Sunday, April 21, 2013

A busy and confusing thoughts about the Boston bombing.

This is truly one of those times I just don't know where to start.  It's in my nature to start at the beginning and it always takes me longer to write these words because there is so much to say.

Let's get started.....

As part of our training Aimee and I scheduled a trip to Athens, OH for some good long course tri training.  The hills in southern Ohio offer some great riding and preparation for some of the races we would be participating in.

We scheduled it for the weekend of 4/13 -14, because it was also the weekend for the Athens Marathon/Half Marathon.

I advertised it as a group training event for anyone interested in joining us.  We had a total of 6 people go south for the weekend.  Mike, John, Ray and Jen joined Aimee and I.

We gathered Saturday morning at the "traditional" starting point for Tom's Trillium Tour.

Aimee and I had ridden this tour in 2010 when she was training for Ironman St. George.

It was a cool windy day but everyone did a great job covering various distances.  The planned loop was 56 miles but I managed to squeeze in a solid 66 miles as I rode back to check on people before major turns.

We finished the ride and drove the rest of the way to Athens.  We checked into our hotels, picked up our race packets and had a fun dinner together.

Sunday morning greeted us with cool temperatures which were perfect for running a half marathon.  Jen was going to run hard and see how her training was progressing.  I wanted to at least negative split the out and back run.  Everyone else was in it to train for upcoming events.  Ray was running with his daughter who is a sophomore at Ohio University.

Everyone was very satisfied with their results.  Jen was smokin' and took fifth overall female, won her age group and set a PR of 1:31 for the Half Marathon distance.  She is one woman I don't mind being chicked by.  I was 7 minutes back from Jen but crossed the finish line completely satisfied with how I ran the race.  My legs were toast during the last 2 miles but I pushed through it all.

After the race Jen and I were waiting for the others to finish.  As we walked to our cars for warmer clothes we talked briefly about the Boston Marathon.  Jen has qualified and may decide to run in 2014.

My feelings about Boston are a little different.  I'm a runner without a doubt.  I love it and if I'm on the trails I can loose myself to the run.  But I just don't consider myself a marathoner.  I've completed three marathons.  Ironman Lake Placid (2006), Grand Rapids Marathon (2007), and Ironman Wisconsin (2008).  I will complete my fourth marathon this fall when I return to Ironman Wisconsin with Aimee and my friends.

I have no desire to try and qualify for Boston.  I am completely amazed by the people who run marathons and qualify for Boston, sometimes year after year.

Some of my friends have raced Boston at the elite level.  Some have busted the ass during their qualifying race to sit back and relax during Boston in order to soak in the atmosphere.

I get it.  I understand it.  I just don't have it as a priority on my list right now.

By the time we got home Sunday evening I was tired from the traveling and solid training.  Thank goodness the following week would be a recovery week.

I was working in a computer room Monday when the first text reached my phone.  My friend Ken sent me, "Bombs at Boston finish line."  I first thought he meant some celebratory fireworks.  But when he follows it up with....

"Holy fuck"....I knew it was serious.

The first thing that popped into my mind was this picture.

That is James and Andrea LaMastra.  A Cleveland husband, wife and parents.  Jim is a pro triathlete and Andrea is a damn good athlete as well....smiling on their way to the Boston Marathon start line.

All I could think of was how a happy event could turn so horribly wrong.  I knew several other people from Cleveland who were in Boston.  Fortunately they all made it back home safely.

One of my close triathlon friends was at mile 26.1 when the explosions occurred.  I was so relieved to hear that she was okay.

Just like everyone across the country, and around the world, I was trying to get as much information about what happened.   I knew I just needed to wait because details would surface on their own.  Was a group responsible or some crazed individual?  Was the attacker foreign or domestic?

Waiting for information to surface my feeling were all over the board.  As I thought about what must have happened it made me sad.  Hearing the reports about what the carnage was like deepened the agony.  And then everything changed to anger and outrage. 

I don't know if my current reading list contributed to my anger but I thought about it.  Two books I had read before the Boston Marathon were American Sniper and Lone Survivor.  Both books were written by former Navy SEALs who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

I won't go into details about the books but I would highly recommend them to anyone wanting to understand what the American military was up against in the Middle East.  Both books are excellent. 

The only thing I can figure is that the books renewed my allegiance to the US of A and fueled my anger for anyone wanting to attack us. 

I kept reading the news reports and it wasn't until the next day when the anger would finally be replaced with tears.  Because despite everything that went wrong during those 15 seconds when the bombs exploded, what happened before the smoke even cleared stands out in my mind.

America, specifically the residents of Boston, sprang into action. 

Helping the injured.  Comforting the confused.  Controlling the chaos.

Reading the stories and seeing the pictures of people in action brought the tears to the corners of my eyes.  People running towards the smoke and blood.  Carrying people to the medical tents.  People using their clothes to stop the bleeding and sometimes even using their bare hands.

The residents along the marathon route who brought in the cold, huddled masses of runners who could not reach the finish line or hotels.   Restaurants offering food, water and shelter while everything was being sorted out.  These people didn't need to be asked to help.  They knew it was their responsibility to help...their fellow humans.

And then the actions of the different law enforcement agencies as they came together to hunt down those responsible. 

Yes....America sprang into action as it always does. 

Locally we all wondered how to spring into action.  We started hearing about group runs in other cities to support Boston, the runners who were in Boston, the spectators of the race (and tragedy) and the victims.

Our friend Amy suggested a group run Thursday morning.  I turned it into a Facebook event and invited everyone who could make it.  I knew a 5:15AM run would be a tough sell but the response was amazing. 

We had 23 people show up on a 50 degree morning.  Some even wore their Boston best.   Jocelyn ,who is front and center, was one of the Cleveland athletes who ran the marathon on Monday.  She wasn't going to let it stop her from running with us.  We had a good time and remembered that running is what binds us together and make us better people.  Look at all those great smiles. 

Two days later.....Saturday.  Both bombing suspects were found.  One dead and the other critically wounded.  Perhaps now we will find some answers.  But what I saw Saturday night helped me understand "reaction" to such momentous events. 

Aimee and I were watching National Geographics The Decade That Made Us.   It is a six part mini-series about the 80's.  It is a very good show that describes how the 80's helped launch the world into the future and triggered how we live today.

My son Andrew and his wife Jessica had stopped over.  The current show was about the mid-80's and the new Space Shuttle program.  We were watching the events unfold on January 28, 1986.  I remember the date because I was on the campus of Bowling Green State University wondering why the flags were at half mast. 

The four of us watched the Shuttle lift off from the platform at Kennedy Space Center and rise into the clear blue sky.  Andrew wasn't born yet and Jess was maybe 6 months old. 

All of a sudden the Shuttle exploded and I heard Jess gasp.  This was the first time she had seen the 1986 explosion.  I quickly looked at her face and saw the shock from the explosion.  The same shock  that must have been on the faces of those people near the Boston Marathon finish line.  The same shock that must have been on the faces of everyone around the world when they heard the news of the bombing.  The same shock that settled into my gut when I first heard of the bombing.

It was at that moment I realized that life if full of shock and awe.  In this day and age we are more readily exposed to it now because of cable TV, the internet, social media and all sorts of ways to keep "up to date".  But it goes back deep into the history of our country.

Lincoln assassination.  Kennedy assassination.  Shuttle explosions.  Hurricanes and tornadoes.  9/11 and many more.

And now Patriots Day 2013 at the Boston Marathon.

Unfortunately this is the world we live in.  But as long as we keep a firm grasp on our humanity....our compassion...our love of life....the evil in this world doesn't have a chance.  Evil manages to rear it's ugly head reminding us to be vigilant.  But we as humans, not just Americans...but people of the earth, always find a way to push it back down. 

I pray for those that need closure from the events on April 15th.  I hope they find it because they are surrounded by a country that cares more than they will ever know. 

Game On.