Sunday, September 11, 2016

Run with a Purpose: Coast to Cure NF Recap

"I ran to be free. I ran to avoid pain. I ran to feel pain. I ran out of love and hate and anger and joy." - 
Dagny Scott Barrios

The start.
Yesterday I ran the 24 mile option of the Coast to the Cure charity bike ride, a fundraiser for NF Northeast. While there wasn't officially a run option, a 24 mile run fit nicely into my ultra marathon training.  Amy road the 66 mile option which gave me plenty of time to knock out the run before she got back.  

For almost the past four years, I have been selecting one or more charities and matching it up with a donation for the number of miles that I ran that month.  While I took pleasure in providing support to all of these wonderful organizations, I have never been tied so closely to a cause before.  

Over the past 6 months our lives have been a bit of roller coaster as we adapt to the fact that Nat has Neurofibromatosis Type 1.  While his symptoms currently are only cosmetic (confirmed on his last appointment on September 7th), his future is largely unknown.  From what we have been told, most cases are mild to moderate, but what does that really mean?  For now, it just means a good deal of monitoring.  

Shortly after Nat's diagnosis, Amy and I got in contact with NF Northeast, a local non-profit that is dedicated to finding treatment and helping families cope with NF.  They hooked Amy up with a mother in Belmont whose son, now a teenager, has NF and I donated the month of February to them, one of my highest mileage months on record.  At this point, my guess was that our lives will be forever intertwined.  

We first found out about the Coast to the Cure bike ride a few months ago.  While I love to ride, and could see my self doing the century option, I have found it difficult to get in much riding since our older son Neil was born four years ago.  Over that same period, I greatly increased my focus on running and am currently training for my first 100K run (October 8th).  Not wanting to stray too much from that training, I decided that running the shortest option would be the best way for me to participate.  Amy decided she would do the 66 mile option, so I signed us up.  

The ride starts and ends at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester (A place I have fond childhood memories of).  The route heads south along the coast for the first 6ish miles, does a loop through Manchester, and then heads north to Essex before coming east back to Gloucester. The course is entirely rolling hills and contains some beautiful views of the north shore.  

The event was a rolling start between 7-9am and had a BBQ in the park at the finish.  To add a little more fun, the Gloucester cheerleading team was at the finish to welcome you back and Dunkin' Donuts was there with free ice coffee, tea, and of course, donuts.  

Amy and I have done a decent share of charities events over the years, but it has been a few since we proactively reached out soliciting donations. We were overwhelmed with the support that we received from family, friends, and co-workers.  

Early on in the fundraising process, one of my co-workers hounded me (Thank you Pallavi) about matching gifts, something I have been grossly negligent about during my previously fundraising campaigns (Cisco matches up to $1000 per employee to approved charities per year).  

After a little bit of research, I found that NF Northeast was not in the approved list, but there was a fairly straightforward process for submitting them.  Last Thursday, the $1000 minimum was reached to get them out of provisional status and they have been invited submit an application to be approved for all requested and future matches.  

Currently, Amy and I had a combined fundraising total of $2539 and if / when the match comes in, we will jump to $3689 (which will be a new high for us for a single event).  

The Run / Ride
There were a 160 riders (and 1 runner) and everyone we talked to had some connection with NF, whether it was a child, a sibling, a close friend, or a combination of them.  

Shortly after we arrived, we met up with our swim Coach Sue (back from our masters swimming / triathlon days) and she introduced us to her friends Samantha and Jeff whose daughter has NF.  Over the course of the day we talked to them and got a sense of what there family has been through and how they have coped.  

Finally, it was time to start and just before 7:30, I took off. My goal for the run was to run 7:30 pace which would get me back in exactly 3 hours.  The first few miles went very smoothly as I rolled along the coast.  Shortly there after, an older gentleman passed me and told me I should be proud of what I was doing.  I simply smiled and sped up a little.  

Just after mile 12, I turned onto a side road.  This part of the course was a short out and back to the aid station where I would be able to refill my nearly empty camel pack.  

About a half mile later as I came down a hill I saw someone moving in the woods.  As I got closer I realized it was a cyclist that had left the road.  I jogged over and as he came out, he had some blood dripping from his forehead and left knee.  I asked if he was ok, and if he wanted me to call for help.  He responded with, I think so, give me a minute to get my bearings.  About a minute later a group of cyclists came by and stopped and said they would make sure it was alright and either get him help or to the aid station (which was about 1.5 miles away).  A little frazzled, I headed on my way.  

Refueling at the aid station
About a half mile later, as another group of cyclists came up behind me, I heard "Nice job Scot. How is it going?" I turned and saw Nat's Neurologist, Dr. Ullrich (who we had just seen this past Tuesday).  I smiled back and said "Great." One of the most uplifting parts of the day was to see all of the Doctors that care for people with NF out there with us.  It really shows a sense of community.  

Once I arrived at the rest stop, I realized just how dehydrated I was beginning to get.  I drank 3 cups of gatorade and re-filled my camelpak to take on the remaining ten miles.  I also met a number of cyclists which made the remaining miles more enjoyable.  As they passed, they shouted to me. "Go Scot Go.  Your a beast"

Over the final miles I slowed some.  It was getting warmer out and my stomach was sloshing having drank so much liquid.  As I hit the finish line, I raised my hands in triumph.  The kids arrived a few minutes later and I got my picture with Nat and posted it online with the comment "Take that NF."
Amy and Sue after their 66 mile ride.

A couple hours later, Amy got back from her ride and we got some food and talked with a number of people, including volunteers, people that work at NF Northeast, and caught up with Sue after having not seen her for a few years.  

All and all we had a great day.  

What's Next
Over the past few months, my running has gained a new sense of purpose.  I have always been a runner, and it has always been a major part of who I am.  I use running as a way to vent, to cope, to escape, and to feel alive.  

In the future, I will continue to use running as a way to give back and to hopefully make a difference.  
Next up is the TARC 100k on October 8th, which will be my longest race to date.  Following that we will be at our second NF event, Steps 2 Cure NF at Lake Quannapowitt on October 23rd.  We hope to see you there.

Thank you
Special thanks to all our family, friends, and co-workers that have / are supporting us through this event and with NF in general.  Thank you to my in -aws, Betsy and Dan for watching and bringing the kids to the event so we could participate.  Thank you to the Cisco Matching Gifts team for working with me to submit NF Northeast into the matching gifts program. Thanks to NF Northeast for putting on this event, giving us the opportunity to participate, and supporting all families dealing with NF.  

PS, There is still time to donate :).

For details of the run, checkout my Strava activity at:

Additional Pictures

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