10 Reasons Why Jimmy V’s ESPY’s Speech is the Best Ever.

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This week is Jimmy V Week on the Worldwide Leader, and undoubtedly viewers will have ample opportunity to catch replays of Jim Valvano’s memorable ESPY’s speech from 1993.

I was only 22 when Valvano delivered his famous “Don’t Give Up” speech as he accepted the Arthur Ashe Award at the 1993 ESPY Awards. And much like a famous work of art, it’s brilliance grows through the years. Now, 19 years later, I can easily make the case that this speech is, without a doubt, the best one ever.

10 Reasons Why Jimmy V’s ESPY’s Speech is the Best Ever.

It’s prophetic. Early on, Valvano challenges his audience to “laugh, think, and cry” everyday. Therefore, it’s only fitting that by the end of his 11 minute speech, anybody watching this speech was moved to do all three.

It’s timeless. Regardless of whether you saw the speech live, like me, or just checking it out now it for the first time, Valvano’s remarks easily stand the test of time. A great motivational primer for all generations… and for any motivational purpose.

No waste. Just like a good screenwriter, Valvano moves things along so effortlessly, with no wasted throw away lines. You can tune in at any point during the speech and feel like you didn’t miss anything.

Valvano pays homage to his family, past and present. And justifiably so. He alludes to not only his immigrant parents, but takes the time to point out his wife and kids seated in the audience. A nice touch, and very humanizing.

Self-deprecating humor. Of course. This was Jimmy V afterall… it was his calling card. He recounts a memorable (and funny) anecdote about a locker room speech early on in his coaching career, pointing out how he badly butchered the inspirational payoff line in front of the entire team.

He doesn’t oversell himself. Throughout his delivery, you don’t hear Valvano raise his voice, shout, or use senseless sports metaphors to make his point. Quite the contrary. He’s silky smooth the entire time, even in the face of death, devoid of any stutters or pregnant pauses. A true professional.

Valvano addresses his own mortality, and doesn’t allow anyone to feel sorry for him. The back half of his speech is full of his proclamations of his fleeting time left with us. He’s very matter of fact, making sure not to overplay the sympathy card, though in this instance he’d have every right to do so. Several times we hear him say “I don’t have much time left” in a way that inspires rather than saddens.

“Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”  Self-explanatory. If you’ve never heard these words uttered, then I’m truly speechless (pardon the pun).

Eerie foreshadowing. When Valvano begins to wrap up his speech, he bids adieu to the audience with the farewell words “I know I’ve got to go” as if he’s telling the audience that his time is in fact coming to a close. Valvano passed away 8 weeks later.

Best closing line. Ever. Who hasn’t heard Valvano’s infamous closing charge “Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.”

If you’ve never seen Valvano’s speech, you should.

And in doing so, who knows, you may in fact find that you’ll laugh, think… and cry. Now that’s some speech…

Marked Improvement at the Stowe 8 Miler

Today I ran the Stowe 8 Miler. This is my second year running this race which leads through the rural sections of Stowe, Vermont. Last year I was clearly not prepared to run this race, which makes sense considering I stumbled upon it while vacationing in Vermont.

This  year, however, I was ready. And though I wouldn’t call this one of my best efforts, I was very pleased with the results. My official time was 1:10:30 (compared to last year’s 1:23:40).

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The runners make their way to the start.

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Thumbs Up at the finish

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Post-race rest with Lila and Emerson

An Awesome Day at the BAA 10K

I’m a little behind in posting this. The BAA 10K was this past Sunday at Boston Common, and once again Team Five was well represented with 10 runners.

The cooler weather paid off as they were giving out PR’s like they were tootsie rolls. I had a very good run, starting out the first two miles in the mid 7′s, and finishing the last four miles right around an 8 minute pace. My final time was 49:34, blowing away my time from last year of 57:58.

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Hot ‘n Hilly at The Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon

Today I ran my first significant race since the Boston Marathon when I participated in inaugural Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon in Chestnut Hill, MA.  This race is presented by Runner’s World magazine. Plus, the fact that the race is managed by DMSE was also a major selling point.

It was hot out there, reaching into the 80′s. And, it was hilly, which should not be a newsflash when the name of the race itself is based on one of the most challenging hills in all of running.

IMG_9139My official finish time was 2:01:16, which I’m very satisfied with, especially having “strategically” walked various hills on the course (I wanted to go easy back today, plus walking at times helped keep my heart rate at a modest level).

IMG_9154All told, I thought it was a great race… and well-managed. If this race comes back again next year, I would definitely participate again.

When AFib Bites Back…

Just one week after the Boston Marathon, I noticed my heart rate was rapid and irregular. I went to the hospital, and they confirmed what I had feared – I was no longer in sinus rhythm… I had suffered another episode of atrial fibrillation.

Some people may get upset, but not me. How can I? I enjoyed 5 1/2 months of great health, and I’ll be very grateful for that time. I even was able to squeeze in a full marathon training schedule.

From here I’ll leave it up to my cardiology team to come up with the best plan for me. I intend on remaining active, and not giving in to this condition.

This may sound cliche, but it’s true. I may have AFib, but AFib doesn’t have me.

 

My Recent Article for BEYOND THE MILES

Last week I was asked to contribute an article to Runkeeper.com’s Beyond the Miles blog about the post-marathon blues. My article was titled “I just rand the Boston Marathon… So now what?” This was a follow-up to an article I wrote last year about runner’s postpartum and the lows one feels after running in the world’s greatest marathon.

And safe to say that compared to my article last year, my perspective was completely different this year.

You can read my article by clicking on the graphic below.

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The Calm Before the Storm…

Today was number pick up day at The John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo down in Boston. This event, though always great, can often be a zoo because of the huge attendance. Nonetheless, my wife and I braved the large crowd, visiting pretty much all the exhibitors. At the end of the day we also attended a lecture given by race director Dave McGillivary about the marathon course and this year’s new safety precautions.

Time to start getting ready…

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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.”