Saturday, May 31, 2014

Strong Army

It was a return to the Lowell General Hospital Cancer Team Walk for Annie's Army once again, one of our favorite local fund-raisers, because it helps combat such an insidious disease, and especially because we do it on behalf of Jack's sister Annie, who's usually there every year, but was still on the mend and couldn't make it to this year's outing.
She'll be back leading the forced march next year, no doubt!
The Army, Assembled
Andrew, Carlos and I headed out early for a six-mile trek along the extended course, coming over the birdcage on the Rourke Bridge.
Coming inbound, on the newly opened Richard P. Howe bridge, heading back to the starting line
Where the rest of the Army was waiting for our group photo
At the 5K start, mom and daughter are all smiles.  The smiles stayed there pretty much the whole morning
Giving cancer the Boott (Mill)
You can tell these power walkers have been training.
The rest of the team stayed on track, too
Heather and Josh were clearly the pacesetters this year.  Slow down, you two!
Can't say enough about the LGH organization behind the annual outing, and no credit can be dispensed without recognizing the efforts of the volunteers who line the course and generally make as much noise as they can to boost the walkers' and runners' energy levels
Behind the Lowell Spinners Lelacheur park, everyone's getting ready for the home stretch
But not before we stop in our annual photo op spot beneath the Ouellette Bridge, with the Mighty Merrimack behind us

We were finished, and hopefully, so is cancer!
Hanging with my bud.  (You know who you are.....)
A Lowell Spinners employee reunion
And finally, the rest of the Army with the Canaligator, with Andrew doing his best beefcake pose.
Once again, it was an honor for us to participate.  This is one of our favorite outings of the year, and Lowell General always puts forth a top notch event to brings all its cancer-fighting teams together for a special time with friends and families.
Annie, we expect you out there in front of your Army next May to help us Kick Cancer's Butt!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Squirmin' on the Mount

Crazy busy month of May, so I haven't had a lot of time to catch up on the blogging front, and as a result have a daunting blog backlog to plow through, so it's time to clean the pipes and get back to the grind.
So much to cover, but it won't be chronological, just snapshots of what's been going on in - to quote the mirthful Queen Guinevere herself - the lusty month of May.
After a couple of years hiatus, it was time to make a celebrated return to one of our favorite races, particularly for its off-road offerings, the Mount Wachusett trail race.
Here's a helpful hint for you casual runners out there:  if a race has the word Mount in its title, it's a sure bet your challenge is going to involve running up a hill.
So yeah, the Mount Wachusett trail race.
We've done it several times before, but for many of those outings, the course was altered, either because of road closings, trail conditions, or some other act of god that diverted our pathway.
This year's offering was a 10K, or 6.2 mile course.  Math and physics were never my strong suit, but I now understand that for this race, that measurement means 3.1 miles UP the mountain, with the other 3.1 coming back down.
Pre-race, Andrew is ready to walk the planks to get to the start.
Which is where we found fellow E Streeter - oops, for this race, Lone Wolf - Scott Spence finishing up his 20 mile warm-up run
Bumped into fellow Middlesex Community College off-roader Lisa Doucett, who's notched more than a few personal bests on some of the crazier courses in our running repertoire.
The pack ahead of me, waiting to climb up Mile Hill Road.  The name alone should give you an indication of what lies ahead for mile one of this race.
Andrew has his game face on.  That's because he's done this first mile climb before, several times.  And it still sucks.
Half-way up Mile Hill Road, a half-assed selfie
The vistas up top were simply gorgeous, despite the heavy fog coating.  This particular panorama occurred at one of the steeper points of the three-mile uphill climb.  Fortunately, the elevation allowed me to slow to the point where I was able to safely capture the moment on film.
Up top, just to prove I made it there, I passed the camera-phone to one of the volunteers, just to so I could document the accomplishment.  No truth to the vicious rumor it was because I needed the extra seconds to attempt to recapture a breathing rhythm which had long fled my body.
The next three miles were straight downhill.  And here I thought my run had gone downhill since the starting gun went off.  This backside three meant recording some of the fastest mile splits we've ever recorded, thanks to momentum and the laws of gravity.  It also meant that because we had to watch our footing on the rock-covered and technical trails, there was no way the camera was coming out.  It was all I could do to control my flailing arms and downward descent without falling ass over teakettle.
At the finish line, a father-son reunion.
Heading back to the car, we ran into a couple of running legends - Lowell Sun Enterprise Editor Chris Scott and his son Andy, who ruled the mountain that day, finishing 9th overall.  As you can see from the pic, one of these two ran the race, the other was saving himself for a 100 mile bike ride later that day. 
And because it's not every day you get to stage your group shots with a polar bear, we collected Lone Wolves, Great Scotts, and E Streeters alike for our victory pose. 
Mountains do strange things to a man, and so does running.  Not for the weak of heart, Wachusett is certainly one to experience.  It's a gorgeous scale up a local treasure, but make no mistake, it's an uphill battle.  Even though I previously stated the subject wasn't my pinnacle in high school, as the laws of physics state, what goes up, must come down.  Thankfully, that dictum holds especially true for off-road mountain runners.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Habitat Forming

Blogging way out of date here, but clear away the cobwebs and read on.  I never had a chance to finish with some pics from our trip to New Orleans, this time spotlighting an early morning run that featured the high point of the week, our stop at the home being rehabbed by Middlesex Community College students who travelled to New Orleans to work with Habitat for Humanity and restore a home that was destroyed nine years ago by Hurricane Katrina.
The morning was supposed to feature a boat ride across the Ole' Mississippi for a run in Algiers, but the fog was so heavy, you literally couldn't see the other side, and the ferries were cancelled.  Didn't stop Donna from trying to see the other side of the river, though.
Finally, over to the neighborhood of St. Roch where we found our Roch Star MCC students, along with their trip adviser, Noreen McGuiness Olson, hard at work.
We thought WE were sweating from the humid run until we saw the MCC students who had already been hard at work for three hours by the time we got there!
Team MCC outside their home. Seriously, you want to talk about how to make a difference in someone's like, then look no further than these students who worked NINE HOURS A DAY to fix a home destroyed nearly nine years ago by six-foot deep floodwaters!
Here's a pic of their work in progress
Leaving our MCC stars behind, we soldiered on.  Just a few doors away from the Habitat for Humanity worksite, we ran into this guy, who easily outran us.
Then it was on St. Roch's cemetery.  Mary-Jo and Donna were a bit nervous to enter
The cemeteries here are something to behold.  Very inspiring.
An unforgettable experience passing through these grounds
This cemetery featured a truly inspirational chapel dedicated to miraculous cures.  In a vestibule off to the side, there was a small room which was filled with crutches, leg braces, prosthetics and other medical apparatus.  The pieces had been left there by people who had overcome great adversities in their lives.
And these marble tiles told the messages of the healed
From there, it was off to the park named for the godfather of jazz, Louis Armstrong
At the feet of greatness, old Satchmo himself
And all that jazz
Seriously, the statues in this park run the gamut from festive to ornate, and were just too good to pass up
Donna and Mary-Jo make their mad dash from the park
Stopped to pass the boot with some New Orleans firefighters...
And then on to the Superdome!
At this point, I was regretting not wearing some Patriots swag
In a forecast for our upcoming Boston Marathon, we stumbled upon this inspirational trailer
The dome's World War II memorial
And yet another random sculpture.  This guy makes Mary-Jo and Donna look jacked!
Finally, back to the hotel, wrapping up our last run.  Couldn't let the week pass without recognizing two ultimate NOLA tour guides who helped us navigate our early morning meanderings, Bill and Ray, the Westin frontmen extraordinaire!
A great run, and one that inspired us on many fronts - the beauty of New Orleans, the grandeur of the Superdome, the tranquility of St. Roch's Cemetery, and most of all, our fabulous MCC students who put their backs and sweat into supporting a truly life-changing organization, Habitat for Humanity.
Who 'dat?  Why just our outstanding students, dat's who!