Making It Count at the One Fund Telethon

This past Tuesday I volunteered at WCVB Telethon for The One Fund. This event was produced by the television station I work for, WCVB-TV 5, so as you can imagine I did not hesitate when they asked for volunteers.

I helped with some of the behind the scenes stuff, including taking incoming pledge calls and processing the credit card forms.  A great day all around, and a great event as the telethon collected more than $100K for The One Fund.

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One Year Later, Boston Remembers…

All I can remember was that the runners started moving much slower, and finally we log jammed right at the Mass Ave underpass. My wife, at the finish line, called me on my phone, so I was tipped off on what was happening. Right at that time cell phone coverage gave out. The only thing working was social media.

Below was the tweet I put out when stopped at the 25.75 mile mark…

This day was supposed to mark my final marathon. Little did I know at that time that this would just be the beginning…

Add this to the Inspiring Marathon Video List

There will no doubt be a ton of video tributes, montages, produced pieces, promos, and even songs between now and Marathon Monday.

And I say… the more the merrier. In my opinion there can’t be enough. Each one, whatever it is, comes from its own voice, and quite frankly its inspiring to see how different people are telling their story about April 14, 2014.

This one video below is no exception. I stumbled upon it this morning, and immediately watched it 3 times. Different thoughts from different runners about what Boston means to them, and the emotional effect that day will have. I think what I like about this video is that it takes viewers inside the mind of runners training for the big day, and what they’re anticipating. Well done.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

Braving the Rain at the Eastern States 20 Miler

The weather forecast for today’s Eastern States 20 Miler called for “100% chance of rain.”  The Eastern States 20 Miler is usually the last tune-up run before beginning the taper for Boston. It’s a 20 mile run that starts in Portsmouth, NH and winds down the coast ending in Salisbury, MA (although today it concluded in Hampton Beach, NH due to bridge construction which slightly altered the course).

The day was mixed, though more positive than negative. I did great through the first 13, turning the half way mark in 1:21:00 and the half marathon in 1:47:35, but encountered cramps in my quads around mile 15 which slowed me down considerably during the last five miles.

I finished in 2:56:38, but I feel like I left some minutes out there on the course. Nonetheless, it’s a considerable improvement from last year (3:23:57).

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The World Reacts to Boston… A Look Back

It’s been almost a year now since the events of last April 15th, and I remember finding this post on BuzzFeed the day after the marathon.

I can remember being particularly moved (and fascinated) by the news coverage from dozens of newspapers from around the world.
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What a Difference a Year Makes – The 2014 Black Cat 20 Miler

BlackCatHeaderToday I ran the Black Cat 20 Miler. It was my third year running this event, and to say my relationship with this race has been “shakey” is an understatement. This race is typically the first weekend in March, so I’m never fully ready to run 20 miles so early on. Plus I had been pretty sick earlier in the week, so it goes without saying my expectations for today’s race were very low.

But today was different. Today I was able to get off to a great start, hitting the first 5K in just over 25 minutes, and turning the 10 mile half way point in 1:23. But I wasn’t feeling 100% on the back side (probably due to my illness earlier in the week), so I hot dogged it a little bit, opting to run/walk most of the last 5 miles. I figured it’s still early in my training schedule, and no need to go crazy with Boston still 7 weeks away.

black catI finished in 3 hours on the nose (3:00:25 to be exact), a time which for me is unheard of altogether. By way of comparison, last year I finished this same race in 3 hours, 28 minutes. Who knew?

Anyways, I am pleased.

I’m very happy with where I am in my training, and if today’s any indication, then maybe this will be my year.  It’s been a brutal winter, not just because of the weather, but also because of my recent health issues.

The Eastern States 20 Miler is in 4 weeks, so plenty of time to “keep it going.”

Our New Battle Cry

heart5As we approach the two month mark until the Boston Marathon, I was asked today what my motivational “catch phrase” was going to be down the stretch. For me, it’s become somewhat of a tradition.

Last year, thinking it was going to be my final Boston, I used “My Last Run” as my tagline. We all know how that ended up.

So as I ponder this year’s slogan, I actually came up with one pretty easily – “Run with Heart.”

Yes, it’s a bit overused. But for me it’s so appropriate. Given the backdrop of my cardiac  issues these past few months, combined with the fact that this WILL be my final Boston, and of course factor in the pure emotion that will present itself on race day due to last year’s tragic events, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate moniker.

“Run with Heart.” I say let’s go with it.

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Emerson, Tracy, and Lila showing off “Run with Heart”

View from the Top

Today’s 16 mile long run took me to one of the highest points in Windham, NH. I trekked up the long steep hill up to the high school (which I appropriately call “Mt. Windham”). It’s not an easy run at all, probably twice as steep and twice as long as Heart Break Hill.

Below is a picture I took from the top. The best part of making it to the top? Running down the hill afterwards (it’s like taking a one mile coffee break).

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                                 View from one of the highest parts of Windham

 

Cold, dark, windy… Just Perfect.

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The inviting temperature during this morning’s pre-work 3.5 mile run.

This is what makes training for Boston unlike anything else – these are the mornings you remember when taking the starting line in April.

Guess What? I’M CLEARED.

Today was the big day.

Today I went to see my cardiologist for the first follow-up visit since my electrical cardioversion back on December 13th. This is the appointment when everything gets tested to see if the heart is still working right and if I’m still in normal heartbeat rhythm (also known as “sinus rhythm”).

And the results were good. Very good.

Everything checked out okay, and my doctor officially cleared me to start running outdoors, and more importantly, to start my training for the 118th Boston Marathon.

Look, there’s obviously much more important things in life than running a race, and I know that. But this isn’t just any race – at least not this year it isn’t. And I’ve been given a second chance. It’s time to get to work.

Let’s just say that my emotion was captured accurately in the video below.

How a movement was born…

On May 16th the BAA announced that the approximately 5,700 runners who were unable to complete the 117th Boston Marathon would in fact be invited back for the 2014 race. There were many reasons why this was made possible, but in the end it was best summed up by race director Dave McGillivray’s ringing comment that anyone who runs Boston deserves to experience “the euphoria of running down Boylston Street to the finish line.”

This group of passive, but very vocal non-finishers would go on to be referred to as “the 5700.” They became just enough of a voice that they helped shape the ongoing conversation about what would happen to the runner’s field in the upcoming 118th Boston Marathon leading right up to that decision in mid-May.

Below is one such video that unified this group, created by runner Ryan Polly. He, like myself, was part of a large group of runners halted right at the Mass Avenue underpass, right around the 25.8 mile mark. His video, entitled “Please Let Us Run” sums up how we all felt when there was initial indecision about our eligibility in the next Boston Marathon. Needless to say, this video inspired over 28,000 online signatures on a Change.org petition.

To this day, “the 5700″ continue to rally, pumping up each other via an online Facebook community. Sometimes we see each other at local races wearing a custom Boston Strong 5700 shirt (see below).

You won’t hear much about this group nowadays, and that’s quite alright with us. But on April 21st let’s just say there will be a special group of a few thousand determined runners with some extra motivation to not just finish, but bring to a close a quest two years in the making.

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Representing “The 5700″ at the Providence Rock ‘n Roll Marathon.

New Year, New Gear

Though I haven’t been cleared yet by my cardiologist to start running outdoors, I made the bold step recently to switch footwear. It’s something I had been thinking about it for awhile, and figured now’s the time. I had been wearing Brooks for the last two years with no complaints. However, I felt now is the time to switch to a shoe that better “hugs” my foot, whereas Brooks was more of a flat shoe for me feet. I also wanted a lighter shoe.

After a lot of back ‘n forth research, I finally settled into a new pair of ASICS Gel Kayano 19. And regarding the weight, the Gel Kayano comes in at almost 3 ounces lighter than the incumbent Brooks Addiction 10.

I test drove the new shoes on a treadmill at my gym, and I can definitely detect the lighter weight and firmer fit. All around, the shoe feels good. I won’t know for certain until I’m cleared to get back out there on the snowy roads, which is hopefully soon.

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My new ASICS Gel Kayano 19 and my other favorite – my Polar heart rate monitor.

Quitting Diet Coke: Seven Weeks Later

Tomorrow, December 27th, marks 7 weeks since I sipped my very last Diet Coke. I had been on a crazy routine of drinking anywhere between 4 to 7 cans per day since 1996.

imagesEverything changed when I reported to a routine physical exam on November 8th. My doctor told me I had an irregular heart beat (which would later be diagnosed as atrial fibrillation, or “AFib”).

When I left the doctor’s office, I got into my car, and drank my very last Diet Coke.  I was quitting cold turkey.

Seven weeks have gone by, and I won’t say it was easy by any means. But it’s sure a lot easier to quit something when you know it directly affects your health. The fact that caffeinated cola was directly causing my heart to be “over active” served as a wake up call.

Since then I’ve been drinking a lot of water as well as other non-caffeinated alternatives. It feels good to be somewhat constantly hydrated. In the past I would go through long spells of minor dehydration simply because the caffeine itself would dehydrate me, coupled with the fact that I wouldn’t drink that much water. Now the tables are turned, and I feel (and look) much healthier.

Confronting AFib: My TEE Cardioversion Procedure

It’s been five weeks of frustration since receiving my AFib diagnosis. After meeting with my cardiologist last week, he suggested two procedures: a Transesophageal Echo (TEE) and a Cardioversion.

Both are rather common procedures. The echo test involves sticking a tube down your throat in order to detect any abnormalities with the heart and clotting; the cardioversion involves sending a well-timed electrical shock through my body in an effort to reset the heart rate and rhythm.

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The procedure was very quick. Once they put me out, I think it lasted no more than 30 minutes for both steps. Once I woke up, I was excited to glance over at the heart rate monitor and see my heart beat back to normal (picture below).

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Often with this procedure, the heart rate relapses back to an irregular beat and rhythm, so it will be a while before we’re able to tell if the procedure “sticks.”

All in all, everything seems positive. It’s hope. We’ll see how things unfold over the next few weeks.

When Life Hits Back: Coping with AFib

I haven’t posted here in a while, primarily because of a health issue that I’ve had to come to grips with during the last five weeks.

This past November, as part of a routine physical exam, life was brought to a brief halt when I was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (AFib).  AFib is a fast and irregular heart beat. Not necessarily good news for a runner. Actually, not good news for anybody.

Below is a recent reading from my Polar heart rate monitor after a 2.2 mile run. Because of AFib, my BPM often surpassed 200 BPM.

I’m working on my medical options right now with my cardiologist, and hope to report better news soon.

In the meantime, keep running. I’ll be back.

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A Subtle, Unintended Motivation. THANK YOU.

Sometimes motivation arrives in mysterious ways…

The Boston Marathon finisher certificates were recently mailed out to all the runners from this year’s event.

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My first observation was immediately directed towards the carefully chosen wording on the certificate (I tend to notice these things).

As opposed to the usual triumphant phrasing such as “Tracy Carracedo successfully completed the 117th Boston Marathon” instead the subdued wording reads more diplomatically – “Tracy Carracedo participated in the 117th Boston Marathon.”  Also, printed immediately below is a computer calculated estimated finish time with the caption “projected time,” another reminder of my non-finish.

The BAA is in a tough position on this one. There’s nothing they can really do. I’m sure their goal is to provide all the 2013 runners with a sense of inclusion and belonging. There were, however, approximately 5,700 runners who did not physically cross the finish line, so, in theory, it would be wrong to state that we “successfully completed” the event when in fact we did not (in a literal sense).  And on the surface, that’s totally fine. The circumstances surrounding our inability to finish were unforeseen, and let us not forget that this issue pales in comparison to those directly affected by the tragedy. This is small potatoes. Very small.

So…  it’s not until I saw an actual finisher’s certificate (from someone who actually crossed the finish line) that I even noticed the significant disparity in phrasing between the finishers and non-finishers. Let’s just say it was hard not to notice.

Sometimes a chip on the shoulder can be a good thing. And though this is not the fault of the BAA or any other person for that matter, I proudly reserve the right to use this as a backhanded motivational tactic… bulletin board material if you will.  Well-timed motivation to ensure that, a year from now, my 2014 finisher’s certificate will in fact read “Tracy Carracedo successfully completed the 118th Boston Marathon.”

Rock ‘n Roll Providence Half Marathon

Half marathon season is here.

Yesterday I ran the Rock ‘n Roll Providence Half Marathon. It was a great weather day down in Providence, which combined with the 7am start time, made for great running conditions.

The race was interesting… The field of 6,000 was easily 70% female. I finished in just over 2 hours, which was good enough for me. I took it easy on the three major hills, plus took a quick bathroom break near mile 10.

Next up is the Baystate Marathon on October 20th in Lowell, MA.

Only 202 days left until Boston.

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A Memorable Summer: Cross 3 More Things Off The Bucket List

Summer might be over, but not before I was able to put a serious dent in my rapidly shrinking bucket list. During these last few months I was extremely fortunate to lay claim to the following feats:

1) Milking a cow (in Vermont)
2) White water rafting (in northern Maine)
3) Taking batting practice at Fenway Park (Boston)

Am I satisfied? Yes. Content? Of Course. Am I done?  Never.

I don’t know what looms next, but after a summer like the one I just had, no doubt it’ll be difficult to top. See my full list here.

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White water rafting in Northern Maine – August 2013

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Milking a cow in Vermont – July 2013

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Taking batting practice at Fenway Park – September 2013

All In For Boston – Marathon Training Starts NOW

After several months of mediocre “here ‘n there” training runs, along with participation in some shorter summer races, I’ve used this Labor Day Weekend to resume the heavier stuff as we count down to April 21, 2014.

I ran 7 miles yesterday, followed by 8 today. I’m now officially in half marathon mode, as I’m signed up for two upcoming half marathons, one in late September (Providence) and the other in late October (Bay State).  Fall is a great time to train in New England, and there’s always a boat-load of great half marathons to choose from in the area.

Now its time to get focused. Motivation-Picture-Quote-motivation-Start-Now-start-Today

The Top 100 Running Movies! (actually, just the top 5)

top fiveSPOILER ALERT!  This is not a scientific list; it’s my personal top five… so let the debating begin!

With Entertainment Weekly recently making waves by christening its array of Top 100 lists, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the ongoing conversation about which movies, tv shows, songs, musicians are considered the best of the best.

So it got me thinking – if there was such a list for “running movies,” just which ones would be considered the best?

Below is a down ‘n dirty list I threw together. It’s my “Top Five.”

5. Run Fat Boy Run

This is a comedy. And while it won’t make you forget about the likes of Caddyshack or Airplane! any time soon, it is in fact a funny romantic comedy set against the backdrop of a marathon in London. Plus it co-stars both Simon Pegg and Hank Azaria, so right there we’re already “off to a great start” (see what I just did there).

Why we can relate: Though there’s nothing technical about the sport of running in this movie (except for a somewhat gross scene involving the popping a foot blister),  the storyline centers around the all-too-relatable story of an arrogant white-collar marathon runner (Azaria) who fancies himself as God’s next version of Johnny Kelley, and the envious blue collar protaganist (Pegg) who wants to one-up him in order to win back his former girlfriend and baby mama. So he decides to run a marathon…

4. Saint Ralph

An enjoyable movie directly involving my favorite race, The Boston Marathon, taking place in the 1950′s. In short, the plot centers around a young man who is told that if he wins the Boston Marathon he would become a “saint.” However, though this is a heartwarming coming of age story, it is both completely unrealistic and technically flawed (Boston Marathon purists will agree). For example, we see the runners making a series of hairpin turns along the marathon course, when in fact there are no such turns on the actual Boston Marathon course. Everybody knows that…

Why we can relate: As unrealistic as it may be for a 9th grader to try to win the 1954 Boston Marathon, this movie is still a very inviting watch for no other reason than it shows Ralph, the main character, refusing to give in to the countless naysayers who refused to believe he could run (and finish) a marathon. Sound familiar?

Click here to see a previously posted clip.

3. Prefontaine

One of two movies about “Pre” that came out in the late 90′s. I saw them both, and have to side with this one, starring Jared Leto. No need to go into great description as we all are familiar with the story of Steve Prefontaine. I probably could have done without a lot of the politically-motivated cold war stuff that was portrayed in the meeting, but then again that’s all part of the story of Steve Prefontaine.

2. Chariots of Fire

Truth be known, I’m not as ga ga over this movie as everyone else is. For me, it moved kind of slow and lacked a lot of punch. But, then again, when I first saw it I was very young at the time, and I should probably see it again now that I’m (considerably) older.

1.  Spirit of the Marathon

Right now I can hear everyone’s reaction – “wait – why are documentaries on this list?”  I never indicated that these movies had to be works of fiction. In fact, that’s what makes Spirit of the Marathon so good – its about real people, ranging from elite runners all the way down the spectrum to everyday 12 minute per mile marathoners.

Why we can relate:  With multiple stories about different runners, all with distinctly different tales and reasons for running, Spirit of the Marathon has [wait for it] “something for everyone.” But the reason I like this move so much is because it beautifully captures the emotional “weight” of all three aspects of the marathon – 1) training for it 2) running in it, and 3) finishing it. No other movie, in my opinion, depicts these three phases as well as this one does.

NOTE: I have yet to see the second Spirit of the Marathon movie, but like most, I’m anxiously awaiting its release on DVD and look forward to including it on future lists.

Overall Takeaway: Now that I look back on my list, I’ve come to the realization that there really aren’t a ton of great running movies out there. Someday someone in Hollywood will take a chance on producing a movie the next big running movie. Maybe the biopic “The Hoyts” or perhaps the big screen will welcome “The Bill Rodgers Story.” Or maybe the Rosie Ruiz story, aptly named “A Long Way to Boston.”

Only time will tell….

Honorable mention: Without Limits and Running Brave.

My Brush with Competitive Eating Immortality

With all the hoopla surrounding the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest this past week, it brought back memories of my first (and only) brush with competitive eating immortality.

The date was July 2007, Seabrook Beach, NH, where I attempted to set the world record eating mark for… wait for it… ICE CREAM SANDWICHES!

That’s right – how many times have you enjoyed an ice cream sandwich and thought to yourself “gee, I can probably eat a hundred of these.”  Well, my time came exactly five years ago when I set out to see how many I could down during a 12 minute time frame. Special thanks to Chris Fatzinger who served as not only the official counter, but also removed all the wrappers for me (which is crucial because as the sandwiches melt, they stick to your fingers!)

In the end, I was able to consume 14 1/2 ice cream sandwiches in 12 minutes.

Not too shabby.

Not too long afterwards, I contacted IFOCE (Int. Federation of Competitive Eating) with proof of my feat, but to no avail. They have yet still to recognize this act of gastrointestinal athleticism. Go figure.

Getting pumped up. Ready, Set….

Puttin’ them down…

Ten! And I’m getting full…

Emerson’s Bracelets for Boston – A BIG THANK YOU

Here’s the final update on Emerson’s bracelet fundraiser for The One Fund. Who knew it would get this big?

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epc one fund2Shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings, my 7-year old daughter, Emerson Carracedo poured her heart into making “bracelets” as a way to raise money for The One Fund. Her idea came about as a result of being at the marathon finish line on April 15th, and though she and the rest of our family were unharmed, she felt terrible for those affected by the senseless bombings and wanted to do something to make a difference.

On May 11th, she took out a booth at a local festival and sold her entire inventory of hand-made beaded bracelets, raising an impressive total of $27.

And that’s typically where the story ends.

…but in this case, it was just getting started.

A few days later, Emerson’s $27 fundraiser received some exposure thanks in large part to various social media, word of mouth, the Windham Patch, as well as a very touching story on WMUR TV. And though the response from her local publicity was impressive and inspiring, we NEVER expected the outpouring of support that would immediately follow.

epc braceletEmerson started receiving bracelet orders from EVERYWHERE: family, friends, classmates, colleagues, and even strangers (who we are now proud to call friends). People from afar weighed in, asking how they could “order” a bracelet. A web page had to be set up to take orders, which even included a way for people to donate directly online (Click here for more on Emerson’s Bracelets for Boston).

Orders came in steadily, ranging from $2 to as much as $50.  In fact, one funny anecdote: a donation was mailed to the wrong Windham address, and when the innocent homeowner inadvertently opened the envelope, not only did she return the donation to our correct address, but she also included a donation of her own on top of it!

Thankfully, we received generous product donations of much-needed beads, string, and even left-over BostonStrong bracelets – all from others who wanted to help us keep up with demand.  Along the way, 7-year old Emerson had to juggle her bracelet-making along with her homework, feeding her bunnies, and doing her chores.

UPDATE:

mailSo on June 24th, Emerson, along with her mom and sister, arrived at the Windham post office and personally mailed a check for $710.12 directly to The One Fund in Boston.  A far cry from the $27 she raised just six weeks earlier.

Sure, she’s still plugging away at a few additional requests that have trickled in, but as the fundraising winds down, there’s no way to put into words the gratitude our entire family holds for EVERYONE who graciously supported Emerson as she worked so hard to make a difference.

It’s something we’ll remember for a long, long time. Thank you.

The Carracedo Family

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A Touching Gesture: Boston Marathon winner returns medal to the city

desisaAfter today’s B.A.A. 10K, I decided to stick around to watch the awards ceremony later during the morning. I had also heard that the 2013 Boston Marathon men’s chanmpion, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, was going to “return his medal to the city” so I had some lukewarm interest in seeing this.

When I first heard this reported awhile back, I didn’t really have a reaction. I guess it seemed like a cool thing to do, but my feelings about the gesture never really leaned in any direction.

So today’s awards ceremony began with Desisa returning his medal. Also present was Boston Mayor Tom Menino, who visibly labored to the podium because of his recent surgeries. Desisa read from a prepared speech that was translated by an interpreter to the crowd of a couple of hundred people.

His words were incredibly emotional and thoughtful. I was very moved, choked up even. He talked about his reason for returning the medal, how he felt for the victims of the bombing… how sports is no place for senseless violence. After listening to his remarks, I quickly became a fan of Lelisa Desisa and this most thoughtful gesture. Now that I look back, of course this was a big deal. I’m somewhat disappointed in myself for not realizing this earlier.

I’m just glad I stuck around to watch…

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The heat is on! A scorcher today at the B.A.A. 10K

A tough but fun day today at the B.A.A. 10K in Boston. This was the first B.A.A. sanctioned race since the events of April 15th, and the event sold out in just hours.

Temperatures at race time were already in the 70′s, and once the sun set its sights on the course, it felt like mid-80′s. It was hot. I finished in 57:30, somewhat respectable considering three factors: a) I’m slow, b) it was very hot, and c) I’m in much worse shape now than I was for this race last year when I finished about 30 seconds faster.

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