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We get up in the morning, feelin’ tired.
Sometimes we feel good, sometimes we feel bad,
But we gonna do it with feelin’.
From the root to the fruit, that’s where everything starts.
What you say to you. Don’t stop.

Angelo Dundee, Muhammad Ali’s trainer.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 3:08 pm text exchange:

Scott: Wrist bands for each of us if you want. I put clear tape on each to laminate.

IMG_0423

Katie: Awesome!!! Thank you!

Scott: Do you want me to pick up some shot blocks for you? What is your favorite flavor?

Katie: Yes please!! Raspberry. Ah I’m so pumped!!!

(The wrist bands pictured above show the exact 8:12 per mile pace required to run a marathon in 3:35:00, the qualifying time Katie would need to run for the Boston Marathon.)

Friday, October 2, 2015.

Katie had come to Minneapolis and worked from home all day while Margy and I were away. When we returned, I noticed that Katie had been eating her Shot Blocks, glorified – and expensive – gum drops laced with electrolytes for endurance athletes.

“I see that you have been eating your Shot Blocks,” I noted. “You realize that I bought you the exact number you would need to meet your calorie requirements for the marathon?”

Katie looked surprised.

“How were we supposed to carry all of those anyway?” she responded. She was right. So we worked on a plan that would provide her a mix of nutrition from Powerade at water stations and Shot Blocks pulled from a pouch I would carry on race day. We had it down to a science.

Bowdoin College Spring Break, March 2014.

Katie never took a beach vacation for spring break in college. Instead, she spent her spring breaks with her rowing team in cinder block “cottages” at Camp Robert Cooper (“Camp Bob”) in South Carolina. The accommodations were gray but at least the ice was out; back at Bowdoin, ice still covered the river on which they rowed. Bowdoin used Camp Bob to sort the team using “seat races.” Seat races attempt science by using control and experiment groups. A boat composed of a team rows a set course against another boat. Then one rower is switched out of the boat for another and they race again. The races continue until the team has determined the fastest combination of rowers in each seat.

As a senior and team captain, Katie stayed in the stroke (rearmost) seat of a boat, a spot of which she was assured while others swapped in and out of her boat. Seat races had proceeded for quite a while when a younger rower spoke up.

“Has anyone else noticed that no matter who is in her boat, Katie always wins?”

When thinking about running the Twin Cities Marathon in 2015, I thought it seemed like a good idea to jump into Katie’s boat. After all, I had cast my entire genetic lot with her anyway. Might as well run together.

Saturday, October 3, 2015.

The incomparable Courtney Payne sent Katie a link to a Radio Lab show about human limits. Courtney and Katie had rowed together for three years at Bowdoin. Katie and I listened. The show featured Julie Moss, the woman who crawled to the finish line of the 1982 Hawaii Ironman. After having led the race most of the day, Julie collapsed within just a few yards of the finish. While Julie laid on her back ten yards from the finish line, she watched the winner run by. Julie had pooped her pants on national TV and commented that it couldn’t get any lower than that. Then Julie said that she heard a voice somewhere deep down inside her.

Julie Moss in 1982

Julie Moss in 1982

“Get up,” the voice said.

She did.

Sunday, October 4, 2015. Race day.

We drove along the empty downtown streets of a predawn Sunday morning. I hadn’t expected this to be the most emotional part but it was. Katie and I have had a long-running dispute. What is the best-ever John Mayer song? I have always favored “No Such Thing.” Katie has always liked “Daughters.” But on this morning, Katie ran the iPhone and got to choose the music. It was only fair. This was to be her second marathon but the first during which she got to “let the dogs off the leash” and go for it. (At 15, she ran the Des Moines Marathon with Margy and me mostly at our pace, not hers.) This marathon was all about Katie.

Katie had trained really hard, not something with which she was unfamiliar. As a college rower, she knew the predawn chill of a fall morning in a northern state. I felt the stillness of the morning outside, the sky lighting wispy clouds pink over gray pavement. Meanwhile, we were getting pretty charged up. Katie seemed more excited than nervous. I felt nervous and responsible. It would fall to me to try to help Katie if the morning’s Twin Cities Marathon got tough. And marathons all have a funny way of getting tough. Go figure.

As we neared the parking ramp, Katie cued “No Such Thing,” and I was touched that she would pick my favorite. Then John Mayer sang these words:

And all of our parents
They’re getting older
I wonder if they’ve wished for anything better

I glanced at Katie, then looked straight ahead. I blinked a couple of times and sniffled.

We drove to a parking spot and jumped out to put on our sweatshirts and pull on our trash bags. I am resolutely old school when it comes to marathon apparel. When I began running marathons in the mid-80’s, most marathoners took big black trash bags and tore a hole in the bottom, then slipped the bag on to stay warm in the morning before a race. Bags with draw strings are the best; you can cinch the drawstring around your waist. I have become a lifelong fan of trash bags for this purpose and still love the terrarium feel of a trash bag drawn tight around my waist on a chilly, breezy morning.

2015 - Boston Marathon Before Start

So you don’t get the incorrect idea, here I model properly fitted pre-marathon attire; at the 2015 Boston Marathon with Margy and Katie.

The day before, I had enlisted my mom’s help to fold two trash bags so that we could cut out a head hole in the bottom of each. On Sunday morning, when I began to pull my bag over my head, I noted that mine had two holes. I showed Katie and the tension broke as we laughed. I chivalrously took the bag with two holes and handed Katie hers. She unfolded her bag and began to put it on – but had to choose which of the two head holes to use. For the moment, our pre-race jitters disappeared and our laughter echoed off the concrete walls, floor and ceiling in the empty parking ramp right above the bail bond office.

We managed to show up in the start area with time to attend to last minute details. We worked our way into an appropriate spot among the other runners. The sun hung low in the sky behind us and lit the buildings west of us with a warm orange glow. We looked down the course. A helicopter circled. As she has always done when excited, Katie grinned with her teeth clenched tight and we exchanged a hand slap routine adopted from “The Parent Trap” when Katie was in grade school.

The air horn sounded and we heard a cheer. For ten or 15 seconds, no one around us moved. Then we saw people ten yards in front of us begin to walk, then five yards in front of us. We began to walk, then jog. It took us more than 30 seconds to cross the start line after the air horn sounded. I instructed Katie to go first. I would follow tightly behind; we couldn’t run side-by-side during the first few hundred yards because of all of the jostling. Katie moved swiftly into a small gap where I joined her. We came out of the worst of the crowd and began to run beside one another. I listened carefully to her even breathing and watched her smooth gait.

We looked up the long ribbon of bobbing humanity stretching along Hennepin Avenue. At the top of a rise nearing the western edge of downtown, we looked toward the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden and heard the sound of the Minneapolis Cathedral’s bells chiming full bore. For whatever reason, those sights and sounds always affect me.

“This is so cool,” Katie said.

I smiled as we headed down the hill toward a sharp left turn, the bells still ringing pure and sweet into a perfectly blue sky.

The first miles of the race passed remarkably well as we threaded through southwest Minneapolis, first passing the stately old homes in Kenwood, then by Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun, the still water shimmering smooth, bright and cold. When we passed our family beside Lake Calhoun, I forgot to toss my sweatshirt and needed to make a “U” turn. Katie went ahead but made me pay; it was hard work to catch up.

By Lake Harriet, we felt cool shade and a slight breeze.  To the west, the sun illuminated the far shore. Immediately to our east, a wooded embankment sheltered the course and discouraged spectators from standing nearby. For a few minutes, we could only hear the breathing of the runners around us, their feet striking the ground with light thumps and scratching sounds.

“It hasn’t sorted out yet, Katie,” I offered. “People are still passing and getting passed but we will soon be surrounded by the people we will run with all the way to the finish.”

I began to point out runners to whom we should pay attention. An even pace developed through years of marathon experience will win out over “surge and sag” speeds run by fast but impatient young men. (This, sadly, I know from experience.) An older guy just in front of us ran a smooth, steady pace. The sinewy muscles in his calves snapped taut with each foot strike, then loosened as his leg extended behind him. In mid-stride, the skin of his legs was a little loose and wrinkled behind his knees as it covered knotty veins. But when his feet touched down, that leg stood in sharp relief featuring long, lean muscles. This was one of the guys who would be steady, steady, steady.

“Pay attention to this guy, Kate.”

She nodded.

Then I felt self conscious and glanced behind me just to see if anyone was studying my legs.

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Katie making fun of my circa 2003 tri outfit. Plenty of miles left.

Katie and I both wanted to encourage one another during the race but, oddly, not one single time did either of us urge the other to go faster. I habitually “one-stepped” Katie, meaning that I ran just one step ahead of her no matter how fast she went. She had become (mostly) tolerant of this but, on race day, Katie wanted to exercise discipline necessary to run 8:12 miles. So, as my one step became two or three, Katie would say, “Dad, easy.” And I would dial my pace back. Meanwhile, if Katie went too fast, particularly after a water stop or an inspiring band played along the course, I would say, “A little hot there.”

At the ten mile mark, I consulted one of the wrist bands that I had made for the two of us. We were four minutes ahead of pace.

Katie said, “OK, Dad, we have plenty of time in the bank. From here until 19, let’s just concentrate on running 8:00’s.”

Katie was afraid of “blowing up,” finding herself in the last few miles of the race without energy to run. It wasn’t an unreasonable fear. But I could see that Katie’s gait had not deteriorated, her breathing was smooth and even. I pressed.

“Dad, easy.”

At mile 16, I looked carefully at Katie. Her training plan included no runs longer than 16. I couldn’t see anything wrong with her, though I had begun to feel like I had been on my feet a good long while. I hoped that she would not become apprehensive because she had entered terra incognito in the distance beyond her longest training run.

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Nine fingers for nine minutes to the good.

At the east end of the Franklin Avenue Bridge, our family stood to cheer. I held up nine fingers to let them know that we were nine minutes ahead of pace. “Nine minutes to the good,” I thought, but I knew that the hardest miles of the course were all in front of us.

In St. Paul, near mile 21, we approached the course’s hardest hill. I had prepared Katie for this several times including a training run along the last 11 miles of the course. A woman pulled up alongside us.

“You guys are a metronome!” she said. “I’ve been pacing off you.”

“We’re a team,” I responded. “You can be on our team, too.”

The woman smiled and accepted our invitation as we rounded a sweeping left hand turn and faced a steep hill extending about a quarter mile. Katie temporarily ditched caution. She dug in and pushed up five or six yards in front of me. For a moment, I thought that she might have gapped me and this would be the last I would run with her. Then I remembered how determined I felt about crossing the line together. I pressed.

Another song lyric popped into my head. It was a song by The Alan Parsons Project that I used to listen to in college.

“Who can say why you and I are Gemini?”

I enjoyed the celestial image of the two of us composed of stars in a clear, dark sky suspended above that cursed hill. The celestial quickly gave way to the terrestrial: Katie was kicking my butt as she raced ahead up the hill. Still, this was a closeness that I suspect that few fathers and daughters ever experience. I felt enormously close to Katie. “Chip off the old block,” I would have said – if I could have caught my breath.

We reached the top of the hill together and entered a short flat portion of the course before continuing the climb toward mile 23.

“Regroup here,” I fairly whispered. “It goes up just after the left hander.”

My friend Drew ran up and offered us orange slices. We declined but thanked him. I introduced Katie. He said that we looked awesome. I could tell that he meant it. We turned the corner and headed up Summit.

“Stay right. Let’s get the shade,” I said.

The temperature had not yet reached 60 but it still felt good to be in the shadows of the full trees just beginning to show fall colors.

After we passed the cheerleaders and students from the University of St. Thomas, it became quieter – or maybe I just tuned everything out except for Katie’s breath. On only one or two occasions did Katie say, “Dad, easy.” Mostly we just put our heads down and climbed the gentle but persistent slope until we approached Snelling Avenue. The hill got steeper. We passed only a few spectators. They offered tepid encouragement.

“Surf band at the top,” I said to Katie.

No response. I checked her gait. Her breathing sounded steady but deep. I could tell that she was suffering. We were all suffering. We passed the surf band and reached the crest of the hill, the highest point on the course. It would be almost all downhill from there. I turned toward Katie and shouted, “Katie, you did it!” Katie said later that this startled her. I hadn’t yelled at her during the entirety of the race, only offered quiet warning when she had gone too fast or guidance regarding the side of the street on which to line up for the  next curve.

Summit Avenue passed from the shady, older, uphill part to a sunny, slightly downhill portion. A puff of breeze blew in our faces. Katie had fallen in behind me, maybe to let me shield her from the wind. I hoped that she had not spent too much energy on the hill. Then she pulled up alongside. I didn’t look except to see out of the corner of my eye that she was OK – OK that is for just having run 23 miles – and needing to run three more. I looked at my watch, then at my pace wristband: more than ten minutes to the good.

Ordinarily, at this time of a race I would have let my mind go as blank as I could make it. I would have let the miles go by without thinking of anything and without noticing how uncomfortable I had become. I would have sunk into the rhythm of my steps. But every time I caught myself drifting, I looked over at Katie and remembered that we needed to stick together and bring it into the finish. At that stage, there were very few times that either Katie or I corrected one another’s pace. Increasingly, I had ceased to focus on Katie’s condition and had begun to focus on my own. Yeah, I still had gas in the tank, but not a lot. Best to just keep going and hope that she would stay at my right shoulder – and that I could stay at her left.

We hit the 25 mile mark and I shouted one last time, “OK!” I don’t think that Katie heard. We both knew that “the hay was in the barn” unless something dramatic happened. I ran through the list of horribles in my mind, the things that could go wrong: I could have had a heart attack (highly unlikely), we could have gotten hit by a car straying onto the course (equally unlikely, though we had seen a car on the course near mile 24), or Katie and I could have had a mutual “Forrest Gump Moment” and just decided it wasn’t worth it (not happening).

Katie shouted when she spotted the St. Paul Cathedral dome as we passed the James J. Hill House. From there, we ran about 60 yards up a very shallow climb, then spotted the finish about 500 yards ahead. The course followed a steep downhill lined by police officers posted every 25 yards or so just in case a threatened Black Lives Matter protest tried to block the course (it didn’t). I thanked each cop as we passed.

Nearing the bottom of the hill, I greeted Jim and Denise D’Aurora, friends from my time on the TCM board. Then we began a slight 250 yard uphill into the finish. I started to execute a pass so that Katie and I could run side-by-side for our finish photo. Katie issued one last speed warning.

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In the finish chute. Note how we each wear our hats and hold our left hands.

We clasped hands as we crossed the line.

We stopped for a moment after finishing to give one another a big hug. I looked at my running watch. We had crossed about ten seconds before. My watch said 3:22:43. More than twelve minutes to the good. Katie had easily qualified for Boston.

We made it through the finish area and reunited with our family. My mom said that it must have been an awfully proud moment for me. She’s known me a while.

I recalled the John Mayer song we had heard on the way to the parking ramp. Years ago, when I had first heard the song talking about all of our parents getting older, I had assumed that the aging parents were other people but here I was, one of the aging parents. I felt awfully grateful to be part of Katie’s race. Grateful for my family. As for wishing for anything better, I couldn’t think of a thing.

Science.

Katie and I had the Twin Cities Marathon down to a science. Katie had trained with discipline and intensity following a well-regarded plan. Each of us formulated exact nutrition and hydration strategies. We used GPS-enabled watches to monitor our pace and time. We wore wristbands showing us precise times at which we needed to pass each mile marker. In the end, though, we pretty much tossed all of this out the window. Instead, we ran with feeling. We felt deep down inside. We looked to one another. And we ended up running so much faster than we ever would have dared to plan.

Numbers.

Katie needed to run an average of 8:12 miles to finish in 3:35:00 to qualify for Boston. We ran 3:22:32 for an average pace of 7:44 per mile. Katie placed 67th of 1,130 women in the 22-29 age group, roughly the top 5.9%.

Version 2

Does age win over beauty? The official results show Katie and I finishing with the same time but I finished one place in front of her. Case closed.

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Left to right: Scott, my mom, Nancy, Katie, my sister, Ann, my brother-in-law, Rick, Margy and my niece, Sarah. Thank you so much.

From the root to the fruit, that’s where everything starts.

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Katie contemplating the Boston Marathon as a youngster, “8:12’s, are you serious? No sweat.”

For Dad, the unlikeliest person I have ever known to use a sentence including the word “I” with “can’t.”

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2 Comments

  1. Rosser,

    Thank you for sharing your blog with me. Katie did amazing! She had you to guide her. I am so happy for you both.

    Enjoy your upcoming trip. Let’s connect when you return. Hockey season begins.

    Vicki Leddy | Accounting Manager | Sightpath Medical
    5775 W. Old Shakopee Rd, Suite 90
    Bloomington, MN 55437
    o 952.345.5502 f 952.345.5539
    vicki.leddy@sightpathmedical.com
    Connect with Sightpath: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Blog

  2. As a father of three (two of whom are daughters), this one got to me, Scott. Way to go both of you!!


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