale bike. I was really excited for my first ride the next day in the hills of San Antonio.
The First Ride
I drove to San Antonio…Florida that is, with my brand new bike in the back, my new bike shorts on, bottles ready to put in their cages on the bike, coffee in my cup holder and classic rock playing on the radio. I remember having mixed feelings about this initial ride. I had never ridden in a group before, I had never ridden with these cleats and clips before, but I knew I was in good shape but was I fit enough? After that I just thought to myself, “if you cannot go as far then just turn around and head back. no big deal.”.
I met a friend at these ball fields and was mesmerized by the amount of bikers getting ready to take their morning ride. The sea of colors from the different bikes and jerseys was extremely overwhelming. That anxious feeling came back for a second until my friend mentioned we were riding with triathletes not pure cyclists. They would understand I was on my first ride and would help me out. After preparing for my first journey, we found our formation and began the trek.
I was surprised that I was staying in the middle of the pack and with minimal effort. The wind was in my face, I was pedaling under my own power and keeping up! It was an incredibly euphoric feeling. Unfortunately, when we hit the first long hill, euphoria turned to anxiety and then… embarrassment.
My pedaling slowed, and it became extremely hard to mash down on the pedals. With very minimal spinning of my legs I tried to switch to higher gear, but I actually ended up in a lower gear which made it even harder. When I did finally gear up, it was too late. I couldn’t move the pedals fast enough to switch gears, and my chain fell off , so I was at a dead stop. Of course I was so concerned about the gears I didn’t unclip out of my pedals, and I went down on my side. The only thing that really hurt was my ego as I stood my bike up and examined the chain. The group was passing me all asking if I was ok, and taking for granted that I was telling them I was fine and to keep going. By the time I had my chain back on the group was completely out of site. I pedaled like a bat out of hell hoping to catch up, but I missed a turn and ended up 10 miles out of my way, and lost.
To make a long story short ( I know, too late) one of the faster members of the group realized I was gone, backtracked, and finally found me asking directions at a convenience store. He led me back to the group and I finished the ride without any other issues, but I learned a lot of lessons that day.
Hints to get started in cycling straight from the Goof:
1. Buy an entry level road bike. This is usually an aluminum alloy frame. You don’t want a Wal-mart special, but you don’t need to start with the top of the line bike either.
2. Purchase a set of entry level pedals, cleats and shoes. The pedals usually come with the cleats and the bike shop will install them for you.
3. Purchase safety equipment. Biking shorts, and a helmet to start. I would also have a set of sunglasses as well. Not just to keep the sun out of your eyes, but it helps with the wind too. Make sure you also have at least one water bottle with a cage installed on your bike.
4. Get the bike fit for you. Have a certified bike fitter make those adjustments specifically for you.
5. Practice getting in and out of your cleats . Put your bike in a doorway, hold onto the frame and get in and get out of your cleats. Find the most comfortable side of the bike and then practice getting out of the cleats and putting your foot on the ground.
6. Take a short ride around your neighborhood and continue to practice getting in and out of your cleats. When seeing a stop or even a potential stop ahead practice just moving your heel just to the point where you unclip before stopping so you have a quick option that you can pull out of your clip to stop or return your heel to clip back in to keep going. Remember to always clip out and stand with the same foot first every time.
7. Understand your gears. While in that first ride, switch the gears on your right hand and find what lever takes you to a higher or easier gear, and which one brings you to a lower or harder gear.
8. Take your first long ride with friends and have some fun.
One last thing, you are going to fall. That is just the reality of it. You will get stuck in your cleats at some point and you will fall over, but it will be minimal. The trick is to accept it, get up brush yourself off, laugh at yourself, get back on your bike and have fun. It’s worth it I promise.
This post was originally published for IR4C for their new media site, IR4C.TV on July 2, 2013.
Goof Race Recap – HITS Ocala
HITS is a fairly new triathlon series, with a unique concept. Their tag line is “A distance for everyone”, which really says it all. A HITS weekend consists of 70.3 (half-iron distance) and a 140.6(full-iron distance) on Saturday, and on Sunday, Sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. It is a pretty cool concept, and they are really well-organized.
After having breakfast with the Team Foley after the Fight for Air Climb I headed out to Ocala with the hope of seeing at least Margie, Kari and Megan cross the finish line. I have to admit, while I have been training, it hasn’t been as focused as it should have. My “off-season” mentality didn’t quite transition into the race attitude just yet, but I thought I was at least in shape to do the Oly. In triathlon season, usually the first couple of months, is usually “Base” phase which just gets the wheels and legs rolling again, develop some strength and start gaining the endurance needed for race season. With that in mind, I figured an Olympic distance would be perfect to baseline where I am in my training. Imagine my surprise when I saw a lot of my friends out on Saturday competing in the 70.3. As I was watching competitors and friends cross the line there was a familiar itch developing in my heart. I didn’t quite notice what it was at the time.
The course for the 70.3 was pretty intense with loops that included a 1.2 mile swim in a 65 degree Lake Weir, 56 miles of rolling hills and wind of the bike, and an intense mixture of soft trails, and asphalt out-and-backs for the 13.1 mile run. I was too busy losing my lungs to catch any of the swim or bike, but I was happy to be around to see the finale of the run.
I had my first blog recognition, which was really nice. I was at the expo, grabbing a couple of Honey Stinger gels for my race the next day and I was chatting with the owner of Kickstart Endurance and she told me she followed IronGoof. I tried not to make a big deal out of it, but secretly I was really excited.
I missed Margie, but I was really happy to see Megan and Kari cross the finish. They both were finishing their first 70.3 along with some other members of the Tri Psych Club, so for them this was a huge accomplishment and deserved a celebration. That itch started to intensify at Chili’s that night as everyone’s conversation about their race surrounded me.
I really attempted to be nonchalant about this race. I kept telling myself, “Self, this is no big deal. You know you are not ready to race, this is a small race and this is going to tell you what you need to work on.” Unfortunately, waking up the next morning at 4:30a, and preparing my gear not only woke up my consciousness but the competition juices and anxiety levels as well. I showered, dressed, applied my TriTats, loaded the car and off I went.
As I mentioned before, the organization of this race was first-rate, from, staff organizing parking to the transition areas. Have I mentioned the transition area? In previous races I have barely glanced over the amenities of the transition areas, well except for the Rev3 Venice Beach. Let me put it this way, if the transition areas were cars, then every other race I have been in were Toyotas, the Rev3 was a Lexus, and the HITS series was a Bentley. Not only were there boxes that held gear and clamped a tire for easy removal of the bike, plenty of room for transition setup in-between the bikes, but each participant had their own personal stool with their number and last name on them. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really is the little things that make an impression.
I headed down to the beach with my wet suit on halfway, goggles and swim cap in hand. The temperature outside was perfect with just a slight breeze and the sun was starting to slowly creep up over the horizon. I was incredibly grateful to see my friends down on the beach. Pete, Kari, Megan, Michael, Stan and a couple f others as it made me feel slightly less stressed. After the mandatory meeting, all of the males waded out a bit into the water for the start. My anxiety reared a little due to the fact, I was using my backup goggles because my regular goggles broke in transition and this was the coldest water I had ever swam in.
The whole beach counted off, “Three, Two, One…” and the horn blew. We all ran or dolphin dived toward the first buoy. The water was kind of shallow so I did have some time to start to get used to the water. I remembered my strategy and my stroke count and I started swimming. I started losing ground within the first 200m, which was normal for me. My new stroke technique is still relatively new, so I figured I wasn’t going to be fast immediately. When I reached the first buoy, I started feeling short of breath, even though I thought I was relatively relaxed. My chest started to feel compressed like I was being stepped on, and my arms were not moving as freely as I wanted them to. I moved to breast stoke to see if I could relax a bit, but it was to know avail, the compression would just not loosen. I have never had an issue with my wet suit. Except for getting out of it, I kinda like it. I feel more buoyant, warmer and protected from other things that may cause issues in open water. Now I just felt like it was python, strangling me. I kept going, but it was a combination of freestyle, side stroke, and breast stoke. When I reached the second buoy, my mind went into overdrive trying to get me to quit. The ideas popping in my head were asinine. I kept hearing, “You aren’t trained for this”, “You don’t belong here.”, “Just get out of the water. It is only a baseline remember?”. The thing was, I had another loop to do. I swam toward third buoy, and the water became very shallow, so we really didn’t have any choice but to run through it and start dolphin diving again. I forced myself to have the one thought that has gotten me through tough training, cold, wet and rainy workouts, and exhausting races; “The mind will quit one-hundred times before the body does.” I told myself, “Self, that is first and only time that is going to happen today.” I ran around the third buoy and headed out for my second loop.
The second loop felt a little better, but I was so happy to get out of that wet suit. I am still not quite certain why I felt that way. It wasn’t the size of the wet suit because when I bought it I was 25 pounds heavier. Either way I ran out of the water unzipping and getting out of it on my way to transition. One of the strippers told me to lay down and she yanked it off of me. I grabbed my helmet while I put on my shoes and crossed the mat in less than 3 minutes.
The bike course was actually pretty nice. Rolling hills, with well conditioned roads and plenty help by the Sheriff’s department. I wanted to make up sometime, so in my head I thought to just keep passing people. I only got passed twice during the first ten miles of the twenty-five mile course and I was happy with that. I played cat & mouse with a couple of them, and ended up passing them in during the last half of the course. Unfortunately, there was a storm on the horizon and the wind picked up quite a bit on on the second half, not to mention the hills were more abundant and steeper(at least for Florida). My speed, that I was holding quite consistent at 21 mph started to drop to 18, then 17 and at that point, I refused to go under 18 mph. I came into transition, averaging 19.1 and I was proud of that.
I racked my bike and sat on my stool to put on my socks and shoes. I got hung up a little bit, but was still out of there in less than 3 minutes, and it was off to the run. Pete yelled at me as I headed into the trees, “This is the fun part”. At first I agreed with him.
I decided to wear my Hoka One One Biondi Speed 2 running shoes with the large sole, because I wanted to test how they felt on a triathlon after being on the bike. Big mistake. At first the ground wasn’t very soft, and I was ok running about an 8:15 mile, but as I got further into the woods, the trail got softer and softer. With that big sole, not only was my foot pushing down on the sole, but then into the soft ground causing three times as much resistance as the a regular running shoe. I didn’t figure this out at first, but after one-and-a-half miles, I felt like I needed to stop, and that was not usual, not matter what kind of shape I was in. I walked at the aid station for about 200 yards and then I continued running but at a much slower pace. I had to do two loops of the run course as well, and I could feel the resistance ease off when I hit the asphalt again. All of the sudden I was lighter and faster, but I had to do a second loop into the woods again. I decided my strategy would be to walk a hundred yards at the aid station and 100 yards at the turn-around, but other than that I would let my legs do what could. It worked out well as my splits were faster on the second loop.
I ran out of the woods with Pete snapping shots and hearing cheers from Megan, Kari and a couple of others. As, I crossed the finish line it became clear to me, that I am not in the shape I was in for my last 70.3, but I would enjoy this moment as a victory. It was not a PR, but it this race let me know what I need to do over the next months in order to take on the rest of my race schedule.
After calming down a bit and chatting with Pete and a few other friends, Summer Bailey found me. She had competed in the 70.3 the day before. Summer lives in Georgia, so we really only see each other at races and occasionally chat on Facebook so it was really incredible to actually chat and catch up with her in person. She is an amazing woman and with a huge heart and ferocious determination. We both agreed that neither one of us had trained enough for our races, but it was good to have a race under our belt for the year. Chatting with her was encouraging, and I know we will be seeing each other again during the season. To be able to see and chat with her and some others that I do not get to train with allowed me to remember one of the greatest thing about triathlon and racing in general. It’s the friends and connections we make. Other than having a good race and crossing the finish line, it is the best part about it.
Besides crossing the finish line what are the best experiences you have competing?
The 1st week: Are my goals realistic?
I have come to the realization that even I, as the epitome of the positive mental attitude, still hear those negative voices in my head. For all the conversations I have with clients, friends and other athletes about going out and just having fun, I still have grand notions of finishing races with a PR(personal record) and while working out this week those goals seem daunting.
I had three Lactic Threshold tests I had to complete this week; one each for swimming, biking and running. While just doing these tests I felt like I was really out of shape, and truth be told, I did take an off season for the last couple of months, at least by triathlete standards. I did complete at least 5 hour long workouts a week with a half-marathon and a 10k thrown in there, and, oh yeah Ragnar, but I wasn’t in “training” mode per say. This week I started back “in training” and my goals seem so far off and this is only my third day.
Monday, I completed my Bike and Run LT tests which consisted both of a 10 minute warm up, followed by 40 minutes of the event at a pace that burned my legs and put me into a feeling of oxygen deprivation but not so much that I couldn’t complete the full 40 minute main set which was then followed by a 10 minute cool down. My running LT is 173 and my biking LT is 165. I looked into my future workouts they are noted with requirements that include the LT. For instance: Bike 12×1 minute climbs at LT+10, meaning I should be climbing and my heart rate should be 175. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? I know my body will acclimate, hopefully I won’t make a mess before it does.
Tuesday, I completed my first bike workout and strength workout. The bike was 8-12×1 minute climbs in the saddle at a RPM of 50-60. Now my normal riding RPM is 85-95, so you can imagine the resistance that had to be on the bike. I ended up doing it on the spin bikes at LA Fitness, because, well, there are no hills in my general vicinity which is Tampa, Florida. Nothing but flatland here. I have to travel 45 miles north to San Antonio to get any resemblance of some hills, and during the week, that just is not happening. Why? I have a responsibility to this activity called “work”. I wish I could sit here, blog and comment all day, but unfortunately I cannot. I blog in between meetings, lunch and then edit when I can. This workout while being fun, was what I would call, THE QUAD KILLER. It was brutal.
Unfortunately, I was late getting to the gym so I was not able to get my strength workout in, so I showered, drove to work and then returned that evening. Luckily, I always have an extra set of workout clothes in the car. (I think I got that from Ben Mena. He is notorious for spontaneously telling his girlfriend to just drop him off 10-15 miles from home and after changing into a spare set of shorts and shoes he runs home.)
I haven’t worked out with weights in a while, and I know from my studies of the anatomical makeup of muscles and the neurological systems of the body that there is a “breaking in” period no matter how much experience you have lifting. In order to activate the pleasure center of my brain instead of the pain center, I had to drop the weight down and do the exercises concentrating on good form. It was a circuit of 5 supersets and it was not easy, no sir, not easy at all. Deadlifts, pull-ups, squat to overhead thrusts, medicine ball wood choppers, side planks, cable twists and more. I felt beat to death afterwards. Of course, I understand my body enough that I had to stretch very well afterwards or my back would be yelling at me later.
I also learned why I really enjoy working out in the morning. It was extremely busy at the new South Tampa LAF last night. I barely got a parking space, and I ended up having to do most of the movements in a tiny little space, while other members were just waiting to pounce. It was at that point I read myself the riot act and vowed that no matter how much I had to do during the week, I would just wake up early to finish all of my workouts in the mornings.
That vow started this morning as I was up at 4:30 and ready to leave at 5 even though my first workout was track at UT which didn’t start until 6. That workout was brutal as well; 800-400×3-1mile-400×3, at least this week I didn’t falter until the last 400 and only by a couple of seconds. As soon as I finished and cooled down I headed to LAF to do my swim T-test. Basically this is 1000 meters swam as if I was in a race and then the average time of a 100 meters is considered my T-Pace for workouts. Future workouts for example included “4×100 at T-pace – 10 seconds”. I have been working really hard on my body position in the water, but I am still really slow. (Notice I am not mentioning what my T-Pace actually is.) With a pull buoy or fins, I can go forever at 1:50 min per 100m, but without I am…well…a little slower.
After going through all of this, I guess I feel like I should. There is a long journey ahead. I might as well enjoy it.
9-11 : 11 Years Later
September 11th will always remain a significant event in the history of this country. The day when Osama Bin Laden dared to bring terrorism to the United States and unfortunately succeeded, at least at that point in time. Where were you on that day? I bet everyone I ask that question will remember exactly where they were. Me? I was getting ready to go on an interview for a job.
I was just coming out of the shower when the phone rang and it was a neighbor and really good friend of mine, Sue. She told me that a plan had struck the twin towers and to immediately turn on CNN. I swear I told her it must be a hoax until I actually did turn on the TV. I was completely wrecked at the site of the replay of the first plane hitting the tower. As the camera went back live to grab a shot of the destruction, the other plane struck the towers. I was completely floored and I felt like my whole body was over stimulated with anxiety. Then the worst thing happened, I heard another explosion except this time it was not coming from the television. It came from a distance outside my condo. Oh, I didn’t mention that at the time I was living just outside of Washington DC and I had recently separated from the United States Army where I was stationed at the Pentagon.
Within three minutes CNN was relaying the story of the Pentagon. I put some clothes on grabbed my Pentagon badge and left. When I arrived just outside of the gate, guards were already posted at the parking lots and the entryways were fortified. A soldier came to my window and told me to turn around, so I flashed my Pentagon badge and told him I wanted to help. I had people in there and I was a trained EMT and I could at least help triage. He wouldn’t have it. I then asked to him to radio the head of security because I knew him and he knew me very well, but he had his orders and he was not going to make any special provisions. I couldn’t argue with that. All of the military police, security, and medical personnel were all under a great deal of pressure and being that I knew what that was like, I wasn’t going to argue. I turned the car around and went home. It took twice as long for me to arrive at home as it did for me to get there, but after walking in the door and immediately turned on the TV and there I sat, on and off, for two weeks. I was a sponge for information. I made frequent calls back to my old unit asking about people I knew. On that day there were three soldiers who were, subordinates of mine at one time, missing. Friends in other units also missing and two of my mentors pronounced dead; Sergeant Major Robert Strickland and Lieutenant General Tim Maude.
It was a crushing blow for me. I had dinner at both of their houses. General Maude would take me to the Officer’s Dining Room where “a little lunch” was a huge steak and baked potato with all the fixings. SGM Strickland filled in instructing a couple of classes at Ft Jackson when I was in training and then continued my mentorship when I ended up at the Pentagon after Korea. The only thing I could think of was that if I felt this bad, it had to be 100 times worse for any of the victim’s families.
My best friend Sean was living outside of Times Square at the time, and his auditions and work took him all over the city. I immediately picked up the phone and gave him a call, but the circuits were overloaded. I wouldn’t talk to him for three days. The mood around DC and Virginia was somber throughout the coming weeks. It was heavy with dread and confusion, but something positive happened. I noticed that there was very little hostility toward one another.
Everywhere I went I could see citizens going out of their way for one another. For example, an incident that happened to me; the roads were slick after a little rain and I ended up in a 4 car fender bender. Maybe not a fender bender, but a hard love tap. The front car hit the brakes, the car in back of her hit their brakes, then me, then the guy in back of me. We all, got out, looked at our cars and we all had some small dents or paint nicks. My Xterra had part of the bumper had come askew but it looked like it could be fixed pretty easily. The weirdest thing was, no one was mad. We looked at each other shrugged asked if anyone was hurt and basically agreed there was just too much crap going on at that time to worry about such a minor incident. We didn’t call the cops, we didn’t exchange insurance info, we didn’t even exchange names. We shook each other’s hands and went on our way. I saw this happening everywhere I went. Their were customers actually moving their carts to the corral at grocery stores or even helping the employee stack them. I saw two, three, sometimes four cars stopping on the side of the road when a motorist was changing a tire asking if they could help. The whole country was supporting each other. It seemed to last for months before it started to slowly return to the normal disdain.
It was just an amazing sight. I guess the question is why can’t we always feel that way toward each other? Why does the country have to go through an incident of massive destruction for citizens to realize we need each other?
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of people that read my blog, but those of you who do, I challenge you to take an hour every day and think about other people before yourself. As you are in your car, and you see another car that is really trying to merge into traffic but no one is allowing them to enter the line, stop and let that person in. If you notice someone having issues loading groceries into their trunk, offer to help. It is just these little acts of kindness that can change the world as we know it. Lets prove that we do not need a major incident to bring our country together again.