Search Results: qualifying for quinn



10 May 14

baa5k

Quinn joyously approaches the finish guiding a weary Randy in Boston’s BAA 5k in 2013.

We strongly encourage everyone to read a powerful and very different perspective of this event as written by Thor, Randy’s Guide for the Marathon!

http://ironboy.wordpress.com/

As my Dog Guide, the Mighty Quinn, led me across the finish line of the BAA 5K in April of 2013, I was inspired to make the Boston Marathon 2014 one of my next goals. The positive and powerful community response to the tragic events of that Boston marathon enhanced my desire significantly. Yet when Bone Cancer was discovered in Guiding Eyes Quinn’s body there was no question in my heart or mind that I would set aside my running goals and the hours of training to achieve them to lovingly tend my beautiful boy who had brought me to such incredible heights. Along with reaching the summit of all 48 of the 4000 foot mountain peaks in NH, Quinn also guided my way back to running. Tragically, Quinn ran out of time on January 20, 2014. As a result, I decided to dedicate the following year’s running to him: #Miles4Quinn. Effectively from the BAA 5K on April 19 until the Boston Marathon in 2015 every step run will be in his honor. Boston, the Superbowl of Road Races, is most important for me to run in his honor.

Determined to qualify as soon as possible, I set my totally blind ‘sights’ upon the Cox-Providence Marathon on 5/4/2014. Yet when the schedule shifted in mid-March and my new Dog Guide, Autumn, began her training with me I realized a significant setback was likely for my run training. Exclusive time spent in training with Autumn would be followed by critical, time demanding bonding and work with her to the general exclusion of long runs.

Winter weather and the loss of my primary running Guide/partner, Quinn, resulted with me running near exclusively on a treadmill. With so many possible human guides gearing up for and then recovering from the April Boston Marathon, my options were reduced further still. Specifically longer runs outside were severely lacking and there was cause to question whether I could or should run my first Marathon under these conditions.

I knew how important it was for me to give Quinn my very best of efforts. I knew also that my life challenges and accomplishments had built up significant determination and perseverance particularly for endurance events. I knew one very valuable bit of additional information which would work to my favor, Thor Kirleis, had volunteered to bring his considerable Marathon experience to work as my Human Guide. Though we had met just once for a 10 mile training run the week before the marathon, we both felt confident in our ability to communicate and work well together. Qualifying for Boston was our primary goal and he knew more than I did how very challenging that would likely prove given the factors working against us. He somehow also knew we both thrived on giving our utmost towards facing challenges with every bit of gritty determination possible.

With no vision my feet must quickly react to every angle, bump or twist in the pavement . My human Guide may steer us around many obstacles when possible or warn me to help the mental preparation as my foot strikes the pavement but each of those turns causes a body adjustment to the turn through the rigid tether we use to link us while we run. Each turn is a mental concentration to evaluate and adjust while working many very different muscles than the treadmill requires. Even the necessary interaction of weaving and communicating with other runners requires adjustments to running which also takes a toll beyond much of the basic training I’d managed in advance of this race. So as we began with our field of runners I placed my trust in Thor’s ability to sustain the high focus, awareness, communication and running condition necessary for our success. He did not disappoint.

The first few miles passed at a comfortable pace with the excitement of the experience sustaining many playful conversations. My breathing was relaxed, the muscle movements felt smooth and fluid while my mental concentration sustained at a naturally high level. Early surprise greetings from various friends on and off the course helped bolster promising spirits highlighted by my wife Tracy and the wagging wonder of my Dog Guide Autumn!

As we passed the 10 mile mark, matching our prior run together, Thor had steadily been coaching me and indirectly many around us on some simple long run techniques. This included things such as using short stride for best handling running up hills.  Our guiding terminology had reached peak efficiency and small challenges of interacting with the course had become well enough understood that we were easing my fairly natural, blind tendency to  over emphasize each turn, experience post turn wobble and most importantly give attention to all of the ground obstacles. Thor’s mind seems to always be analyzing and problem solving, a trait I aspire towards as well. I quickly noted that he began to enhance subtle use of the “rigid tether’ (simply a short version of the white cane used by many blind people) such that he could more smoothly guide me through turns, into slow downs or lane shifts. In this the work became easier. The overall work was starting to show upon me in other ways however.

My blindness is believed to be caused by a Mitochondrial Disease. My optic nerves are dead. Along with this  loss is a damage to my Cerebellum, the balance center of the brain, and my peripheral nervous system, the sensation in my hands and feet specifically. Having adapted to this for several years the immediate challenge is often not in my conscious thought. As physical weariness increases, food and water reserves decrease and winds begin to increase; all of these difficulties seem to rise to the forefront of my awareness. I took the time to reflect upon the reality I was confined to a wheelchair less than ten years prior to this race. My gels for nutrition weren’t settling well in my stomach, a sign my heart rate was probably a little too high for proper digestion.

Thor recognized my introspections, the impact of all these factors on my breathing and stride. He encouraged me to consider many of the aspects of support we had discussed in advance. The incredible community of encouragement who had wished us well. I also began to mentally and emotionally lean upon the supportive comments of our fellow runners, attempting to return the support as best possible. I was quite struck by the courtesies extended constantly along our route. The comfortable miles behind us, I felt the increase of effort needed as we passed the 15 mile marker. Passing that point I was beyond my longest outdoor run. As Thor had predicted my body was already tapping reserves normally built with more depth through training. Muscles were sore, breathing was a bit more shallow and mental fatigue was growing at a time when willpower and determination were going to be my primary means to push forward. At this point the wind intensified as we ran along the ocean. It caught us front and left side. It slowed and buffeted me into many staggered strides. I was already reaching deep for mental reserves to push through and Thor had wisely begun to encourage me to ease our pace, and even walk some of the up hill portions. I recalled Thor telling me that if we could make mile 20 we would find the way to get the last 6.2 miles. I set my target on mile 18 where I expected to hear Tracy and Autumn for the final time. We pulled over there for a Tracy hug and Autumn lick. I was deeply emotional but their support supplied me with more resolve. I needed 2 more miles for Thor’s suggestion to become true.

I gave all my will towards running as long as I could. It seemed to me those times grew increasingly shorter as I requested to walk a stretch or had Thor suggest it from my physical reactions to the effort. Always I’d ask to run as quickly as I felt it and when that 20th mile was crossed I promised him I’d run every time he asked me to do such. I knew at this point I would cross the finish line. I was fairly certain it was going to be painful and amongst the most difficult challenges I’d undertaken. it seemed we might had enough time to achieve our Boston Qualifying time as well. That seeming, however, was based on my normal ability to run 6.2 miles and now I was in a hybrid run-walk cycle. It was hard for me to accept the need to walk for a little recharge but my body was making it clear to me. All the while Thor encouraged, distracted, coached and most importantly guided me along our route. Thor was ever attentive, patiently sharing my frequent requests for distance and timing updates as they were part of the motivation and drive I was using to test the limits of my body. When my thigh muscles began to spasm and seize we poured more Gatorade into me and when my hydration pack was empty he shared his with me while we kept running…or walking…or if necessary I suspect crawling. It never quite reached that point and the final miles grew closer with familiar terrain as we returned to the route we’d run more than 20 miles earlier that morning. The supportive crowds on corners grew larger and louder. Thor used them as distraction for me. My ankles were probably the most painful from the many readjustments to the terrain but all of the aches and pains are managed by our mind. The thing about any endurance experience is we get a really deep look inside ourselves. In this instance I have no doubt I was baring all of the thoughts, hopes, beliefs, weaknesses  and strengths to Thor as well. He took them all in stride after stride as he glided beside and slightly ahead of me. My brain was a little sluggish and my reactions followed suit as he called out the timing of high steps, turns and the eternal New England Potholes! Focus on his voice…Run…listen…walk…focus…run…ignore the pain…walk…listen, drink, breathe and repeat all of those in as organized a fashion as my mind allowed amidst the chaos of emotion, exhaustion, pain and love for Quinn. He was never far from my mind but the last stretch Thor too reminded me why I was doing this.

I hope to never feel time diminish the love and devotion I felt both for and from Quinn. My life is so vastly different from what it might have been in large part because of the bond we built. Our life can be so full of powerful bonds. Bonds with family, friends, community. Bonds with our pets, our fellow participants on any journey. Bonds with those we teach and guide at times and certainly with those who guide and teach us. My bond with Thor was built on an incredible foundation over those 26.2 miles we were completing. My Bond with Quinn was forged over most of his entire, though all too brief, 9 years of life. Each buoyed my spirit and strengthened my resolve to push myself through the challenges of the goal I had set. I crossed the finish line with Tracy and Autumn running beside us as Thor and I triumphantly thrust our arms into the air. The euphoria of the accomplishment made me stronger than most of the final grueling 6 miles which I barely recalled. I was filled with pride for the human spirit which could move Thor to have made this choice and embraced our teamwork to such tests of will. I felt Quinn with me so strongly, guiding my spirit with the love and care he had used to guide me physically in life. It doesn’t matter to me whether it was a spiritual presence or the intensity of my returned love for him which drove me to such a powerful feeling. Love, in all of it’s wonderful forms, is enough spiritual presence for me to understand, appreciate and embrace for the gift of strength it bestows upon me.

Randy and Thor finishing The Cox Providence Marathon 5/4/14

Randy and Thor finishing The Cox Providence Marathon on 5/4/14

The Marathon complete, the Qualifier obtained and my confidence in my determination tested; I am resolved to ensure all of the proper training necessary to continue on my path towards the goal. This year will have many races, many training runs and will culminate with my running the Boston Marathon in Quinn’s honor in April of 2015. I hope to ensure it is a testament to the training and progress possible. I hope it is a celebration of all the steps of the  many journeys shared. I’m sure it will be an entirely different experience through and through. For now and always I have the knowledge that May 4, 2014 was an excellent day to undertake a worthy challenge, rise to meet the challenge and be thankful for every aspect necessary to do such. This day, this race that means most particularly to the Guides. Thor, my friend, I hope you understand the most deep meaning of this compliment. I ran in honor of Quinn and felt the kindred nature of my two Guides who crossed the finish with me.

 

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16 Apr 15

By Randy Pierce

As always, I welcome all forms of support including donations to 2020 Vision Quest Donate

Often my blogs receive careful consideration on both my intent and content. They receive polish from friend and volunteer Beth Foote before you ever get to read them. I’m frequently candid and yet a distance between my thoughts and emotions filters much of what becomes the words and phrasing I choose.

Randy and Guide Thor crossing the Finish line of Cox Providence on 5/4/2014 to qualify for Boston as detailed in “Qualifying for Quinn.”

Randy and Guide Thor crossing the Finish line of Cox Providence on 5/4/2014 to qualify for Boston as detailed in “Qualifying for Quinn.”

Endurance events often strip away our filters and expose us to ourselves. Those along for the journey and the powerful legacy of Boston elevates this beyond measure. So I hope to give you my candid thoughts at several points now and in comments below as we lead into and through my first Boston Marathon experience. I hope you’ll all feel welcome to share any thoughts, questions or observations along the way of this semi-permanent record of our journey.

Thor and I qualified together in a well chronicled experience that absolutely bared much of my inner turmoil through the challenge. I was still so tangled in the absence of Quinn and my drive to honor him. I knew I was not properly prepared and was ready to accept the painful consequences of forcing through the experience to lay the foundation of training and growth ahead. When the shoreline winds began to buffet us at mile 19 or so, I wasn’t sure I could do this. Beyond my blindness the balance challenges were rocking my world in all the wrong ways. Thor’s many marathons, problem solving, calm and encouraging words were likely the difference that day. I was strong in my determination but definitely met my match against the marathon.

I must have questioned my choices nearly a hundred times in the second half of the run and names of people who encouraged me or made a positive impact on my life were how I dealt with those miles and in some points just in each step. Each decision to run when my body had demanded a walk. To lift a leg quivering with muscle spasms and telling me I wanted to quit. People who haven’t been in these experiences with me often perceive an indomitable strength–I’ve been told that many times. Not so by any means, as Thor, Jose, Greg, Meredith, Justin, Tracy and many others know all too well. Determined and willful for certain but one who wrestles with that will as often as most of us I suspect.

Randy and Jose with determination and focus as they close in on the finish which would earn them the B1 National Championship in Sacramento, California on 12/7/2014

Randy and Jose with determination and focus as they close in on the finish which would earn them the B1 National Championship in Sacramento, California on 12/7/2014.

Quinn was my inspiration to returning to running and the reason for this Boston Marathon goal as I detail in our #Miles4Quinn program. It began with our hiking and in the conditioning and training he soon had me running. Most don’t know that Sarah Toney’s support for her sister got her into running and her infectious determination helped push Quinn and me further. Bob Hayes brought us into the road race world and I’ll forever appreciate his contributions to my running and hiking adventures. Jennifer Liang took over for Bob and all along the way my wife Tracy’s encouragement, knowledge, and support helped expand the inclination and opportunity. When my outreach for guides began, many answered the call and began this year of dedicated training. Christine Houde as one of the earliest human guides and half of the husband and wife team who will be my official guides in Boston. She joined me for a snowy first run which set the tone for this winter.

Few, however, answered the call as well as my well cherished friend and “Coach” Greg Hallerman. He believes running has given so much to his life that anyone who wants to run ought to get a little help to achieve. He has overachieved in logging more miles with me than anyone else despite some heroic diligence by Matt Shapiro. Ultimately Greg has taught me as much about life and friendship as he has about running and yet that running has brought me through failures like my Did Not Finish (DNF) at mile 23.5 of the Bay State Marathon (Sorry Meredith!). It brought me through the triumph of a B1 National Championship at the California International marathon (Congratulations to us Jose!) and it brings me to this epic goal of the 2015 Boston Marathon where he will be a part of our team.

Randy and his Boston Guide team of friend/coach Greg Hallerman and Guide team of Christine and Peter Houde from their last training long run together.

Randy and his Boston Guide team of friend/coach Greg Hallerman and Guide team of Christine and Peter Houde from their last training long run together.

#WeRunTogether is the hashtag for the Boston Marathon for many and yet I think it is never more true than for a blind runner. I’m actually part of Team with a Vision who coordinate blind athletes from around the world. They are a tremendous group in many ways such that I hope you’ll learn all of their amazing stories along the way this year. Most of all, though, I’m part of my team of Greg, Christine, and Pete. I always have the gift of sharing the team sport of running. I have someone to lift me up when I struggle mentally or physically. I have someone to whom my support can sometimes fill my own spirit with such strength as I think an individual might never fully realize on a race course. It’s this sharing of experience which is the essence of team and the acronym I well appreciate: T.E.A.M.; Together everyone Achieves More. The preparation for Boston is mostly behind and so much experience awaits. Every day I’m reading a tip I’ve probably heard many times. Every spare moment I’m visualizing my journey through the 9 towns/cities along the route. Yet there are still more days until the experience and so much more beyond that all I can say is I feel ready, excited, nervous, anxious, hopeful, motivated, honored and perhaps most of all grateful. It isn’t every day we get to be part of something epic but at this time I feel very connected to a community and an experience unique in the world. I cannot wait to see how it helps me learn, grow and celebrate for myself and for my most amazing Mighty Quinn. Let’s go Boston!

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20 Mar 15

By Randy Pierce

Hopkinton Welcome Sign“Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”
– George Sheeh

Monday, April 20, 2015:
119th Annual Boston Marathon
Randy Pierce, Bib: 25485

For me, Boston’s legend is due to a pair of powerful points worthy of the iconic label. Firstly, it brings together an unrivaled community of support well beyond the throngs gathering along the entirety of the 26.2 mile route. Secondly, it draws and encourages the most inspirational meanings well beyond the running accomplishments as the motivation for so many of the runners. Spend a little time exploring any Boston Marathon and you will likely come away overwhelmed by the compassion and determination of the human spirit.

Randy and Quinn run the BAA 5k in 2013My own Boston Marathon journey began in awe of the incredible positive community aspects highlighted for me in 2013 as well as the spirit of an incredible canine, my Mighty Quinn. If you’ve never read Qualifying for Quinn, I strongly encourage you to visit my motivation and the story of how I came to qualify for Boston.

There are two ways to run the Boston Marathon:

1) Fairly rigorous time qualification
2) Run for a sanctioned charity as a fundraiser

I am fortunate in having a more lenient time requirement due to my blindness, and yet I’m running with and for a cause incredibly dear to my heart. I’m running to honor the legacy of the Mighty Quinn. He touched the lives of so many in his incredible life and our #Miles4Quinn welcomes any and all support. If you are unable to enjoy some healthy miles in his honor, perhaps you’ll consider supporting my effort with a donation to the charity to which I’ve dedicated so much of my efforts:

Click here to donate to 2020 Vision Quest in honor of Quinn and Randy’s Boston Marathon efforts!  

Whether you log #Miles4Quinn or donate to 2020 Vision Quest, you could always support us along the route and be part of an incredible experience. The more people who learn about us, the better we can reach our goals and the stronger I will be for Marathon Monday.

Do you want to experience the race course virtually with a little history and fun worked into the mix? The Boston Athletic Association has prepared an excellent video tour!

I’ve joined “Team with a Vision” which brings together an incredible community of blind athletes from all over the world. While I fund raise primarily for 2020 Vision Quest, I embrace their mission and offer my fundraising page for them as an alternative for those who so choose:

Donate to Randy’s “Team with a Vision” page

Randy and his friend and coach, GregOn Monday, April 20 at 6:00  a.m., I’ll climb onto the Gate City Striders bus with Greg Hallerman, my good friend, running coach, and most frequent run guide, as well as 10-time Boston Marathon participant. Since my qualifying for Boston, his friendship and tutelage have brought me to win the B1 (Total blindness) National Marathon Championship as well as build a foundation of knowledge and appreciation for running. He’ll be with me throughout the race, choosing to give of his own race approach to share the experience together and help make the experience all the more fantastic.

Once at the Marathon start I’ll connect with the husband and wife team of Pete and Christine Houde. They will be my guides. While I only have one active guide at any time on the course, we are still finalizing the strategy for how we will approach this race. Christine was my first run guide after Quinn’s death and we trained during a snowstorm on our first run. (Rather strong foreshadowing of the season ahead.)

Randy and Christine running in the snowBoth fellow Lions, we met through mutual friends and quickly came to appreciate the friendship. Last year Christine ran her first Boston Marathon for a charity cause and at her fundraiser we announced the plan to run together for Boston. The mental work involved in guiding for a Marathon is tremendous and as our training time has been limited by a difficult winter and their long-distance commute, we opted to add Pete to the team and share the teamwork of guides. Both completed the Chicago Marathon earlier this year and each will have a vital role in my Boston Marathon experience. Any blind runner will tell you that the sacrifice of a guide is tremendous. They must run strong enough at my pace to give me all the necessary information to keep both of us safe on a crowded course.

Pete, Christine, Randy, and TracyIf I’m being true to the full measure of that team, I have to include my wonderful wife Tracy. Whether helping to drive me to training rendezvous points, joining me at a treadmill, or the many other aspects of support, she has helped enable this goal to become reality. She has given of herself in so many ways that I will always be foremost grateful to her in this entire process. After all, it’s that feeling of community which I said was part of setting Boston apart.

So now you’ve met my primary team of Greg, Pete, Christine, and Tracy!

At roughly 11:15, we’ll join Wave 4, Corral 2 in the surge down the hill in Hopkinton, Mass. As I run, I’ll carry recollections of every encouraging word and the people providing them. I’ll have to dig deep for inspiration and motivation many times, but my team of friends and community of support has already exceeded what I ever would have imagined when this all began. Boston’s historic course will have more than enough challenge to ensure I need all of that and a great deal of personal determination as well.

When I cross the finish line, hands held triumphantly high with my guides, I’ll likely have tears of joy, exhaustion, jubilation, and just a bit more. I’ll know that my year of tribute to Quinn will be a very hard earned and very rewarding message of dedication. I’ll be part of something truly epic and proud to have connected with such an intense community experience. I’ll be grateful to so many–some from here, some I have yet to even meet. It will only be one experience on a list of many past, present and future. Like the year of work leading up to it, it will forever be a part of who I am. Experiences change our lives and this one is tremendously so.

So this year on Patriots Day, maybe you’ll come visit the course and cheer on me, my guides, or the thousands of incredible stories passing along the course. Maybe you’ll make a donation to support 2020 Vision Quest, maybe you’ll log some #Miles4Quinn, share our story or just follow on line… or perhaps create your own unique adventure. As a sign I had read to me by my guide Meredith on the Bay State Marathon course suggests: “It isn’t everyday you get to do something epic!” Be a part of this experience with us or make your own but put a little epic in your life and be happier for it.

Boston strong!

Boston Marathon 2015 logo

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17 Dec 14

By Randy Pierce

Jose and Randy epitomize determination as they begin the final strides to the finish line.

Jose and Randy epitomize determination as they begin the final strides to the finish line.

When Ryan Ortiz, Assistant Executive Director for the USABA called us to the podium during the award ceremony, I was both surprised and delighted to think I’d somehow managed to place third in this National Marathon Championship. My excellent friend, Jose Acevedo, had guided me for the entirety of our 26.2 mile race.

It was just the second successful marathon for both of us and his first with the very significant additional work of Guiding. We had set a fairly modest goal for many reasons including my three-week battle with pneumonia which had grossly impacted my final weeks of training. I was proud of us and marveling in the teamwork which led to this momentous occasion, one which proved all the more powerful as we learned we had actually earned first place in the B1 division which is “total blindness to effectively no usable vision.” How did this happen?

For me, it started with my inspiration and decision to run the Boston Marathon as I detailed in one of my favorite blogs ever: “Qualifying for Quinn.” My very first marathon was a “success” on many levels though it was not indicative of the better approach I hoped to take for full marathon success.

I understood so little about long distance running but I was determined to listen and learn from the many resources available online and in the experienced runners such as my friend and coach Greg Hallerman. It was overwhelming how many people shared their knowledge, experience and perhaps most importantly running time as Guides to enable me to run train. Thus, it was all the more disappointing to me when my next attempt at a marathon–which had such better preparation and results, right up until my dropping out at mile 23.5 as detailed in my comment to the blog: “Bay State and Beyond.”

The California Marathon opportunity was made possible because the tireless drive of Richard Hunter and support of USABA, CIM and many others enables the large gathering of blind athletes to do so much more than just compete in this event. I didn’t expect or necessarily intend to personally compete as I explain in my pre-race blog for the event “CIM: Coast to Coast Blind Runners Share a Common Vision”

Tracy, Jose, and Randy pose before the race.

Tracy, Jose, and Randy pose before the race.

Tracy, Jose, and I paused and posed in Folsom, CA before sunrise on the morning of the race. We were excited, apprehensive, and slowly building towards the mental focus and physical readiness for the endurance experience ahead. Jose had mostly trained in Seattle for the sole purpose of guiding me at this event and I had joined him via phone for a few of his training runs but we’d only had two shorter runs together to practice the guide work and never in crowded race conditions. We felt confident that at a gentler 9:30-minute mile pace, we would support and sustain through the entire journey. While official time was “gun time” we didn’t press to the front as we knew our bibs would capture chip time and that was good enough for our goals. Thus thousands of runners were across ahead of us as we began.

The first stretch involved my needing to be tight behind him as we managed larger groups of people and brought our communication comfort up to speed. These early miles were crowd-restricted to a slower pace. Just over a mile, I was able to stride to the opposite side of the cane from him and allow my legs to stretch a little more. We picked up the pace comfortably and steadily began the work of passing individuals and groups. The first  pace  pack of 4:40 (four hours and forty minutes) took some time to manage with patience and talking to our fellow runners in order to find the space to work through together. By mile 9 we had passed the pace group for 4:25 and 4:10 and were running well together at above our intended pace. Shortly afterwards the first bathroom pit stop seemed sufficiently uncrowded to give Jose his opportunity, but the line was slow moving and at least six minutes were lost to the needed stop.

Back on the course, we had to navigate once again through a pace group cluster but felt strong as we approached the alleged significant uphill of the course. Reaching the halfway mark without noting a significant hill, we understood we were running strong and ready for the course which would roll and be flat for the duration of our trek. Race supporters played music, held humorous and inspirational signs, or simply cheered encouragingly throughout the many miles.

Water stops and nutrition moments were in great supply by the race and we availed ourselves of them appropriately. This required a return to tight behind and a slow to a walk. This cost us a little time but gave a little rest and kept us well hydrated and supplied with the energy we needed. Thus at mile 20 when we ran with a friend and peer, Kyle Robidoux, there was still good strength in both of us.

Our pace did slow for miles 20-24 where my first battle with a little leg pain arrived. My right leg, lower quad was cramping and spasming a little. I gave it two stretch breaks over the final 2.2 miles and used it as a little bit of a mental excuse to take an additional water stop I might otherwise have avoided. These final two miles were not my strongest and it is where I had to dig deeper for the mental and physical resolve. This made Jose stronger as he rose fantastically to the occasion of offering more support.

Crowds of supporters made communication more challenging and narrowed the course so tight behind was common as we found space to continue passing people on the stretch run. Our final turn was captured in the above photo and showed the determination and focus both of us needed to reach the finish as strong as we did. At his call, I slid up the cane and we clasped hands over our heads in celebration as we strode across the finish line. It was jubilant and emotional in ways endurance events bring forth. The post-race celebratory feelings and race support buoyed our proud recollections as we slowly eased our bodies towards the well deserved rest.

Randy, Jose, and Tracy triumphantly sport Santa hats at the finish line.

Randy, Jose, and Tracy triumphantly sport Santa hats at the finish line.

The atmosphere was electric and we waited in the USABA tent for Tracy to finish her first marathon as well. Celebrating our own success is a great feeling and yet the sharing of it is so much more powerful to me. Not just the sharing of pride in Jose and our teamwork, but the sharing of accomplishment and joy with all the runners as they crossed the finish line. Kristen, Jose, and I cheered as Tracy crossed with a huge smile overpowering the also well earned exhaustion. That moment carried as much powerful emotion as our own success.

The work on race day is certainly tremendous as is the reward. The hardest work lies in all the preparation. I ran more than 1200 miles of training which creates wear and tear on the body and considerable amounts of time. The dedication and consequences of the commitment are significant. I have the required challenge and benefit of running as a team most of the time. This certainly enhances the motivation and the enjoyment significantly.

My initial goal of the Boston Marathon is still ahead and my determination is beyond unwavering as it’s grown steadily. I understand reasonably well the sacrifice and efforts involved and even now have begun forming the plan for training ahead. The entirely unexpected and surreal additional reward is that now I hold a title beyond my expectations. I am the B1 National Champion of the marathon!

The reality is there are many fantastic runners, sighted and blind, of all levels, who may better my time. I hope to be one of those as I strive to improve and grow my own running ability. What I know is that in reaching for goals, in working towards our dreams and perhaps just in the conceiving of such, we are already winners. That is what makes it so easy for me to celebrate all of the glorious moments from our entire California trip even as I begin using my sightless eyes to look forward with confidence I will indeed Achieve a Vision Beyond my Sight. I always love the last experience and hope to always use those prior moments as a springboard to begin the next opportunities.

Better than all of those experiences, however,  are the many people with whom I hope to share the experience. Thank you to so many folks for letting me share their experience and for choosing to share in some of mine as well – this time particularly to Jose Acevedo my friend and teammate in this national championship! Congratulations on all the hard work and well earned rewards!

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11 Oct 14

By Randy Pierce

“I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.”

– John Hanc, running writer

They say fewer than 1% of all runners will ever run a marathon. I wonder how many fewer will ever run one totally blind? I know of a few and ran my own back on May 4, 2014 though admittedly with very poor preparation as retold in “Qualifying for Quinn.”

Randy and Thor crossing the finish line at the Cox Providence Marathon, May 2014

Randy and Thor crossing the finish line at the Cox Providence Marathon, May 2014

“If you feel bad at 10 miles, you’re in trouble. If you feel bad at 20 miles, you’re normal. If you don’t feel bad at 26 miles, you’re abnormal.”

– Rob de Castella, winner 1983 World Marathon Championships

At 8 a.m. on October 19, I will begin to run the Bay State marathon in Lowell, MA. This time with considerable attention to proper training and preparation thanks in large part to the knowledge, wisdom, experience, coaching, guiding, and friendship of Greg Hallerman. As hard as it was to run the last marathon, it was much more difficult to consistently attend to the many details necessary for successful training, particularly as a blind runner.

The vast majority of my run training needed to be outside and for that I needed enough people willing to sacrifice their time and effort to meet and run with me despite my transportation limitations. I was incredibly fortunate in so many runners undertaking this over the course of the past months. Thank you to: Greg H., Thor, Matt, Mary, Ron D., Andre, Kris, Christine, Robin, Laura, Greg N., Rob W., Meredith, Pete, Ron A., Nick, Scott, Chris, Austin, Rob C. and even Autumn for a little rail trail work.

This doesn’t include the hours of support on many fronts by my incredible wife Tracy who is in the midst of her own extensive training. Both Nashua’s Gate City Striders and the Greater Lowell Road Runners are running clubs who also lent support to the cause along with dozens of friends sharing information and helping ensure I could have enough guide opportunities.

I ran four days each week and as my training progress pace and distance became more tuned to my training and more difficult for finding guides. A guide needs to be strong enough to manage all the same work I’m trying to undertake while keeping enough mental concentration for us to be safe and of course there are often learning curves which bump and bruise the body along the way. I ran in snow, rain, heat, cold, darkness (hey, the guides do need to see!), hills, rural roads, traffic laden streets, rural areas, parks, rail trails, and virtually anything and everything possible. I occasionally defaulted to the “dreadmill” but very rarely due to the kindness and generosity of so many excellent people. I did interval work, hard pace runs, and race pace runs as speed and conditioning grew steadily. I practiced on the course I’ll run and I pushed myself to meet every challenge my coach and mentor suggested. Better still I pursued every opportunity he suggested to me as well.

Randy finishes the Hollis Fast 5k.

Randy finishes the Hollis Fast 5k.

I wore out a pair of running shoes and have three more pairs rotating for better longevity. I practiced with many types of equipment from fuel belts and camel backs through body glides and nutritional sources. Testing them on short runs first and again on long runs. I supplemented run training with a healthier weight goal, better dietary considerations overall, losing nearly 20 pounds. I strengthened my core with “Iso Abs” and even hot yoga classes!

A lot of time and effort went into this on my part and my life was changed significantly as a result of the commitment required–commitment I firmly believe will pay dividends in the Bay State marathon and beyond.

“The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals.”

–Hal Higdon, running writer and coach

We used a modified version of Hal Higdon’s marathon training program. October 19, I’ll run my first marathon with proper preparation but I’ll follow it with a trip to Sacramento, California on December 7 to run the California International Marathon. I’ll continue to enhance my training over the long New England winter to be ready for the crown jewel of my marathon goals, the 2015 Boston Marathon.

It will be my fourth marathon within a year and the work will become the foundation for many future running goals. I doubt many years will ever see as many marathons for me again but I do hope to continue with running as a significant part of my world. I’m competitive and driven in many ways and yet the key for me is to experience the rich depth of opportunities within our world. I hope to continually relish the experiences personally and perhaps to some extent demonstrate for all of us that the goals which are important to us are worth the grit and perseverance necessary to reach.

Randy and Quinn at the Boston Athletic Association 5k, April 2014.

Randy and Quinn at the Boston Athletic Association 5k, April 2014.

The most meaningful of all my experiences have always required the most determination and effort to achieve. There are rarely shortcuts around the hard work required but the essential steps are easy as ABC or perhaps by my backward ABC for any accomplishment important enough to any of us:

C – Conceive
B – Believe
A – Achieve

My initial goal was to run the Boston marathon in honor of the Mighty Quinn. There’s so much more to that story and some has already been expressed. Quinn helped me to walk, taught me to run, and showed me the way to reach some incredible heights. Bay State is just one step of many on the path of my pursuit of dreams and goals. Still it’s a powerful one and whether you are part of logging miles for the Mighty Quinn or simply a fellow believer in possibility, I hope you’ll spare a thought for my wonderful boy and for me as I put my trust in the tether and follow Ron and Meredith through the course and to a celebration of Ability Awareness for myself and for many others involved in making this reality.

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8 Feb 14

By Randy Pierce

On March 1, I’ll briefly present at a fundraiser for my friend Christine Houde and her team who are running the Boston Marathon this year. She is running for Mass Eye and Ear’s charitable efforts which is a cause near and dear to me.

Randy and Christine run in the snow.

Randy and Christine run in the snow.

Christine and I met through hiking and  mutual friends. We soon found much common ground and then quickly began covering the ground as she joined me to act as a human guide for my first longer run off of the “dreadmill” and outside in the fresh, cold and…very snowy air!

My topic for the evening will be “Never Running out of Inspiration.” While it will only be 5-10 minutes or so, there will be a great evening of socializing, celebrating, and supporting this worthy cause, as well as support of her choice to undertake this epic race.

There are two methods of entry into the Boston Marathon: 1) to meet their qualifying time requirements, or 2) run for one of their approved charities and raise sufficient funds for that charity. I had intended to qualify for this year’s race, but Quinn’s declining health persuaded me to hold off that process and devote my time and attention to him. With my commitment of fundraising for 2020 Vision Quest, I could not in good conscience undertake the fundraising commitments for another charity, so I am dedicating this year to running in Quinn’s honor and earning my way into the 2015 Boston marathon. This will involve the dedication and kindness of many human guides throughout the process, but Christine was the first to lend her efforts to this latest quest. Even the surprise snowstorm didn’t stop us from our inaugural workout together.

This fundraising event is about her dedication to running and  particularly the reasons for running Boston. As such I took the time to ask her a few questions I think you may appreciate hearing. I think many be particularly touched to hear her choice to honor the Mighty Quinn this year.

1) Have you always been a runner?
In high school I played volleyball and in college I did intramural sports but I rarely just went out for a run. I can say my running/ racing career truly started when I MOVED TO NH in 2010..i was talked into running the St. Paddy’s five miler and my time was not very impressive. In February of 2011- on a whim I decided to sign up for a half marathon to have a goal to look forward to- being my first winter in NH. I trained for that in the cold and did another half in 2011. I really kicked it into gear, doing every race I could get my hands on in 2012 and 2013. I was lucky enough to win the female division of the Seacoast Road Race Series this past October. I feel truly blessed to have discovered the joys and sometimes pains of running.

2) Why do you run in general and why marathons?
I run as a challenge to myself. I love the race scenes and the spirit of the sport and interacting with other runners. After I completed 3 half’s, I said I wanted to try and tackle the challenge of a full marathon. I registered for the Manchester Marathon in 2012. It was a lofty goal and an amazing experience. I did not run one last year and always knew I was going to do another one. The marathon is a mental and physical sport that pushes me towards something I never would have thought I could accomplish.

3) The Boston marathon has many reasons for being a noteworthy event but I wonder if given the events of last year, does running in this year’s event carry any special significance to you?
I knew 12 runners that were near the scene last year. Some had just finished. Some were diverted at mile 22. The tragic events really hit me. These events were way to close to home and no one could stop the spirit of runners. I wanted to show that I was Boston Strong and cowards can’t hold us down as American’s.

4) Why are you running for Mass Eye and Ear?
As a Lion, I am a huge advocate for vision and hearing research and treatment. Mass Eye and Ear treated 75 of the victims from last year and had helped thousands upon thousands of people gain sight and recover from diseases of the throat, nose, and ears. Vision and hearing are two incredible senses that are worth fighting and raising money for. My grandmother suffers from macular degeneration and I have experienced her downward progression over the years. If I can help someone else’s mom fight diseases like that, I will have felt accomplished.

5) Our community is still reeling from the loss of Quinn and I approached you about trying to help you sell out your event by asking if you’d consider wearing a “Quinn strong” symbol contingent on selling out the March 1 Fund Raiser. It’s quite a choice to wear any symbol during the race and you declined telling me you will wear that regardless of the sell-out. That’s a lot of kind support for a dog you met only once and yet you didn’t hesitate a moment in that response. What were your thoughts when you heard my inquiry about wearing such a symbol?
My thoughts were a mix of this- I know how much dogs mean to people. I am so in love with Salem and he brings so much to my life. I cannot even begin to imagine the support Quinn brought to your life because he helped you “see”. He climbed 48 mountains with you; he allowed you to run outside again. He literally was your eyes when you could not see. He was the sweetest boy when he was in pain the last time I saw him. He gave you unconditional love and a void is in your heart. I want to run for him and for you to show you that even in the darkest of times, someone can help you regain a sense you never  thought you could have. I find it incredible you climbed all these mountains with him by your side and your story touched me. I am so sad over Quinn’s loss and I know your pain is on another level. He is family and will never be forgotten. I want to run for him with all my heart. I hope this is ok with you.

6) You know I’m training for my qualifying marathon to ensure I can run Boston 2015 and you are among a select group of folks who have been my sighted guide for running. What were your impressions of your part in that process?
I am honored and thrilled to be able to see you through a marathon and I know you will qualify. Not a doubt in my mind. The experience for me was amazing and I cannot wait to do it again. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it.

7) Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our community?
Keep up the great work and keep inspiring people.

Fundraising Event Info

When: Saturday, March 1, 2014 Time: 5PM – 10PM
Where: Somersworth VFW-post 4486: 43 High Street Somersworth, NH 03878
What: A fun filled evening complete with food, live music, a guest speaker, raffles, and cash bar.

Dress: Business Casual

Price: $40 per person in advance, $50 per person at the door. $65 per couple in advance, $75 per couple at the door

All proceeds go directly to Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary Inc. to find cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck.

Checks should be payable to “Foundation of Mass Eye and Ear, Inc.”, with “Christine Houde” written in the “memo” section of each check.

To purchase tickets or for more information please contact Christine Houde at:

(954) 675-8544 or Christinehoude11@gmail.com

Donate online here

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18 Jan 14

By Randy Pierce

The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way in which we use themI am choosing to use 2014 to reach for many goals, some of which are known to me and some which will be developed along the way. In fact, the ability to break larger goals into smaller pieces is an essential part of success. I call all of these goals “positive adversity.” I find the lack of challenge leads more likely to stagnation. Similarly, in my “practice makes better” (not necessarily perfect), I want to develop the skills and tools through my goals such that I’m prepared to better manage the other types of adversity which are all too common in life. Setting goals leads to achievement and celebration of success and it also develops the skills to ensure that future challenge may be easier to overcome. It is part of why I believe so strongly in encouraging everyone to set goals and strive to reach them.

Randy and Quinn run the Boston Athletic Association 5k in April 2013, the day before the Boston Marathon.

Randy and Quinn run the Boston Athletic Association 5k in April 2013, the day before the Boston Marathon.

One long-term goal for me is to run the Boston Marathon in April of 2015 in celebration of 2020 Vision Quest. Quinn gave running back to me in the days when I was unable to walk even three steps. Many small stepping stones were part of the progress to reach where I am today and many more steps will be involved in striving for the next success. Training is an essential component; I’ve lost Quinn as a running partner which is only the smallest part of that impending greater loss I know is coming soon. Much of my training will have me at the YMCA of Nashua as I run five days a week, cross-train a sixth day, and rest on a seventh. Research and knowledgeable guidance have reasonably set this schedule to bring my body to the best preparedness. I hope to find volunteers to run outside as often as possible since the treadmill isn’t my ideal, but I have the baseline approach set up and scheduled.

 On April 6, I will undertake the Great Bay Half Marathon in Newmarket, NH. It will be my first half marathon since going blind. It will be a great day with many friends and much celebration as well as a measuring stick for the progress of my training. In order to qualify for Boston as a VI (Visually Impaired) runner, I must complete an approved full marathon in under 5 hours. This means my half time should be better than 2:30. I’m also signed up for that qualifying marathon attempt on May 3, 2014 at the Cox-Providence marathon in Rhode Island.

These are goals I’ll approach every day in the 15 weeks until that marathon. Diet, exercise, and the mental-emotional challenges of pushing myself are choices I’m undertaking for a goal which I personally value. It will involve getting encouragement and inspiration from many folks along the way and probably a fair bit of community support in a host of ways. I hope many of you will be part of that progress.

This still is only one of my goals broken into some smaller parts. I hope to build and grow many other goals, including many outside of the athletic realm. I hope to hear and support the goals of many friends and members of the 2020 Vision Quest Community. Perhaps you’d take a moment to share one of your goals or to suggest a goal for our consideration? I’d welcome the chance to share some of the incredible support which has already taken me to incredible heights literal and figurative. “Believe and Achieve” is a mantra I support along with the perseverance and hard work of practice and problem solving which should be part of the team of skills brought to bear on all our goals!

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19 Oct 13

By Randy Pierce

“Failure is often a matter of perspective” — Jonathan Abrams

Randy and Quinn running the Boston Athletic Association 5K in April 2013

At a recent keynote for the New England YMCA Fall Leadership Conference, I received the following request: ”With so many successful achievements, I was wondering if you could talk about a few of your failures.” I have no hesitation in sharing the reality of many failings along my journey. I think that more powerful is an awareness that more often our notions of failure are primarily a matter of perspective. I simply do not see a lack of success as failure, especially if there are reasons to understand why success was not attained and how it might be achieved in the future.

One of my first reflections was our inaugural 2020 Vision Quest Hike of Mt Washington which some might have termed a failure, but we capture in a short film we call “Blind to Failure.” Our goal was to climb to Lake of the Clouds for an overnight stay, followed by a summit and descent of Mt Washington the following day. Our real goal was to safely undertake this expedition, learn as much as possible, and be prepared to continue forward based on all that we learned. We did reach the summit and the film really explains the reasons some might term it a failure.

 I have been staging towards another goal recently which is to run the Boston Marathon next year. 2020 Vision Quest did not receive charity access despite valiant efforts by several people including Stephen Pierce and Sarah Toney. I’ve been training to run the qualifying marathon which I hoped would provide me the opportunity to run anyhow. The rigors of the hiking schedule followed by Quinn’s health concerns have impacted the plans.

I had planned to run the Bay State marathon on October 20 but knew it was going to be a stretch. I recently made the choice to pass on that plan. This doesn’t mean Boston next year is impossible, but it does become considerably less likely. Whether I find the right opportunities to continue towards that goal or whether I take a full additional year of preparation to make it come true in 2015, the goal remains and the journey is always emphasized over the destination. So if you’ve heard the rumblings of my plan to run the Boston Marathon 2014 and wonder if I think I’m about to fail, I say that depends upon your perspective. I’d say there’s plenty of steps on the journey ahead and I’ll celebrate all of them, even the required steps backward to ensure I’m firmly on the right paths for the real success I seek!

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18 Apr 11

by Randy Pierce

As this blog is posting, I’m in Boston for Patriots’ Day, aka Marathon Monday. Quinn and I plan to run half of the Marathon as “Bandits.” This is a controversial topic; we’ve done a fair bit of research about it alongside with our training for the race itself. After having examined all the angles, we believe ourselves to be “Responsible Bandits” and thus choose to undertake this incredible experience. We welcome comments on the topic and only ask that people read, consider and in turn give us material worthy of our doing the same.

Boston Marathon 2011 Logo

It's Boston Marathon 2011 race day!

What constitutes a Responsible Bandit? In our case, we are taking three significant steps above and beyond what the more than 2000 other bandits who typically run Boston are likely to do. First, each of us running will make a monetary donation to the race organizers, Boston Athletic Association. Second, we are starting at the half-way point, and only after all the qualified entrants have passed that point. This will be roughly 1:00 PM given the qualifying times required for the race. Last, we will decline all of the race-sponsored items such as the Mylar blankets and other expendable resources intended for qualified entrants. By taking these measures, we believe we are minimizing any negative impact upon the race and racers.

Why run the Marathon? Boston is a unique event with an unparalleled community of support along the route. We believe in undertaking positive experiences and supporting a community effort. It is my hope that by running with Quinn this year we will pave the way to run it officially and fully next year if we find the challenge appropriate in all ways. We look at this as a safe test run, undertaken responsibly, and we hope to share all the positive aspects of the accomplishment.

So as an entire city and region come together to celebrate an incredible day, we hope to take an active part. I do believe some may still disagree with the choice and I’ll be interested in sharing our reasons and learning theirs. Bandits are a long-standing part of the Boston Marathon. At the same time, it’s our hope that we will encourage an approach slightly different from the tradition, by supporting those who undertake the race as a Responsible Bandit.

UPDATE: Sadly, due to a tenacious cold, Randy had to cancel his plans to run the 1/2 marathon. We expect the dynamic duo to try an equally challenging run, later this summer.

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