Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Love Like Liam

Yesterday was Liam's memorial service. Both a mourning of a death and a celebration of a life.
I was privileged to attend.

It was at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street in Manhattan, across the street from the firehouse (Engine 1/Ladder 24) where Liam spent so much time, the firefighters gave him his own locker, complete with uniform.

The firefighters were outside the church, playing the bagpipes. Liam received a firefighter's funeral honors, and indeed, was named an official firefighter.

I idiotically walked through the side door and ended up in the family room. There were about 30 people there. After saying hello to Gretchen and Larry, I realized that I might be in the wrong place and asked someone to show me where the programs were. I was ushered into the main hall.

The church was overflowing with people. The request was to wear orange (Liam's favorite color) and ties (Liam was passionate about ties, and felt every day was a good day to wear one.) Men wearing bright orange ties, women wearing orange tops and shawls. Apparently, Liam's Army found that Forever 21 sells orange shawls and they were completely bought out. I wore my orange Fred's Team shirt, the one I wear when I run the actual marathon, with Liam's picture on the back (it's the picture on the right side of the blog).

There was singing from "The Lion King" and "Rent," as well as some psalms. One of Liam's nurses and Dr. LaQuaglia, Liam's surgeon from MSKCC spoke, as well as Robert Woodruff from ABC News. Gretchen spoke last.

We all heard about what a remarkable little boy Liam was -- so inquisitive, so fearless. How he bore all of his treatments -- and Dr. LaQuaglia let us know that Liam endured seven major surgeries, 25 procedures requiring anesthesia, and 111 other tests -- with no complaints. How he was so concerned for others that even when he himself was not feeling well, when his nurse told him that she, too, was feeling ill and needed to go home early, Liam pulled her down to him so they were face to face and gently kissed her on the forehead. How Liam wanted to go to a Halloween party so badly that immediately after he finished a high-dose chemo treatment, he put on a Superman costume, went to the party, and volunteered to get on stage and sing his A-B-Cs with the musicians.

As much as they could, the Witts made sure that Liam was a boy first and foremost. He loved school and went nearly every day. He loved to scooter (and frequently got in trouble for scootering in the hallways of MSKCC), and was always looking for the next science or craft project. He loved playing on the iPad, and once downloaded 27 cooking apps before his parents realized he had memorized the iTunes account password. He loved to throw himself in the pool wearing nothing but swim goggles.

Gretchen put it best during her eulogy -- she said, "Liam was OUR son." And by that, she meant that he was everyone's son. Everyone who met him, be it in person or through Cookies for Kids' Cancer or Gretchen's blog, fell hopelessly in love with him and felt that he was theirs. That made us fight so hard for him, and grieve even harder.

Liam lived. And he lived every moment of every day. His teachers told us that he would frequently ask, "If not now, when?" What better call to action than that, and what better words to live by?

Wherever he went, Liam made people feel at ease. He was so quick and easy to love whoever he met, and you couldn't help but love him right back. The day I met him, he declared his love for me within minutes, and he meant it.

Gretchen asked us all to love like Liam -- openly and completely. There is no more fitting legacy for a boy who was the very embodiment of love.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Addendum to previous post...

Twenty minutes and $25 later, it is indeed plantar fasciitis.

Decided to treat with ibuprofen and ice rather than a cortisone shot for the meanwhile.

Also recommended -- don't run in Vibrams.

Ha ha!

Too bad, Doc Rock. He knows I do, and he ain't happy about it. But as the choice is either run in Vibrams or don't run, I think I know which way I'm going. I just have to be extra careful about wearing my orthotics and stretching and all that good stuff during the times I'm not in the VFFs.

Aren't they supposed to STRENGTHEN your feet, not destroy them?

Oh, well.


Because no good deed goes unpunished, or words to that effect, later Sunday night, I had some left heel pain. A little internet research seems to confirm...duh duh duh DUUUUUUUUH -- plantar fasciitis. Can I NOT have a good week of running without a setback?

Anyways, ice, ultrasound, ibuprofen, that goofy night brace. Rode the bike 40 minutes instead of running. Heading to Dr. Rock at some point today for confirmation of self-diagnosis, as I need to admit that I'm not a doctor. The pain has migrated to just above the left heel, inside arch side. So is it PF? Is it plain ol' tendonitis? It is feeling a little better just two days later, but I think I should get a) confirmation, and b) more treatment options from someone who doesn't advertise "Lonely Men Over 50 Want to Date You!" on his right side. Isn't that what I paid JDate a whole lot of money for?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Do You Believe In...

This week I was good, I ran Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Monday I stayed on the path and did a five-miler. Wednesday I did the crazy bridle path in the ice for 4 1/2, and Friday I did five going clockwise, stopping at NYRR to pick up my race number. They all actually felt good. I bought a face mask from Harriet Carter (that's right, people. Harriet Carter) that helps me breathe better in the colder air, but makes me look even more ridiculous than I already look when I run (thanks to my beloved, but admittedly goofy-looking, VFFs). So I was looking forward to this morning's outing.

Today was the Gridiron Four-Miler in Central Park. The first actual race I would be running since July. The Midnight Run wasn't a race, and the Fred Lebow 5-Miler was called due to weather. So much for getting my nine races in without actually running any of them.

I was also weirdly scared. I really want to get back to the joy of running, and one of the ways I've been doing that is by not wearing a watch. The times I've been on the treadmill, the clock is unavoidable, but I'm really not wanting to see how fast -- or in my case, how slow I'm going. I just want to put the miles in and enjoy them. And I get crazy competitive when I race, in my own mind, at least. So today was going to be both a test of my ability to run my own race, and also to see what my time is for the first time since June or July, really.

37 degrees, a brilliant temperature. Ducked into the third-to-last corral -- I have no delusions. NYRR does, though -- they calculate your corral based on your fastest mile in a race over four miles, but they don't update that every year. It's your fastest mile ever with NYRR. For me, that's a 7:58 from 2007. Ha ha! Like I'll be reaching THAT again any time soon. I have enough good sense to not go near my own corral. Even when I could run that pace, I want to start slow and build up, so I start in a slower corral to hold myself back for the first few miles.

And we're off. So far back we didn't hear the starting horn. Took over eight minutes to get to the starting line. Chug-a-lug with the pack up Cat Hill and up the East Drive. Thinking I'd like to be at a 10:00 pace, that I'd happy with a finish between 40 and 41. Much happier to be slightly under, of course. But I didn't want to push. Just wanted to run.

As I passed the mile 1 marker I tried not to look at my watch, but did and saw the split -- 9:58. Really? Normally my first mile is closer to 10:30 because of the crowding.

Up East Drive heading to the transverse. Ran into Teammate Maureen. She's also been out of the game for a while with injuries. She's taking it easy, too. We separated on the transverse. Got water. A woman next to me told me she thought the race started at 102nd, not 72nd, had to run back to the start line and just barely made it across before they took it up. Mile 2 -- 9:41. Didn't feel like it, but then again, I'm not sure what running at a certain time feels like anymore.

Fun thing -- NYRR split the transverse into Packers side and Steelers side. Run on the side you're rooting for. They used the D-Tags to track the results (results not posted as of my writing this.)

Down the west side. Mile 3 is mostly uphill, but I saw the Natural Living guy doing his usual speedwalk against the traffic, shouting encouragement. Ah, yes. NOW we're feeling good! I was hoping to see him. It doesn't feel like a race when he's not there. Mile 3, again, somewhere around 9:46.

Mile 4 is mainly downhill. Very crowded, thanks to people and a narrower roadway thanks to show pile-up on the sides. I see the finish line and I try to push the last few hundred feet. Crowd notwithstanding, just before I cross the line I hit my watch...
Miracles do happen, I suppose.
Of course, my time is not official. But it doesn't matter. The point is, I didn't get caught up in the racing. I came out to have a good run, and hopefully post a decent time. And I did both.
This makes me feel a lot better about the training to come. I want so badly to do well during the marathon, and in Liam's honor, I'm not going to slack off. Even if I'm running 15-minute miles, they'll be the best 15-minute miles I can squeeze out. But it's nice to see at this stage that I am capable of more, and I intend to deliver.